Haunted by Ghosts of Regret?

231 Do the ghosts of past regret haunt you with the words “If only?”

When Daylight Savings Time ended last Sunday, the sun rose at 6:35 a.m. instead of 7:35 a.m. because I set back my clocks by one hour.

If only I could change my past that easily by switching back the hands of time.

Hindsight has taught me many lessons, made me wiser.

Even so, I’d like to go back and change poor decisions. Sometimes, I wonder how life would be now if I’d made different choices.

There are also things I wish I’d done…..

For two years, I promised myself I’d visit an elderly friend. But she lived “so far away” and “life was busy.” By the time I went to her home, she had passed away.

 IF only I had known….

Regret is difficult to avoid…   

If only I had taken a different path,

If only I had made better choices,

If only God hadn’t allowed that circumstance,

If only I had known then, what I know now.  

But living with “what might have been” paralyzes me.

Before Paul was an apostle of Christ, he persecuted Christians. The memory of watching Stephen being stoned to death must have made Paul cry, “If only I had known Christ then, I would have ….

Paul experienced remorse over his actions: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

But he received the peace of God. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Read Romans 7:15-8:1)

“If only” didn’t hold Paul captive to the past.

Instead, he believed that he was loved by God, saved by grace, and forgiven.

And those facts enabled Paul to say, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Read Philippians 3:8-14)

Like Paul, we get to choose where our mind dwells.

“Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things…..and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

                  The only “if only” anyone should regret……is not knowing…..the God of peace.

Like it or Not, Can I Rejoice?

Who knew when I wrote this blog back in February that I’d be speaking at a women’s conference this month on the topic “Finding Rest in the Middle of Wrestling Life.”

Isn’t it just like the Lord to remind me of this blog considering for the past three weeks I’ve had poor health, AND fractured my big toe so I’m limping along in life.

So like it or not, here is the message on rest that speaks to my current circumstances the same way it did earlier this year…

For almost three weeks, I’ve been home bound with ill health, and I’m still not up to par.

I miss the days I woke up ready to rumble. And went to bed feeling as though I’d been productive.

I tell myself: “It’s okay. Use this time to rest. Read the Bible. Pray.

But my mental energy is sapped; lethargy takes over. Spiritual disciplines are minimal, I’m just going through the motions.

Are you there Lord? How much longer?

I’m weary of resting; waiting for good health and LIFE to resume.

An inner voice whispers, “This IS life.”

So like it or not,

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

God knows my circumstances. He allowed it.

Can I rejoice and be glad in it?

Not happy about ill health, but rejoicing that God is with me even in this season of ill health and lethargy?

Can I rejoice without whining?

Knowing that Nothing is Wasted.

Because when I come before God, fully submitted and willing to learn…He teaches me.”

So what has He taught me?

That when I’m healthy, I am more prone to live independent of God and be self sufficient. But when I’m unable to do anything in my own strength: Not housework, not ministering to others, not even meditating on God’s Word … I’m forced to REST in God’s strength and grace.

At the end of myself, I’m forced to let go of expectations …. those things I think will make me happy such as good health and productivity.

And REST in the knowledge that every circumstance is an opportunity to be made in the image of Christ and bring Him praise.

By keeping my eyes on Jesus, the lifter of my head,

I’m able to REST and REJOICE even in this……

The C Word

Heard the C word again; the one that fills the human heart with dread.

The C word that forces me to “lean not on my own understanding”

But rest in a sovereign God.

He tells me surgery is scheduled, but the doctor’s optimistic prognosis doesn’t slay the inner demons swimming in the back of the mind:

What if ?

Dwelling on the problem instead of the Lord,

Feeds FEAR and makes it grow into a gIANT   that only faith can slay.

“For the Lord your God will hold your right hand saying to you, ‘Fear not. I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

  • Fear not, even if it’s cancer.
  • Fear not, I will hold your right hand.
  • Fear not, I will help you.

I cling to that promise like a blanket and fall asleep, one ear listening for the phone to ring.

And it does ring, waking me up just as dawn appears on my horizon and bird song fills the air.

A weary monotone voice greets me from a thousand miles away where skies are blue, but not for him.

I feel the weight of the world on his shoulders as he waits for his wife’s operation to be over, and the lab results to show good news.

Words stick in my throat as I search for the right thing to say.

“May I pray with you?”

Instead of holding warm-blooded hands, I grip the cold metal of my cell phone and …

  •  Plead to the heavens on his behalf.
  • Pray to the Lord who is an ever present help in times of trouble.
  • Claim God’s promises that are true.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

If only I could crawl through the phone, and sit beside him. Show that I care beyond words. But I can’t.

So I hang up and do what I can.

  • Bow my head and pray some more.
  • Sound the trumpet so my fellow saints will pray too.
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit who dwells within my friend to do what I can’t.

Be his strength in weakness;

          give him grace that is enough,

                 guard his mind with the peace that surpasses human understanding.

Even in this ……

Like it or Not, Can I Rejoice?

Who knew when I wrote this blog back in February that I’d be speaking at a women’s conference this month on the topic “Finding Rest in the Middle of Wrestling Life.”

Isn’t it just like the Lord to remind me of this blog considering, for the past three weeks I’ve had health problems, AND fractured my big toe so I’m limping along in life.

The message then, is the same for me now. REST, not just physically, but rest knowing God is in control. And HIS strength equips me to do the things He calls me to…..

For almost three weeks, I’ve been home bound with ill health, and I’m still not up to par.

I miss the days I woke up ready to rumble. And went to bed feeling as though I’d been productive.

I tell myself: “It’s okay. Use this time to rest. Read the Bible. Pray.

But my mental energy is sapped; lethargy takes over. Spiritual disciplines are minimal, I’m just going through the motions.

Are you there Lord? How much longer?

I’m weary of resting; waiting for good health and LIFE to resume.

An inner voice whispers, “This IS life.”

So like it or not,

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

God knows my circumstances. He allowed it.

Can I rejoice and be glad in it?

Not happy about ill health, but rejoicing that God is with me even in this season of ill health and lethargy?

Can I rejoice without whining?

Knowing that Nothing is Wasted.

Because as my friend Loretta says, “When I come before God, fully submitted and willing to learn…He teaches me.”

So what has He taught me?

That when I’m healthy, I am more prone to live independent of God and be self sufficient. But when I’m unable to do anything in my own strength: Not housework, not ministering to others, not even meditating on God’s Word … I’m forced to REST in God’s strength and grace.

At the end of myself, I’m forced to let go of expectations …. those things I think will make me happy such as good health and productivity.

And REST in the knowledge that every circumstance is an opportunity to be made in the image of Christ and bring Him praise.

By keeping my eyes on Jesus, the lifter of my head,

I’m able to REST and REJOICE in this day the Lord has made, and be glad even in this……

Can We See the Icing on the Cake?

IMG_6106In a banquet room lit with floating candles, white Christmas lights, and sparkling silver decor, there was a small round table draped in white cloth. And on that table, there stood a one-tier wedding cake with no topper.

She made it from scratch.

 A double, eight-inch round chocolate cake covered in white fondant, trimmed in sugar pearls and pink miniature roses.

She made it from a labor of love.

“God laid it on my heart to bake your daughter a cake for her wedding. If you want it, I can drop it off…”

And so she did, while the guests were at the ceremony.

Attracting attention, receiving money and thanks, was not her intention. She was obedient and followed her heart.

There was nothing ornate about the cake table. No bling or glitter to draw one’s eye. It was upstaged by a larger two-tiered cake, surrounded by a wreath of white lights and roses, on another table.

But some guests noticed the little cake, and asked, “Why do you have two cakes?”

Each time I explained the story, my eyes became wet.

Because a woman I met once, who makes cakes in her kitchen, felt compelled to bake my daughter a cake. She called the morning of the wedding, not knowing we’d bought a cake. And still she chose to give us the cake at her own expense.

Accepting her love gift was like eating humble pie. I’d done nothing to deserve this favor.

 But then again, I’d witnessed many acts of kindness during the wedding preparations. This gift from a stranger’s hands was another example of God working through His saints. This undeserved favor, this grace, was the “icing on the cake!”

As a formality, the wedding couple cut the larger cake during the reception. There was little fanfare.

Three days later, the returning honeymoon couple sliced the sweet love gift during our Christmas feast. And while family members enjoyed dessert, I shared the story of the little wedding cake which had become symbolic of grace.

 Even now the empty cake plate makes me smile, thankful for the never-ending grace in my life.

Who can earn God’s grace, yet He chooses to pour out His grace without measure.

Who knows how many people I have offended who turn the other cheek and show me grace.

I only know, whether it’s the surety of my soul’s salvation or a one-tiered wedding cake, GRACE ABOUNDS.

Regardless of my circumstances, if I have eyes to see, I will find grace even in this…..

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Where have you noticed God’s recent grace in your life?

Frightened of Sin?

Halloween is this week: Television stations air scary movies. Businesses decorate with cobwebs and spiders. Kids dress up like ghoulish monsters.

When I asked my family what frightens them, my husband responded: “You.”

I don’t blame him.

Last week, our family was working in the yard. I was in good spirits, shoveling gravel with my teenage son and my daughter’s boyfriend. Then I turned around and saw my twelve-year-old Japanese maple lying on the ground. My husband and daughter thought the tree was too close to our house and chopped it down.

Steam didn’t come from my ears, but profanity spewed from my lips. My face didn’t turn red, but if looks could have killed…

Throwing my rake on the ground, I blasted them with my words like bullets from a Tommy gun, and ran away in tears.

Even Jonah from the Bible could not have been more outraged when God appointed a worm and wind to destroy his shade tree.

Why the public confession?

Because a butchered tree may be upsetting, but it does not excuse an ungodly response.

My family apologized profusely; they had no idea. And before the sun set on my anger, I asked them to forgive me. We laugh about my crazed behavior.

But sin is no laughing matter.

It frightens me to know sin lingers in my heart, waiting for an opportune moment to rear itself.

“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 15:19).

Isn’t it easy to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh when there’s no agitation? But add a pinch of stress, a pound of unmet expectations, or a felled tree and suddenly I’m staring at my flawed humanity.

My hope: “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and willing to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).

My consolation: “Karen (my emphasis) was washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and Karen was consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and Karen was justified (pronounced righteous, by trusting) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, Amplified version).

My assurance: God uses even this…a felled Japanese maple…to teach me I’m a work in progress, relying on His grace.

Thoughts Gone Wild

Early morning. Hit the pavement. Walking fast. Blue skies overhead, but I only notice the black asphalt beneath my feet.

Forty-five minutes gives me time to ponder; allows my mind to wander down dark paths.

Concerns creep into the forefront. First one. Then another. Until my anxious thoughts flow like the Dow Jones ticker tape.

Overwhelmed, I decide to pray. Take those heart concerns to the Lord. Dump them in His capable hands. “Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6)

No sooner do I pray for that something…that someone ….when my mind drops anchor into troubled waters. And I camp there.

Instead of casting my cares on Jesus and resting in still waters, my thoughts go wild.

I begin to sink. Can’t solve the problem. Can’t imagine that God will either. Takes my breathe away.

So I come up for air, and pray for the next thing. But that next thing is like stirring up a hornet’s nest. Fears, what if’s, hurts circle in my head like hornets. Dive bomb and sting my thin skin. Until I taste the bitter bile rising in my throat.

Oddly enough, as I walk and fret, Chris Tomlin is praising God on my I pod. I hear the melody and his voice. But I’m not listening to the words. My mind is elsewhere.

Occasionally, a random lyric from different songs infiltrate my conscience. Catches my attention.

Song lyric: “Your grace is enough for me.”

Is it? Then why don’t I receive His grace and stop beating myself up?

Song lyric: “Only you can satisfy..Your strength is a tower the righteous run into.”

Really? Am I allowing God to satisfy my heart? Or searching for something else? Relying on His strength? Or mine?

Song lyric: “Here comes the King, all bow down.

Am I submitting to God’s authority? Or paying lip service and having my own way?

Too many thoughts. Too much SELF standing between me and Jesus.

So I claim 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Takes intentional will power, but I capture the thoughts and leave them at the Cross of Jesus.

As I’m walking up the driveway, I finally notice the blue skies. And Chris Tomlin’s lyrics in the next song shrinks all my troubles in view of….

How Great is our God

What is your favorite praise song?