I can’t, but God can

Yesterday I had lunch with a refugee friend and had the opportunity to share a little about Jesus. One message I like to share with people is how Christianity is distinct from religions and then share why. A great example is that in religions it is up to the individual to work for, to earn, going to heaven through their owns good works, but in Christianity and only in Christianity God says, “You can’t do it. It is not possible to do enough good works to deserve heaven, but I love you and will do it for you.”

Following Jesus is a series of I can’t but God can moments that start with.

I can’t merit heaven, but God did it for me when Jesus died on the cross.

There have been so many I can’t, but God can moments in my life.

I can’t get out of the pit of depression, but God can lift me out.

I can’t figure out what to do for the future, but God knows my future already.

I can’t solve a problem, but God can.

Knowing Jesus, having a relationship with him. means that many I can’ts turn into I cans because of the truth of Philippians 4:

“I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.”

For me it has been I can’t ___________________ because of my autoimmune issues, but God can for me.

This is a shorter post meant to encourage today. Think about the situation that seems impossible, seems overwhelming, and fill in the blanks.

I can’t ____________________

and then say

But God can

or

I can ______________________ because of Jesus..

Give your I can’ts to Jesus. He has all power and loves us deeply.

Thank you for reading. God Bless

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Leave the Past Behind and Look Forward

In the sports world, the best players excel for many reasons. One of the reasons is that they have the ability to not let prior bad plays stop them from trying again. In the business world, successful entrepreneurs often have failures before the have success. They don’t let past failures stop them from trying again.

Paul understood the importance of looking forward and leaving the past behind. He was a success before he knew Jesus. He was a religious leader, but in that role he had persecuted Christians before his first encounter with  Jesus. That day that Paul met Jesus transformed him to become to foremost apostle for sharing Jesus with the world.

Paul wrote about focusing on the Jesus and our future in Philippians 3:

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

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This can help us to move on from past failures. Jesus is always willing and more than able to help us start again. In Jesus we have solid hope for our future.

If we mess up, we can come to Jesus and start fresh.

If we have been through a crisis in our lives, we can come to Jesus for the help to recover and move on.

If we have struggled with depression, addiction, or an eating disorder, we can come to Jesus for healing and power to move on.

If we have been bullied, hurt by those around us, or abused, the arms of Jesus are open for us to run to.

The past is always there to remind us of our failures or suffering. But that voice is not from Jesus. Jesus says to us:

You are my child.

You are loved.

You can do all things with Jesus.

Jesus has all power to help you.

Jesus is standing there ready and more than able to help us move on. We simply need to ask him. Don’t give up. Ask Jesus to help.

Thank you for reading. God Bless. I have shared this song before and want to share it again. You’re Gonna Be Ok by Jenn Johnson

Best Tip Ever Playing Pizza Delivery Guy

Many years ago I delivered pizza while I was just trying to survive while I was struggling with my second autoimmune problem that took a while to diagnose. Delivering pizzas was easy work, and many nights I made good tips especially in bad weather. Many times the tips added up to more than my hourly wage.

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Yesterday I received the best tip for delivering pizza that I ever received. My church has a respite night 4 times a year for families with children with special needs. We have volunteers who are nurses, teachers, and church members. They always have pizzas to serve. Friday evening we had respite night and there were some pizzas left over in the refrigerator.

I took three pizzas to give to friends of mine from Iran. They are Mandean and a lot of fun to spend time with. The father, mother and one daughter live in one duplex and the oldest daughter, her husband and children live in another duplex close by. I dropped off two pizzas at the oldest daughter’s house and then took one to the father and mother.

We sat down and drank coffee together and had a wonderful time. We talked about many things as we practiced conversational English together. I call the mother my little sister and the youngest daughter my niece in their language. The oldest daughter is also my little sister. I love visiting them and spending time with them. It was the kind of spontaneous afternoon that makes me grateful God has led  me to be friends with refugees.

The best tip ever for me? Seeing my friends smile when I surprised them with the pizza and seeing my little sister laugh as I told stories.

Sharing God’s love does not have to be big things. Often it is time spent with people and sharing the little things in life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

Voice

One of my favorite TV shows began last week. I like how on The Voice the four coaches do not see the person auditioning until they decide they want the person on their team and push the I Want You button and their chair turns around. The coaches make their decision by listening to the person’s voice.

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Jesus talked about his voice and us in John 10:

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

and

 “They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

There are many competing voices in life. Some try to tell us it won’t work, that we aren’t good enough, there is no hope, and remind us of our past.

Jesus came to give us life not to cast us down. His voice is gentle to those who follow him. His voice says with him all things are possible. His voice tells us we are loved. He voice tells us there is always hope with him. His voice tells us our past is forgiven.

My hope is to reflect the voice of Jesus to those who don’t know him. That is why I try to learn greetings in the languages of my refugee and immigrant friends. They have been through things we can’t imagine.

My Yazidi friends have endured unimaginable things. They lived under oppression for centuries. The genocide in 2014 was the most recent, but there have been other times. They were discriminated against for centuries. They never felt welcome anywhere they went except among themselves.

That is why I walk around the small lobby area outside the classrooms and greet them with ‘Choney Havalemah’, (attempt at phonetic spelling), which means Hi how are you my friend. I do that because I want them to feel welcome.

By listening to them share their experiences, I give them the respect of being heard. I try to give them a voice, a right, to share.

We can use our voices to build up or to tear down. By choosing to build up others, we can reflect the love of Jesus and his voice to those around us.

Do you know of someone being bullied? Reach out to build them up.

Do you know of someone who has been abused? Reach out to build them up.

Do you know of someone struggling with an illness? Reach out to encourage them and let them know you are there.

Do you know of someone struggling with memories of the past? Remind them Jesus forgives and gives new starts in life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Empowering Others

I hadn’t planned on posting today because with my evening classes finishing up last night, it feels like time to relax, unwind and just be for a day. But I had a wonderful conversation with a young woman from Iran that got my mind to kick in, so here we go.

My young friend is from Iran and from a minority group that did not have rights because they are not part of the majority group religion. She came here three years ago speaking little English. She worked hard in high school, graduated and now is in college. That in itself is impressive considering she is studying in her 3rd language.

I know her parents, grandparents, sister, and  brother. In a way I feel her family is family for me. I have helped a few times to study for her Spanish class, her 4th language, and we talk about college. I already admired her before today, but watching her today gave me even more respect for her.

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She needed to get a financial aid situation taken care of with the school. I offered to go with her, but she was hesitant. Then she called to check if she should make an appointment. She had the phone on speaker, so I could hear the other end of the conversation. She was able to get the problem taken care of. I listened as she took care of the problem. She handled it perfectly with the right amount of assertiveness while also showing respect to the person she was talking with.

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When she finished her phone conversation, I told her how proud I am of her. I told her she handled it well and that I believe she can handle things well and if she ever needs my help to let me know.

This scenario today is a good example of how I have learned to step back and empower but not try to enable people to stay dependent on me. Empowering others means to help them have the ability to handle things without me, to teach them how to handle things or offer advice, but to step back and let them handle it.

The only person we should ever be totally dependent on is God. Yet God empowers us. There are so many wonderful examples of Jesus teaching and training his followers to empower them.

At the end of our time together, I shared with my young friend that I am proud of her and admire her for the person she is. I encouraged her to never let anyone take her power away from her and reminded her that she has rights here. I told her that I hope she continues to be the confident young woman she is, and will be a confident woman all her life. I also shared with her that if she ever needed me, just let me know.

I am not sure how many others will read this today, but I am writing for small audience, my young friend and her mom.  My young friend knows who she is, so let me say again- I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!

 

Never Give Up

My evening classes will finish up this week as the quarter comes to an end. I am always aware of what many of my students have been through before coming to America. Some have had to flee because of greater danger. Some have been oppressed because of being from a minority group in their country. All of them have experienced obstacles here in their new country.

Last night I showed them a video of a teenage girl with MS who ran track called Catching Kayla.  At the end of each race, her coach catches her before she falls to the ground. Her body overheats which triggers her MS symptoms until they get her cooled down. In the video she shares why she runs. She wants to fight the disease.

I asked my students what they thought of Kayla and many said she is brave. I asked what we can learn from her and one said, “never give up.” That was shared by a young man who left Iran because of religious oppression. He works full-time here and takes English classes in the evening with hopes of going to college in the future.

“Never give up”

When we who profess to know Jesus face difficulties, how much more should never give up be our attitude. Jesus is the one who has all power. Jesus is the one who defeated death for us.

Jesus, the one who has all power, is always with us. He is the one who said in John 16:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Whether we are living with a chronic illness, facing family problems, experiencing financial problems, or recovering from an addiction, we  can get up each morning to face the day knowing Jesus is with us. Jesus is with us, so we should never give up.

Thank you for reading. God Bless. Here is the video Catching Kayla.

 

Creativity is an expression of God.

The cream can’t rise to the top if you keep stirring the pot. It’s an old saying. It is one that a mentor of mine repeated to me many times as he taught me many life lessons. He taught me the value to letting people rise and discover their abilities while giving some guidance along the way.

The moms in  my morning class come to me with varying educational backgrounds. Some never went to school as girls. Some only went until 3rd grade or sixth grade. A few graduated high school. So to begin to unlock their ability, ability they are not aware of before they come to my class, the first week of class they decorate the room. By decorating the room, they make it their room and also begin to believe that I see potential in them.

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Letting their creativity be expressed, opens them up for learning. We are all creative beings in one way or another. We may not all be musicians, artists, or actors, but there is creativity in every one. The reason I can say that is because we are created in the image of God and God is highly creative. Just look at the stars at night.

God’s creativity is also expressed in how he works in our lives. He sees in us what no one else sees. God is the craftsman at work in us. Ephesians 2 says:

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

I think about it in my own life. God took the son of an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother, the kid who no one thought much would come of, and has made me a person who relates with multiple different cultures, traveled to ten countries, and mentored eight people to become lead instructors in a specialized program. God saw what he could do in me and what he created me to be. He did not look at what others looked at.

I love the saying, “God does not call the qualified. he qualifies the called.” God did not look to see my qualifications before he called me to my work and ministry. He called me and then led me to get the qualifications and experience.

God never gives up on his handiwork either. He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete as Philippians 1 says.

I am so thankful that God did not give up on me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Word Wednesday-Refuge

There is an almost irony in the fact that Jesus wants to be our refuge. In Psalm 91 we see:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the almighty. I will say of the Lord. He is my refuge and my fortress.”

God desires to be our refuge in life as we go through the twists and turns, ups and downs in this life. He invites us to seek shelter in him.

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Why do I say there is an almost irony in the fact that Jesus wants to be our refuge?

Consider with me the fact that during his earthly life, Jesus experienced being a refugee when as an infant Joseph took him and Mary and fled to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus.

I think about what Jesus said in Luke 9:

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

So Jesus experienced going through times of no roof over his head or bed to sleep in.

The fact that Jesus experienced hardship while he was living his earthly life can give us comfort knowing that he understands. As we see in Hebrews 4 that he can empathize with our weakness. Because Jesus experienced hardship in this life, he is our refuge and he understands us.

Jesus said in Matthew 11, “Come to me all who are weary…” The person extending that invitation understand us and has all power to come through for us. The reason he gives us to come to him is that he is gentle and humble of heart.

Dear reader whatever hardship you are experiencing, Jesus understands and is fully able to be your refuge.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Father I Put My Life In Your Hands by John Michael Talbot

When we follow Jesus, we will have times that we need to surrender things to God. Entrusting God with our lives in the present and our futures is not always easy for us. God will ask us to give up things, so that he can work in our lives. We face moments of saying to God, not my will but your will be done.

Jesus faced that when he prayed in the garden before his arrest and crucifixion. He asked God the Father if there was another way, but concluded with your will be done.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he entrusted his spirit into the hands of the Father. On the third day, he was resurrected from the dead and lives forevermore. His resurrection is our guarantee that God’s will for us will ultimately prevail for the best for us.

John Michael Talbot wrote a song I love to listen to about Jesus putting his life in the Father’s Hands. I want to share that with you today.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Masks to Hide Ourselves

We hide who we are for different reasons. Some times we smile to hide our true feelings of sadness or disappointment. Sometimes we look the other way and avoid eye contact because we do not want to interact with people. There can be various masks we wear to protect ourselves emotionally.

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But can you imagine having to lie about your identity to protect your life or to avoid being oppressed?

I had a conversation with a young person recently that saddened me for her. She told that when she went to school in her home country she lied about being the religion of the majority in her country to avoid being denied access to education, avoid being bullied, and avoid oppression.

She is a kind woman. She is gentle spirited and would never hurt anyone. Out of fear, she hid who she really is.

When I spend time with my refugee friends, one of the first things I try to do is let them know I accept them for who they are. Being a refugee and experiencing oppression, persecution, and danger, can strip a person of the sense of personhood.

When my friend shared with me about how she lied to protect herself, I responded by saying, “I am glad you are here and you are safe.” I also reminded her that she is here and pursuing a bright future while those who oppressed her are still stuck where they are.

My conversation with her caused me to think about what Jesus said in John 8:

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

My desire is to share the love of Jesus with my refugee friends, spend time with them, help them, and befriend them because I want to see them set free from the bondage of the memories of living under oppression.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.