My Mother’s Day with Covid

This was a most unusual Mother’s Day for me. About four days previous, I caught Covid. During the night on Saturday, I felt achy and awoke to a beautiful Mother’s Day morning with pain in all my joints! Yes, Covid came and claimed my body. Even though it was a celebrated day on my calendar, I didn’t have the usual delights of that day to enjoy, yet I experienced God’s love in a beautiful way.

I notified a few friends of my situation and they moved into action. Offering love and prayer, Ivermectin and vitamins for my covid protocol, food, anything I wanted! Indeed, with God’s grace through prayer and the proper treatment that I adhered to, everything worked out very well for me. Even with me being immuno-compromised with leukopenia, the abundance of prayers and comfort care went a long way in keeping me secure as I traveled through the first and second trying days. This is my 4th day now, and I feel so blessed to be on the other side of that and strong enough to think and write!

Day 1 and 2 were the worse for me. Extreme body pain everywhere: bones, joints, and muscles… I felt like an injured snake writhing in pain without relief. No escape, even with strong pain meds. But, when I awoke yesterday, I knew it took a turn! I slept almost all day, resting my wrecked body. Upon waking today, I knew I was climbing out of it. Praise God!

I am so thankful for the wonderful friends who cared for me. My neighbor, Gaby, who offered to pick up anything I needed: bought some vitamins I needed and baked and shared with me a wonderful homemade dessert last night. My friend, Doris, one of the best cooks I know, made some mean spicy-flu-chasing-chicken-soup that tasted so good yesterday, and today. And thank you, Bill, as always, for delivering Doris’ remedies, even while sick yourself. And my dear friend, Cathy, who early on help me get my protocol in place and ran over the final ingredient I was lacking at 10 pm on Sunday night! And to the many other gals who texted me asking what they could do or bring. Thank you all so much! You are a beautiful family.

Once again, I have lived through the reality of having a family of Christ-followers to come alongside me in my need to demonstrate the love of God beautifully. Galatians 1:1-10 talks about bearing one another’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ, and that is exactly what my sweet friends and church family at Greater Grace Community Church did for me! Your gifts of prayer, supplies, food, and abundance of love carried me through a couple of painful days.

That is my testimony on how something as rotten, painful, and destructive as Covid, could be turned into a blessing in my life, demonstrating God’s goodness amid some limited suffering. It is wonderful to be part of the Family of God. I have brothers and sisters who will, in Jesus’ place, go with me all the way. And I am ever grateful.

Photo Credit: elizabethbruders.com

Compassion

You do not know God by being compassionate, you become compassionate by knowing God.

How do I know if I am a compassionate person? Well, comparing ourselves among ourselves is not how we determine this. Rather, we should look at what Paul teaches in Colossians about compassion and see how we’re doing.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example of compassion. Mark 6:34 says, “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”

Use Discernment

There is so much need in our world that giving should be a part of our everyday lives. We give by serving, teaching, helping, and by sharing God’s love found in His Word with those around us. We should not only give to those who may return something to us, but we are encouraged to give to those who may never know us as their benefactor.

By nature, we are self-centered. In order for us to be truly compassionate we need an infusion of God’s divine nature (2Peter 1:4). Do you remember the parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 18: 23-35? He used an example of a king who was owed money, yet the servant was unable to repay him, so he begged for mercy and the king had compassion upon him and forgave him the debt he owed. But that same servant then turned around and went to someone who owed much less to him, and demanded that his borrower repay him everything he owed. The question the king then posed is: Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? It’s a picture of God’s generous mercy and compassion toward us, yet we often fail to do the same for others.

Self-Check

One way to tell if you are compassionate toward others is seen in your dedication to bringing hope to another soul. This can be done in a variety of ways, it helps to check your audit trail to see how your doing.

Do you carry a lifestyle of debt because of self-consumption? Compare your ongoing spending to how much are you giving out weekly or monthly to others? Following your treasure trail is a good way of determining your compassion level. Money is a primary root that shows what is growing from your tree.

A heart that is free of unforgiveness and bitterness is another. Has God forgiven you, yet you fail to forgive others?

Is your life consumned with your job, your house, your people and your interests? Or do you intentionally care for others with your time, talent and treasure?

God initiates

Our Father had compassion upon us when we weren’t even aware that we needed it. Think about salvation, how long did it take for you to realize that you desperately needed what God was offering you? Once the reality of your need was revealed, how did you respond?

God is the proactive, compassionate one in our world. When we express compassion to another it’s because He has first extended it to us and then puts His virtue into our hearts. Sometimes we express compassion for our own purposes, at other times God uses us for His divine plan.

Do you remember in Exodus 2:6 where it tells of Pharaoh’s daughter extending compassion toward the baby found in the river? “And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, this is one of the Hebrews’ children.” God placed compassion into the daughter of Pharaoh in order to save Moses’ life.

When we look at God’s compassion toward us, His creation, we see that it is His desire to multiply Himself and His character in our world through our lives. He demonstrated His compassion to us in offering salvation. John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Your response will determine your ability to increase in compassion to others.

Our Response

So, how do I know if I am a compassionate person? For the believer, we find in Colossians what Paul indicates our response to God’s compassion to us should be.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy (compassion), kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:1-17).

Wow! That’s a lot right there. For the Christian, this is our script; here we have the goals for our life. It involves putting off our former, sinful ways and taking on the new way of life patterned after Christ. Look at what it says. It may feel impossible to be transformed as Paul writes here, but slowly you will if you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you.

Use Wisdom

Remember there are two kingdoms that believers are a part of simultaneously: the kingdom of this world and God’s Kingdom. They will never be reconciled prior to Jesus Christ’s coming to judge this world. So, do not become confused as to why there cannot be unity between the two: one is ruled by fallen principalities (Satan and his demons) the other by God (and His angels). We are daily caught in the tension between the two, as Jesus demonstrated and taught us.

We need to exercise wisdom concerning compassion we offer. Even within God’s kingdom, you’ll encounter those who are not in pursuit of what Paul is talking about. So, be careful as you attempt to care for someone as this could become a problem if you are not grounded firmly in scripture. Let me explain.

There are well-meaning, “compassionate” people who serve as enablers (aka codependents). By that I mean they want to do good for everybody, even to the point of being snared into a trap of the enemy (Jude 21-23). They find their fulfillment by taking on another’s responsibility and are used wrongfully. On both sides this becomes a form of idolatry. A very self-centered person, knowingly or not, will latch onto to an enabler. If you find yourself in relationship with someone like this, slow things down, and ask someone to help you discern the relationship. Your “compassion” may be serving to further feed their “flesh” that really needs to die (Col. 3:5-6).

I remember twenty years ago while living in Romania, I needed a pastor to help me with compassion as it pertained to beggars on the street. He explained scenarios in which the beggars make much more money by their “trade” than doing ligitimate work each day as the scripture teaches. Rather than humbling themselves and asking for help from God through the church, they deceive others. My “compassion” was fueling an unhealthy begging situation for this person and the upcoming generations. We can see this in our country through our social welfare system and how it has rendered many to become beggars.

As we exercise compassion, let us walk in humility and follow the Master’s pattern in scripture. Discern, learn from scripture, use wisdom to bring glory to God, He alone rightly deserves praise for any good that we have done.

Destroying Relationships

Fighting over who is elected as the next President seems to be a worthy cause for some, even to the point of damaging lasting family relationships. In jabs, barbs, texts, FB posts, the style of banter used reveals the value you place upon your relationships.

So, what are your relationships worth? Are you the type who gives your view and then huffs off, thinking “There, I let them have it! Now they know what I think.”  Perhaps you’re a mocker, one who uses sarcasm to get your feelings out on another.

Depending on the emotional health and relational well-being of our family of origin, we find ourselves somewhere on the scale. Unfortunately, many of us did not have good teaching or examples with this and have had to learn the hard way, the humble way, but hopefully we have learned! If not, we should.

So many families right now are under stress, or duress, when interacting with a member who is adamant about who everyone should vote for. Some take it to social media and with pride attempt to outwit the other. We’ve all seen it and have likely been tempted ourselves to jump in with our 2 cents, but then thought better of it.

How can you tell the difference between someone simply sharing their feelings or information on what they believe, versus these powerplays of viciousness and/or manipulation? It’s revealed by what’s in their heart. Step back and use your discernment and good relationship skills to respond. Sadly, there are many enabler-types who feed right into the hands of these hubristic people… I used to be one of them.

These interactions reveal someone’s relational heart-health and if poor, that will lead to broken relationships. Circumstances bring out what has been hidden. The old elephant in the room usually gets prodded a bit during election seasons, throw in Covid-19 with its accompanying fears, and some are ready to devour their family members.

Here’s a few reasons why some people are unable or unwilling to surrender to the higher call of love (Romans 13:10).

1. Poor Relationship Skills – This is often fear driven. It causes one to assert themselves and expect others to conform or agree with their view, often manipulating others through authority, anger, relationship, revenge, shame, etc. to agree with them.

On Facebook you see this with the “likes” and “comments” others make to this type of person. You can sense the pressure upon the peer or sub to accommodate their poor statement, thought, or even an emotional rant. But in order to comply with the dominant, they indicate agreement anyway! Very foolish–it is the worst thing one can do as it reinforces the persons poor emotional health and they are deceived into thinking they actually are doing okay by acting this way. They also think they have genuine friends, when it’s their manner that produces these conformist “friends”.

2. Elitism – This political ideology believes some are bright & right (according to their worldview) and others are not able to make a sound decision, so they feel like they should have the authority to do it for them.

(Wikipedia: Elitism is the belief or notion that individuals who form an elite—a select group of people described as having an intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills, or experience—are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.)

As with salvation, God’s gift is freely offered and while those of us with a Biblical Worldview believe it’s the right choice for all people, we cannot, should not, force this upon someone (remember the 4th century Roman Empire?). The Holy Spirit draws a heart and they alone must choose Christ to be their King. Compelling another with a godly life and heart of love is the way of the Master, not elitism. While Truth is valuable and must be shared, we cannot force another to believe.

3. Fear of the Future. If you are a believer, a follower of Christ, you can trust that God will take care of you; your life is in His Hands. Believing that the next President holds greater sway in your life than God does is a form of unbelief and is demonstrated by fear. When you live as God desires, He replaces fear with confidence in Him. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with torment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The Holy Spirit in us helps us love those who oppose us, and calls us to this higher love that Jesus taught us.

It is very important for us to voice our concern by our vote over the issues in government that we see as right or wrong. We also must acknowledge that God is sovereign and is over all that happens in our (His) world and as finite beings we may have difficulty reconciling the two. Yet, we do our part by taking responsibility in letting our views be known in a variety of peaceable ways and we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Then, God takes our obedience to Him or lack thereof and does the rest.

Scripture indicates often throughout the Old Testament that God raises up and brings down Kingdoms; there are many examples if this. We also know that God influences the heart of the King (or President). That explains why we may see someone, unlikely in our view, doing something that upholds God’s righteous ways. It doesn’t make sense but it happens because God is doing something through it. (Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turns it whithersoever he will.)

Of course, there are other reasons for poor behavior in relationships leading up to and following this election, but these three give us enough to think about and hopefully each of us will examine our hearts and see where our health meter is sitting. Is your heart for others, or against others? It is to bring peace while disagreeing on a matter or to engage war?

I wrote this poem, Step Back, many years ago and it seems to fit here. When we are re-acting to someone or something that is happening, we get ourselves into trouble. But if we will act, after thoughtful moments, we find that we are much better at responding properly.

STEP BACK

When life seems quite overwhelming,
and you feel the need to take charge.
Be careful you honor the scripture.
for pains of consequence are large.

If you will take gently a step back,
consider your ways and be wise,
you’ll soon see your Father’s instruction,
in your situation proved wise.

Step back and make room for the Lord,
give time for His will to reveal.
Instead of you charging forward,
with error your future to seal.

Wait! God will in His timing,
use peace to measure the score.
And if that is not present within you,
Step back, do not engage war.

God guides by these simple treasures,
His Word, obedience, and peace.
And when, all these three are present,
the warring and tumult will cease.

So step back and do an assessment,
and see where you’re missing the mark,
adjust and then humbly go forward,
with God’s favor and peace in your heart.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Forgive and Live!

Hurt people, hurt people; we’ve heard this phrase often and it’s true. Realizing that everyone has suffered some type of wounding in life, leaving scars of pain, we can see that if left ignored your hurt will hurt others. This article is the conclusion of Painful Pasts (Part 1 and Part 2). Here we will explore how to be set free.

Have you washed your windows lately?

Some people drive around with dirty a windshield and this makes it hard to navigate the road ahead. Seeing clearly makes a big difference when we are traveling through life. We all have our blind spots and with humility and an open heart, God will give us good people who will come alongside and help us see those areas. Then, like the dirty windshield, we have a choice to make, wash it and see or wait until it rains (God’s grace allowing us to see some of it) or an accident happens (again, God’s grace with a more direct hit).  These blinding filters upon our hearts need cleaning, if we fail to respond when we discover a blinder, we end up in a very destructive and dangerous place.

Accidents Happen

Yes, they do, and prevention is worth a pound of cure. I like to take a defensive driving course every three years to sharpen my driving skills and receive a 10% discount on my auto insurance. Insurance companies have found that those who will take the time and preventive care to take the course will make an attempt to drive defensively. They remind us of current laws, give attention to potential hazards while driving, and to make adjustments for constantly changing road conditions. Navigating life is a bit like this. If we’re going to avoid unnecessary accidents, we must invest energy in prevention and recovery.

When we live with a Que sera, sera, attitude, we demonstrate human pride in a way that says, “Don’t trouble yourself, live and let live, what will be, will be.” This attitude works against what the scripture tells us about sobriety, learning, and stewarding our lives well. We are told to care for others, to teach and model responsibility, study and learn, and to be good stewards of what we have been given. 

A good illustration of this attitude is a young person whose situation entitles them to a car, perhaps the family car, or they are given one by their parents or grandparents. Compare this to the young person to one who works and saves money to purchase their own car. Which vehicle will likely be more carefully driven and cared for? Which person will “see” the importance of maintaining the vehicle? And when an accident occurs, which will say, “Get off my back, accidents happen!”. Perspective often creates attitude.

Entitlement

When we view God as someone who should take care of us and fix everything in our lives so it runs smoothly, we tend to be like the child who has been given everything, it’s expected. We become angry with God over the injustice that has occurred or if things don’t go our way. We blame Him, or others, for our lot in life. Relationship with God is two-sided, both parties must reciprocally give to it. The person who understands the sin-nature of all human beings realizes that God owes us nothing, yet offers us everything. With this outlook, we tend to approach Him with a proper fear and reverence for who He is. If our worldview is off biblically, nothing will be properly understood about life here on earth, or why things happen as they do. Missing this big piece of life’s puzzle makes one think that only good things should happen. Suffering of any sort – physical or emotional abuse in any form — becomes monumental and we demand justice. When we find our proper posture before God, we discover that we have all sinned against someone, and it’s by His grace that we have not perpetrated the same, or worse, against another.

Hurt people, hurt people. Apart from Jesus Christ, everyone born into this world has experienced the pain of being sinned against and in turn, has sinned against others. Jesus himself was greatly violated, tortured, betrayed, and hated, yet he reviled not against those who harmed Him. He knew that one day His Father, the only just One, would make all things right.

Truth and Justice

Until we desire to know Truth, we will not allow for God’s method of justice. Rather, we will demand justice our way.

God set up earthly authority as it is described in Romans Chapter 13 and Paul said we should avail ourselves of this human government. In chapter 12, he claims that vengeance belongs to God alone (Romans 12:19-21). Since God is the ONLY ONE who sees and knows everything about every situation, and the intricacies of every human heart, He is the only one qualified to exact vengeance and justice. And He will one day. He alone is just. His Truth and mercy endure forever. The best we can do as flawed human beings are to enact laws and punishment according to the best of our ability. And yes, we fail, but God knows. Innocent people have gone to jail. Parents have not been fair, they have failed in many ways. We have missed the mark. So, what do we do with these failures? How can we best promote truth and justice while living in a hurting and confused world?

Humility and Forgiveness

It becomes clear, over time, when a person’s heart has been cleansed by God and granted forgiveness from their past. Humility is a marker of that, along with the willingness to make things right. It’s true, we cannot take back what we have done, but we certainly can, in humility, go to those we have wronged and name what we have done and ask forgiveness. This is foundational to healing wounds that we have inflicted upon others.

Sometimes we are not aware of the damage we have caused another and that’s where humility helps us. It allows others to share their feelings and pain with us. Ask someone who has a broken relationship with you, “What have I done to hurt you?” Yes, it will hurt to hear it, but if you have experienced God’s grace and forgiveness, you will be able to listen with an attitude of concern. We must examine our own hearts and see where we have wronged another and make it right. If we do not, we will become the abuser we so despised.

Matthew 6:14-15  (ESV) “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”.

Stonewalled

But what about those who are fearful, afraid of confronting someone who has hurt them, what can they do? This is understandable in many circumstances, depending on the abuse suffered, and the relationship of those involved–child to parent or subordinate to authority figure. This is where it helps to have someone who can come alongside and offer to help, perhaps mediate. 

For those who’ve been deeply hurt it would be wise to seek out a helper, rather than continue trying to get by. Building a wall to protect the pain inside only magnifies it. Some victims lock themselves into a prison of despair, thinking the other will suffer from their silence. Each must decide for themselves to become free of the past and move into a healthy new day.

How’s your heart?

Have you opened your heart to God lately? Have you thought of allowing His refreshing cleansing stream to wash you? Or are you crusted over, forever blaming and reliving all the wrongs that have been done to you? You will not find peace or contentment if you resist having your heart cleansed; even the good things of the past become wormwood to you.

Continued rumination is dangerous. Without taking action toward the right, you will be consumed to where your thinking will become distorted. You will no longer find joy in anything. The people around you will only frustrate and fail you.  You will not be able to recall the blessings of God but only the fruit of your miserable heart. If you are there, humble yourself and turn. Get the help you need to begin to wash your windshield so you can see where you’re headed. Accidents may still happen but you’ll be able to handle them differently. You will begin to see joy in everyday life again. The burden of shame and blame will be lifted from you and you will see like never before.

God will grant grace to those who come to Him in sincere humility asking for his mercy. Taking steps toward change may involve removing yourself from a destructive relationship, involving civil authorities, placing temporary protective boundaries.

We have all failed God and unless we move into a place of surrender to Him, we will never progress from our painful past to healing freedom. Dear friend, let this be your starting point today. Take the necessary steps to forgive and live!

Counselor Rick Thomas shares here on allowing people to share their feelings with you, whether in a good healthy way or not (12 minutes)…   https://youtu.be/zGw2k8Rz6sc

Photo Credit: Google Images

Related articles: Painful Pasts (Part 1) and Painful Pasts (Part 2)

Moms

Mother’s hands are used by God to nurture us until we reach His heavenly embrace… and a mother’s prayers are her most effective weapon.

I’m am thinking of a couple of moms that I want to remember today for different reasons. One is a young Mom who I came to know last Spring through an event at our church. Her prayer request during an alone time together was to have another baby; she already had a young son but had lost other babies by miscarriage. This Mother’s Day, a year later, she has another beautiful boy to love, nurture, and enjoy. This young woman’s heart cry and faith are inspiring, I enjoy seeing how she delights in her gifts from God. (Be inspired by reading Hannah’s story I Samuel 1 and 2:1-26.)

The second Mom that I want to commend, is someone whose son I’ve interacted with regularly. He’s a considerate and caring young man, generous and giving, and his employer seems to notice this as well. He is being recognized for these character qualities; the compass within, causes him to work with and manage people well. I observe here a young man with a mother who took the opportunity* to make motherhood her priority in order to fully invest in her children, rather than building her career during his early years. He, in turn, was able to take what she gave and made some good choices for his future. (*I realize many Moms today must work to provide for their family — no shame, no blame, we all have different scenarios to pray through and work with.)

Both of these adult children have mothers who’ve nurtured and invested in them, prayed for them, and now they, in turn, will invest in their children. So, how have they been prepared and equipped to do this well?

When I meet a young person like this, I consider their background and upbringing. I like to look behind the curtain of someone’s life, finding out who it was that nurtured, prayed for, and invested in their life. The values and views, and the good example this child grew up under doesn’t happen by default; diligent effort went into this child. They receive a compass–a guiding tool that is calibrated during these early formative years and it’s what they’ll use later to set their own course in life. I like to call it their compass; the inner sensor that points them in a certain direction.

Nubs & Mary 10-11-38
Norbert & Mary Niehaus Oct 11, 1938

As a child, I had a mother who nurtured me in many ways, while busily running the farm with my Dad. I’m thankful for their prayers and the God-compass they guided me toward. When I consider where I could have ended up compared to where my relationship with my Heavenly Father has taken me, I am grateful.

I’m thanking God for my Mom (and Dad) on this remembrance weekend. Parents are not perfect, and without the help of God none of us would do rightly. God can take all of the wrong and make it right and use it for good; it’s a promise He makes to those who love Him (Romans 8:29). Be thankful, grateful, seek God and see how He will write your story for His glory.

Photo Credit: Google Images, private