Home? Where is it?

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So many songs heard about home, so many friends talked about home, where is home? Searching for home, tried different places, different groups, different people, searching for home.

Home as a child was a house with no comfort, no real sense of belonging, no feeling of fitting in. A house that was full of uncertainty, anxiety, dread.

Ran away from there as a teen, but did not think it was running away from home because there was a house not a home.

Bounced around from apartment to apartment but did not feel they were home even though had them to myself.

Home? Where is it?

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Learned about the one who loves us enough to die for us. Learned we can call God father. Then learned Jesus taught that if we follow him that he and the father will make their home with us. What? Why do they want to make a home with me? Don’t they know me? Of course they do and they want to be with me. Don’t completely understand but have peace for the first time.

Free at last to explore and find home wherever I went because Jesus and the Father are with me wherever I go. Home is in Brazil. Home is in Romania. Home is at church. Home is when I visit diverse people. Home is everywhere I go because everywhere I go Jesus and the Father are with me, but home is not a place. Home is belonging. Home is love, laughter, shared life, memories.

Homes are in many places and with many people for me until my journey here ends and then I will finally and forever be home. Home in heaven with Jesus and the Father. We journey in this life as pilgrims searching for what ultimately can only be found in heaven with Jesus and the Father- Our Eternal Home.

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Grateful for a Flat Tire?

This morning I went out to my car only to see a flat tire. This may sound silly or crazy, but I stopped and thanked God for his grace in the flat tire.

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I should probably explain that before you think I really am crazy. The past few years have been challenging for me finding out what was up with my health, going to TOO many doctors, trying to pay off the bills from the doctors, recovering from the effects of Celiacs etc etc. So I had gotten to the point of the mindset- “What’s next?” expecting the worst possible outcomes. This can lead to anxiety.

SO- I have learned to stop myself when I start down that path of despair to look for positives and to be grateful. When I went outside and saw my flat tire, at first I started down that road of ‘What’s Next’, but then I stopped myself. I thought through the positives.

One big positive is that it didn’t blow out while I was driving. The tire had a slow leak, so it wasn’t a big surprise. I thanked God that I did not have a blow out while I was driving. Autoimmune has had its impact on my body, arthritis, so I am not the vibrant young man I used to be. If I had had to deal with a flat tire on the road, it would have been extremely difficult. So I thanked God it went flat at home in my parking lot.

That helped me to not go dark in my spirit and then I began to thank God for other things. Gratitude has helped me to not go to dark depressed places as I have strove to live for Jesus and share his love with the many different people groups living here in Lincoln Nebraska.

I have the day off today, so I can take my time with the tire. I need to because as I said, I am not the young guy I used to be. I am grateful for the day off. Hopefully I will get the tire changed myself and not have to pay for someone to do it.

We Know Jesus by his Voice

Tuesday afternoon and I am glad because my evening classes are on break, so that means I can watch one of my favorite TV shows, The Voice, live not on hulu the next day. A big reason I love to watch the voice is how the coaches mentor the singers without demeaning them like on other shows. I also love how the coaches decide who they want on their teams. They listen to the singers voice without seeing them first. It is through listening to the voice blind the coaches decide to hit their button.

Jesus said that his followers, that he compared to sheep which are helpless,  will follow him because they know his voice but will not follow a strangers voice because they do not know the strangers voice. The voice of Jesus is so important for us to get to know because by knowing his voice, we can be spared heartache and also grow strong.

But how do we get to know his voice? How do we build that trust in Jesus to feel confident to follow him and confident we are hearing his voice? How do we know we can hit the button to turn around saying. “I want you” to Jesus like what happens on The Voice?

To know anyone’s voice, we need to know the person. We need to spend time with them, talk with them, be around them. It is the people we know well that we recognize simply by hearing their voice.

Fortunately, Jesus has given us things that help in knowing his voice. We have the bible to read and it is available online, in print, in many versions. We have our church to go to. I feel blessed by both.

There is something that has greatly helped me to grow in knowing his voice- PRAYER and MEDITATION.

Last year, as I went through the winding road of seeing different doctors to find out what was wrong, I would listen to worship music and pray. This has been my habit for many years. I find listening to worship music helps me to focus while I pray. It is also when ideas come to me for ministry, for writing, and for life. Last year, it was during times of prayer and meditation that I found strength mentally, emotionally and spiritually to keep going. I will never forget the dark hours for me in early August when I could not sleep due to pain and the depression/anxiety caused by it. I was actually praying for Jesus to take me home to heaven. But then the quiet voice spoke to me in my spirit as I listened to a song that I probably listened to hundreds of times last year. That quiet voice let me know there is more ahead for me and to hang on. A few days later, the doctor I had a follow up visit with told me I should go ahead and live gluten free and not wait until I had my endoscope because my symptoms were so severe. I found out I have Celiacs, which is now my third autoimmune problem, and Celiacs can cause the severe pain I as having as well as depression and anxiety. BUT- the Voice of Jesus spoke to me through song, prayer, and in my spirit that there is more ahead for me in ministry and this life.

I would like to share the song that meant so much to me. It Is Well by Kristene DiMarco.

 

Meaningful Breakthrough for someone I love

On Saturday afternoon, I had coffee with my 16 year old niece and sister-in-law. My niece is a shy girl and has been living with Type-1 diabetes since she was 11 years old. Literally for years if I would talk to her, she would look at her mom or sister and not at me. If she would reply, she would reply to her mom or sister for them to answer me. She is a wonderful young lady, but likes to escape into books.

Yesterday I shared with her that I started writing short stories and asked her if she would read one and let me know what she thinks. I told her I wanted her to be honest with me about her thoughts and feelings about the story. I brought up the story:

Jessica’s Encounter at The Harbor Coffee Shop on my iPad for her to read.

In the story Jessica has anxiety problems and feels it when she enters the coffee shop. Jessica has an encounter with Mary Magdalene that changes her life.

When my niece finished the story, I asked her what she thought/felt about it. My niece looked at me and said, “That’s me. I am like Jessica. I have anxiety.” The rest of our time together when I would talk with my niece, she looked me in the eye, maintained eye contact and talked with me directly. I have prayed for her for a long time. I didn’t want to overstate anything or be to pushy, so at the end I encouraged her with, “It is okay to be shy. Many people who have autoimmune problems have anxiety. I have Celiacs and I have anxiety problems at times. Having anxiety doe not mean you are crazy.”

Yesterday reminded me of the bible verse in Isaiah 42 that is quoted in Matthew where it says- “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory” A bruised reed he will not break. Jesus has ALL POWER yet he is gentle. The context of Isaiah 42 is about the Messiah coming in power yet a bruised reed he will not break.

The image that comes to my mind is of the one who has all power stopping to take care of the bruised reed. Yesterday, he did not break my shy 16 year old niece. He was there in gentleness to say to a 16 year old girl with anxiety that he is there for her. It happened as she read the story.

For me, that is why I started my day by praying and asking God to help me show his love to those I will see that day. That is why I write the stories in my other blog. My hope is for more bruised reeds to read the stories and feel Jesus saying to them. “I love you.”

 

Jesus Stays The Same Even When The World Seems Crazy

There is a line in one of my favorite songs, a song by Kristene DiMarco- Jesus Your Love, that says:

“So Let My Heart Tell You Again, When Seasons Change and Stories End, Your Steady Love, It Will Sustain Me Through It All, Jesus Your Love”

Life is full of twists and turns. The unexpected can happen at any moment. The ups and downs of life can and will happen.

Last year, I went through one of those seasons and at times wondered if my story here would come to an end. I went through the maze of testing to find out what was wrong. Fortunately, it was not one of the real serious issues I was tested for. It is a manageable condition. However, last year reminded me of the fragility of this life.

This life can be uncertain in many ways whether it be financial issues, health issues, the alarming news we read about, or any of the myriad of troubles around us.

We can take heart in the person Jesus. In the bible it says- ‘He is the same yesterday, today, and forever more.’ His character never changes unlike the character of people. He loves us and that will never change. He will always be there for us and love us. He is the one for sure constant we can look to when the world seems crazy. That was very concrete for me last year as I went to doctor after doctor.

I would like to share the video of the song Jesus Your Love with you. It is on Vevo. I hope it is a blessing for you as it has been for me. God Bless

Jesus Laid in the Tomb- His Followers Despair and Lose Hope

Good Friday and Easter Sunday deservedly receive a lot of attention. They are the pivotal events in not only Christianity, but also in History. On Good Friday we remember His sacrificial death for us. On Easter Sunday we remember how He defeated death for us through His resurrection. But what about the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? The day when Jesus’ body laid in the tomb. His followers were in despair. They had lost hope. They thought it was all over and done with and their beloved leader was gone forever.

I have been to the funerals of loved ones and friends. Looking into a casket is perhaps the most solemn experience we face in this life. That and watching a loved one die. I was with my father when he died. He died while I was reading from the bible to him. When my father died, I did not despair. That was because over a year before he died, I was with him while he made peace with God by trusting in Jesus. I had so much peace about where my father went to that I taught my class that evening, but I had the benefit of knowing the rest of the story which is that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection.

There are other moments in life that might we feel all hope is lost. We look at our life obstacles and wonder if there is anyway that we can find that job, get out of debt, experience our loved ones finally getting their life turned around, recover from an illness or any other of life’s seemingly unending problems. We at times are like the followers of Jesus on that Saturday between the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is as if we are on the outside of the tomb lost in despair.

I often wonder how His followers felt that Saturday. What it must have been like for those who washed His body and prepared His body for burial. They had forgotten about how Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead only days before Jesus entered Jerusalem. They had forgotten how Jesus had told them that He would die and that He would be raised from dead. They had lost hope. We do the same thing. We lose hope even though we have the rest of the story. We know that Jesus defeated death. His resurrection proves that He has power even over our worst enemy. When we face life’s difficulties, it is too easy for us to lose hope and not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

On this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I would like to encourage you to think about your problems and then remember that He has all power. His resurrection is the proof that we too will one day enjoy the benefits of heaven, and also that He does have all power. He is more than able to help us to overcome our difficulties.

Visits by Jesus After His Resurrection- What About Mary His Mother?

One of the mysteries in the bible for me is what happened when Jesus came to visit His mother Mary. She is not listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as being present during his visits after His resurrection. Surely He must have appeared to Mary His mother. She was there when He was crucified. She was there when He was buried. She had been with Him throughout His life as we see various times after His birth that she was with Him such as at the wedding in Cana. I wonder what happened when He came to her.

Think about her life for a moment. She was a young virgin when an angel appeared to her and said, “Hail Highly Favored One…..” and told her she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Savior of the world. She said yes to God’s plan. She gave birth to Him in a stable of animals and then had to flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. She raised Him and cared for Him like no one else ever will. She saw His miracles and was even there for His first public miracle of turning water into wine. In fact she kind of instigated it. Then she is there during His passion and watches Him die on the cross before her eyes. She helped to prepare His body for burial. So why is there no mention of Mary the mother of Jesus during His visits after the resurrection.

While I would not make a claim to know for sure or teach this as a doctrine, it is my thought that Jesus’ first visit with His mother Mary was so highly personal and emotional for Mary that the Holy Spirit did not have it recorded. I have often heard it expressed that God is a gentleman meaning He is polite and considerate. While God does record the failings of Peter and the other disciples, there are certain things left unwritten such as the exact nature of Mary Magdaline’s life before Jesus healed her of demon possession. I believe that the moment Jesus first came to see His mother after His resurrection was so personal and emotional for her and out of respect for that moment it was kept private.

Let’s imagine how she must have felt though. She knew better than anyone why He had come into the world. She knew it from the start when the angel Gabriel told her. She saw Him die on the cross and heard Him give her care over to John. She saw Him buried and then she sees Him after His resurrection. She must have been so full of joy that she could not contain her emotions. Tears of joy that must have flowed from her eyes. Surely she embraced Him with a wonderful motherly hug and didn’t want to let go.

There is something in the bible that convinces me that Jesus must have visited Mary after His resurrection. Mary was with the disciples in the upper room when the promise of the Father came upon them. When the Holy Spirit was sent to those who were waiting, Mary was there with them.  In the bible she may fade from the scene as the focus of the story shifts to what the apostles did as they started the church, but she was there when the Holy Spirit came signaling that she still has a role. She is one person I look forward to meeting one day when Jesus calls me home. I would love to hear the story from her 🙂

What does God want from us?- our hearts not our rituals

Jesus had a conversation with a woman who was as far from a relationship with God as one can get. She had been married several times and was living with a man without being married at the time Jesus talked with her. It is interesting that Jesus even talked with her because she was a woman who lived a sinful life. She was a perfect example of why Jesus came. He came for all of us who are apart from God. As they talked she asked Jesus a religious question. She asked where people should worship. Jesus replied not with where but with how. He told her that “God is spirit and those who worship must worship Him in spirit and truth”.

There are many places in the bible where it says that God does not want our sacrifices but wants us to show mercy. In the times before Jesus came and in the time He was here, the Jewish religion had a sacrificial system of worship. The problem was that their hearts were not in the right place. They were performing outward actions of religious ritual, but their hearts were not right with God and others. One passage in the bible catches my eye. It says that pure religion is to help the widows and the orphans.

What does God want from us? He wants our hearts to be right with Him and our relationships to be right with others. He does not want empty ritual. He wants is to give Him our hearts and our love. He wants us to show love to others.

What does God want for us? To be Our Father

Life can be confusing at times and different voices express all sorts of ideas. It can be confusing to try to understand who God is and what does He want for us. I find comfort in what is recorded in the Bible. It gives me peace in the midst of a world that sometimes seems crazy. The bible records some encouraging words spoken by Jesus.

When he taught his followers about prayer and fasting He told them to not do so for recognition from others. He taught them to begin prayer with “Father” when He gave them an example of prayer that began with “Our Father”. He also said something significant when He said, “your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask”. God knows what is going on in our lives. He knows before we do what we will need.

God does not want us to live in fear. The bible says that He has not given a spirit of fear but a spirit of adoption so that we can be called children of God. It also says that when we receive the Spirit of adoption we cry out Abba Father.

What does God want for us? He wants to be our Father in relationship with us, not to abuse us, but rather to lavish upon us His love. He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for……, plans to prosper you… to give you a future and a hope. That is why He sent Jesus, so that through Him we could be restored to relationship with God as our Father.

God’s Gentle Call

When someone important enters a room, there is usually some of sort of recognition. When the President of the U.S. enters a room the song Hail to the Chief is played and those who are present stand out of respect if not for the person than at least for the office. When politicians visit a place, they usually arrange for some sort of press coverage to ensure it gets some sort of media attention. It seems to be human nature to want to call attention to things we do or events we will go to.

In contrast Jesus invited people to come to Him. He said, “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest….. for I am gentle and humble of heart” God spoke to the great prophet Elijah in a still small voice. When God calls us, He does so in gentleness. He speaks to us in a still small voice even though He has all power.

I have had some recent conversations with people who have just begun their relationships with God. It was interesting for me to hear their life stories. I could easily see that God had been working in their lives to lead them to the point where they were. God led them gently to Himself. God is always wooing people to Himself. He calls us in gentleness. He places people in our lives to get our attention. I like the saying that a coincidence is when God does something but stays anonymous. Listen to His gentle call because it is calling you to the one who loves you so much that He died for you. Jesus loves you more than you can possibly understand. He has all power, but He works gently to woo us to Hismelf.