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The Purpose(s) for Detox

It’s detox time…again.

For the past nineteen months I’ve been a revolving door for detox. Lyme was just the beginning. After eradicating the borrelia and bartonella bacterium from my system the focus of my fight shifted to defeating co-infections. Among the evil host of destructive invaders were Epstein Barr, parasites, Candida and now, a trifecta of mycotoxins, mercury and mold.

By now detox should be business as usual for me. Heaven knows I’ve dealt with enough of it! Yet every time I embark on a new round of detox I end up baffled by the new set of bizarre symptoms that appear. Bumps on my head. Burning in my eyes. A nose that drips like a faucet. Sneezing. Hot flashes alternating with frigid cold flashes. Fevers. Tingling up and down my arms. Electrical shock pains in my back. Heart palpitations. And this is just a sampling. There are more I could list and some I couldn’t (thankfully, a few have been forgotten in the passage of time).

Detox would be harder to tolerate if it weren’t for the healing purpose it serves – more specifically, the healing purposes. No matter what infection is being cleared or what set of strange symptoms manifest, the detox always accomplishes two fundamental purposes that benefit me body, mind and soul.

The first purpose is physical.

The detox frees my body from the foreign infectious invader de jour. Detox is the healing road that must be travel in order to reach the desired final destination of full health. During the detox healthy cells are strengthened and fortified by immune boosting supplements while, at the same time, disease killing medicines are administered to attack the infectious foe. The result is a conflict of interests. One that wants to stay and destroy. The other that wants to cleanse and purify.

Although the battle can be brutally painful and long, by staying strong and refusing to abandon the fight, health always has the final say. The disease always goes down in the detox and healing wins the day.

Which brings me to the second and infinitely more significant purpose for the detox: the spiritual cleansing.

During detox the physical struggle is only half of the battle. The attack is internal, too. Satan uses the symptoms plaguing my body as a weapon in an attempt to destroy my confidence in God and kill my hope of healing. While enduring physical suffering the enemy capitalizes on my condition by whispering lethal lies into my fragile spirit. “God is never going to heal you. That’s not your story. His healing is for someone else. But it isn’t for you.”

At times I’ve believed the enemy. During physically ravaging rounds of detox I’ve practically given up fighting for my soul. Maybe the enemy is right, I’ve thought. Maybe I’m destined to a life of chronic illness. Maybe that is my inescapable fate.

But God never lets me remain in detox defeat. His grand for the detox, to purify and cleanse my soul, always wins the day. Through the wisdom of His Holy Word God draws me back to the truth of who He is and the perfection of His will and ways. Using true stories from Genesis to Revelation God silences the lies of the enemy and reaffirms His miraculous power to save and sustain. He takes me back to the accounts of lepers who were healed, children who were freed from demons and the barren who gave birth. Then He brings me to my knees before the cross of Calvary and fortifies my faith with the eternal victory of Jesus Christ.   

God is the Great Physician who detoxes the faith of His children, sanctifying them in body, mind and soul. His desires for us is that we be made perfect as His Son is perfect and cleansed from all unrighteousness. When we enter the presence of Jesus’ and unite our lives with His redeeming resurrection power, God goes to work detoxing our hearts from the burdens of worry, fear, and concern. He slays the lies of the enemy and fortifies our fragile souls with perfect peace and rest. By the Almighty power of God the beauty of restoration is revealed out of the ashes of detox’s devastation.

When the body, spirit and mind are under attack God offers us the looking glass of faith that transforms our battles into a glimpse of the Savior’s overcoming life. It is there, in the midst of our greatest struggles, that God most dramatically displays the greatness of His salvation and strength.

By standing on the promises of God all those who call on the Mighty name of Jesus can experience joy in affliction and hope in all circumstances (even detox circumstances) knowing that God is faithful… God is good… And He isn’t finished. 

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New Life Resolutions

“I hate new year’s resolutions,” the man said to his wife with a gravelly, sneering tone that conveyed absolute contempt for the annual tradition. In five forceful words he made his feelings known. Convincing him to change his mind would have been a waste of time – a fact his wife must have known because she didn’t even try. Silence followed the man’s statement and the conversation abruptly ended.

The exchange that unfolded between the man and his wife is a common new year’s scene. People tend to either love or hate new year’s resolutions. The pro-resolution crowd believes it is good to at least make an effort to better one’s self. The anti-resolution crowd says it’s a silly tradition especially since 80% of resolutions fail.

Resolution haters have a point. Every year like clockwork the resolution resolve that was so strong on New Year’s Day wanes by Martin Luther King’s holiday and is ancient history by Valentine’s. After a few slip ups (and who doesn’t slip up?) the resolution feels more burdensome than beneficial. The promises made get trapped in the ruts of life and rarely do they make it out before December 31st.

New Year’s resolutions have earned their bad rap. They have a horrible track record for producing lasting change which is why this year I’m promoting a whole new kind of resolution: A New Life Resolution. A promise to make a spiritual change with eternal significance.

My new life resolution for 2019 and beyond is to pursue Christ…and nothing else.

For my entire life (up until now) I have pursued Christ AND something else. Christ and education…health….a miracle healing modality…a career…a killer business idea…a calling…a livelihood….a passion….a purpose. I believed it was acceptable to seek what this world has to offer while still honoring God.

Turns out I was wrong.

Seeking the world’s offerings made me more like a frenetic squirrel than a faithful follower of Christ. Like a wild, bushy tailed animal that scurries up every tree in search of a tantalizing nutty treat, I frantically searched for purpose and usefulness in this world. I thought if I could just find the right tree bearing the treat I’d be happier, more content and fulfilled.

What I’ve discovered is that I can’t pursue the world in addition to Christ. The result is a life of dissatisfaction, confusion and distraction. Balancing two lives, one lived for God and one lived for the world, doesn’t work. God requires my full, undivided attention be given to knowing Christ and making Him known.

In order to fully obey and glorify God I must put an end to my frantic search for a place in this world. I must surrender my former life of dual quests so I can live exclusively in pursuit of Jesus – His way, His truth and His life.

As I embark on my new life resolution it is important to acknowledge that the key to success does not rest in my own power. If I bank on my own resolve I am doomed to fail as miserably as most new year’s resolutions. The only hope I have of realizing my resolution is to rest in the truth and assurance of Christ’s resurrection. All the strength I need is available at the foot of His cross and to receive it I must stay put, resisting the temptation to be the squirrel that goes scampering off after every distraction. I must continue in the way of obedience, constantly surrendering myself to Jesus and God’s will for my life.

Jesus said in Luke 9:24 that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” With the Savior of the world as my sole pursuit in this world I have no idea what the year ahead will bring but I know who will bring it. And knowing Him is enough for me.

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Redeemed by Belief

December 2018 was a bust – well, almost.

The first twenty-three days of my December were short on Christmas spirit and high on Christmas angst. The dominating thoughts in my mind revolved around shopping and sulking. If I wasn’t on a frustrating hunt to find the perfect present for every person on my list, I was most likely in a depressive funk. My mood was more melancholy than merry. Sadly, I must admit I was more prone to crankiness than cheeriness. To those who had to share a roof with me this Christmas season, I’m sorry.

Sadly, I know I’m not alone in experiencing a depressing December. When Christmas lights come on and jolly tunes are turned up every sadness and heartache gets magnified. Smiling Santas betray the despondent, mocking them at every festive turn. “Have a holly, jolly Christmas” doesn’t ring true. “I’ll have a Blue Christmas” sounds more appropriate. For those who have an identifiable “reason” to be sad it’s easy to slip into a season of sulking come Christmastime.

And so, on December 1st, that’s precisely what I did. I entered into a twenty-three day season of sulking.

While out shopping I was hopeless, unable to find the perfect gift for the loved ones on my list. While at home I was discontent, trapped in the sadness of my not-so-perfect life. Staring me in the face was the heavy weight of grief born out of a life sidelined by sickness. Although there was much to celebrate since last Christmas – more healing, vitality, improved health – I was blind to the many healing victories. All I could see were a lifetime of dreams and plans destroyed by a decade of sickness.

But then the light of God pierced into my darkness on December 23rd by way of a simple children’s Christmas play.

At New Life Community Church, the home of my church family, a small group of children performed a short and sweet Christmas program that shared a powerful and profound message. With bed sheets for costumes and a simple Bethlehem set, the kids told the story of Jesus’ arrival into the world. Mary and Joseph entered the manger scene followed by angels who appeared to shepherds as they watched their flocks by night. After telling them the good news about the Savior’s birth the young shepherds excitedly declared their desire to travel to Bethlehem and see the promised King of Kings.

As the play came to a close the audience’s attention was drawn back to the narrator as he said, “In believing, they found the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, their Savior. And tonight, just as it was in Bethlehem so many years ago, God has chosen you to hear the good news and believe.” That one line changed the spirit in the room – or at least it changed the spirit in me.

Belief transformed my heart.

Belief in Christ, who He is and what He came to do transformed my December bust into a beautiful time of celebration. By returning to Jesus Christ and fixating on His life from the cradle to the cross, my depression lifted and quickly disappeared. In the Savior’s presence the sadness I had experienced all season long was replaced by abundant joy and overwhelming peace.

Whether it be Christmastime or the middle of July, when we approach the manger throne believing in Christ and the salvation He delivers, we will encounter His peace, comfort and joy. By seeking the Savior and entering into His presence our hearts will be renewed by redeeming love.

Come to God bearing your bust of a month. Surrender your sadness and sorrow so He can transform it. God is faithful. He will redeem and restore you. Come to the manger and God will revive you with an eternally abiding Christmas spirit.

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Christmas is a Box of Chocolates

Tucked in the basement of an old church in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania is the fellowship and dining hall used by the Upper Room, a local homeless shelter.

The windowless space is dim and the kitchen’s appliances are ancient. The long, rectangular tables have seen better days and the hard metal chairs aren’t particularly comfortable. But, on Christmas morning, there’s no place I’d rather be than that humble dining room.

For the homeless, Christmas can be one of the loneliest and most depressing days of the whole year. While families congregate and celebrate the day with delicious meals and carefully wrapped gifts the homeless go without, often spending the holiday alone. Even places they usual gather (McDonalds and soup kitchens) are usually closed, making Christmas not only one the loneliest days of the year but one of the hungriest, too.

It was this lonely, hungry thought that inspired the Christmas Morning Brunch at the Upper Room. Five years ago members from around the community began what would become an annual tradition of hosting a meal for those in need. At the morning meal guests are invited to indulge in a spread of home cooked food complete with fluffy egg casseroles, a variety of muffins, juicy Honey Baked Ham and freshly cut fruit. There is hot coffee on tap, second helpings and even the finest chocolate in all of Erie, PA – Stefanelli’s melt-aways.

Of all the delicious food and baked goods at the Christmas brunch – and there was lots – the box of Stefanelli’s chocolates  was by far the most treasured delight. The white box filled with luscious chunks of rich chocolate was purchased from a local company in town and placed conveniently by the coffee pot where everyone could grab a piece . As guests happened upon the chocolate I watched as their faces lit up. They immediately recognized Stefanelli’s candy – everyone in Erie does. It is considered a luxury and a rare treat, especially for those who often go without daily meals. So it was no surprise when everyone that passed by the box stopped in amazement before scooping up a piece – or two – of chocolatey treasure.

Watching the reception of the Stefanelli’s chocolate struck me as profound. What I witnessed was so much more than men and women being offered chocolate to freely enjoy. What I was watching turned out to be a sweet picture of how God offers us the greatest gift ever – Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. 

Like the special box of chocolates offered at the Upper Room on Christmas morning, God made Jesus accessible to all. He sent His most precious gift, His Son, into the lowliest of circumstances – a humble stable with only a manger for a bed. Although God could have delivered the Savior into a guarded palace or high, lofty estate, He didn’t. He could have kept Jesus far away for the people and out of reach but He didn’t. Instead, God delivered Jesus right into the middle of our broken world where He could shine His light of life in the darkest places and to the most desperate of people. He made Jesus approachable, knowable and conveniently within our weak and feeble reach.

God made Jesus available to all – the worst of sinners, the sickest of individuals and even the dead. When Jesus went out into the world, He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus didn’t come for only the people who had their act together or who had a stellar pedigree. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the hopeless and the “too far gone.” His gift of salvation was and is for anyone and everyone who will come to Him bearing broken lives, believing He is the Son of God who rescues sinners by way of the cross.

God gave Jesus in endless abundance – just like the box of chocolates.

By the end of the brunch we’d run out of a few breakfast foods. Certain casseroles were all gone and the hash-brown potatoes were no more but the box of chocolates was still half full. Somehow even though nearly every guest had indulged in the rich, meltaway chocolate the supply never ran out. There was enough for everyone and then some.

And so it is with Jesus. In Jesus Christ we have the one and only gift that will never run out and is always fully stocked. Anyone who approaches Jesus’ manger throne in search of the richest mercy and sweetest, most amazing grace will always find that the storehouse of His Salvation is full. Jesus, the Savior of the world, is abundant in boundless love, limitless grace, unfailing forgiveness and abiding peace. His goodness knows no end. There is always more than enough of Jesus to go around…and then some.

On Christmas morning it was a box of chocolates that delivered a special message: that God sent Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all, into our broken world to offer us salvation through His sacrifice completely free of our charge. All He asks is that we come as we are from wherever we are and partake of heaven and earth’s sweetest, richest, eternally abiding gift: God’s one and only Son.  

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Worth the Wait

When you’re hungry, awaiting the arrival of dinner, the wait seems to go on forever. You look at the clock every few seconds. Time moves so slowly as your stomach growls. Even minutes can feel like hours.

When you’re waiting on your life to arrive the wait feels even longer. Every day feels like a month. Every year an eternity. You stare down the clock and even change its batteries (just to be sure). But nothing can speed up life’s arrival when you’re awaiting your whole entire world to change.

As one who has waited for years I can attest to how difficult it is to wait. It is certainly not always fun to wait nor is it always easy to wait. But I can assure you, it is always good to wait.

When we wait for our dinner the meal tastes better. We savor every bite when our belly is empty. When the nourishment has been long awaited and greatly anticipated we eat (and enjoy)it all, down to the very last crumb.

The same is true when we’re waiting on God’s promised life to arrive.

God’s promises are made sweeter while we wait. After a long awaited arrival, we savor the promises all the more and cherish them as sacred and special. Our appreciation and thankfulness deepens and our faith increases as we look ahead with a hungry heart, believing and trusting that, behind the kitchen door, God is cooking up something fabulous.

While we wait with great expectation our hope is established. The delay demands that if we are to remain loyal to our Lord and Savior then we must take God at His Word and believe when we cannot see. When we choose to put our trust in God’s perfect will and ways in the absence of visible proof faith is emboldened and unity with Christ is strengthened.

When we choose to rest in the assurance that God’s promised life is coming we can expect it to taste miraculous at first bite and sit eternally well in the soul, too. The long expected, greatly anticipated life delivered by God in HIs perfect timing, prepared by HIs flawless hand, comes sprinkled with peace in the present and gloriy to God forever.

Trust God and rest in Him while you await the arrival of your life. His promises are true. What He has planned to deliver you is going to be worth every single second of the wait.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Romans 8:24

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How Moods Go: By Kicking

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.” And he’s right. “Gently” isn’t an adjective that can be applied to mood-removal. Moods must be eradicated by force.

Although I’ve read Chambers’ words countless times and heartily agree that what he wrote is undeniably true, I must admit that I’m often reluctant to kick my moods – especially “sick” mood.

When chronic illness gets me down and I become trapped in a dark and gloomy pit I call it “sick” mood. In an emotionally sick state I feel too low to rise and too hopeless to try. I reach the end of my rope and all I want to do – all I can think to do – is sulk. Tears are usually shed as I cry over my physical maladies and question why God has allowed this debilitating illness to plague me for so long.

Self-absorption is key to “sick” mood. Fixation on the self is at the heart of it. While trapped in a “sick” mood I am entirely consumed with my chronic illness, my pain, my suffering and my personal disappointments. My every thought revolves around me, myself and I.

The very last thing I want to do in a “sick” mood is kick myself – even if only metaphorically. I want the exact opposite of a kick. I want a hug. I want to be coddled, indulged, justified and humored. I want to be told that my feelings are understandable; that it is okay to get down in the pit; that I should lay low and feel my pain. I want to vent to God and lament my lot in life.

But “sick” mood always makes me sicker – physically, mentally and emotionally. When I give “sick” mood an inch it takes a mile and, before I know it, I’m completely paralyzed by pain and suffering. By indulging the mood I issue an open invitation to sorrow and sadness. Every negative, depressed, hopeless feeling receives a boost of discouraged energy and I get dragged deeper into the dark pit.

There is only one way out of “sick” mood: a round-house resurrection kick.

Even in the midst of pain and suffering Christ’s light and overcoming life is available to me but I can’t experience it if I’m unwilling to kick my mood. Until I reject the sadness of sickness and take hold of Christ’s resurrection power the mood won’t flee. I cannot capitulate to chronic illness and claim the joy, love, peace and hope of Jesus at the same time. One must go for the other to thrive. “Sick” mood must die for the Risen power of Christ to survive in me.

Jesus stands at the ready, willing and able to provide all the strength I need to kick “sick” mood and it can be mine the moment I surrender my will, ways and self-absorbed wallowing. The second I deny myself at the foot of the cross and claim the truth and life of the Holy Spirit “sick” mood is defeated.

When “sick” mood gets kicked abundant life is ushered in. Overcoming, spirited, energetic joy is revived. Restful, calming, comforting peace is restored. Hope makes a comeback and all is well with my soul.

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Harveigh: The Survivor Cow

Harveigh is a survivor cow.

During Hurricane Harvey, the category four storm that hit southern Texas in 2017, twenty-seven billion gallons of water fell in just four days causing the loss of over one hundred thousand homes and eighty-eight lives. The hurricane, often referred to in Texas as “the storm of the century,” left wide spread devastation in its wake.

Set in the midst of this heartbreaking scene we meet Harveigh, a baby calf born in the midst of the storm. In the chaos of the hurricane, Harveigh’s mother abandoned her and left the poor calf in the pasture to fend for herself. That’s when farm owners, Mr. & Mrs. Canton, spotted Harveigh standing all alone in the flooded pasture. The rain was still falling and the waters were rising quickly. They knew Harveigh was in imminent danger and hopeless without help.
Despite the treacherous weather conditions, Mr. Canton jumped into action. He went straight into the pasture and maneuvered through frigid, muddy waters to rescue Harveigh and pull her to safety.

But when she was out of the flooded pasture she wasn’t home free yet. Not even close. Harveigh was malnourished, weak and chilled to the bone. She had been battered by the worst of the storm and hadn’t been nursed in days.

Although the Canton’s house was already full of dogs and families displaced by the storm, they rushed Harveigh into the warmth. They laid her in a dog bed and covered her with blankets and towels. The vet warned that Harveigh would likely not survive but the Canton’s weren’t about to give up hope. They were determined to fight for Harveigh and do everything in their power to help her survive. They drove through flooded streets to buy formula so Harveigh could be fed by hand. The Canton’s loved on Harveigh, prayed for her and nursed her back to health. Even the family dogs became Harveigh’s friends, encouraging her to recover and join them in the yard to romp around and play.

Today Harveigh is over four hundred pounds and a beloved member of the Canton family. She is playful, gentle and spirited. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Canton’s, Harveigh not only survived the storm, she has gone on to thrive and enjoy a full, abundant life.

Harveigh’s story reminds me of the greatest rescue story of all: Jesus’ act of rescue that saved you and me from our devastating storm of sin.

Like Harveigh, you and I were caught in the “storm of the century.” Our storm of sin separated us from everlasting life and the eternal protection that is only found in God’s house. We were spiritually weak, malnourished and chilled to the core of our soul. We were stuck in rising flood waters, helpless and powerless to get out.
But Jesus spotted us.

From up on high, Jesus saw our desperate need and jumped into action to save us. He entered into the lowliest of circumstances, a humble manger, and walked through the muck and mire of this life to rescue us. Jesus Christ lived and died in our pasture to save and deliver us from certain eternal death.

But, just like Harveigh, our story doesn’t end at the rescue.

After He saved us, Jesus opened the door into God’s house and welcomed us in. He prepared a special place for us to keep us warm and well fed. He cleaned us up from the ravaging effects of the storm and wrapped us in blankets of grace and love. To bring us back to health, Jesus Himself came and nourished us with the Holy Spirit’s strength and overcoming life – an act of infinite love He still performs to this day! 

Glory be to God who redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb and restored us in His house. We are made survivors because of the Savior who rescued us and gives us full, abundant, eternal life!

 

**Check out  a video about Harveigh!

 

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My Grown Up Thanksgiving List

Out with the old and in with the new…traditions that is.

This Thanksgiving I’m instituting a new tradition and I think it could catch on: The Thanksgiving list.

My thanksgiving list could go on forever because, as the saying goes, there is always something to be thankful for. From the bed I woke up in to the family that will fill the dinner table tonight for a feast, my life is full of blessings that give me an abundance of reason to over flow with daily thanksgiving.

So, without further ado, this is my grown-up Thanksgiving List:

1.     Redemption.

I was once a lost, rebellious, hideous sinner. My life was marked by bad decisions and double-minded wickedness. But God saved me and on November 2, 2009 I received new life in Christ and a fresh new start. On that fateful day Jesus rescued me from myself and redeemed me with Himself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the day I received God’s free gift of salvation was the best day of my life.

2.     Forgiveness.

I mess up daily, if not hourly. Although I constantly fall short God is always full of second chances. He keeps picking me back up, brushing me off and giving me the opportunity to try, try again.

3.     Strength (and weakness).

Becoming intimately acquainted with my weakness by way of chronic illness has introduced me to the limitless depth of God’s strength. Every time I surrender in weakness it is an invitation that welcomes God in so He can effortlessly lift me up by His almighty, strong and powerful hand.

4.     Grace.

“Amazing Grace” has always been my favorite hymn and with good reason. It tells the story of my life. “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.” By grace through faith in Jesus Christ I have been given new life.

5.     New mornings.

Every sunrise is an opportunity to wake up, get up and start again.

6.     Healing.

God is the healer of the body and the soul and I am thankful for both. Last year at this time I was a shocking 65 pounds; a walking skeleton, uncertain of what the future held for my health. Wow, it is truly amazing what a year can do. Although my journey to full health isn’t over yet the healing I’ve experienced in the past year is a miracle. I am alive! That in and of itself is a miracle. I am regaining function in parts of my body that were either dead or dying. At the same time God has been doing a work on the inside, restoring hope, peace and joy to my soul. God works from the inside out, healing on deeper levels than I ever imagined possible.

7.     Church family.

This year more than ever before I am aware of what a precious gift it is to be a part of a faithful body of believers and so appreciative for the incredible prayers warriors who intercede on behalf of one another. I am always stunned by how many dear brothers and sisters in the Lord are praying for me and pleading with God for my continued healing and renewed health. I cannot say thank you enough.

8.     Eternal assurance.

I have no doubt about what comes after this life. After I leave earth I’m going to Heaven. End of story. That part of my journey is not a mystery because I am a child of the King and know that one day I will cross through the pearly gates and spend eternity with God.

9.     Pain with a purpose.

I’ll admit that I am slow to be thankful for pain. Naturally, I tend to have the opposite reaction while assaulted by gripping pain in my gut, burning in my eyes, or spasms in my legs. Instead of rejoicing I want to escape but when I consider my circumstances through a spiritual lens my agony drenched tears are replaced with abundant thankfulness because my pain has an eternally profitable purpose: to pull me closer to Jesus Christ, to make me wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit and to draw me into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

10.  Love.

The greatest gift of all is the love of God poured out on the cross of Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” I am alive today – both physically and spiritually – because of the love of God that will not let me go. God lavishly showers me with love through His Word, His Spirit and the people He has put around me.

 

Although this list is not exhaustive it is foundational. My abundance of thanksgiving is rooted in this list because every good gift, from the love of family to the comforts of home, comes from above and springs forth from the fountain of everlasting life.

 

Have you written a Thanksgiving list? I’d love to hear what you’re most thankful for.

Share in the comments below!

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Jesus, take the pen

For the past few months I’ve been fighting every writer’s arch nemesis: the dreaded dry spell.

Every time I sit down to write a prolific, enlightened word my fingers freeze up and mind draws a blank. Even when compelled to share a particular message the words don’t come out right. The moment my fingers hoover over the keyboard my thoughts evaporate. I hit the keys, racking my brain for the right words but it’s useless. The dry spell has me in its clutches and I’ve been unable to escape.

Being caught in the arid land of a writing dry spell has caused me to experience great grief. For eight years, writing has been a rich source of joy in my life. While experiencing loneliness, isolation and loss, writing has been a much-needed buoy for my ailing soul. When chronic illness closed doors and changed the course of my life, picking up a pen provided me with purpose.

But, more importantly, writing has been my lifeline. As I’ve struggled through sickness, God has used writing as a means to communicate with me and fill me with His strength. Through writing God has reached down and lifted me up from the depths of despair.

Although I didn’t write about it at the time, over the past few years I have experienced severe depression. At my lowest points I have truly wanted to die and a desire I shared with my Mother on numerous occasions. Plagued by the ongoing agony and pain of chronic illness my will to live has been threatened. Physical affliction has compelled me to plead with God and ask Him to release me from my suffering – if not by instantaneous healing then by the escape of death.

But God didn’t give me what I asked for. He didn’t let me die nor did He heal me in an instant. But God didn’t abandon me, either. Every time I fell into the pit of hopelessness and begged for death He gave me what I needed most: an infusion of hope.

God carried me through the darkest periods of my life by giving me one command: get up and write. He used writing as a lifeline to fill me with overcoming life and encourage me with truth. When depression broke me and brought me to the end of myself God grabbed hold of me using a pen and a blank page. Over and over again He has reached down and guided my hand to write a message of perseverance and endurance when I needed it most. To save my life and rescue me from the brink of despair Jesus has truly taken my pen.

In the past few months my body has experienced remarkable healing, much less pain and an improvement in overall health. With the physical improvements have come emotional improvements too. My bouts of depression have become less frequent and less severe while my daily pain levels have been greatly reduced.

But the physical renewal has had ill effects on my writer’s life. Without a need for ongoing, moment-by-moment emotional support my ability to formulate thoughts has dried up. The healing of my body has resulted in a barren season in my writer’s soul.

And I know why.

I’m in a dry spell because for the past eight years most of my writing has been about suffering, affliction and pain. Sickness has been the story of my life – the one ’ve been equipped and compelled to write. But my body is healing now. I’m physically stronger than I was and I’m thankful for that.

The dry spell I’m experiencing is not truly a writer’s dry spell. it is a sickness dry spell. All of these years I have depended on the thorn in my flesh to draw me to the throne of God. I have relied on physical suffering for inspiration and illumination. But physical sorrow isn’t the only reason to write. Pain and suffering is not the only reason to ask Jesus to take my pen and fill the page.

Praise God, I am not spiritually dry. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit is alive and well in my life, compelling me to continue writing and praying, “Jesus take the pen.”

 

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Choose Joy

It was 5 PM on Halloween night and the thought of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat attire was taunting me. “You’re too sick to dress up in a fun-loving character’s costume”… “You feel too lousy to wear a stripped hat and big red bow… “You certainly can’t put on a cartoon character smile in your physical condition.”

Weeks before the October 31st holiday I purchased my Cat in the Hat costume accessories. With high hopes for my Halloween day health I double-clicked on Amazon and, two days later, Prime delivered a classic Dr. Seuss inspired ensemble featuring the Cat’s signature tall, white and red-stripped hat, big red bow and white gloves.

When the package arrived at the door I let out an audible sigh. On the day I clicked “Complete Order” I’d felt strong and hopeful for my health’s near future. That had only been two days prior but already my gut had taken another hit. With Halloween still a few weeks away I silently prayed that the suffering in my stomach would subside before the holiday arrived. “God, I want to be a joyful Cat in the Hat on October 31st but I can’t if I’m plagued with a gripping pain in my gut. Please heal me…and quick!

For the next three weeks the costume accessories remained unopened in my closet as I waited for my prayer to be answered. Days passed and the pain didn’t. When October 31st finally arrived my physical condition wasn’t the least bit improved. In fact, it had worsened.

As the sun was beginning to set on Halloween night and trick-or-treaters were about to hit the streets in search of candy I laid on my closet’s floor gripping my stomach in pain. That’s when I looked up and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of the Cat in the Hat attire still in its bag. All day I had tried to avoid the accessories, too discouraged by my condition to consider changing into a costume. The very thought of the Cat in the Hat produced in me feelings of sadness and grief until I looked up and noticed a picture on the side of the package – a picture I hadn’t noticed before: two smiling faces dressed like Cat in the Hat smiling back at me.

The sight of those smiling faces quieted my mind’s taunting voice and flooded my spirit with a fresh burst of resolve. It was as if the Cat in the Hat himself were beckoning me to rise up, change my attitude and my attire and choose joy.  

Five minutes later I was wearing black pants and a black button up shirt underneath a white suit jacket. Around my neck was a big red velvety bow. On my hands were white cotton cartoon gloves and on my head was a tall, wide brimmed, white and red-stripped hat. On my face was a big, wide toothy, cartoon smile and in my heart was overcoming joy.

On Halloween 2018 I embraced the joy and delight of the Cat in the Hat. On All Hallows Eve I choose to wear a smile. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, my gut was still in distress. But my heart was full of persistent hope. In my spirit that was determination and resiliency.

Choosing joy transformed my Halloween night from one of defeat into one of overwhelming victory. Choosing joy will do that – it will change things. It will change people. It will transform circumstances and outcomes.

When I prayed to God weeks before October 31st I believed my pain needed to be removed in order for joy to be restored but God showed me the error of my ways. God used a Cat in the Hat costume to remind me that the presence of joy is not contingent on the absence of pain. I do not need to be painless to be joyful because the joy of Jesus is so powerful it can overcome my pain.

Every time l rise up and approach God’s throne of grace with faith and belief, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit and joy of Jesus’ victorious life, God always delivers. He annihilates pain’s power in the presence of Christ’s resurrection power. He lifts sorrow and sadness and replaces it with joy and gladness.

Every day I get to make a choice about the attitude I will wear. By the grace of God and the strength of the Risen King I pray I’ll always choose joy.