Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cloistered-in Moments

I have a tendency to isolate when I go through troubled waters.  Not too long ago, I was reprimanded by a friend for doing so.  She meant well.  But, her words gnawed at me and caused me to question myself.

We care about what others are going through and we want to help, so we have a tendency to think of isolating as a bad thing.  But, is it?

I sought The LORD about my "isolation tendencies" when going through a difficult time.

He reminded me that I withdraw so I can better hear Him because I desire true solace that only He, God Almighty, can provide me.

Even Jesus Christ often withdrew to lonely, wilderness places (Luke 5:16).  He took Himself away from His closest companions and their opinions to seek the Wisdom of His Father.  He sought the peace that came from those cloistered-in moments.

Our Father speaks in a still, small voice.  How can we hear Him in our troubled moments if our mouth is flapping and our ears are hearing all kinds of outward noise?

So, I withdraw from others to be sequestered in with my Abba.
Come to Me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest~ Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 11:28
The next time we think someone who is isolating themselves is not doing a good thing, may we realize that maybe they are teaching us a valuable life lesson.

Because of Him and Unto Him, 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How Many Zip Codes?!

Photo Courtesy of Jose Martin Ramfrez C @ Unsplash

Did you ever have a day when your brain feels something like this photo?  I seem to have a lot of days like this lately.  

When moving to a new state, all the new things you must locate and set up can be so draining.  There are days when my mind feels all over the place like the electrical wires in this photo as a train is slowly inching through the muddle trying to get me from point A to point B.  But, the mental chaos causes the train to stop dead in its tracks.  

There are days when I MUST shut my mind down by watching nonsensical TV.  There are days when I say I cannot make one more decision and so I put it off until tomorrow.  There are days when I absolutely cannot drive on another unknown road so I stay secluded, but not I'm not alone, for my God sequesters Himself in with me.

The highway system down here is so different than Long Island.  We have Sunrise Highway or the Long Island Expressway, both of which run East and West - onto The Island or off The Island.  Down here in Charlotte, there are many highways with "Inner" and "Outer" signs on them.  I've yet to find anyone who could tell me what that even means.  I have no East-West or North-South sense of bearings on these highways.  In New York, I lived on the North side of Island, so I always knew South was directly across from there.  You could always find your bearings. If someone were to ask me where Uptown (what Long Islanders would call "The City") is compared to where I live, I would have to tell them I do not have a clue.  Am I North or South, East or West of the city limits of Charlotte?  I do not know.

Even the position of the traffic lights is different.  I can't tell you how many red lights I accidentally sailed through when I first got here six months ago.  

And the medical care system is lightyears ahead of NY.  Lightyears!  But to me, it is so overwhelming.  Doctor offices are in these HUGE complexes.  I walked into one yesterday and almost cried.  I was intimidated just walking through the parking lot looking up at this massive building.  It gave me a sense that my little life on little Long Island was confining somehow, and now I've been let out into this great big, scarey world.

I had never stopped to think about how different each state in these great United States of America must be.  But, I guess they are.  To me, Earth consisted of Long Island. 118 miles long by 23 miles across at its widest point.   As one who rarely ever left The Island to travel anywhere, the East End of The North Fork of Suffolk County was the size of my world.  Little towns after little towns. Tiny compared to Charlotte, which is absolutely humungous with over 300 miles of this one town consisting of over 30 zip codes!  I'm constantly asking Isabel or family are we STILL in Charlotte?  And the answer is always the same: Yes. 

Abba surely has expanded my tent pegs:
"Enlarge the place of your tent and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords,and strengthen your stakes for you shall expand to the right and to the left..." (Is. 54:2-3a)
Enlarged.  Stretched.  Spare not. Lengthen.  Strengthen.  Expand.   

Phew...those are exhausting words to me because I'm living through it. However, taking it one day at a time, I'm learning how to truly rest in my God when I need to, which is usually daily.  And daily He meets me, and renews and refreshes me clearing my muddled brain. He gives me the strength and courage to face another unknown road, another unknown eatery, another unknown way of doing things, and many unknown people.  Oh! And those zip codes.  

Thank You, my Abba!  You have called me and equipped me and You are all the "equipment" I need.  

Because of Him and Unto Him,

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Rays of the Sonshine

I am The Vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.  - Jesus, The Christ as recorded in John 15:5
Jesus goes on to tell us to "abide in My Love" in vs. 9b.  
It is ONLY when we abide in our God, do we bear good fruit in our lives.

The word "abide" means to continually stay in a place; dwell; remain; consider it your own.

With all the pulls on us from the world's system of doing and being in a 24-hour period, how do we abide in anything, let alone in God?
If you keep My Commandments, you will (then) abide in My Love, just as I have kept My Father's Commandments and abide in His Love. (vs. 10)
We can be in and out of "love" with our spouse, kids, or friends a few times over in a 24-hour period of time.  Our "love" for them is based on emotion and circumstance. That is NOT the "love" Jesus is talking about it.  He is talking about the kind of Love He has for you and I.  Agape = Love that leaves us gaping (as if with mouth wide open) with wonder, expectation, and attention; unceasing and unmerited; nothing to be gained by; deep and relenting; longevity; extravagant.  

Extravagant Love.
To live a life of extravagant Love takes work and commitment. It takes being ever cognizant of God's Presence, His unrelenting Love, His Abilities, His Attributes, His Goodness and Generosity, His Benefits, the work of The Cross in our lives.  It takes a desire to Love as He Loves, not as the world has taught us to love.  

And most of all, His most Holy Word must be a priority in our lives.  It's His Word that transforms our minds and souls and sets us free from the world's way of doing and being.

I remember the day, many years ago, when I declared my desire to experience Abba's Love and Heartbeat for people.  I desired to know what it felt like to Love the unlovables the way God loved them.  I longed to experience it.  I remember the commitment I made to that.  Little did I know then horrific circumstances that would come in my life as a result of that desire and commitment.  God gave permission for me to be put on the anvil. And through the very long nighttime of my soul, I allowed the world's way of loving to be hammered right out of me.

The result?  

Truly loving my enemies.  My husband's young lover came to live with our young family for three months where she found redemption and Love, Himself; being able to continuously and ceaselessly love on and commit myself in friendship to the most challenging to-be-around people (see Hand-held Love); to use my own resources and funds to help those needing a helping hand (CareVan) in my community.  CareVan wasn't just a non-profit, it was a representation of me, my heart, my soul, my life, MY GOD. Those in the community that I extended a helping hand to became a part of my life and an extension of my soul.  I cared deeply for the relationships I built - even the unlovables.  

As I began this post, I had no idea where Abba would take this.  As always, His Writings minister to me first and foremost.  

Thank You, Abba, for reminding me of who I am, for all You have done in transforming me into Your likeness and image, for bestowing upon me the greatest gift of all - Your Love for me and through me.  Thank You for teaching me long ago to abide in You and Your Word.  Thank You that the rays of Your Sonshine upon my life have caused such fruit to grow.  

All Because of You and Unto You, 
I am Your 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Pushpins of Life

Loss - from small to great - comes in all stages of life.  It is no respecter of persons.  It leaves a gaping hole inside your being - a deep void of what once was, of who once was.  That black hole is grief.

Loss of any kind is traumatic.  It changes us and causes us to walk around a shell of who we once were.

Grief knows no bounds.  It lashes out at us most unexpectedly in the daylight or in the dark of night almost causing the remaining parts of us to shrivel up into nothingness.

Grief knows no time frame.  Its tentacles can stretch for a seemingly torturous amount of time.  Then it can lay low, rearing its ugly head when a memory comes, when we hear a song, when we see a reminder.  It loves to catch us off guard.

I suspect that grief never truly disappears.  The black-hole-of-nothingness will shrink being filled by others or other life experiences.  It subsides as time marches on.  But, if that thing or person meant so much to us at one time in our lives, I think it leaves a pinhole as if it were a pushpin in the map of our lives.
(When I homeschooled, I had a world map on the wall with pushpins in all the cities and countries my children traveled to on summer mission trips.  Each child had their own colored pushpins.  Oh, how I treasured what that map represented.)
And one day, future tense, we will look back at the pushpin holes in our life-maps and realize what we have overcome; how much we have grown; how far we have traveled and are still standing.  Grief need not be a stop-all in our lives.  It need be a tracking point.

A tracking point that truly shows us how God was with us, that He did not leave alone in the midst of the deep, black-void-of-nothingness.  It only appeared that way because that is what grief convinces us of at the time.

Truth is God brought us out of that hole step by step. He was is in that nothingness alongside of us, healing our brokenness, causing us to be a shoulder for someone else, creating in us the ability to see Him as a speck of Light even in the darkest of blackness that surely may once again come in our lives. Pain and loss come to a knock on all doors.  It will just be another pushpin in our life-map.

Because of Him and Unto Him,

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Twenty-first of June

Usually, the word "anniversary" conjures up happy thoughts of something to celebrate.  But, what if, in reality, the anniversary date is not something to actually make merry about? 

It becomes a day that seems to slowly and creepily creep up on you; a day that draws you inward while duct-taping your soul in solitude; a day you must walk through if you want to get to the-day-after when life will return to normal.

Since last year, June 21st is now a double whammy.  Really, LORD?!  These two major life events on the same day?   Marriage.  Divorce.  I will always wonder if the judge signed the decree on the 21st of June, 2017 on purpose...

I've decided going forward - even though I don't understand the God-significance of this double whammy - to think of the doubleness of June 21st as a blessing.  Instead of two days out of the year when grief would shroud my heart, from here on in it will only be one day out of the year.  One day a year for duct tape and a shroud. Instead of two.  Only one day a year of withdrawing into a fetal position.  Instead of two.  Only one day a year to be introspective to the 10th degree.  One day a year of letting my heart's brokenness secrete its tears. 

Tomorrow - June 22nd - is the-day-after. Tomorrow I will be able to joke once again, "Thank you, Joe."  But, not today.  Not on the 21st.  I own this one day a year to feel as I need to feel; to be as I need to be. This day belongs to me and me alone.  And I do not feel guilty about it.

Because of Him and Unto Him,

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Up Side of Upside Down

As one whose life has been turned upside down for a succession of almost five years now, I've questioned God about a lot of things.  Some things I've come to understand, some are still questions.  But, this I have learned:

And in midst of relying on God's Almightiness, I've also learned as a personal Truth, what Smith Wigglesworth has said:
Beloved, God wants us to be something more than ordinary people. Remember this: if you are ordinary, you have not reached the ideal Principles of God. The only thing that God has for a man is to be extraordinary. God has no room for an ordinary man. There are millions of ordinary people in the world. But when God takes hold of a man, He makes him extraordinary in personality, power, thought, and activity.
My upside down life is not something other women have not experienced before me.  It most certainly is not unique amongst womanhood. But, I do know that my walking through this valley of darkness is a call to rise above ordinary and to a level of extraordinariness; to walk according to God's Principles and RISE UP AND ABOVE to a place where His Almightiness has Its work in me.

And maybe when I can attain that, maybe...just maybe.. this season of upside-downness will finally be over. 

Because of Him and Unto Him,

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Lesson Visualized

At the meet-and-greet room at Buckingham Correctional Center in Virginia, only wives, parents, or immediate family are allowed to sit next to the prisoner they are visiting.  Everyone else must sit across from them.  A few visits ago, there was a woman sitting across from another inmate.  Although her back was to me, his was not.  And I had to work hard at not staring at them. I was not very successful.  His facial expressions kept catching my eye and drawing me back.  Never once was he aware that I visually infiltrated their time together nor was he aware of the circumstances going on all around them.  As the song goes, he "only had eyes for her".

You could tell there was Love between them.  His countenance was nothing I had ever witnessed before on a man's face. His gaze never left hers.  Love exuded from his eyes.  Although it's a no-no, a few times he grabbed her hands, caressing them with his thumbs.  He had a Bible and he was sharing Scriptures with her.  

I snuck-a-peek again just as he gently cupped her face in his hands and was quietly speaking to her.  His eyes were filled with emotion as he slowly leaned in closer and gingerly kissed her forehead.  I had to look away.

I felt like I was an intruder on this deeply spiritual moment between them.  And I say spiritual because that kind of Love surely is spiritual.  And oh, so VERY rare. 

I know nothing of this man's story.  Nothing as to how he ended up incarcerated at Buckingham.  But, I could tell that this was a man who is sensitive and gentle. Possibly he never used to be. Possibly he once was completely the opposite.  Possibly, since he had a Bible with him, what I witnessed was a man whose heart had been touched by Love, Himself and transformed to be a vessel of sensitivity and gentleness in the hard, cold world he lives in.

His sensitive, gentle, and loving image is engraved in my mind.  Just this morning, he came to mind and I closed my eyes.  "Oh, Abba", I said in my heart, "In all my years, never has a man looked at me the way he looked at her.  I have never experienced that kind of adoration.  Does she know how blessed she is?  Does his love for her penetrate her being the way it did mine?"

Suddenly, I realized I HAVE experienced that kind of adoration.  My God, Who is my Husband and my faithful Companion looks at me that way.  And I believe He allowed me to witness that inmate's facial expressions so that I can close my eyes and know - really KNOW - that I, too, am deeply cherished and adored. By. The. One. Who. Matters. Most.

The LORD God Almighty Loves me. And you. He adores me. And you. And He adorns me with His Love.  As He does you. He sacrificially gave His Life for me.  For. Me.  And. For. You.  So that I would KNOW I'm cherished and adored. So that you, too, would know.

Abba, thank You for the gift of that visualization of Your tangible Love flowing through one human being to another.  I ask You to so fill me with Your Love so that It will be tangibly seen and experienced through me.  May it be a witness to the depth of our relationship.  May Your Love be personified through me to others, the way it was to me.

Because of Him and Unto Him, 

Monday, June 4, 2018

My Godsaid

Yesterday's message at Judah Church was incredible...I gleaned so much from Pastor Glenn's dynamic message about Noah and the altar he built to honor God.  One of my take away's was:  What has God said to you? Pastor Glenn repeatedly asked, "What is your Godsaid?"

When that question was posed to us yesterday, immediately The Holy Spirit brought to mind what God said to me when I went into "hiding" three years ago this month.  I was a mess.  The stress of Joe going "postal", the SWAT team, the need for and the process to get an Order of Protection, forced from my home, etc., etc. had me very traumatized. All. Over Again.  I was so alone all the way out on the East End of Long Island.  All I had was The LORD.

As I settled into my new life, My Abba lovingly and encouragingly spoke.  As He said, I journaled it down. Eventually, I printed it and framed it.  I hung it on my bedroom wall and read it every day.  Now, it adorns my living room wall.  I think it is pertinent to any life situation you may be in. So, I share my "Godsaid" with you:

I posted this Word on top of a piece
of art I was creating. There is
something "unknown" under it.
Hidden, yet still there, which is
"The Known In the Midst of the Unknown"
"Take heart, for I AM with you.  Yes, this journey is not of your choosing; not of My choosing for you.  However, I AM in the process of causing it all to be for the good in your life, My Diane.  Continue to trust Me.

"I know the unknown can be scary.  But, in the midst of the unknown is The Known: My Love for you will not be broken or defiled.  It is pure and will always remain so.

"In the midst of the unknown is The Known: I walk this journey with you.  Beside you, as a Friend would.  Friends and church have disappointed you.  But, have I?  I'm your Husband, your Friend, your Companion.  I will not disappoint you.

"In the midst of the unknown is The Known: You are righteous and therefore, My Promises are sure on your behalf.

"In the midst of the unknown is The Known: Regardless of how it looks and "seems like" Joe is winning, My Diane, you know My Provision is here.  Already in place.  Fear not!

"In the midst of the unknown is The Known:  Your voice will emerge stronger than ever because of your personal Truth.

"My Diane, thank you for coming and sitting with Me this morning.  Thank you for quieting your soul.  Thank you for having ears to hear what I whisper to you in secret.  I celebrate you, My Diane.  I celebrate you."

This rang true three years ago and it rings true today.  Thank You, My Abba!  Thank You. And thank you, Pastor Glenn, for ushering in a life-altering encounter at the "altar".  

Because of Him and Unto Him,

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Oh, the Torment of Anxiety!

I think one of the most challenging Scripture verses for those of us who desire to be more like Christ is Phil. 4:6:
Be anxious for nothing
yet it carries with it one of the most awesome Promises of our God.
the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
You would think we would work hard at gaining mastery over it.  For who wouldn't want that kind of peace in our lives?

God Almighty even tells us the antidote for our anxieties:
but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be known to God
THEN the Peace of God will be a guard will be a guard around our hearts and minds.  The more we refuse to be anxious, the more protection we have from it reoccurring.  All we have to do is ask our Heavenly Father....that's it.  Done deal.

Sunday morning The Spirit of God told me to say specific things to say to my beloved 84-year-old friend, Rene when we go to the prison the next day.  Well...I was full of faith with a resolve of obedience.

Until we got to the prison yesterday morning.

Fear was staring me in the face and so began it's anxious thoughts:
Why do I have to tell him here, in this setting?  That makes no sense!  Why can't I tell him at home tomorrow?  We are all going to be crying so what if the guards come over and break us up?  What if Isabel gets mad at me?  I can't do this because this day isn't about Rene or me - it's about visiting Robert!  

And on and on and on and on. For almost one hour I allowed tormenting "anxious" thoughts.  Those thoughts stopped me dead in my tracks. The longer I procrastinated, the torment of anxiety continued.

My heart pounded out of my chest and my blood pressure sky-rocketed as soon as I allowed the second-guess thoughts.  I was absolutely miserable for one hour because I allowed Fear to speak to me.  So, what did I do?  I asked Abba for a specific sign that I was meant to do this.  Without hesitation, instantaneously, God complied.  Oh, man!  Really?

I am a firm believer in celebrating those in our lives and not waiting until we are at a funeral or memorial service to tell them what wonderful people they are and what they mean to us.  Well, it sure was a tear-jerker!  Robert, Isabel, and I cried through the whole thing.

And then God allowed me to see His Reasoning as to why NOW; why HERE at the prison meet and greet room: After I finished, Robert then shared his heart toward his step-father - the dad in his adult life who has shown such unconditional, Christ-like love to Robert, his sisters, and mother.  The man who faithfully drove his mother down to Virginia to visit him in prison.  Month-after-month for 24 years.  Oh, man. Who turned on the waterworks?  Did we cry!

All anxiety was gone the minute I started speaking. The words flowed from my heart like a Shakespearian sonnet.  It was all God!  And the blessing to me was that I got to witness the expression of love and gratitude of Robert toward Rene and to hear his words, "Even though I call you Rene, you are my dad".  It did my heart good. 

A few minutes later, a C.O. walked over and handed us our paperwork.  Time to leave.  Mission accomplished.  Robert and I were about our Father's business yesterday to honor this good, good Man of God.  Father's Day in May.

Did Abba not tell me to be anxious for nothing?!  Hello, Diane!  Lesson learned.  Or was it?  We shall see the next time Anxiety comes a-knockin'.

Because of Him and Unto Him,

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The "O" Number

I'd like you to stop and think about this statement for a moment:
If you were ONLY known for the worst thing you have done in your life, think of the labels that would come with that, and the opportunities you may lose out on in your life, and the guilt and shame you would be covered in.
Heavy isn't it?

That question was poised to us at the beginning of an orientation class I participated in at Changed Choices -  a ministry to women in prison and after their release.  That statement pricked my heart.  

I know the labels that were put on me from childhood and the labels I used to put on myself in my BC (Before Christ) years. Oh, I thank God for Jesus Christ and that I'm now label-free.  
But, what If you were ONLY known for the worst thing you have done in your life? 
Those in prison live day in and day out under the weight of labels.  The politically correct term is no longer "prisoner" or "inmate".  It is now "offender".  "Offender #12345".  Day in and day out, year in and year out, those in prison are reminded of their worst moments, their worst choices, their worst offenses.  After release, they get a new label "Ex-con","Felon", "Sex Offender" so that society knows how awful a human being they once were.

But what about the men and woman in prison who have truly repented and have worked hard a making better choices in life?  Like you and I have done.

Some Christians do not have a past to be ashamed of or a past that could have ended with them becoming Offender #12345.  And they, I'm sure, cannot relate.  But, I do.  I know what God has forgiven me for.  I know how close I came to being just an "O" number - Offender #12345.   

God Almighty does not remember our worst offenses.  Our sins (offenses) are thrown into the deep and are remembered no more.  Our American society needs to be a little more Grace-oriented and forgiving. It can only happen society-wide if it begins with you and I as Followers of Christ.  If true Believers would forgive and extend Grace - as each of us have been forgiven and covered by God's Grace - then as a society we would see positive change.  Even within our prisons.  
Where sin abounded, Grace abounded much more. ~Words of the Apostle Paul, THE SERIAL MURDERER , as recorded in Romans 5:20b
Because of Him and Unto Him,
I'm not an "O" number,