Counting the Ways

MEME - Psalm 150 v 2(Suggested Reading: Psalm 150)

During my last appointment with my doctor, I thanked him for helping me improve over the last five years. Although I still struggle with chronic pain, I’m better than I was when I started this trek in September 2012.

I rejoiced over the little things I can do now, like writing for longer periods of time. I reveled in the small victories and even appreciated the battles that God used to strengthen my resolve and remind me how much I need and depend on Him.

It haven’t always embraced His peace. Sometimes, I struggle with discouragement, weariness, and doubt. But God’s been patient as He helps me experience the endless hope of surrender and contentment founded in knowing His ways are good because He is good.

After my appointment, I suffered another bout with severe spasms and a debilitating headache that lasted over 14 hours. The next morning, I praised the Lord. Why? Because those painful flare-ups have lasted for days in the past.

As I thanked the prayer warriors who interceded for me, even before they knew I was struggling, God reminded me about the power of praising Him through all circumstances.

When we begin to count the ways God’s been good to us and practice honest praise, it’s harder to drown our hope in discouragement.

The psalmists practiced honest praise.

They processed their emotions and shared their struggles. They recounted God’s merciful and mighty acts, always returning their focus to His unchanging goodness, unlimited power, and unhindered demonstrations of love.

The Lord doesn’t expect us to stuff our feelings or minimize our hurt. He doesn’t want us to pretend we’re perfect or act as if we never struggle.

He knows us, inside and out, and wants us to be real with Him . . . and others.

God can handle our mixed emotions. He can change our confusion to clarity, as we seek Him in His Holy Word. He can replace our anxiety with confidence, our uncertainty with wisdom and discernment. He can meet us in our weakness and empower us to stand firm in faith.

When we’re feeling weary, battling doubt, or ready to quit, God beckons us to lift our chins, inhale His peace, and exhale a whisper of praise.

The more we breathe in the countless ways the Lord has been good to us, the more we can sing His praises and trust His unchanging goodness.

A praise list begins with one thing that we can be grateful for, one thing we’ll choose to give thanks for. That one thing can incite our endless worship and gratitude as we praise the Father of Compassion, the Maker of the Universe, the Sustainer, Redeemer, and Deliverer whose love transforms us and changes the way we approach life.

One thing.

We can praise God for the heavens, the starry skies that light the darkest nights, the sunsets that make us gasp in awe of His creativity, the puffs of clouds and rays of sun that warm our hearts with hope (Psalm 150:1, NIV).

We can praise God for His miracles, as well as the quiet moments when He simply makes His presence known (v. 2).

We can praise God for His greatness (v. 2). Oh, how the list goes on when we count the ways that God is great. Hallelujah!

Nothing compares to the magnitude of God’s love for us, the depth of His compassion for us, the measure of His sacrifices for us.

His greatness is revealed in His unchanging character, the perfection of His God-breathed words, and the dependability of His faithfulness.

We can praise God with the music we make and as we enjoy the songs nature sings for us (vv. 3-5).

We can count the ways He is great as we appreciate every detail in His vast creation, from the sweetness of honey to the intricate paint strokes on each flower petal He decorates.

Our great God listens to us, even when our prayers are silent tears that slip down our cheeks. Hallelujah!

Our great God remains with us, even when everyone else seems to have deserted us. Hallelujah!

Our great God understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. Hallelujah!

Our great God loves us . . . He loves us.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

When we’re counting the ways God loves us, the ways God has been there for us, the ways God has provided for us, the ways God has protected us, our praise will flow.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for the opportunities to reflect on who You are, what You’ve done, and how much You’ve given us. Please fill us with gratitude as we consider all we have, instead of what we feel we lack. Help us appreciate every breath we take as a priceless gift to be treasured. Help us recognize every morning we wake up as another chance to praise You, to get to know You more, and to share You with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

Photo taken by and used with permission from Ivonne Vargas.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon.

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God Doesn’t Forget Us

MEME - 2 Corinthians 4 v 17To respect my husband’s family tradition, we visited the cemetery on Memorial Day and brought new flags, in honor of his father’s service in the military. Although we know we don’t have to visit the cemetery to honor or remember his dad, although we know he had accepted Christ as his Savior and that his spirit is secured with the gift of eternal life, we place new flags on his headstone once a year.

On the way back to the car, I noticed the raised words on a sailor’s gravestone: World War I & II.

Weeds crawled over his name and dying year . . . 1975. No flowers. No decorations. Just weeds.

I glanced at the faded flags we’d taken out of my father-in-law’s marker a few moments earlier.

Every year, we drove to the cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s dad. But there would come a time when no one would visit, when everyone who knew him would be gone.

The sailor’s headstone reminded me that there would come a day when all of us are forgotten on this side of eternity.

I’m sure we won’t be worrying about being remembered by other people when we’re praising God in eternity, but the thought of anyone being forgotten grieved me.

Kneeling before the sailor’s headstone, I twisted and pushed the wooden dowel until I’d secured the flag in the dry, cracking dirt. “Thank you, Sir,” I said.

Alan knelt beside me, without saying a word. He took the second flag from my hand and planted it deep into the ground.

I gazed across the yellowing grass dotted with grave markers and small waving flags and sighed. A group came every year to remember and honor veterans. We’d seen them before, placing new flags on the military headstones. The fresh flags waving in the slight breeze affirmed they’d finished their yearly task. Still, even they’d missed this lone sailor with the weeds covering half of the identifying words under his name.

I began plucking the overgrowth. “It’s sad,” I said, “the idea of being forgotten.”

My husband nodded. “We’ll bring extra flags next year.”

“I’d like that very much.”

And so began a tradition.

Even though there could be people who remembered these veterans without visiting the cemetery, and even though we believe our spirits live forever in eternity when we place our trust in Christ, we committed to bringing extra flags for those whose stories had long since stopped being shared with eager ears seeking to learn more about their families’ history.

We would be more intentional about thanking God for those who had given their lives to protect our freedom, those who had served sacrificially, those who had probably never imagined having weeds over their headstones, those who had never dreamed of the day they would be forgotten.

As the reality of my mortality sank in, God comforted me with the assurance that He knows each of us by name and loves each and every person He creates, even when we reject Him.

God knows us, cares for us, and will never forget us. He wants none to perish, and all to be restored in His love and grace (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter  3:3-9).

Gratitude filled my heart as I, once again, received His truth on a deep and personal level: God knows my name. He is always with me. He will never leave me, never forsake me, and never, ever forget me.

I never imagined there would come a day when I was concerned about being forgotten, until an injury and an extensive recovery time led me into a season of isolation.

These have been the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced.

When feelings of loneliness and sorrow threaten to destroy every bit of my joy, peace, hope, and faith, the Lord comforts and strengthens me with His constant presence and His infallible Word.

He’s increasing my compassion for the forgotten ones, the lonely ones, the hurting ones in the world.

He refreshes my hope by empowering me to live and love each and every day, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ . . . because even when life is hard, this world is not where our lives end.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know there will come a day when all of the people who knew us will be gone. That’s no reason to lament.

Because of our new life in Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith that points others to His everlasting hope.

Lord, thank You for empowering us to make a lasting difference in this world by living and loving in the name of Jesus‒praying for others as we share Your Holy Word, and serving selflessly as we lead others to You‒the only One who can truly promise You will never leave us, never forsake us, and never, ever forget us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children‒with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

The LORD has His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:13-19, NIV)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

—–

 

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When Mother’s Day isn’t as Happy as the Messages Available in the Card Aisle: A Mother’s Day Prayer

MEME - Proverbs 31 v 30 - Happy Mother's Day

Thank You, Lord, for creating moms and showing us how to love moms through Scripture.

Please help us to remember moms are people who fall short, people who have been hurt and who have hurt others, people who do the best they can to love, people who need You. 

 

Help us recognize one another’s brokenness and need for grace.

 

Thank You for those beautiful, loving relationships between mothers and children.

 

And thank You for those more complex relationships, like mine with my mom, that were made beautiful through the refining fires of conflict, through trials that led us down hard paths to Your healing grace made possible through our individual relationships with You, Lord.

 

Even if we don’t have a good relationship with our moms or if we’re moms who don’t have good relationships with our kids, for whatever reasons, please help us honor one another and pray blessings over each other.

 

Please help us experience Your love so intimately and completely that we will be forever changed.

 

Help us love You and receive the fullness of Your love for us, so that we can surrender and allow You to help us love like You love, forgive like You forgive.

 

And help us serve one another selflessly and generously, like You served Your disciples when You‒the King of Kings and Lord of Lords‒knelt to wash their feet.

 

Please give us wisdom and courage to say the kind and affirming words we’ll wish we would have said to our moms while we were able to see their smiles, on this side of eternity.

 

Even if the other person is not ready to receive our love, our forgiveness, or our grace, please help us to choose to love You by doing our part to make peace without feeling responsible for how the other person responds.

 

Please, Lord, love on those precious ones who have broken relationships or unresolved conflicts with their moms.

 

Please love on those who are grieving because they don’t have their moms with them today.

 

Please love on those who don’t know their moms but long for that relationship.

 

Please love on those who have been hurt by their moms, those who are trying to figure out how to love their moms in a healthy and holy way, those who aren’t ready to take that first step toward reconciliation or even that baby step toward making peace without reconciliation.

 

Please love on those moms who long for better relationships with their children, for those who want to forgive but are struggling, those who want to apologize but don’t know where to start.

Please love on those who are aching over the loss of children and those still waiting to be blessed with a child.

 

Please love on those whose mother and child relationships are even more complex than those we’ve placed before You today, Lord.

 

You know every detail and are able and willing to help us. So, we ask for Your help today, Lord.

 

We need You. We can’t love without You.

 

For those who are hurting this Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, please be our peace as You shower us with Your unconditional and life-transforming love.

 

Help us open our hearts to You and trust You are always with us, always loving, always listening, and always enough.

 

Please bless our families with Your healing and restoring grace, in Your perfect timing and in Your perfect way.

 

Help us trust You as we accept our mother and child relationships will not look like any other person’s mother and child relationship.

 

And through our intimacy with You‒Loving Savior and Redeemer‒we can relate to others in a way that honors You and brings us peace.

 

May You be glorified as Your power is magnified through our weaknesses, especially when we’re facing a Mother’s Day that isn’t as happy as the messages in the card aisles.

 

In Jesus’s name, Amen

 

—–

In honor of my beautiful mama, Martha.

 

Mom, I thank God for allowing us to experience the heartaches that brought us to Him and eventually deepened our relationship with one another. I will always miss you and am grateful for the last four months God allowed me to serve as your caregiver, the last four months He allowed me to know you as a person, not just my mom.

To read more about my mom, check out “What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom.”

 

Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom

MEME - John 13 v 35This year, I’ll be celebrating the third Mother’s Day since my sweet mama danced into the loving arms of Jesus. I’m thankful God blessed me with the privilege of serving as her live-in caregiver for the last four months of her stay at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance House.

Even though we would talk weekly before her diagnosis, I learned more about my mom during those four months than I had my entire life.

The Lord allowed me to get to know her as a woman, not just a mom.

We laughed. We cried, well mostly I cried. We shared stories, and even secrets.

God blessed me with the opportunity to tell my mom I thanked Him for our past, for the struggles and disagreements that strengthened our relationship.

I wrapped my arms around her and told her I was proud she was my mom, that I was proud to be her daughter.

I thanked her for the tough love I had resented before.

I thanked her for making time to chat with me whenever I called, for encouraging me to be creative and use my gift of writing to help others.

I thanked her for making me laugh, and even for the times she made me cry. Then I apologized for all the times I made her cry.

I thanked her for being the best mom she could be.

I affirmed I had no regrets, even though the great relationship we shared during our last decade together and through those last four months had been refined by the fires of conflict over the years.

I told my mom what I liked about her as a person, not just a parent.

As I watched her interacting with friends, with doctors and medical staff, and with fellow SCCA House neighbors, I complimented her until she blushed.

Oh, how I miss seeing her sweet cheeks blushing whenever she received a kind word. My mom was more comfortable speaking kind words to others.

During the most difficult time of my mom’s life, God blessed me with a glimpse of her heart.

When the cancer returned, time passed too quickly. There were too many people around. Our private times were gone. There was so much I wanted to say, but didn’t.

She knew I loved her.

By the grace of God, I served as her caregiver while still recovering from two shoulder surgeries, multiple injections in my upper thoracic back and neck, and a hip injury that occurred two months into our stay in Seattle.

As she watched me battle my own chronic pain, as she saw how much I missed my husband and son, my mom realized the depth of my love for her.

She knew I loved her so much that I wanted to serve her whatever the cost . . . the way she’d loved me and served me over the years.

She loved me enough to tell me she knew.

The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to thank my mom for choosing me as her caregiver. I thanked her for the priceless gift of allowing me to care for her.

We affirmed one another, encouraged one another, and prayed for one another.

Still, there were some things I never said to my mom, things she probably knew but I wish I would have spoken out loud.

I wish I would have told her I’d miss the sound of her laugh, the silkiness of her hand on mine, the way she ran her fingers through my hair when we snuggled.

I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss seeing her eyes fill with compassion and tears when she listened to hurting people.

I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss the softness of her voice when she asked me to pray for someone.

I’d miss her storytelling.

I’d miss the cards she sent me, the stick figures she drew of us in those cards.

I’d miss our phone chats.

I’d miss the early mornings I called to say, “I love you and just want to say have a nice day,” before she headed to work.

I’d miss hearing her tell me she was praying for me and every member of our family.

I’d miss her saying she just wanted to tell me she loved me.

I wish I would’ve told my mom I like when people say I look like her, but it’s more important when they say I love like her.

I wish I would’ve told her the way she chose kindness and grace made a difference in my life.

I wish I would’ve told her I was glad God created her and thankful He decided to bless me with her as my mom.

The list could go on and on.

Even if I was the greatest wordsmith in the world, I wouldn’t be able to express the beauty my mother added to my life, the priceless impact she made in my world.

She exemplified the fruit of the Spirit every day:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

During her standing-room-only Celebration of Life service, countless people shared stories of how my mom expressed kindness through her words and her actions:

“A kindhearted woman gains respect.” (Proverbs 11:16, NIV)

My mom wasn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. But she was the perfect mom for me.

She loved God. She loved our family. She loved people. She loved me. She loved well.

She loved like people are supposed to love: selflessly, fearlessly, willingly, cheerfully, and generously.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)

I wish I would have told my mom how much she meant to me every single day.

I wish I wouldn’t have wasted moments, days, years being angry, bitter, unforgiving, and stubborn.

God blessed me with the chance to tell my mom I was sorry for every conflict we had, and at the same time grateful because He’d used each trial to help us appreciate and understand one another more.

Still, I wish I could tell her I love her, just one more time.

I know she knows.

And though we’ll be together in Eternity with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, I wish I would’ve looked my mom in the eyes and said everything I wish I could say now that she is gone.

—–

Lord, my relationship with my mom reveals how complicated mother and child relationships can get. Thanks for blessing us with the opportunity to make things right after wasting years hurting one another. Thanks for bringing both of us into a saving relationship with You and making it possible for us to have a good relationship with one another.

There are some of us who are grieving the loss of our mothers or struggling with the dynamics of mother and child relationships. Please comfort us and guide us during those difficult moments when this day brings up mixed emotions. Please bring freedom and peace through love, forgiveness, and grace, whatever that looks like for our individual circumstances.

I’ve experienced how hard Mother’s Day can feel when there are unresolved conflicts in this special relationship or when the sting of grief feels as fresh as the day we said goodbye. These moments cause me to be grateful for my relationship with You, Lord.

Please bring each of us closer to You and make it possible for us to be closer to one another. May Your will be done, Your name glorified, and Your power magnified, as You empower us to love as You love us.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

In loving memory of my mom, Martha.

Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Finding God’s Fingerprints

MEME - Psalm 145 vv 1-2 - FREE Pexels Cross Photo Downloaded April 30, 2017

(Suggested Reading: Psalm 145)

As I continue to grieve the loss of a beautiful sister in Christ, I’m missing her Facebook posts. I’d always enjoyed the way she praised God in all circumstances and prayed for others, her hope firmly anchored in unshakeable faith, even as she battled cancer.

I’ve noticed a common thread as I read posts and comments shared by others who are grieving her loss and celebrating her inspiring life. Suzanne loved God and saw His fingerprints in every aspect of her life, much like David−the writer of Psalm 145.

David begins his love song by committing to a lifetime of praising the Lord:

“I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2, NIV)

David proclaims God’s greatness will be passed on to future generations, as His people share who He is and all He’s done (vv. 3-7).

The psalmist affirms the Lord’s goodness, graciousness, compassion, and loving patience (vv. 8-9). While pointing out God’s fingerprints in his life and in the lives of those around him, David gets caught up in praise and changes his focus.

Instead of merely telling others about the wonders of the Almighty, he immerses himself in worship.

The recording of his testimony becomes an intimate conversation with the King of Kings.

I often find God’s fingerprints more easily in situations when I’m writing about the things He’s done, the things He’s taught me, and the things He reveals about His character as I read His God-breathed words in Scripture.

By inviting Him into my writing process, I can get so caught up in what I’m sharing about the Lord that I become drawn into a time of intimate worship, praise, and prayer.

Like David, in Psalm 145, my focus switches from serving God by pointing readers to His Word to sitting at my Master’s feet and gazing into His face.

Whether we’re writing, singing, teaching, or chatting with a friend, something powerful happens when we join forces to help others find God’s fingerprints in the world around us:

They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 145:11-12, emphasis mine)

As we point to the Lord and proclaim His greatness, our own faith deepens and our testimonies become psalmist’s songs that we can’t keep to ourselves (v. 13).

We can burst out in joyful praise and say:

“The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (v. 13b-14)

Like David, we can become so enthralled by God that we turn back to Him with grateful confidence in His provision (v. 15-16).

We can celebrate His loving righteousness toward His people (v. 17).

We can rejoice in His constant presence, His sovereign care, and His promise to listen to those who call on His name (v. 18-20).

The psalmists and my precious friend Suzanne recognized God’s fingerprints in their lives, in the lives of those around them, and in Scripture.

When we do this, the Lord can strengthen our resolve, comfort us, and empower us to tell everyone how wonderful He is and always will be, no matter how hard our current circumstances feel.

We, too, can sing:

“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thank You, Lord, for the allowing us to experience Your loving grace, encounter You intimately as we prayerfully study Your Word, and exalt You as we share Your truth and love. Please fill us with wisdom and courage we need to speak or write words that will glorify Your name and testify about who You are and all You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using free photo from Pexels (April 30, 2017).

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The Risen King’s Love

MEME - Mark 16 v 6 - He is Risen! - Photo by Alan

I came to Him broken, fearful, and weary.

I listened to His promises, hopeful but leery.

How could I trust Someone I couldn’t see?

How could the King of Kings love someone like me?

 

I leaned in to hear Him, scouring through His Word.

Begging for answers, I longed to be heard.

Why would God’s Son die so I could be free?

Why would He care about someone like me?

 

I came to Him hungry, empty, with scars.

Longing for love, my heart locked behind bars.

When would His mercy and grace help me see,

Christ took my place on the cross . . . loving me?

 

Jesus, my Savior, He died in my place.

He rose three days later and saved me by grace.

How can I submit if I’m supposed to be free?

How can I resist . . . if He lives just for me?

 

Come to Him broken, fearful, or weary.

He can be trusted, no need to be leery.

When trials and heartache are all you can see,

know the Risen King loves you . . . just like He loves me.

——

Photo taken and used with permission by my husband, Dr. W. Alan Dixon, Sr.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Why Should I Love God When . . . I’ve Got All I Need?

MEME - All We Have is from God - XE Dixon Quote

(Suggested Reading: Mark 10:17-31)

Before I surrendered my life to Christ, I had it all. At least I thought I did.

Though I’ve never been rich, I’ve always had plenty. I didn’t have the best, but what I did have was good enough for me. Though I experienced trials, I was tough. I got through them on my own, unscathed.  I managed to get along just fine. At least I thought I did.

I was a good person. I didn’t do anything really bad. I believed in God, even though my twisted perspective painted Him as a punishing avenger, not a loving Father. I figured as long as I kept doing the right things and worked hard, I’d earn and deserve everything I had. I could be content with simply getting by. At least I thought I could.

My idolatry of self-sufficiency and comfort blurred my desperate need for a Savior.

Of course, I prayed when I needed God to do something for me, to spare me from loss or pain, to give me what I wanted, or to make things go my way. But I wanted all of that for nothing.

When it came to be investing in or sacrificing for God, I’d clam up.

My attitude then reminds me about the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus looking to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17-31). He wanted the benefits the Lord offered to His followers, at no cost to himself.

This man claimed to have obeyed every single commandment since childhood (v. 20). Seriously? He never once disrespected his parents or told a lie? Never?

Ironically, the rich young ruler didn’t even realize he was breaking the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) when he placed himself and his riches above God.

While Jesus could have slammed him over the head with the Truth, He chose to respond by loving him (v. 21). The Lord didn’t chastise him, condemn him, or even mock him. In love, Jesus invited him to step into his inheritance, which surpassed all expectations and promised an abundant life in God’s presence (v. 21).

What one condition did the Lord give in order for the man to receive this priceless gift?

Jesus wanted His rightful throne, to be Lord of his whole life, to be trusted as the man surrendered everything for Him−the Giver of all good things (v. 21).

But the man grieved and walked away (v. 22), placing temporal gratification and a false sense of security over the eternal benefits of following Christ.

I’ve been guilty of withholding from God, too, before I surrendered my life to Jesus and even in some areas of my life now.

At times, I’ve clung to friendships I should have released into His hands, as I walked away. I’ve guarded my emotions, afraid to let Him decide how to work in my heart and in the hearts of those I loved.

I’ve hesitated to put God ahead of everything and everyone else, wary of trusting Him by giving Him my all, afraid of how my commitment to Him might lead to problems in family relationships, or even in my relationships with members of my church family.

I’ve allowed worry to limit my generosity, anxious that I wouldn’t be able to afford my increasing medical bills.

But God’s proven His faithfulness when I gave Him everything in the past.

He’s reminded me time and again that He’s trustworthy when I give generously from what He’s given me, when I give Him back everything He’s given me.

So, I’m asking the Lord to help me surrender completely, to give Him all of me, fearlessly. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be impossible with God.

Giving means we risk not having, we risk losing, we risk hurting.

But just as the Lord assured the rich young man and His disciples, He promises His love can be trusted and His provisions would always abound and satisfy. He also affirms we’ll endure persecution and experience trials on this side of the earth, though our hope is secured in eternity with Him (vv. 29-30).

A beautiful thing happens when we submit to loving our loving God. He transforms our hearts and minds and our perspective changes from temporal to eternal.

We no longer desire to place ourselves, our needs, our wants, our dreams, or even our fears, in a place of importance that only belongs to the Lord (v. 31).

The rich young ruler held back his wealth from God. But we can withhold many other things from the Lord.

Whatever or whoever we refuse to entrust to Him, whatever or whoever comes before God, whatever or whoever we can’t stand the thought of losing or giving up, becomes our treasure.

We cannot fully love God if we refuse to relinquish our rights and place Him in His rightful place as Lord, in every aspect of our lives.

Scary? Maybe. But not as much as a life willingly separated from God.

There is nothing we have that wasn’t created, made possible, and given to us by God.

Every skill, ability, dream, gift, and source of joy in our lives was created by and entrusted to us by our loving God.

He can be trusted, because of His unending love for us.

Why should we love God when we’ve got all we need?

Because Christ is all we need.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, for that in everything He might have supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-19, NIV)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for being a God worth loving in word and deed! Please help us love You so much that obedience becomes a privilege not a burden. Help us to be so overwhelmed with Your love for us that we give to You and to others, fearlessly and faithfully. Help us risk being loved, risk loving, and remember nothing is more risky that when we choose not to follow You. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Is there something or someone you are refusing to place in God’s loving hands, something or something you don’t trust Him with?

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Photo taken by Dr. W. Alan Dixon, Sr. and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Are You Talking to Me?

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(Suggested Reading: John 4:4-26)

A woman rejected, her reputation scorned, changed forever by a scandalous meeting and an unexpected showering of redemptive grace.

Not only does this describe my life before Christ, these are the puzzle pieces that make up one of the most extraordinary God encounters in the New Testament.

On His way back to Galilee, Jesus led the disciples through Samaria.

Samaria, the place condemned by prophets in the book of Hosea (7:1; 8:5-7).

Samaritans, a mixed race seeped in idolatry and despised by orthodox Jews.

So, naturally, Jesus decided to swing through Samaria and chose Jacob’s well as a perfect rest-stop.

Scripture says the disciples went for food.

Were they grumbling about having to associate with the people they grew up learning to hate, as the Lord sat by the well, waiting to rock the politically correct boat?

The Bible says when the Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well, Jesus asked her for a drink (v. 7).

Wait. What?

Though first-century Jewish tradition considered women less-than and Samaritans were quite a few notches below less-than (v. 9), the attitudes of others didn’t affect Jesus.

He chose this particular woman for this particular encounter, knowing she also wore a badge of disdain stitched by a string of bad choices.

Her surprise at Jesus’s request resounded with each syllable.

She raised an eyebrow, adjusted the bucket on her hip, and rolled her neck as she spurted each syllable with a sarcastic tone: “Are you talking to me?” (XST, Xochitl’s Street Translation:)

What she actually said: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (v. 9)

This woman’s armor held strong, though dented and dinged by past judgements and labels she’d accepted as her personal present-truth.

Did her shield of confidence hide a fear of being condemned again, for the past she couldn’t change?

Was she afraid this stranger would find out what her community wouldn’t let her forget?

I picture a gentle, but sad smile on the Lord’s face as He shakes His head slowly. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (v. 10)

Although Scripture doesn’t record her actions, I imagine this sister narrowing her eyes as she focused on what she could see, what made sense, what she could prove.

The man had nothing to draw water from the well.

How could Jesus offer her anything she couldn’t get for herself?

Talk about a great example of the insanity that we call self-help.

How many times have I insisted I could do what only God can do?

How many times have I determined this time would be different, if only I had more faith, if only I tried harder or made better choices, if only I denied my past, fixed myself, or changed my circumstances?

How often have I depended on my own abilities and strength, only to come up wanting more, wanting something different, or being stuck in the endless cycle of wanting something else as I search for satisfaction?

After Jesus whet the Samaritan woman’s appetite with the promise of eternal life (v. 13), He established His power was like none she’d ever imagined (vv. 15-18).

Still, she slipped back into the comfort of her limited knowledge (v. 19-20).

What happened when Jesus opened the horizon before her and allowed her to taste the sweetness of possibility (vv. 21-24)?

Our Samaritan sister lifted her chin in shaky rebellion. “I know. I know,” she said, desperately clutching to blurred expectations of God. She clung to the familiar suitcases stuffed with her past sins and the opinions of others, the judgements she’d grown accustomed to claiming as her true identity. (XST)

Hope requires risking disappointment, accepting rejection, and often surrendering our will because we dare to trust the goodness and faithfulness of the Giver.

Doubt paves a safe trail, a worn path that circles our fears and insecurities, like scavenging buzzards waiting to devour any thought that dares entertain the possibilities of that something more that would finally be enough.

What the Samaritan woman knew, or thought she knew, would feel safer than being stretched beyond the realm of her understanding.

So her actual talk-to-the-hand response, according to Scripture, was: “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (v. 25)

From other encounters recorded in the Bible, it’s not hard for me to imagine Jesus leaning toward the woman, lowering His voice, and placing His hand over the knuckled grip that secured her empty bucket.

Each syllable flowed from His mouth refreshing her parched heart.

“I who speak to you am he.” (v. 26)

Inhale. Exhale.

Could Jesus be the One she’d been waiting for, the hope, the peace, the way, the truth, and the life she’d been seeking for so long?

Jesus made time for her. He listened to her, cared about her. He extended grace and accepted her, even though He knew everything about her.

Jesus offered to give more than she deserved or even dared to dream of asking for, instead of take-take-taking from her.

The Lord loved her enough to reveal Himself to her, personally, intimately. And then, He used her to reach others, to spread His love and truth, to lead others to Him.

He wants to do the same for us.

No matter what our past holds. No matter what our present situation. Jesus invites us to drink deep of His compassion, His unconditional love, grace, peace, and forgiveness.

Jesus accepts us as we are, but through intimate love-encounters He transforms us into someone new.

When the Lord speaks to us through His Word, He illuminates His truth through His Spirit. He helps us interpret those words in the context in which He presented them, showing us how His truth applies to this life He’s entrusted to us.

As we prayerfully receive the God-breathed words of Scripture, we can believe the Lord is definitely talking to us.

Lord, please help us believe what You say over what we think, or what others think about us. Help us hear You clearly, believe You completely, and heed You courageously all the days of our lives. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon. The handsome model is my amazing husband. God has been good to us!

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Do You Want to Get Well?

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(Suggested Reading: John 5:1-14)

During my last procedure, medical assistants in blue smocks, shoe coverings, and caps bustled around the pre-op room as one of my favorite nurses led me to the middle of three gurneys. “I’ll bring you a warm blanket.” She handed me an open-back gown and clutched a fistful of curtain. Metal rings scraped on the metal bar as she swooshed the fabric walls closed.

Soft moans confirmed the pain of the patient in the make-shift room next to me. I understood how one wrong move could cause a flood of tears.

I prayed for my medical team and thanked God for the prayer warriors who were interceding for me through social media. I prayed for the hurting stranger on the other side of my curtained shack.

There have been days during my healing journey that I praised God for using my experiences to give me deeper insight and genuine compassion toward others who were hurting. There have also been days I begged the Lord for relief from chronic pain, for an end to my suffering.

I’ve cried out the prayer of David: “Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:2-3, NIV)

I’m writing this post as I recover from one of the worst pain days I’ve had in months. Jesus’s words brush against my tear-stained cheeks.

“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6b)

The Lord was addressing a man too sick to care for himself for almost four decades.

Four decades.

That man must have begged for relief. He might have cried for mercy. He may have wondered if it would be easier to give up.

So, why did Jesus ask if the man wanted to get well?

If this man didn’t want healing, he wouldn’t have been waiting at the pool near the Sheep Gate. He must have known he would never be the first one to the water with no one to help him. His wait must have felt useless and lonely.

Still, though clearly focused on his lack of resources and strength, the hurting one clung to a fraying thread of hope and waited on the Lord.

Would healing come today?

Jesus, in His all-knowing love, knew the man’s road to wellness wasn’t going to end near the Sheep Gate. The Lord reveals a bigger plan when He encounters the man at the temple in verses 14-15.

“See, you are well again.” (v. 14)

The man wasn’t always afflicted.

“Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (v. 14)

Some may suggest this statement confirms the man’s sin nature caused his suffering. But as we read Scripture, we’re assured God doesn’t punish His beloved children for sport. In these words, I recognize the same invitation the Lord has extended to me, the invitation He extends to all people.

Stop sinning. Obey Him, which translates plainly to love God. What is the something worse that may happen? Eternity separated from God.

Jesus gave the man a reason to believe without a doubt, a miracle that touched close to home, and then invited him to enter an intimate, committed relationship.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

The journey toward this man’s wellness required a first step of faith, so the Messiah said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Get up! Believe. Take action.

Pick up your mat. Don’t forget past experiences, but accept the freedom God has granted.

Walk. Move forward. Believe the Lord with ongoing confidence and persevering faith.

The man responded to Jesus in loving obedience.

Christ could have chosen to say yes to a partial healing, and even no to healing on this side of eternity, but He chose to say yes to this man’s miraculous and immediate healing.

Because my Creator and Savior is God, He has the right to determine how He answers my prayers as I follow Him in loving obedience.

Knowing this truth doesn’t mean the wait goes without struggle, though.

Sometimes, I need to process through complete melt-downs, whining pity-parties, and full-blown-on-the-ground-face-down-sob-prayers.

As God’s Spirit kneads His truth into my mind, His Word affirms His deep love, His constant and mighty presence.

I hear the question Jesus asked the man as a personal invitation.

Do I want to get well?

Well (hygiē), meaning “healthy, sound, cured, freed.”

Do I want to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually well, even if my God-ordained steps toward healing include long-suffering?

The path toward wellness begins with a personal encounter with Jesus, and leads to His call for loving obedience through faith.

As Christ followers, our primary goal is holiness, which often requires traveling through painful valleys. But by God’s incredible grace, we don’t have to feel as alone as the man by the Sheep Gate.

When Jesus stirs our hearts and asks if we want to get well, we can answer yes.

We can rely on His timing and rest in the goodness of His character, as we rejoice in the perfection of His plan.

And, we can reach out to others and receive the support of His people, physically and through the priceless gift of intercessory prayer.

Lord, thanks for reminding us You are always with us, always working, and always enough. Your grace penetrates through the moments when weariness and discouragement overwhelm us in the wait. Please help us submit to Your purpose and Your plan, even when we can’t see the hope around the bend. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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How do you feel when God doesn’t choose to bless you or someone you love with healing or pain relief?

How does the Lord comfort you during the wait?

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Photo taken and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon

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Harmonizing Voices

 

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God blessed me with an opportunity to share my devotion, “Harmonizing Voices,” on the Deeper Waters website today.

Hallelujah!

I’d love to hear how the Lord has helped you embrace your special voice and experience contentment and joy through the specific job He’s given you to do for His glory.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you through the comment section on the Deeper Waters website.

Click here to read my story in “Harmonizing Voices,” and to share your story so that others can be encouraged to celebrate God’s sovereign and purposed creativity.

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Meme created by and used with permission by Denise Hughes, originally featured on the Deeper Waters website to accompany the article, “Harmonizing Voices,” the day 17 devotion written by Xochitl E. Dixon for the Word Writers Ephesians study.

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