What is My Purpose!

What is My Purpose?

From July 14 through July 25, 19 students of ages between 21 and 64 listened, talked, participated, wrote, conferenced, laughed, cried, argued, and probably a couple of other verbs the variety of methods used to learn the subject matter the instructors were trying to teach.

Why?

Not too long after Rod died, God revealed that there were individuals who had spent the decades of their earthly lives on a church pew without understanding the most important reasons why.

How could they be helped?

Who would help them?

So began the journey to Licensed Local Pastor School.

Was every one of those 19 people there because they felt a similar, strong directive from God to be there?

Did everyone know the journey might be in vain—there was a chance licensing to pastor a small church, the chief reason for enrolling in the school, would not be the end result?

How many of them started with the initial mark against them of a faith journey thus far walked closely with and wholly trusting in Jesus alone that was different from that expected by the school?

Were any of them “different/weirdly wired” in the way they thought?

What did they each learn? Did they further their education in things for which they already had an elementary knowledge?

This would include the 9 spiritual disciplines:

  1. Prayer
  2. Worship
  3. Fasting
  4. Scripture (Bible reading)
  5. Study (Bible with supplementary resources)
  6. Stewardship (tithing—not just money but talent)
  7. Solitude
  8. Fellowship
  9. Service

Did they learn that the 9 spiritual disciplines don’t just “happen” to a believer; rather they should be “intentional” acts on the part of the believer? Most of these intentional acts can and should be practiced frequently. Some are easier than others, and some will need constant vigilance and reinforcement to be fully engaged.

Did they befriend those with whom they might not ever have otherwise crossed paths? The love of Jesus was clearly and deeply experienced both through other people and through the work of Holy Spirit when human frailty raged within and without. Did they feel that? True, faith isn’t based on feelings, but God gave us feelings.

Did they learn about communication? When one speaks, it is not the words alone which are important; indeed, they are of minimal importance. The tone with which the words are spoken bears more weight, and some would say body language is of the utmost importance! Body language is difficult to alter (for reasons fully addressed in previous posts and implied in this one). Learning to speak with a tone which conveys kindness, encouragement, and the love of Jesus is an achievable goal. Although this is not one of the spiritual disciplines, in this writer’s case, it will be made so.

On the original draft of this blog, the word “I” appeared more than 40 times with other words such as “my” not even counted but present. Since not using personal pronouns is grammatically unwieldy (see above reference to “this writer”), the rest will include the to-be-avoided-at-all-costs pronouns.

The previously mentioned end result? Mom, sister, son, daughter-in-law, 2 granddaughters and Pastor Dave all came to the ceremony Thursday evening to cheer encouragement as I received my graduation certificate.graduation

I was told more than once that the certificate was just a paper saying the classes had all been completed with a passing grade (one of them barely), but it would be strongly recommended a license not be issued to me at the time the other students receive theirs in one to two months. In part, this was due to belief differences which I admittedly didn’t wish to change, and I believe God would have been displeased with me if I had. The major hindrance was, of course, the ASC which many don’t even believe exists because of adroit masking practiced and nearly perfected over the past 50 years. It was the black and white thinking, however, which was my downfall.

God had me take the schooling for a reason. Of course, I tried to figure out just what that reason might be. Could it be that it was to encourage one of the other students in some way? That happened, so possibly that was the correct answer. Did one of the other students need to see a fellow student “on the edge” most of the time and “over the edge” a couple times, but by the grace of God getting back up every single time? That happened, too.

It is about God. It’s not about me. It’s really not even about other people, although some would disagree.

He told me long ago my purpose in life is to glorify him (confirmed in Isaiah 43:7), a fait accompli in my own unique way with regard to Licensed Local Pastor School. I am, as always, grateful to him for his greatly needed assistance.

Now waiting patiently for his next direction, I will continue to learn about the love with which he has loved me so that the love can be given back to him and to others.

Reader greatly loved by our Heavenly Father, God Almighty, may he bless you in all you say and do and in everything your hands touch. In the precious name of Jesus Christ.

The Woman at the Well

woman-of-samaria-at-jacobs-wellAlthough the Bible is called the Word of God because every word in it comes from God, in many Bibles every word that Jesus spoke is written in red ink. The 4 gospels are full of red-letter words, and they appear elsewhere in smaller quantity.

There are several instances where the red words of Jesus are interspersed with black words spoken by one or more people. Among all the one-on-one conversations Jesus had, one is longer than any other.

  1. This conversation was with a woman.
  2. The woman’s name might have been Mary (in fact, her name was not given, but it could have been Mary). Side note: Whenever I think of Mary’s in the Bible, I always think of that poor woman at Jesus’ tomb in Matthew 27:61 who is called simply “the other Mary”. Maybe the woman at the well was the other Mary.
  3. She is probably just about the last person anyone living in that time would have imagined Jesus speaking with.

Something else you might notice about the Bible and every other book. The writing does not go clear to the edge of the page. There are white, blank spaces at the sides, top, and bottom of each page. Sometimes there might be footnotes, but even then, there will still be a blank space before the very edge of the page. There are spaces like this at the edges of this blog. These are called margins. You probably don’t even pay any attention to them, do you?

Margins are defined as being the edge or border of something, or the area outside the space where the action occurs. So, when a person is described as a marginalized individual he or she is someone on the outside looking in. This person lives in a place of loneliness. It can be a place of despair. It may be that no one even really notices the person.

The woman at the well, although clearly of at least average intelligence for a woman judging by the conversation she had with Jesus, was a marginalized person.

Was she born that way, destined to travel the road of life emotionally and spiritually alone?

I can see 3 possible reasons for her to live in the margins of life.

First, she was “the woman at the well”. So, yes, to some degree for that time in history she was marginalized simply due to her gender.

Second, she was a Samaritan, marginalized by her ethnicity. Again, born that way.

Lastly, she was living an immoral lifestyle.

Jesus was known for doing the opposite of what the religious leaders expected of Him. The Apostle John illustrates this fact through this account perhaps more clearly than any other.

Why was Jesus in Samaria?

It was the shortest route to his destination, and the reason John even mentions this becomes clear as we read further in the account.

Why was this such an odd thing? The Bible tells us Jews, particularly the religious Pharisees, tended to avoid going through Samaria at all.

To understand this, you have to go back nearly 1000 years. Although the trouble betweenisrael the Israelite tribes started all the way back in the days of Jacob (Israel), it was after one of Solomon’s servants rebelled against David’s son that the northern kingdom broke away. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained, and if you read 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, you will see that the southern kingdom was maybe slightly more faithful to God than the northern kingdom, and thus existed for a longer period of OT time. The capital of the southern kingdom was Jerusalem. The northern kingdom had 3 capitals, of which the last was Samaria, and its people came to be known as Samaritans.

The traditions and religious practices of both kingdoms were still in existence in Jesus’ earthly time.

Jesus was of the southern kingdom—the Samaritan woman (and other Samaritans mentioned in the NT) are from the northern.

If you think about it, analogies can be made between the interactions between the Jews & Samaritans and the racial tensions and religious wars taking place today.

Jesus and the woman at the well are 2 people who should be enemies but instead have a deep and lengthy conversation.

Why did Jesus stop at Jacob’s well, in particular?

He was tired.

Jesus was at this exact location at this exact time because it was a shortcut to his destination — and he was tired. Those are the logical explanations.

But faith and logic often are not the same thing. Sometimes . . . they are opposites.

What was the ultimate result of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman?

Verse 39 “Many of the Samaritans believed. . .”

The first of them was the woman at the well.

She had been married 5 times. Since women were not permitted to divorce, that means 5 different men had divorced her. The reason could have been as simple as the husband tired of her. That still happens today. Whatever the reason, she had been rejected 5 times. My guess is her self-esteem had to be about nil after all that. It’s little wonder she was not married to the man she was living with at the time!

She drew her water at noon, the hottest part of the day. Possibly she had once drawn her water at the same time as the other women, the more normal and comfortable hour. Maybe the other women had scorned her which led to her eventually going to the well at a time she would not be judged. Yet Jesus, a man, a Jew, and a completely sinless human being, deigned to speak to her without contempt.

They discussed the differences between the water in the well and the water Jesus had. Since the well was “Jacob’s Well”, and Jacob was considered the father of the northern kingdom, this was considered the best water available. Yet, Jesus said the living water he offered was superior. If she drank of it, she would never thirst again.

The woman wanted this living water. She didn’t want to keep going to Jacob’s well every day at the hottest hour of the day. Jesus told her to go and get her husband, even though he knew she didn’t have one.

The woman was honest, and Jesus spoke, knowing everything about her, stated the facts of her life he knew would capture her full ate attention; but. . . there is no indication he was condemning her for her lifestyle.

Then followed a discussion of the proper place to worship with Jesus stating there is no one place to worship, all that is required is the attitude with which it must be done, that being in Spirit and in Truth.

Lastly He revealed to the woman that He was the long-awaited Messiah.

All these things together kindled the fire of the woman’s faith in Jesus.

Then the disciples showed up. They were surprised not to see him talking to a Samaritan or one who practiced immoral behavior, but to see him talking with a woman.

This brings up something interesting I noted when researching this.

bible skinny

Nearly all the translations read that the disciples were surprised only because he was talking with a woman. However, The Message translation/paraphrase, a current favorite of many people, reads as follows: “27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.”

Most of the other translations say nothing other than “a woman”, and none say anything about the disciples’ countenances.

The Passion Translation/Paraphrase (one of my favorites) reads: “27 At that moment the disciples returned and were stunned to see Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman. Yet none of them dared to ask him why or what they were discussing.”

Again, the translator was taking some liberties. The “Samaritan” in front of woman is not too much of a stretch because they were, after all, in Samaria. But “dared to ask him”? Were the disciples really that afraid of Jesus?

Here are a couple other translations:

KJV: 27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?”

Mounce Interlinear:

27 Just then his disciples came back. kai epi houtos autos mathētēs erchomai.

They were astonished that he was talking with a woman ; ho · kaithaumazō hoti laleō meta gynē;

however, no one said to her, mentoi, oudeis legō,

“What do you want?” “tis zēteō?”

or to him, “Why are you talking with her ē, “tis laleō meta autos

This is why we Bible readers must be careful when using a contemporary version of the Bible. Although the creators of The Message and The Passion Translation were more than likely correct in their speculations, they are speculations because they are not found in the Greek text.

Whatever the case, as soon as the disciples showed up, the woman left so quickly she forgot her water jar. Or. . . Maybe she thought she would no longer need it? She had, after all, just drunk of the Living Water.

A couple chapters earlier, in John 2:23, we learn of the first Jewish believers who had been at the Passover. The woman at the well became then in chapter 4 the first non-Jewish evangelist of the Good News when she asked “Could this be the Messiah?” Could this have been aa rhetorical question, asked to whet the appetites of those already thirsty for the Living Water?

Meanwhile, back at the well the disciples were trying to get Jesus to eat something. He told them he had food to eat of which they knew nothing. The disciples, humans, were thinking with their human minds that someone had brought him something to eat. But Jesus responded His food was to do the will of His Father which was to harvest the crop for eternal life. This harvest started with the Samaritan woman and the scythe extended to everyone she came in contact with.

She was such an unlikely first evangelist!

Or was she?

1 Corinthians 1:27 tells us “But God chose those the world considers foolish to shame those who think they are wise; and God chose the puny and powerless to shame the high and mighty.” So, although it may have seemed like Jesus was at the well to take a shortcut and because He was tired, He was actually on a divine mission. It doesn’t sound like He ever even got a drink of the water from Jacob’s Well.

In fact, His true reason for being at the well is found in v.34 “to do the will of God”. Since Jesus is God, He’d already known since “the beginning” about the woman at the well and what her purpose was to be.

This gives me hope. I have no letters after my name; I have and am nothing to make me of high societal standing. The woman at the well was clearly a marginalized person of her time due to her gender, her race, and her lifestyle. I have often felt marginalized, and I suspect some of you have as well at one time or another. How wonderful to know that we are the people God can most easily use for His glory and to know we have each been given a place in His grand plan from “the beginning” (see Psalm 139:16).

I’ll end with this “This is the transcript of an ACTUAL radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95. (This is an apocryphyal story, but still useful for illustration.)

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

The Samaritan woman tried to argue with Jesus. When she realized that He was her lighthouse, she changed her course.

Ask yourself: Am I arguing with Jesus about the any of the circumstances of my life? When we drink His Living Water, and as long as we stay within His light, we can be sure that we are not off course.

prayFather, I pray for the weak and powerless ones, the marginalized, remembering that these are the ones it is easiest for you to use for your glory. Help them to learn of, accept, and internalize the true value You place upon them. The details of Your plans for our lives have been known by You since long before we ever drew a breath. Quench our thirst with your Living Water. And help us to look to our Compass, our Lighthouse for our direction when it’s too dark to see our feet in front of us. Be the lamp to our feet and the light to our path. Amen.

Chesed/Hesed

chesed

I am fascinated by this word!

Jonah 2:8 in the Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB) reads “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own chesed.”

Definition of chesed/hesed—There were actually several different definitions for this Hebrew word, the most common of which was loving-kindness.

This explanation, a bit more than a definition was found at https://discovertheword.org/2010/09/08/the-old-testament-word-hesed-and-the-profound-meaning-it-has-for-us-today/

Hesed is difficult to translate because it stands for a cluster of ideas—love, mercy, grace, kindness. It wraps up in itself all the positive attributes of God.  Hesed is one of the Lord’s most treasured characteristics.

Hesed is a quality that moves someone to act for the benefit of someone else without considering “what’s in it for me?”

It may be translated as “loyal love.” Sometimes the emphasis is on “loyal” and other times the emphasis is on “love.”

Look at some other translations of Jonah 2:8

21st Century King James Version (KJ21) “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy,”

American Standard Version (ASV) “They that regard lying vanities
Forsake their own mercy.”

The only difference between these two translations is observe versus regard.

What does vanity mean in this context? vanityThis is the image that first comes to my mind when I hear the word vanity.  Insert picture.

 

 

Next is the quality of being vain or taking too much pride in oneself.

Then I was surprised that it can mean what at first glance appears almost the opposite—the quality of being worthless or futile.

All 3 of these, on overthinking, can mean the same thing. Look at that huge mirror on the vanity I chose for this blog. And are not the drawers used to store makeup and jewelry, things designed to make one take more price in her appearance? And is it not true that often the outer appearance does not reflect the true nature of one’s heart/soul?

Setting aside the above overthinking paragraph, it seems like the 3rd definition is the one which most accurately reflects what is being described in Jonah 2:8.  Not just a worthlessly futile thing but a lying worthlessly futile thing.

Going on to a couple other translations:

Christian Standard Bible (CSB) “Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love,”

Amplified (AMP) “Those who regard and follow worthless idols turn away from their [living source of] mercy and lovingkindness.”

So this worthlessly futile thing is an idol!

We follow the vanities/idols of our unfaithful hearts, be they any of the mind-numbing activities we use to . . . wow! . . . numb our minds! These could be addictive behaviors, unrighteous anger, self, maybe even things that aren’t necessarily bad but become bad when used the wrong way.  In so doing we are actually repenting—or turning away from—the chesed/hesed (It wraps up in itself all the positive attributes of God.  Hesed is one of the Lord’s most treasured characteristics) Abba so freely gives.

Please join me as, with the help of my Father, I learn to repent of the lying vanities and embrace the chesed.

praying

My Father in Heaven, I come before you having followed the lying vanities a large part of this day.

Tomorrow is a new day, and according to Lamentations 3:22-23 because of your great love (hesed/chesed) your compassions and mercies are new every day. I receive your perfect compassions and mercies working in my soul tomorrow, knowing that your love is making me complete.

Now, because of you, Lord, I will like down in peace and sleep comes at once, for no matter what happens, I will live unafraid!

Book Review Innkeeper’s Daughter

 

I receInkeeper's Daughterived a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. 

Wow!

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author.  Now I’m going to have to look for her earlier work.  It has been many decades since I’ve read a Regency Romance (think Barbara Cartland).  What a pleasure it was to return to this sub-genre.

Ms. Griep has created a world of contrasts—good/evil, light/dark, despair/hope, unbelief/faith, and bad guys/those who seek to bring them to justice.  The book was so well written, it was many times difficult to tell into which category the secondary characters fell, and I found myself flip-flopping on cheering them on versus hoping they would hurry up and get caught. 

As for the principal characters, Johanna and Alex are an intriguing pair of individuals; after they meet captivating.  The romantic element is strong and believable, and the many action sequences are paced well enough to allow the reader a chance to catch her breath in between. 

There is one secondary character (or perhaps pair of characters is a better description!) who is utterly fascinating and one of those of whom it was difficult to decide whether he was a good guy or a bad guy.  There is another I hope to see in a future novel, and I’ll keep my eyes out for this.

The Christian themes of trusting God in trying circumstances and looking for the best in people despite what our senses tell us are threaded throughout the book, but this in no way diminishes from the plotline, and anyone will enjoy this book regardless of their faith status.

I am adding Michelle Griep to my list of must-read authors.

Devotionals

 

What do you think about them? Love them? Disdainful of them? Letting them collect dust on a shelf? Don’t throw them out yet. God speaks in a variety of ways, and today He spoke to me through one of them.

I have at least half a dozen—probably closer to a dozen—different devotionals in my library. Jesus is Calling, Pearls of Great Price, Starting Your Day Right, among others, and I have read daily devotions from each of them on various occasions, sometimes even from more than one at one sitting. I also have a couple I receive as emails.

Earlier today I read a blog by someone who had issues with devotionals in part because they sometimes take Bible verses out of context. I respect this particular blogger; she is spiritually wise, and she makes me think.

A minute ago as I sat down to write, I saw My Utmost for His Highest on top of a stack of books next to my computer and picked it up. The focus verse for today is Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

This goes along well with an online Bible study I just became involved in which advises against following our own plans to solve our problems. Rather, we lean into God or turn to him.

In previous years, I have been taught that repentance requires tears and brokenness. Undoubtedly, turning from our own will and intellect and looking to God does require brokenness, even ultimately coming to the end of one’s self, but I don’t believe God always requires the production of tears before He will consider a heart repentant. In the right situation that even seems like it would be kinda’ fake. Don’t get me wrong—there are those who cry easily, and tears in those individuals could show true repentance. Even one who doesn’t cry easily may sometimes be overwhelmed by the magnitude of God’s love for her in spite of a willful and sinful heart.

So I did some research and found that the Old Testament word for repent is “sub” which in today’s jargon is a shortened form of the word substitute. Think of when a benched athlete is replaced with a sub. Perhaps the player being benched is wiped out, perhaps he has committed too many offenses to participate in the game well. It doesn’t mean he is no longer in the game. It only means he needs a sub.

I need a sub. I need to turn. To God.

God is talking to me, telling me to forget my own plans for salvation from bad habits. These plans have never worked and have little likelihood of working in the future. This was taught in the online session last Tuesday of my Bible study. “Forget your plan.” “Lean into God.” I didn’t understand it. How can this bad habit be eradicated without a plan?

My overthinking brain tries to plan everything! How can God expect me to give up this plan? Surely I will fall into total abandon to the sin.

God is stronger than my plans. God is stronger than my sin (bad habit). God is wiser than my intellect can begin to comprehend. So today, this minute, 10:54 am on January 22, 2018, instead of thinking about my plan, I turn to Him, sub my plan with my Abba Father, and I will be saved.

Father, I pray that everyone who reads these words, including me, would remember that this turning is not a one-time thing; it must be done daily, hourly, minute by minute, and even moment by moment. I pray we take captive every thought produced by our mind, examine it, store it or cast it away, relinquish our plans, and turn to you.

 

One Car, Seven Miracles

miracles
rear damageMiracle #2:  December 2016, Raspberry Shortcake after being rear-ended, while at a dead stop waiting to make a left-hand turn, by a small white car with an impaired driver going full speed.  The car had been following me on the 2-lane state highway for about 5 miles.  Watching in my rear-view mirror, I noticed right away there was something wrong since the car was weaving all over the road.  At first, I thought it was going to pass me on the shoulder.  Then it pulled back in close behind in me in the correct lane.  Over the next few miles the car would sometimes return to the shoulder and sometimes veer into the other lane.  More than once this nearly resulted in a head-on collision.  I continued my drive home praying this would not happen.  As I approached my turn, I considered not turning there but going on to the next small town and taking the long way home.  But this would still mean a left turn somewhere and a possible stop.  So I put my turn signal on and started to slow for my turn.  There was oncoming traffic, and I prayed the driver would not attempt to pass me.   I could see in the mirror it was not slowing down; it was rushing at me much too quickly.  I considered driving off in the ditch, but my car is a stick-shift with a small engine, and I didn’t think I could generate enough speed to get out of the way.  Even if I did, what if she chose to follow me into the ditch?  So I prayed for safety for both of us and braced for impact.  It’s amazing the things that goes through the mind in what had to be a length of time of a second or less.

I heard and felt the impact.  Then just sat there for a minute, trying to assess my injuries.  There didn’t appear to be any!  Hallelujah!  Then I went into hysterics.  Just like when my husband died, I couldn’t make my fingers dial 911.  When they finally did, the operator had a hard time understanding me until I calmed.  They had me go check the condition of the other driver.  The car was being driven not by one who had consumed too many drinks and/or drugs but by a lady a little older than me.  I didn’t smell any alcohol, but she appeared dazed.  I asked her if she was all right, and she told me she was.  The operator asked for my assessment of her condition.  I told him she was impaired, not apparently by substances but perhaps by a medical condition.  Could they please send an ambulance?  While awaiting the arrival of emergency personnel, I strongly advised the woman to go to the hospital when they arrived.  When they did, they checked us both out.  She did not go to the hospital.  The only injury I suffered was a nail avulsion to my right thumb, perhaps from gripping the steering wheel so hard at the time of impact.  Amazingly enough, neither vehicle had airbag deployment.

While I sat there waiting for the police officer to complete the report, I began to think.  Overthinking or normal thinking?  What if the lady hadn’t hit me at that precise location?  What if I’d made the choice to go on and make my turn later?  It was easy to imagine her head onning a semi or perhaps a car filled with a family.  And I thanked God that she had rear ended me!  Miracle #3:  We had both emerged from the collision relatively unscathed.

But I was worried about my car.

When I assessed the damage, it really didn’t look all that bad.  The police report estimated it over $1500, but all I could see was the crack in the bumper.  Then I noticed the hatch wouldn’t latch properly and suspected there must be more damage than I could see.  So I started praying Raspberry wasn’t totaled.  Yes, I was grateful that my life and the life of the other driver were spared, but I didn’t want to lose my car.

The body shop assured me it wasn’t totaled, and the original estimate was nearly $4000.  But once they started working, they found the floor of the back compartment needed replacement.  That took the total cost up to early $5000.  Miracle #4:  I wonder, if they had known about that damage to start with, would the car have been considered a total loss?  Perhaps.  In that case, God answered my prayer for the sparing of my car by having a large portion of the damage not be apparent until the repairs had already begun.  A couple weeks later, I had Raspberry Shortcake back good as new.

***

front damageMay 2017.  Collision with a deer.  On that same highway where the rear end accident occurred.

Miracle #5:  Again, no injuries to me.  Not sure about the deer.  Again, no airbag deployment.  Another call to 911.  Since there were no injuries, a policeman was not sent; instead, they conducted a telephone interview.  Miracle #6:  While we were talking, a man who lived in a nearby house and had heard the collision came out to make sure I was okay.  I tried to get out of the car to look at the damage.  Some of it was readily visible from inside the car, but I wanted to see its extent.  Getting out of the car was not all that easy.  The driver’s door wouldn’t open.  So I made my way awkwardly across the gear shift, and the good Samaritan helped me out of the car.

I was heartbroken when I saw the damage.  Surely, if that minor damage from the December accident had been so close to a total loss, this one would be.  The man could see I was upset by this possibility and raised the hood to look at the inside damage.  He reported that nothing appeared to be damaged in the engine compartment; there was no leaking of fluids or other obvious damage.  It looked like the damage was all cosmetic.  I thanked him but was still believing I was going to lose Raspberry Shortcake.

The body shop could not believe I was back so quickly with more serious collision damage to my beautiful car.   Miracle #7:  Amazingly, this time the estimate was less than the first time, only $3500.  There were no hidden issues that arose, and the car was back in my possession this time in less than a week.

***

fixed car

I have been the blessed observed and receiver of several miracles through this car.

The first was simply owning it!

Miracle #1:  Rod’s last gift to me.

After paying for his funeral, there was about $11,000 left.  I was driving a high-mileage car, the last in a long line of them, and was doubtful about its ability to see me through the remainder of my driving days.  My grandmother drove until she was nearly 80!  So I began to look for something small (good gas mileage), less than 5 years old with fewer than 50,000 miles on it.

Let’s backtrack a bit here.  Several years ago, there was a television show called “Psych” that my kids and I liked to watch–okay, that I liked to watch.  One of the main characters drove a little blue Toyota Yaris.  I wasn’t crazy about the color (wouldn’t neon green or sunny yellow have been better?–I never even considered a car in my favorite color, hot pink!), but I liked the look of it.  Maybe it came in other colors.  Maybe I could even afford it!  I went to the dealership and looked at that car.  It was just as cute in person, but way out of my budget.  That was a good thing because just a few years later I married Rod.  At 6 feet 2 inches and 350 pounds, I don’t think it would have been very comfortable for him.

Now, with the $11,000 I started my search for the perfect used car.  I never was able to find any used Yaris’s, so I started to look for similar cars.  Something like a Honda Fit or Chevy Sonic.  Every time I found one in a pretty color, like yellow or green, it would be sold before I had a chance to even look at it.  My brother-in-law suggested I check out the Mitsubishi Mirage.  I might even be able to get a brand new one of those for the price of a used one of the others.  I was already familiar with the Mitsubishi make.  In 2001, shortly after my divorce was final,  my father co-signed a loan for a 1998 Mitsubishi Gallant.  (He passed away 7 months later.)  It had 51,000 miles on it and was absolutely beautiful.  My car at the time was a 1986 Nova which was on its last legs.  I drove that wonderful car until 2010 when it had over 250,000 miles on it.  It died, and no one could seem to figure out why.  It became the first in that succession of high-mileage vehicles.

One Tuesday I had free, I went to several large towns in central Illinois to look at some things in person.  I’d made appointments at several dealerships to look at specific cars, but at each one when I arrived the car I wanted had already been sold.  My last stop was the Mitsubishi dealership.

The salesman told me he could get me into a new car for less than $11,000.  First, we took a test drive in a red one.  It was nice but didn’t have cruise control.  I have a heavy foot at times and need that to avoid possible tickets.  Red would have been okay.  After all, it’s not black, white, or silver.  But 2 of my last 3 cars had been red, and something different would be nice.  Plus I wasn’t thrilled with the lack of cruise control.

Just a couple stalls away sat a hot pink one.  He asked if I knew how to drive a stick.  Yes, the car I drove up in was manual transmission.

So we hopped in that car and took another test drive.  I was in love.  Not only was the car new, I could pay cash for it, but it was fuschia!  I bought it on the spot, knowing that it was one last gift from my generous husband.

It has been a fantastic car, protecting me through two accidents (with the help of God), getting gas mileage of about 40, and able to hold my precious granddaughters’ car seats in the back.

Just last Friday, I took it in for its 30,000 miles checkup.  While helping me complete the paperwork, the technician told me there was a recall on the car due to the Miracle #8  airbags system needing its computer adjusted.  I was surprised having heard nothing about it, but it was free, so I told them to go ahead.

Later, though, it occurred to me that had those airbags had to be reset after either of my accidents, the estimate would probably have gone over the total amount limit.  So, by there being a flaw in the airbag system, now fixed, I had been able to keep my last gift from Rod.

Conviction or Condemnation?

identity in christRomans 8:1 There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

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A couple of years ago, I felt inspired to memorize Romans 8.  There is so much good stuff in that one somewhat lengthy (38 verses) chapter.  I am about halfway through this process.  While learning, of course, I’ve recited verse 1 over and over again.  It became quite clear to me this morning why.

Recently I allowed the enemy to place a spirit of condemnation on me.  It was so heavy, nearly incapacitating.  It began with an innocent comment of correction made by another Christian.   Although a dozen other people were present and heard the comment, I felt, probably correctly, I was the primary intended recipient.

At first, I took it as a conviction from God, and I told her so and thanked her.  Of course, part of me was hoping for a statement along the lines of “That wasn’t spoken for you” or even “it was just a general recommendation” which, of course, could have still meant the admonition was for me.  She didn’t say either of those things.

But as I stewed over it and stewed over it, I realized that the words spoken in innocence had brought a deep sense of condemnation over my soul.

No sooner had I realized this than God reminded me of what he said in Romans 8:1.  Then he told me he was pleased with me, that I was doing everything he required.  Right now that reminds me of a time in the hospital fighting cancer where a nurse encouraged me that, although I was still throwing up nearly everything I ate, was not very ambulatory, and was recovering from colon surgery at a painstakingly slow pace, I was doing everything they required of me; that was enough.  It didn’t mean that I was to stop trying to get better; it did mean that I wasn’t a “bad” or “flawed” person.

God doesn’t give us all the same life journeys.  Mine has taken me down wrong roads of my own choosing and those chosen by others.  Because of this, there is much to overcome in my journey to learn to love the way Jesus does.  Chiefly is to learn to love myself the way Jesus does.  After all, the Bible tells us in Matthew 22:39 “And the second (greatest commandment) is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If one doesn’t love herself the way God does—and how can she with a giant weight of condemnation pressing upon her soul—it would be unwise to love others in like manner.  We must get a grasp of the true love of God for us.

The Bible study The Forgotten Way by Christian writer Ted Dekker, is a great means to this end.

It goes without saying that spending much time in the living Word of God is even better.

I am not condemned.

Neither are you, dear reader, if you are in Christ Jesus (as a believer).  We are loved with a love that we cannot begin to understand.

Father, help me to understand to the ability of my finite mind how to fully experience and then express your love.  Help me assimilate and then act with the perfection of my spirit, which is already complete in You, how to experience and express your love. 

Forgive my unbelief, increase my faith, and increase my love.  I love You, my Rock and my Redeemer.