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Spring will Spring Again

 I’m mad at winter.

And when I say “winter,” I don’t mean the earth’s meteorological season. Although I’m not particularly loving late winter’s lingering chill, it’s not nearly as infuriating as my body’s persistent season of sickness. That’s the winter that really has me hot (sweating) and bothered.

It was almost two years ago to the day that I received a Lyme disease diagnosis and began treatments to reclaim my health and life. The healing process has been incredibly intense, exhausting and, seemingly, never ending. Regaining my health has been more of a long slog than an early spring. Frigid, gray days have, by far, outnumbered the warm and sunny. This season of fighting Lyme has felt like a perpetual winter.

By now in my Lyme journey I had expected my illness to have thawed. Two years in I knew it might not look like summer quite yet but I at least expected it to feel like late spring. I never imagined I’d still be waking up in the midst of winter’s dark and dreary gloom.

It’s been so long since my body has experienced a true spring that sticks around for more than a day or two that I’ve been tempted to question whether or not my physical condition will ever change. Will I be stuck in this season of sickness for the rest of my days on earth? Am I destined to a lifetime trapped in winter? 

As He so often and so graciously does, God answered my doubts and questions by showing me the wonder of the earth’s spring. He pointed to a twig on a tree and said,

“Spring has always been your favorite season and with good reason. You love it so because spring always comes right after winter, on the heels of brutal cold, snow and ice. That’s when I step in and bring the dead earth back to life!

Spring is such an incredible miracle and it thrills you each and every year when I make it happen! As soon as I command the seasons to change, I hear you oh and awe as if you’ve never seen a budding flower before. You gaze at them with admiration and wonder – just like you’re doing to the one I’ve formed right here on this delicate twig set before you.

In your twenty-eight years of life I have never failed to deliver spring. Not once. I have always put an end to winter. I have always renewed and redeemed the earth. Remember my faithfulness. Rest in my righteousness. I am trust worthy and my promises are true. I will end your winter and bless you with the most beautiful spring you’ve ever seen!

Do not lose hope, little one. Just have faith and believe.”

While fixated on how faithfully God cares for the foundation of the earth and every flower that grows upon it, the Holy Spirit   descended into my wintry soul to strengthen my faith and renew my hope.

Even though my season of sickness has been brutal and long, God has not abandoned me in body, mind or soul. All along He has been orchestrating His plan to renew and restore me. While trapped under the snow and ice of symptoms and illness, Jesus has been protecting the root of my spirit so that, when the time is right, I will bloom like a beautiful flower.

To my Father God all I can say is, “Forgive me for hating on winter and lamenting the length of this sickness. Teach me to live with the joy of salvation in each and every season. Restore me with the hope of heaven that renews my spirit with the promise of eternal spring. Not my winterless will, Lord, but yours be done – no matter what the seasons may bring.”

“Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.”

Psalm 119:140-141

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Sea Gulls & God’s Provision

I love when the birds return in spring, especially after a long, brutal winter like the one we just had in northern Pennsylvanian. The blessed sound of birds chirping and singing their joyful song reminds me that even the coldest winter will come to an end. Warmth will return to the earth. Spring will always spring again.

But some birds don’t suddenly reappear in late winter because they never left in late fall.

While most birds – robins, blue jays, geese and many others – are “snow” birds, meaning that they head south before winter hits, sea gulls stay put. They are weather warriors, enduring the elements of all four northern seasons – polar vortexes included.

During a northern winter it isn’t unusual to see dozens of sea gulls gathering in snow covered parking lots, causing me to question their habits. Why do sea gulls stay here all winter while other birds go south? How do sea gulls obtain food when the ground is frozen solid and snow is piled high?

While walking along the bay on a late winter’s morning, my questions were answered by a flock of sea gulls perched on a mound of ice. There were at least thirty of these silly birds huddled together in one clump looking, as usual, cold and out of place. But, as I got closer, I realized that the sea gulls were congregating around a break in the ice so they could go fishing.

From my vantage point, the area of broken ice didn’t look like a prime fishing location since the opening was in shallow water. I couldn’t imagine many fish would be swimming that close to land. Not to mention that the icy opening appeared too small to provide fishing space for such a large gathering of birds. Yet, in just a few short minutes, I saw sea gull after sea gull dip into the frigid waters and return to the ice mounds with breakfast in their beaks.

The sea gulls fishing on the ice provided a powerful picture of God’s provision and reminded me of Jesus’ words. “Look at the birds of the air;” He said. “They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27)

Watching the sea gulls taught me two important lessons about trusting God.

First, the scene taught me to never assume my way is the best way.

Take, for instance, sea gull migration. If it were up to me, sea gulls would fly south for the winter to escape the snow, sleet and ice. But God has a better way. He specifically designed the sea gulls to endure winter’s storms. Because God is in control, I don’t need to understand the “how’ of the sea gulls’ survival. I just need to trust the “Who” of their survival. And the “who” is God. He who creates the birds, sustains the birds.

The same is true of humans, like you and me. Although with my limited understanding I often think life would be better if I could simply “migrate” away from troubles. I’d be so much happier, healthier and content if only I didn’t have to endure the storms of life – or so I think.

But God has a better way. God knows that it is by way of suffering that perseverance, character and hope are cultivated in His children’s heart (Romans 5:3-4). The fruits of Christ’s spirit grow most hardily when the conditions compel us to cling to the cross in the midst of the most harrowing storms. When we stay faithful through the trials and lean into Jesus, His Spirit transforms us into faith-filled warriors in the Lord’s Army.

Secondly, from the sea gulls, I learned to never underestimate the sufficiency of God’s supply. Although the hole on the icy bay was small, God supplied it with plenty of fish to meet the sea gulls’ needs. He made much out of not much.

In my own life I’m prone to believing I need more to be satisfied. More funds. More strength. More resources. But God says that His grace is sufficient for me because His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s strength and might is best displayed in weak and needy vessels. The more dependent we are on God’s provision, the more miraculous it is when our only hope is for Jesus to show up with His resurrection power (and He always does).

As God’s beloved children, you and I can confidently follow Jesus wherever He goes without fear of provision or concern for the conditions because where God guides, He always provides.  

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When God gives you a promise…

It was one year ago today that I wrote down on a purple index card a personal promise God gave to me. “I will restore your appetite.”

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since I first received the assurance from God that one day food will taste good to my palate. It has been years since I have truly enjoyed food. Thanks to dysfunction in my gut there are more foods that upset my stomach and leave me feeling ill than there are foods I can comfortably eat. As a result, I’ve lost my appetite for almost every food. Even old favorites have lost their appeal.

I must have been praying over this very dilemma exactly a year ago because God stilled my appetite anxieties with a message of assurance that it will return. God made the delivery of this promise so clear that I put it in writing and even underlined the final word, “appetite,” then dated it and signed it, “GOD.”

Upon receiving the assurance of appetite restoration I anticipated God would quickly fulfill it. I imagined that in short order I would be out ordering food at restaurants and enjoying meals with family and friends. I put my faith in God’s vow and wholeheartedly believed that “He who promised is faithful.”

But a year has passed and my appetite is as lousy as ever. In fact, I can eat fewer foods than I could a year ago and even those aren’t very appealing.

Since God made a promise but has yet to change my condition, does this mean He never really gave me the promise in the first place? Was it actually the enemy whispering lies into my ear? Or, worse yet, could it be that God did make the promise but since has gone back on His promise? Or did He never intended to fulfill it at all?

Now is the time when the rubber of faith meets the road of real life.

If my belief in God comes with a specific time frame I don’t have true belief. God is not a genie in a bottle. He does not fulfill His promises at the snap of my finger or work according to my clock. God fulfills His plans according to a whole different standard of time all together – perfectly holy time.

Since God has yet to fulfill His promise to restore my appetite I have a choice to make. I can turn my back on Him in impatience and lament that He let me down.

Or I can boldly reaffirm my faith in God’s perfect timing and declare with confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)God is rarely early and never late. Just because He has yet to fulfill His promise dose not mean He will not bring it to completion.

God is most certainly going to fulfill His promise and restore my appetite! He even has the day, hour and second planned when my taste buds will turn a corner and my gut will cry out for one of its favorite foods. God knows the very first meal I will eat on that splendid day when my appetite is renewed and reborn. It will be a miraculous moment and it is coming! I know it is because God told me it is. And God never gives a word He doesn’t have plans to fulfill. He is flawless in faithfulness and always true to His vows.

Even when God’s promise tarries, keep waiting for it with hopeful expectation. God will deliver it according to His perfect timing and, when it arrives, it will bless your socks off!

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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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Talking to the Birds

In the neighborhood I call home the houses are situated on quarter acre sized lots, only a few hundred feet apart. The homes are so close that, if you look just right, you can see in your neighbor’s window. Not that I’m peeking. It’s just a fact of residential suburban life.

In the summer months when the windows are open and my neighbors are out in full force I often hear their hearty laughter and boisterous conversation. In the comfort of my own home I’ve even listened to their rocking music. When they crank up the volume I can hear every word.

Living in close proximity to neighbors means you quickly become familiar with their habits, routines and preferences. You come to know, for example, what genre of music they enjoy and what time they leave for work. Or, as is the case with my newest next-door neighbor, you come to discover that they have a deep love and appreciation for birds.

To be honest, I haven’t officially met my new next-door neighbor. I’ve seen her car but couldn’t pick out her face in a grocery store line. But, even in spite of her anonymity, I am confident that my new neighbor love birds because she regularly talks and listens to them from her back deck.

Yes, you read that right. My new neighbors talk to birds. From inside my house I’ve heard her lively discussions with the feathered fowl in nearby trees. During their chats, my neighbor makes various bird-calls and practices a plethora of pitches. She even changes the tone and rhythm of her dialogue in response to her feathered friends.

The bird conversation begins with my neighbor making a few bird sounds of her own then pausing to listen as the birds respond. This back-and-forth dialogue goes on for quite some time, easily half an hour or so. Neither bird caller nor bird ever seems to tire of the discussion. From the energy in their voices there is no question that both neighbor and birds thoroughly enjoy their conversations.

When I first heard this chatter between my neighbor and the birds I’ll admit I thought it was a bit odd. Never before had I heard an individual have such a lengthy and enthusiastic conversation with birds. But the more I listened to the exchange the more beautiful it became. The back and forth soon became magical music to my ears.

 

The beautiful conversations taking place between my neighbor and the birds has taught me an important lesson: When you love someone – or some birds – you change your tune to speak their language.

Scripture says that my love for God is made manifest in my life when I speak His language and call out in His pitch of love and grace. When I turn to Him in prayer and seek His presence to not only speak but, more importantly, listen to His voice, Christ indwells my soul. When I surrender my selfish tune and earnestly endeavor to embody God’s calls the very Spirit of Christ transforms the song on my lips.

Every day of my life I am to be practicing God calls and engaging in the most magical, musical conversation man can ever experience: A holy and life changing conversation with God.

 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Colossians 3:1