You Are Not Alone

As I was praying this morning, I felt I needed to write this post. Perhaps it is for one person or many, I don’t know, but I felt I needed to write this post today.

We are social beings. God created us to be relational people. Whether we are extroverts who love to be around many people or introverts who prefer smaller numbers or a few close friends, we are created for relationship. God created us to have friendships with other people, to have family relationships, and God created us to have a relationship with him as his children.

But sadly, we live in a world that is full of problems and suffering. There are so many issues that can leave us feeling alone in our circumstances, God has something to say to those who feel alone in this life and at times feeling desperation.

adult alone black and white dark
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

To those suffering with depression and anxiety, God has something to say.

To those suffering the loss of a loved one, God has something to say.

To those suffering with an illness, God has something to say.

To those suffering alienation from family, God has something to say.

To those struggling with addiction, God has something to say.

To those struggling with family issues, God has something to say.

To those who have been victims, God has something to say.

Whatever our circumstance, God has something to say to us. His message has been written. Jesus promised us something when he said, “ I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” in John 14. He also promised in Matthew 28- ” And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus promised to not leave us and to always be with us. He never changes. At times we let life’s circumstances cause us to feel he is distant from us. It can feel like something is blocking us from being with him, but he hasn’t moved, he is still with us. At times we move away from him choosing sin, resentment, bitterness, but he hasn’t moved. He is still standing beside us waiting for us to confess to him what he already knows.

So if you are reading this today, God has something to say to you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Call home to our father in heaven. Call home by praying and pouring it all out to our father in heaven. He has asked us to in 1st Peter- “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 

I would like to share a video with you I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe. I pray it blesses you as you listen.

 

Advertisements

Memorial Day-Remembering My Father and Those Who Served

It is Memorial Day here in America. A day originally set aside after the Civil War to honor those who died fighting for our freedom and has also become a day to remember loved ones we have lost. When I was a child, Memorial Day was always on May 31st regardless of what day of the week it was on. It seems the further away we got from World War II, Memorial Day began to lose some of its meaning here, which I think is sad. Memorial Day was changed to be on the 4th Monday in May to allow for a three day weekend and it seems that now it is more about the start of summer. However, it is important to me to remember those who served fighting for our freedom. Our freedom did not come freely. Thank you to all who served and fought for our freedom.

My father served during the Korean War. I have previously written about my dad and how he came to Christ after I expressed forgiveness to him when he was in the hospital. You can click on this link if you want to read it- Forgiveness from me led to my father receiving forgiveness from God.

One surprise for me and something I would have never thought possible until it happened was that my father’s funeral was a Christian funeral with my pastor doing the service. He was buried with military honors.

12998581_10154733117594428_4206032729946654072_n

When I visit his grave I see the graves of so many who served our country. It is a somber moment that also causes me to feel gratitude for their service and appreciate the freedom I have. Think about what the world would be like if the Allies had lost World War II to the Nazis and Japan. Think about how our former enemies in World War II are now our friends. Think about how much better life is in South Korea than in North Korea.

I appreciate our freedom in this life and the fact that in America I am free to worship God as I choose. I do not worry about government troops coming in to arrest people simply for worshiping Jesus. But the ultimate freedom is the freedom there is in Jesus, freedom from sin, freedom from eternal judgement, free to be who God created me to be. This makes me think of the praise song, I Am Free.

This Memorial Day let’s remember the reason we have the holiday and remember those who served as well as enjoy a three day weekend with picnics, barbecues etc. Let’s also remember the one who gave his life for all of us on the cross-Jesus.

Living with Autoimmune-Pressing On With God’s Help

Living with autoimmune makes me think of Paul who prayed about whatever his chronic condition was and hearing from God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” As we live with whatever the issue is, we face a daily hassle of coping, maintaining, adjusting etc. But how is God’s power made perfect in the weakness caused by autoimmune issues?

pexels-photo-356079.jpeg

I can only share my experience of God helping me. There are days that I wake up still tired because of the battle going on inside of my own body. On those days my prayer time is simplified to something like, “God I need your strength fo this day” or “God I am so tired I need your power to show your love today.”

Having been through two serious problems with autoimmune from onset and being sick, through the process of diagnosis, to adjusting to life after diagnosis, I can see how easy it would be to give in to depression and anxiety.

With autoimmune, the problem is ALWAYS there. It is a constant companion we wish would go away. In the days of trying to find out what the problem is, there are doctors to see, tests to be performed on us, and living with the symptoms. After getting diagnosed, each day we need to be vigilant. Depression can set in.

I will never forget the day at church when an elderly woman told me, “You need to make a gratitude list each day.” I thought it was quaint of her and dismissed it while thanking her. Well I found out there is something to expressing gratitude in that when I actually started to thank God, my attitude changed. An example I shared some weeks ago of when I went out to my car in my apartment parking lot only to find it had a flat tire, I stopped and thanked God it happened at home and not on the road. That helped me to not go into the woe is me mode.

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

Prayer and time with God while listening to worship music are vital for me. A song that I listened to every day and in fact several times a day last year as I was going through the maze of seeing several doctors to find out what was wrong was It Is Well by Kristene DiMarco.

Living with autoimmune has made very real to me the words of Jesus when he said, “I am the vine and you are the branches apart from me you can do nothing.” I don’t do a good job of it every day but when I stop ask him to empower me to show his love, the day goes much better.

 

Music Mondays- I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

Jesus said in John 16 that we will have problems in this life but encourages us that he has overcome the world.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We have no guarantees in this life. As I spend time with refugees, I am constantly reminded of how life can be turned upside down in seemingly an instant. A man from Bosnia shared with me his pain over the fact that a neighbor he had often played cards and drank coffee with turned against him during the genocide there in the 1990s.

I will never forget my friend from Korea, an international student, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer only months before he would have finished his Phd and died a few months later.

Following Jesus does not make us immune to problems in life. My first serious battle with autoimmune began when I was studying for the ministry in the 1990s. In this life we will have struggles, disappointments, illnesses, along with the joys, accomplishments, and celebratory moments. This life is a mixed bag.

Jesus gave another promise that is encouraging to me. He promised he would always be with us in Matthew 28-  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he who has overcome the world has promised to always be with us. Even if others abandon us, he will be with us.

So today I would like to share a song by Kari Jobe with you, I Am Not Alone in hopes that it helps us remember that whatever circumstance we are in that Jesus is with us. I hope your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Over 100 Followers as of this week, so time to share a few thoughts

This week my blog went over 100 followers. SO FIRST OF ALL- THANKS. Thank you to all of you who follow my blog!!!

IMG_1234

 While other blogs have far more followers, for me the number 100 means something. I promised myself to write a post to share some things after my blog reached 100.

So I am writing this post while drinking a cup of coffee in my new coffee cup from Cuba thanks to my friend Karen from Cuba. 🙂

IMG_1239

Something that stats do not show you but show me that I want you to know. I see countries in my stats, not who of course, but countries that people view my posts from. I am aware of the countries where being a Christian can mean danger for you. When I see one of those countries, I pray for whoever the person is who viewed my blog from the country.

I also pray for those whose blogs I have read and know a little of their struggles from reading their posts.

pexels-photo-267559.jpeg

I started this blog in 2009 as a way for those who had come to my Sunday morning group at church and moved away to keep in touch. But something happened along the way. I lost my creative side due to foggy brain of Celiacs. So after the first six months, I did not post much from 2010  until this year and I had about 25 followers. Last year I found out I have Celiacs Disease and became gluten free. A few months later, the foggy brain was gone and then one day Pastor Nat at my church preached about how we want to be a creative church. It was like God opened the window mind and my creative side emerged again. As someone who has acted, written drama scripts and directed, to go through a monotone world of not being creative for 7 years was depressing, which is why I am thrilled to be back to writing. God reminded me of a piece I wrote about the Angel Gabriel visiting the Nativity of Christ. So I rewrote it with a few changes and my church used it in our Christmas Eve service.

This is a video I made with my iPad of the Gabriel piece it you want to see it.

Other writing ideas kept coming to me and in late March this year, I began to focus more intentionly on this blog. So in 7 weeks, my blog went from 25 followers to over 100. I am so grateful to you for following my blog and to those who read it via facebook and twitter.

IMG_1238

One thing I have not shared is why I chose the name jesusluvsall for my blog. Jesus is my everything. I am only alive because of him after he intervened for me that night in July 1995 when I was close to death. It is because of him that I am alive to help others. He guided me to become an English Second Language teacher and to share his love with people from all over the world living here in my city Lincoln Nebraska that for most of you would be in the middle of nowhere 🙂 Jesus has also led me to share him in my travels to Romania, France, Mexico and Brazil. He has blessed me to be able to join in worship with brothers and sisters in a church in Romania, a Turkish speaking church also in Romania, in a church in Lyon France, in a church in Ensenada Mexico, and in churches in Brazil through my travels, and also in Spanish speaking, Ukranian speaking, Vietnamese speaking, Karen speaking, Zomi speaking and Arabic speaking, Korean speaking, and Nuerr speaking churches in Lincoln. Jesus has blessed me to experience his love for ALL PEOPLE. So to sum it up, my blog posts are written for an audience of one- Jesus-to honor him, in hopes that it blesses those he loves- YOU.

Again THANK YOU for following my blog, reading my posts via facebook and twitter, for the likes and the comments. I love comments. I hope you have a blessed day.

Now if I could only decide whether to shave off my beard for summer or not. What do you think? 🙂

 

Moms Are Heroes of the Common Everyday That Make Up Life

Growing up in a family with a mentally ill mother, Mother’s Day was always a day that I dreaded each year as I would see happy families celebrating their mothers. They always seemed so lucky and I would wonder why I had the one I had. Her moods were unpredictable and she was highly manipulative.

After coming to Christ, I began observing people in church and in life. I have always taken note of moms with their kids not because I was looking for a mom, but because I wanted to understand. What have I taken away from observations? Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens.

pexels-photo-733881.jpeg

Every weekday morning during the school year, I watch the moms in my class have the courage to study a difficult language to learn, English,  because they want to help their children. I am an eye witness of their daily effort to help their kids. They are low income, but they do the best they can to have a safe and nurturing home for their children.

mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

I have a friend at church whose husband died of cancer and watched from afar her courage as she kept her kids going through extremely hard times. One of her sons just sang with his high school choir at Carnegie Hall. She has one son in college, one about to begin college, and one in high school the one who is in the school choir. My friend faced the day to day struggles of being a single mom and trusting Jesus in the struggles. She had to be the only ‘taxi’ driver in the family, the only one to take them to doctors’ appointments, the only one to discipline when needed and encourage when needed.

The list could go on to become several books if I listed each mother that has impressed me with the way she has faced the common everyday things in life, hardships, sickness, school problems etc that her children have had. Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens and also heroes of the big things.

Moms know pain, not just the physical pain of childbirth, but also the spiritual, emotional, and mental pain of raising children in the down times. This makes me think of Mary the Mother of Jesus when Jesus was only 8 days old in his earthly life and a man told her, “a sword will pierce your soul too” to indicate that she would suffer grief and sorrow because of Jesus. She was there watching him die on the cross. She experienced great pain.

Moms know the joy of seeing their children grow and develop and the joy of seeing their kids succeed at something for the first time. Moms know the joy of adult kids coming to visit them after being gone for a long time. Can you imagine the joy Mary had when she first saw Jesus after his resurrection?

So if you are a mom and reading this, Happy Mother’s Day to you.

 

Music Mondays- Immanuel God Is With Us by Michael Card

Closing out the month of April, I wanted to share a song that has significant meaning for me in my life. This is a song that I would listen to when I was really sick back in 1994 and 1995. There were times that I would listen to this song and feel the presence of Jesus and even though the song is about 4 minutes, it felt like eternity in his presence.

A different song during that time was one that tended to bring me down whenever I heard it, Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen. Lines from that song made struggling with being sick even worse such as:

“At night I could hear the blood in my veins,It was just as black and whispering as the rain.”

It seemed I couldn’t avoid that song because it was playing all the time on the radio where I worked due to it being popular but those lyrics are not the ones I wanted in my spirit.

That is why Immanuel was such a blessing at that time. Listening to it I could feel the darkness lift. It still has that effect on me at times now in my life. It is a song that helps me remember that in Jesus, God is with us.

Think about that as you listen to this song, God is with you right now. Whatever situation we may be in, God is with us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Hope your Monday goes well. God Bless

Doctor- ‘You are now a healthy man’ Reaction-‘What Do I Do Now?”

It was in April 1996 that I heard these words from my doctor, “Matt, you are now a healthy man. It’s a miracle you didn’t die.”

So the natural first reaction is:

pexels-photo-1030794.jpeg

Jump for Joy, right?

Well I did celebrate at first. Who wouldn’t after going through what I went through from 1993 to that day in April 1996. The tests, the doctors appointments, the symptoms, the complete changing of my life would all be behind me.

But then another thought hit me, “Oh No!!!! What do I do now?”

IMG_1148

I had a similar reaction to the character Stella Abbott had in the new show Life Sentence. She had cancer for eight years and then she found out she was cured after getting married thinking it would only be for six months or so until she died. She had the “Oh No!!! Now what do I do” reaction.

I didn’t have cancer. It was autoimmune issue number 2 for me. First it was asthma. The second? Nothing serious unless it is not diagnosed until it is too late (in my case it almost was) my thyroid stopped working. By the time they found it, I was about to go into heart, liver, and kidney failure. I had lost memory. I had left the school where I was studying for the ministry in April 1994. When I came back to my home city, I thought it was to die because of the decline I was experiencing. I was working part-time delivering pizza just to scratch out almost survival living. I had left everything behind and then came those words, “Matt you are now a healthy man.”

An illness can be an intrusive interruption of life. When we are sick for a prolonged period of time, no matter what the illness is, and then hear we will be okay, yes there is a relief, but there is also the rebuilding of one’s life to start on. For me it meant transferring to a school in a city one hour away, continuing to work, and trusting God to make sense of it all for me as I started to pick up the pieces with his help.

pexels-photo-269399.jpeg

I was literally trusting in the truth of what is written in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

There were the one hour drives to class, four hours of being in class, and one hour drives back home. There were different tries of new jobs. It was through my first three trips to Romania that God led me to teach ESL, but that is a story for another day.

I thank God for the people he put in my life during that time. One such friend passed away a few years ago and is with the Lord now. Joel and his wife Marlys were a huge blessing. One day my car broke down as I was driving to my class. I called Joel hoping to get a ride back to my city. He came and towed my car back to my city. There were others God put in my life too, but if I list them all the post will be way too long.

Here is the ‘plot twist’ so to speak in the story of my life. I am not happy I went through those years; one year getting sick, two years being sick, one year recovering, two more years to finish my education, but I am grateful for what those years did for me. Going through suffering, the doubt, and regrouping not knowing how it would work out, has given me a lot of empathy for my refugee and immigrant friends God has called me to help. I hope to be as good of a friend to them as Joel and Marlys were to me.

If you are experiencing an “Oh no” moment, hang on because God has a hold of you.

 

Music Monday- Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle has had some popular songs most notably How Can It Be that is perhaps her most famous song. I love that song, but a lesser known song of hers is one that has significant meaning for me. It is a song based on the passage in Ezekiel 37 where God shows the prophet Ezekiel a valley of bones and tells him what to say and then the dry bones come alive.

Spiritually we dry up at times. Things can drain us such as for me living with autoimmune problems, financial pressures of being a part-time teacher and in ministry part-time, concerns for people the Lord has brought into my life to minister to, the list goes on. There are mornings that I literally wake up stiff and sore and wonder how I will make it through the day. Those are the mornings I start with the only thing I know for sure will carry me through the day-PRAYER.

There have been mornings that I listen to this song and pray for God to give life to my dry bones, so I can forth with my day. I ask him to give me his strength to show my students his love by teaching them with my heart fully in it even though sometimes I am in pain. This may sound funny, but I listen to this song and place my hands on my legs and pray for life for my dry bones for that day.

Hope you have a blessed Monday and have energy for the day. 🙂

I would love to hear what songs lift you up.

Here is Come Alive by Lauren Daigle at her Centric Worship session.

Scars- His Scars to Heal Ours

 

12 scars on my body tell stories of my life. Some are from surgeries like the  scar from an appendectomy when I was 21. Some are small like the small scar next to my left eye from a freak accident while setting up an outdoor activity for kids at church. The tiny scars from arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder in 1990. The scar on my stomach when I was attacked by a dog when I was 12 is symbolic of the upheaval in my youth. The two inch scar on my left hand from a surgery to repair damage when I had a hand injury in 1996 represents my health struggles of the 1990s.

IMG_1082

Scars represent our wounds that have healed. Some heal over correctly but some wounds that ‘heal’ over leave places that will never be the same and sometimes not work well.

But what of the scars from wounds no one can see? The scars from being abused. Scars left from struggling with addiction. Scars left from being victimized. Scars from broken relationships. Some wounds go so deep into our souls that we wonder if they will ever scar over the way physical wounds do when they heal.

pexels-photo-758794.jpeg

One day He told Thomas to reach out and touch His scars from the nails that pierced his wrists and the scar from the soldiers spear that pierced his side. His scars are still there to show us His love. Having all power, he could have stopped his crucifixion, but His love for us made Him lay down His life for us.

cropped-cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089.jpeg

He says to all of us, “Look at the scars on my wrists and feet. Look at the scar in my side. My scars are for your scars.”

His scars are there because he wants to bring healing to our souls and spirits. His scarred wrists reach out to us saying, “Come to me all who are weary and find rest for your souls”

One day I reached back to his hands extended. I reached back to find rest and healing from my past as the son of an alcoholic father and mother with mental illness. Rest, oh yes rest, from the anger, confusion, doubt caused by my own sinful reactions to life.

The hands on his scarred wrists long to hold our hand and walk in this life with us. Jesus is reaching out to you. Will we take the hand offered in love and friendship offering healing for our souls?