March, Pray, and Thank God for Life!

May God bless and protect all those today who are marching for the right to life. May God protect the unborn children who have been conceived, and those yet to come. Be thankful for the life we are given on earth, and for the promise of eternal life we are given through Jesus Christ!

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:13-14 New International Version

“Look at the birds of the air; 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?”  Matt. 6:26

Past Paths… and Other Things too Painful to Mention

Last night, via Google Earth, I “traveled” along several paths, remembering how I’d been left alone so many times, since the tender young age of four. I retraced the steps I’d walked in solitude, in both Europe and the U.S. I was shocked at the realization of having wandered so far from home so often. In awe, I stared open-mouthed as the miles were mapped before my eyes, showing how far I’d trekked on foot and ridden my bike, with no one knowing my whereabouts. Google Earth showed me my instincts had been more than correct: It truly is a miracle that I’m even alive!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about the normal sweet freedoms of playing Hide n Seek till dark with all your friends, and the sweaty summers of childhood sprinklers. I’m not even talking about riding your bike around the neighborhood with the wind in your hair, or roller skating up and down the sidewalks and scraping up your knees. Those were things many children from the seventies and eighties enjoyed when kids were expected to go outside and play until supper, and then go back outside and catch lightning bugs till bath time.

I’m talking about the lonesome life adventures I remember in somewhat mixed, but fine detail, simply because I have a memory like an elephant. As a four year old, in Germany, I tried to avoid the teenagers. They made fun of the younger kids and called them names. I was on the monkey bars with a friend when I discovered I’d stepped in “doggy doo doo.” I knew the big kids would jeer at me and tease me if they noticed, so I didn’t even tell my friend. I remember standing at ground level, wishing my apartment wasn’t so many flights of stairs up away up top. I kept my stare focused on one of the teen girl’s colorful toenails. It was easier if I just blended in. I’m talking about being four years old, and leaving those monkey bars behind, to accept candy from a stranger behind a tall white stucco wall. The other kids warned me and my little boyfriend that a witch lived there, but we thought she was just fine. She smiled at us and urged us to take the sweets. The candy with sprinkles won me over, and there was an added benefit; it wasn’t poisonous!

I found myself being left with adults I didn’t know well. When I was five or six, I was left with an old lady I’d never met before. Once again I found myself being urged to accept a “treat.” Though I told the woman I was allergic to peanuts, she insisted I could just pull the peanuts off of the Cracker Jacks and just eat the popcorn. But she was not pulling the wool over my eyes. I had some worldly wisdom by now, and I didn’t think peanut crumb dust would turn out well for me (I chose to stay hungry). As I grew out of training wheels, I quickly mastered the art of riding my bike. I found myself in trashed, parentless houses, with friends of classmates, who made mud pies. On the base, I rode down suicidal hills with my feet over my handlebars, praying to God there wouldn’t be a car at the bottom, because there was no way to stop (God graciously answered those prayers for me). These things happened, and more things, and other things too painful to mention.

I moved to Italy, before third grade, where I had to walk and cross several streets, including a main strada with lots of tiny, speeding cars disobeying traffic rules. My heart jumped into my throat the day a stray dog began curiously sniffing at my lunchbox. I thought about dropping the box and making a run for it, but God sent me an angel. Just as my heart was about to leap into my throat, the threatening dog suddenly turned and walked away (Thank you, Jesus!). As if that wasn’t frightening enough, I survived the landlord’s giant German Shepherd guard dog, when it got loose and pressed up against my chest, barking and salivating in my face. (I think God sent me two angels that day!). At eight years old, I escaped from a gang of ten Italian bullies chasing me on bikes, screaming at me to give them MY bike, as I pumped my skinny long legs as fast as I could. I screamed at them in Italian, calling them liars. I told them my bicicletta was a girl’s bike, and that no one else had one like it. That bike was my trusty friend for many years, keeping me company on my soul adventures.

During that same time, I was left for a couple weeks with a strange family, where the parents punished me for things I didn’t do. It was scary and confusing, just like it was when we moved onto the base. I had been learning that many parents couldn’t be trusted, and here it was no different. A man was angry with the boy who had slapped his bratty daughter on the leg with a toy. After chasing my childhood friend into a ditch, the man flipped him over his head, high up into the air. In horror, I watched as my nine year old friend landed flat on his back. I muffled my screams; would I be next if I was seen? I ran until my asthmatic lungs gave out. Police were called, and I was terrified as always, that somehow it was my fault. The military police assured me I’d done nothing wrong; they just needed to know what I’d seen. These things happened, and more things, and other things too painful to mention.

When I look back at my first official dentist visit at age 11, like most dental appointments, it wasn’t fun. We’d had quick checkups on the military base through school, but we moved a lot, so I usually missed those. I had to get four fillings, and I was only in middle school. It didn’t seem fair (especially since I’d obediently chewed the cherry red tablets that showed you how to brush correctly). I wish I’d known about floss, because I probably would have thought it was fun. After all, I wanted braces, and needed them, but I didn’t get those either. Instead, I got head lice from constantly having unwashed hair. Dirty hair had previously been an easy fix; I was just supposed to hurry up and grab a scarf for my head before catching the bus.

The same year of the lice, was the same year of me getting embarrassed by my p.e. coach telling me I needed to purchase a necessary important undergarment. How mortifying. I thought she was being mean by pulling me aside and whispering to me, but years later I realized she was doing me a favor. As a sixth grader, I continued to ride my trusty purple bike everywhere. I even rode it four blocks away, in order to bat my talcum-powdered eyelids at a boy (I created my own makeup, since I wasn’t allowed to wear any) just because it was nice to be noticed and told I was pretty.

Teachers tried to help me in middle school. They told me I was smart and talented. They told me to enter my art and poetry in contests, and I won. When I started to go into anaphylactic shock at school, from an allergic reaction to the school cafeteria spice cake, the nurse frantically tried to help. She searched through the cabinets in vain, but sadly informed me there was no emergency medicine in the office. When help finally arrived, it came in the form of a pill, and a quick dump off at home, instead of to the hospital. I scratched in agony at the donut-sized welts which entirely covered my legs. I moaned from the nausea, and tried to fill my air with lungs. I felt like I was trying to breathe through a straw. These things happened, and more things, and other things too painful to mention.

It can be hard coming face to face with neglect and the realization of having been on your own from a young age, and the understanding that things were not what they looked like to other people. It can be lonely having to carry things you weren’t meant to be burdened with as a child. You can easily feel lost, hopeless, and abandoned when you look back at times when no one was there, and no one cared.
Sometimes it looks pretty on the outside; you’re told to quickly put a bright yellow scarf over your greasy dirty hair, you’re told to smile pretty getting out of the car at church but you want to cry because everyone was fighting and you were the target again, you’re told to care for another child when you’re still only a child yourself, and you do it because you love that child, but no one is loving and caring for you.

It’s easy to be tempted to look back and wonder where God was when you were lonely, isolated, neglected, abused, and abandoned. It’s tempting to get angry and wonder why you had to be afraid, condemned, and depressed just for being alive. It can be especially tempting to allow hopelessness in, and wonder if God will be there for you in the future. But the silver lining is God loves us, in spite of everything we’ve been through. Jesus cried when we cried, and he held us up when we couldn’t stand on our own. Jesus wants to fix the brokenness, heal us, and use it all for God’s glory! Jesus is always here for us!

I hurt about the little things. I hurt about the big things. And I hurt about the other things too painful to mention. But I have to trust that God knows what He is doing with my life, even when nothing seems to make sense. I don’t want to be that person who walks away from God, especially when He’s getting ready to do that great big glorious thing in my life! After all, He’s already done some pretty glorious things for me! God has given me a family to love, and my family loves me, and fills up the empty, broken, lonely places. So whether people are for me or against me (and believe me, there are plenty against me!) God is FOR me! He loves and cares for me, and He can teach me how to love and care for myself. God has taught me to love and care for my children the way I should have been loved and cared for as a child. How great and glorious is that? I’d rather have everyone against me with God for me, than everyone for me, with God against me! “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31 English Standard Version)

The painful things are healed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. God has done wonderful things, is doing amazing things, and will do many more wonderful, amazing things too glorious yet to mention…

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4 ESV)

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Pursue The Shepherd to Escape the Wolves!

Everyone is free to believe as they wish, but no one should fool themselves into believing he or she will ever understand the truth about anything in life without pursuing God’s One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. If God says there are wolves among us, pretending to be Christians, He means it. It’s true. We need to pay attention to God’s warning, as we walk with Jesus and begin to view the world with godly, spiritual eyes. As our eyes and ears become open to the truth, we come to a place where we are no longer willing to be blinded and deceived by fake Christians, pretenders, or wolves in sheep’s clothing. We can rely on Jesus, refusing to get reeled in by the lies of self-centered, narcissistic people who are only interested in themselves. Many people also proudly rely on self, instead of looking towards God for guidance. Sadly, they will remain unable to escape the sharp hook of deception, and will lose out on the freedom of exploring the vast ocean of joy God has waiting for them. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:33 New International Version).

To find truth, we must give our lives to Christ, and continuously pursue him. Christians follow Jesus in spite of their mistakes and imperfections. Christians are people who change, because they grow over time. Sometimes the changes come quickly, and others can take much more time. But the changes will be good changes, reflecting the character of Christ. If there are no positive changes and spiritual growth, one should ask God if He’s pleased with the spiritual journey He’s watching from up above. When a child of God is stuck in a rut, it’s likely that repentance, forgiveness, and prayer are all necessary to bring back a wandering heart. God is always waiting with open arms to receive His lost children!

True Christians are followers of Christ. They don’t just talk; they walk with Jesus. They humbly accept that they are not perfect, but seek to do unto others as Jesus would do. Christians forgive each other, and forgive in the name of Jesus when it’s too hard to do it on their own. Christians don’t demand forgiveness. Christians humbly seek forgiveness with a repentant heart. They want to know how they’ve offended a brother or sister in Christ, so they can fix what’s broken. The Bible tells us not to judge or condemn others. These sinful attitudes get in the way of forgiveness. Other strongholds which keep people seeing God clearly are: stubbornness, anger, bitterness, denial, and even rejection. As The Holy Spirit reveals these, it is our place to ask God to remove them in the name of Jesus. Healing, freedom, and joy take place. Forgiveness then comes easier, and more naturally, just as it does with Jesus.

Some people only pretend to give their lives to Christ. Others actually do receive their salvation, yet go on living the same lives they led before; lives that don’t include God. This isn’t God’s will for His children. God is our Creator. He wants a relationship with us. God is omniscient; He knows whether we’ve really given our lives to Him. He looks at our hearts: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’ ” (1 Sam. 16:7 ). God also sees us bearing fruit, and planting seeds which lead to others growing in Christ.

When you are with a Christian, you should see and hear and feel Jesus reflected in the heart of that person. You should be able to see light in that person’s eyes, rather than darkness. You should hear words that uplift and encourage you, rather than words that leave you angry, bitter, and confused. You should feel hopeful, peaceful, and comforted after spending time with a Christian, rather than feeling anxious and depressed. Real Christians grow fruit; they leave the world a better place by leading others to Jesus. Their lives show evidence of joy, grace, and the mercy of God’s love.

We all have times of conflict with brothers and sisters in Christ, but these should not override the goodness seen within them; the goodness that comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Many people daily refer to themselves as Christians just because they go to church or do good deeds, but they have not truly given their lives to Christ. Instead they choose to live life without any regard to God’s commandments and callings. Their walk does not reflect the character of Christ, so it causes others to have a warped, false, and negative view of the pure goodness of Christianity.

The bible tells us evil will masquerade as light. We need to pursue Jesus, asking for wisdom to discern fake Christians (wolves) from genuine Christians (sheep). Wolves are jealous and vengeful. They gossip, lie, and stir up strife on a regular basis. Because of their vicious nature, they can get in the way of the amazing plans God has for you! Therefore, be diligent, and heed God’s warning: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt.7:15). Ask God to help you identify deceit. Ask God to show you who the wolves are, and to remove them from your life, in Jesus’ name. God is your refuge and shelter; He is your greatest source of protection.

No matter what it looks like, what lies are being told, who has turned against you; look for the silver lining: NOTHING is more powerful than the power and authority of JESUS CHRIST in your life! God knows your worth; His Truth is all that matters! If you have a relationship with Jesus, then GOD HIMSELF has your back! Trust Him each and every day! Pursue Jesus, and the scales will fall from your eyes, as the real world of truth appears before you in ways you’ve never imagined! You will be amazed at what you can see through your brand new spiritual eyes! It’s about love and forgiveness. It really is…all about…pursuing JESUS!

” ‘I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. ‘So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock–his church, purchased with his own blood–over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you–my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you. ‘And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.’ ”
( Acts 20:26-32 New Living Translation)

You can read more about how to identify wolves in sheep’s clothing in my article: Sheepish Character? False Christians cause Division (Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing).

My mission is to help others find hope leading to healing, joy, and freedom in the truth of Jesus Christ. On The Silver Lining homepage, you can click on specific topics related to this blog post, such as: narcissism, judging, deception, freedom, and more. You can also search your own keywords; examples are: “self-centeredness” “wolves” “jealousy” “character” “fruit” “light” and many others. Join The Silver Lining Facebook page, and share the silver lining experiences God has given to you, by submitting them to be shared with other readers! God bless you, in Jesus name! 

New Year’s Resolutions…or Promises?

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions which are soon forgotten. The feelings seep in almost immediately: guilt, disappointment, discouragement, and regret.  The year has barely begun, and we’re already unable to even start the resolutions meant to bring us a brand new year full of amazing accomplishments. I’m tired just thinking about it! How about beginning our new year by simply praying, and asking God to bless and guide us in all we do? We can thank God for the good gifts He’s given to us over this past year, and commit to putting Him first. We can pray for wisdom and discernment, asking God to help us become more like Jesus. Instead of resolutions, let’s ask God to help us stay on the path He has provided for each one of us. Or, ask Him to help us find our way back to the path if we’ve wandered and lost our way. 

If we’ve accepted Christ into our hearts, our future is secure in our salvation. We know we have God’s great gift of eternal life. But God has more good gifts to give us right now! God wants to heal us, and give us the desires of our hearts. God wants to give us freedom, peace, and joy; as we live our lives here on earth! It’s not His will for us to be fearful, guilt-laden, angry, depressed, bitter, rejected, or abandoned. Those things come from the enemy. God sent Jesus to carry our burdens, overcome evil, and give us victory each and every year of our lives! God takes what is evil and changes it to be used for our good. He also uses it for His glory, in order to grow the Kingdom of God. When bad things surface, they become opportunities for God to heal, change, and grow us into men and women of Christ-like character. For this to occur, we have to be willing to trust God through everything, even when we don’t understand. We have to be patient, believing God has a perfect plan, which He will bring to fruition in His perfect timing. 

God is a promise maker; He is not a promise breaker! Therefore, our hope lies in Jesus Christ, not in resolutions we can’t keep. So, let’s give Jesus our disappointments, pain, and suffering. But we need to give him our hopes, dreams, and joys too! We can do this by trusting God with everything, both the good and the bad. We can believe God’s Word over and above anything else, knowing that Jesus is Truth. We can walk a true Christian walk, in spite of our brokenness and imperfections, by pursuing Jesus each and every day of the year. When all of your New Year’s resolutions fail, and you feel like giving up, look for the silver lining: God’s love never fails! Jesus never gives up on you! We do not need to keep any resolutions to be loved and accepted by Jesus. We just need to take his hand when he reaches for us, and follow him! 

“For no word from God will ever fail.”

(Luke 1:37 New International Version) 

Snow flurries dancing before the silver lining.

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