Today I Feel – RX for Jessica

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Last night my niece, Jessica, posted the above sentiment on her Facebook status. Before I fell asleep, I managed to comment encouraging her to find Bible verses to counter those feelings. I’ll try to do that in this blog. Here’s her Bible verse prescription for the above ailments that trouble her, and all of us too.

I encouraged her to find Bible verses because I had, and still do have, those exact feelings. I’m sure most of us do. I especially relate to the “ugly”, “like I don’t matter”, “invisible”, and “not worthy of love” feelings, but I will tackle each of them. I have learned over the almost four decades of knowing the Lord Jesus, that He can transform my mind which in turn will produce different feelings than those above.

Today I feel abandoned…I think every human has felt abandoned, lonely and alone. No one truly understands. And that’s a true experience. There are many synonyms for “abandoned”, left, uncared for, forgotten. When I think of abandoned, I think of an empty house, abandoned, like the old Granville house in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. What changed that abandoned, empty house into a happy home? Life and love changed it. In Christ, we have a new life, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!” John 3:16 says we’re loved, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” and John 10:10 says “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Life and love, and to top it off, Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Never alone again. Amen.

Today I feel ugly…I don’t think there’s a woman in the world who has never felt ugly. We are bombarded with images of unnaturally beautiful women everyday and then we look in our own mirrors…ughh. That may be one of the reasons I have few mirrors in my home. Antonyms for ugly abound: beautiful, pretty, pleasant, nice, attractive. Most of us can’t change our looks, but we can change our inner lives. From there, we can acquire an inner beauty that never ages. We have to admit we’ve got some ugly going on inside. How do we change that? One verse that helps is Psalm 34:5 “They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. When we look at Jesus, we become radiant, we have a spiritual beauty, and from that we get joy. Nothing gets rid of ugly faster than happy.

Today I feel hurt…Hurt comes to all of us. Physical, emotional, mental pain abound in every country, city, and family. Pain: Our great unifier. The opposite of hurt would be healing. Psalm 34:18 assures us, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” and Psalm 147:3 promises, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds.” As we draw near to Him, our hurts will be healed.

Today I feel like I don’t matter…The opposite of this feeling would be we feel like we do matter, that we’re important, that we’re special. The Bible says you matter to God. In the Old Testament, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” In the New Testament, Paul tells us how God showed us we matter, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends, Jesus loves you that much. Believe me, you do matter to God.

Today I feel useless…This word “useless” reminds me of the debilitating slur some parents would hurl at their children, “good for nothing”. Praise God He’s not that kind of Father. Paul, after he declares we are saved by grace through our faith, says “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.You’re not useless, God will use you just where you are.

Today I feel invisible…What’s the opposite of invisible? Visible, of course, noticed, seen, but more importantly, recognized, not just seen, but known. Someone who knows you. David says in Psalm 139,

13For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

He knows all about you because He created you. You are NEVER invisible to Him. Hallelujah!

Today I feel like I don’t belong…Dr. Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection writes: “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children.” We all want to belong to someone or something. Psalm 100:3 says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Jesus adds to this, I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” As Christian believers, we belong to Christ.

Today I feel not worthy of love…I know this one too well. I never felt like I was worthy of anyone’s love, let alone a man’s. Some where deep down I felt flawed, “irregular” like the marked down clothes at Target. I wrote a whole blog about how God transformed my feelings of worthlessness into beloved-ness. All I can say is we need to let God love us, and then we not only feel beloved, but we are capable of truly loving others. Here is a link to that blog: https://fromtheshoe.com/2015/12/05/and-my-soul-felt-its-worth/. Just like the Christmas song says, when Christ was born, “the soul felt its worth”. Thank you, Lord.

So, dear Jessica, here is your prescription to alleviate those “sick” feelings and come back to health. I pray for you that you will come to know the living Christ and be filled up with all the spiritual blessings He is ready to offer you. God bless you, little sister.

Love, Donna

 

 

 

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Epilogue: David’s Sunrise is Home

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Three months to the day of David J Ochoa’s untimely and tragic death, his parents trekked to Fresno to pick up the painting that will always be a beautiful memorial to this young man and reminder of his short, but beloved life.

David died on February 19th, 2018. At the time, David was seeing my daughter, Espi. His death has struck us hard, and we are still reeling. Two days later I took the picture this painting is based on.

As had been told before, not only was the picture a beautiful image of a bird heading for the heavens at the dawn of the day, but it was taken at a particular intersection in South San Francisco, California two days after his death. Even more remarkable was the conversation between his mother and I when she revealed that where I took the picture was very close to where David left this earth. Flew quietly away, if you will.

I love what Wendy said in her blog, “David’s Sunrise: The Story of a Photo”,

“…this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.”

As much as we long to undo that day in February, to somehow bring David back, we sadly and powerlessly cannot. Such is the hardest thing to deal with in this life: Death. And Death is all around us, the Great Inevitable. David’s Sunrise reminds us of a “really sweet” life gone too soon, but it also reminds us that this is David’s Sunrise, not his sunset. I feel that is an important component to this story. David has gone before us. Even King David, after his newborn son died, said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Wendy quoted Nabokov, “Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.”

I agree. Jesus, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” shortly before he raised Lazarus from the dead, assures us that there is life after death. There is physical life after death. Every Easter, we remember this Man, His life and the gift of eternal life He’s given us through His death. Every time we look at this painting, we remember the young man, David J Ochoa, who lived here, but lives elsewhere now.

This painting is hung on a wall that seemed prepared for it. God in His wonderful providence has brought people together in His haphazard and serendipitous way to comfort a family and memorialize a life. All of us who were involved in this have been humbly blessed. Such are the marvelous ways of the Lord.

David will not only live on in our hearts and memories, but he lives now in the presence of God. I feel the painting points all our attention to the heavens, to the Sunrise. I look forward to the day when I can get to know David better.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.    – Revelation 21:4

David

 

I Will Go…

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I’ve had the great pleasure these past few days of enjoying the splendid music by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. How I overlooked these guys is beyond me. Come most Januarys, when the hills in Pacifica are at their greenest, I begin listening to my favorite Irish songs. Leading up to March 17, most days are sprinkled with various renditions of “Only Our Rivers are Free”, “The Town I Loved So Well”, “Danny Boy”, of course, and many other musical nuggets I’ve extracted and cherished over the years.

This year, I’ve been listening to songs of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. What led me here was a cover of “Red is the Rose” by Anthony Kearns (one of the Irish Tenors) that serendipitously appeared on my Pandora autoplay. I youtubed it and found a stirring cover by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem which, of course, led me to other songs. My new favorite song is “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” sung sweetly by Tommy and the brothers.

The tune and the tempo remind me of that lovely, traditional Scottish melody “Loch Lomond”, a song me and my river mates would sing while making our way back to my cabin which sits on the bonnie braes of the Russian River in Guerneville, CA; we could take the high road off Leasowe Lane (up to Drake Road) or stay on the low gravelled road to the cabin. Maybe it’s that tune that stirs this deep feeling in me.

However, it’s the song’s sweet, innocent lyrics that capture this old, romantic’s soul especially as it’s sung to the hauntingly, beautiful air:

lassie

Now, granted, I’m a tad old to be pining for a laddie to lure me to the mountains; yet, the lyrics remind me of another old, older love song. One that can be translated into a spiritual hope, a future journey. In Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman tells us:

“My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along. For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away!”      – Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Will this lassie go? I will go, someday. Someday, He will call me home…where maybe there’ll be blooming heather growing near the wild mountain thyme. Who knows what eternity will be like? Solomon said, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts…”. We are made for eternity, and I believe eternity will be beautiful too. Music like this song is eternal.

That is our hope in Jesus Christ. He said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” He is the Resurrection and the Life. This Lenten season, this St. Patrick’s Day, let us remember who calls us beloved, who calls us to come and follow Him, and who went to prepare a bower (place) for us.

In this life, we only skip along the outskirts of eternity.  I hope we don’t get distracted by all the things of this world, the things that will pass away. Songs like “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” remind us how powerful music is and how some songs transcend time. They skirt the mountains of eternity and call us to come. Will ye go, Lassie, Laddie, will ye go?

    “Come away, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the mountain of spices.” 

Song of Solomon 8:14

 

 

Beloved.

Christmas-Love

As He says also in Hosea,
“I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’
AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.’”

Romans 9:25 NASB, 1977

What a funny word, “beloved”? The loved one. The object of love. The world, if you will, according to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…”. The gift of His Son, which we celebrate every Christmas, is full of many of the most wonderful things in this life: redemption, reconciliation, peace, love and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I came to a living relationship with Jesus Christ almost 40 years ago, and I came to Him in search of truth. A solid foundation was laid in my catholic upbringing, but there was no life in the structure. In my quest for truth, I embraced Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but through Me.” Knowing the truth gave me new life and a purpose. However, it wasn’t until decades later that I truly understood what it meant to be “Beloved”.

I grew up in a household that wasn’t too keen on love and kindness. That’s just the way it was. And I know I was damaged by that upbringing.

When my older kids were little and there wasn’t a lot of money, we would buy our computers at the thrift store. Often times, they would work, but inevitably, while connecting to the internet we would meet that frustrating alert:

After working hard to get online, we would be deflated when we got this message. Well, that is how things were growing up. When it came to giving or receiving love, “this connection has limited or no connectivity.” So my siblings and I grew up with some emotional malnutrition, and were subsequently pretty emotionally anemic. I also had limited or no connectivity to love or being able to love. But when I had children, that maternal instinct gave rise to love, and those little ones, in their innocent little ways, gave me glimpses of a divine love I would soon connect to. I see that unconditional love in my grandbabies’ faces.

To quote from a previous blog, the first rays of “belovedness” came this way:

One night, seven years ago, my little girls and I were randomly quoting Scripture – something we never do – but it was fun. They had memory verses from school.  Ellie quoted Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.”  I had heard this verse before, but this evening it stuck and I reread the entire verse.

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Zephaniah 3:17 – NLT

And what I could only call a moment of grace I could see God Himself singing over me in love in the same manner I express my love toward my kids.  I could understand that from being a mom, and even better, I could feel it.  It was an overwhelming moment.

One night, there was an argument going on at the house, and I went upstairs to help broker a peace, but only created a greater skirmish. I went downstairs feeling like I had always felt: crappy, worthless and unable, as a Christian, to make things right, better or even bring peace.

As I stood in the hallway, I had an epiphany. I came to the understanding that a lot of our family’s emotional dynamics were shame-related. A family member, unable to take responsibility for their actions, perhaps from their own pain no doubt, had, for years, shifted their shame and guilt to other family members including myself. I can’t tell you how earth shattering this illumination was. It was like that apron the dentist puts on you, the leaden one for x-rays, and that God took this leaden apron of shame off of me, and I floated to the surface and breathed the fresh air of freedom and non-condemnation.

At the same moment, almost audibly, I could hear Paul’s glorious and resounding ruling from Romans: “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those is Christ Jesus.”  I had been a Christian for thirty years, and that night I felt like a new Christian, I had been born again again, the decades seemed to fall away, and I was basking in the love and acceptance of the Heavenly Father.

Since then I have grown in His love. I have learned to trust Him, not so much in obedience to His word, but in response to His love for me. That revelation revolutionized my Christian life.

I didn’t mean to go so long as to get to the point, but Christmas brings the best gifts when we look closely at the origin of the holiday. Christianity is set apart from all the religions in that there is a God who loves, a God who loves us, and all others. He loves His creation, though fallen, and Jesus Christ is God’s gift of love to us, to the world. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection fixes our “limited connectivity” and strongly reconnects us to our God. We are reconciled to God the Father, justified in Christ and where we were once not loved, we are BELOVED.

And when we know we are BELOVED, we can love, and even love in the most difficult circumstances because it is true what John wrote, “We love, because He first loved us.” I hope this Christmas the love of God will make you know and feel BELOVED.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

 

 

 

 

The Weary World Rejoices!

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December 2011

“The weary world rejoices!” say the lyrics of “O Holy Night” “Weary world” – he got that right! I’m tired, aren’t you? Just listening to the news every evening wears me out. Economic distress, social unrest, solutions that are obscure at best dominate the newscasts contributing to a weary mood, to a weary world. And, alas, it’s Christmas time. A time of cheer, excitement and joy. But the weariness remains, aches if you will, like a tooth just starting to pain.

I confess my children help me maintain the joy of Christmas. They are still young, they are still creating those holiday memories that will pleasantly haunt them in adulthood. For them, I can slough off my weariness and sing…and bake and shop and wrap.

But Christmas isn’t about me or the kids; it is about someone’s birthday. Someone, whose humble birth in a barn two millennia ago, changed the world.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth – the very thing the whole story has been about.” Remembering that and what he did and what he said grounds me.

Remembering the things He said: “I have come that they might have life.” and “Come unto to Me, all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” and one of my favorites, “I am the way, the truth and the life….” He was, and He continues to be. Amen!

The gifts and the glitter, the lights and the laughter and the music and the magic are sweet by-products of this “central event”. Although these delightful paraphernalia of the holiday give a sense of joy, beauty and excitement; it is fleeting like the energy from a Snickers bar.

It is this historical event that gives the weary world true and permanent joy, true and permanent hope and true and permanent peace. His birth is “the good tidings of great joy”. And that joy spills over into every area we allow it. Not a fleeting feeling of happiness, but a deep abiding joy. A joy that can endure hardship, a joy that can sustain tragedy and a joy that can hope during the dark night. A joy I define as an internal place I liken to a plateau I have reached after a long and arduous hike. It may be stormy or it may be sunny; but regardless, I have reached a higher land and fresher air.

The true meaning of this blessed holiday brings greater joy to happy Christmases and comfort through the inevitable sad and lonely ones. This Christmas I hope your joy will deepen and provide greater comfort and peace to you and your family and friends. Happy Christmas from the Shoe.