Monthly Archives: April 2014

Changing and Changeless

DSC_0505By Judy Villanueva

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8)

The grass withers, the flower fades,
  But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

With my arms full of laundry, I walked past the three senior portraits that hung on our family room wall.  They seemed to mark an ending to what was our family life in that home…playing in the rain,  family dinners, long walks, growing-up talks, and stacks upon stacks of love!  I sat down to pause and enjoy the faces of these precious ones and, as I did, was overtaken by a wave of emotion.  So, I sat there and cried and remembered and smiled and cried a little more.  It had been a wonderful life and I would miss it.  But, life was changing and much as I wanted to hang on to what had been, I could feel God beckoning me forward.  It was as though He said, “Wasn’t it so good?   But, daughter, what your heart most needs is not your little ones back in your arms.  Life is changing.  Let it.  I am here.”

Change.  It is a constant…faithful, steady, and unpredictable.  Some of it is welcomed and some of it, not.  It is God’s design.  With open arms we welcome positive changes and, not surprising, brace against life’s strenuous shifts. We may run to the altar to be wed but will certainly drag our feet into the storm.  Promising or threatening, blessed or cursed, we tend to evaluate life’s movements as qualitatively good or bad.  What is sure is that change is the nature of our existence and the real question is, are we learning to trust God in and through the seasons and shifts that move us from birth to death?  Are our roots of faith sinking more deeply into the love of God as we grow through our changing lives?  Knowing God helps!

God is immutable.  Have you felt the divine comfort of knowing that God does not change? Has the fact that the Father is the same yesterday, today and forever touched you with its peace and power?  God is always and completely Himself without shadow or variation. That God does not change means that His love for us will forever remain committed, deep and wide!  It means that He is not fickle and will never change His mind about anything.  His faithfulness will not and cannot waiver…ever!  When God said that He would never leave or forsake us, He could only mean it as a permanent, fixed and “without end” reality.  We can count on Him forever!  And, all of this means that as  life continues to change, we can let it  because God is here… with us and, always will be!

“Father,  to think of Your unchanging nature fills my mind and heart.  There is nothing else like it!  I feel so grateful that I can count on Your love forever!  In the midst of a life that changes constantly, I feel the deep comfort that comes from knowing that You are unchanging.  Amen.”

What about you?

How are you handling the changes in your life?  Are you holding tightly or lightly?

Are you learning to trust and lean on God through the changes?

Have you thought much about what it means that God is unchanging?

Have you felt the comfort of knowing that God is the same yesterday, today and always?

(This reflection was greatly and gratefully influenced by AW Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy)

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Whatever is Lovely…

lake louise2By Judy Villanueva

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Sitting across from my mentor I remember thinking how soft  his short, grey hair looked…and, how strong his voice sounded despite his recent battle with cancer.  His words were sure and his instructions on prayer dripped with the wisdom of a lifetime spent studying, listening, and following Jesus.  One day, as I asked questions on the “how to’s” of healing prayer, he leaned forward with an intensity that alerted me to pay close attention to what he said next.  “Judy, you must pray that God will show you His goodness in others.  It is healing.”  I’m sure I did not understand what this meant at the time but twenty years later I know from the inside-out why this man of God spoke this counsel with such urgency…and I am forever grateful.

What is it about human nature that makes us prone to judgment, negativity and criticism?  We often come into one another’s company with our guard up, ready to mine for rocks instead of gold.

God’s goodness is everywhere simply awaiting our notice!

Being attuned to it is a grace and a habit that requires our cooperation and practice.  Habits give a return on investments, for good and for bad.  Time and energy spent cultivating an awareness of things lovely yields a loveliness of the heart.  Setting ones mind on the noble and right plants seeds of the same in our souls.  Savoring a friend’s good intentions rather than making her burnt meatloaf or careless comments the subject of our thoughts invites us into a transforming grace that changes us from the inside-out.

 When we discover goodness in our world, we experience God and come to know Him more acutely as good!  When we become aware of His goodness in one another, we see God!

This is life changing, not only for us but also for our fellow sojourner who is grateful to hear that there is evidence of God’s goodness in her…and don’t we all need this kind of encouragement?  The prayer, “Lord, help me to see what You see in others” moves the heart of God, whose desire is for His good creation to discover its goodness!  When it does—when we do—we worship!  We live a little more free, and we love with a lot more abandon!  In seeing God we become like Him and as we practice pointing our attention at the pure and good, the lovely and true, the noble and right…just maybe we’ll begin to drip of them, too.

“Father, help me to notice your goodness in this day and especially in the people I will sit alongside.  I don’t like dripping of negativity and judgment and ask for the Spirit’s help in filling a new spring in me.  Draw my attention to Your beautiful “whatevers” and lead me in thinking on them.  Help me to see You today.  Amen.”

What about you?

What do you dwell on?  What do you find yourself ruminating on?

Are you aware of your habits of the mind?  Are you critical?  Negative?

Are you aware of God’s goodness in people?

How do you do at being attentive and noticing things true, noble, right, good,  pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?

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Sacrificing Isaac

DSC_0142By Judy Villanueva

Genesis 22: 1-2

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

It was an unimaginable ask!

After years of infertility and waiting…after finally giving birth and looking into the face of sweet joy…after cradling  a heart’s desire, God asks what?  Every mother’s heart stops beating at the thought of harm befalling her child but, to think of harm coming at the hand of his father is unthinkable!

Why does God ask Abraham for Isaac?  I’ve always understood this passage as pertinent with regard to idols and placing anything or anyone higher than God.  This makes sense, of course, but this story pushes us to an almost untenable limit.  My child?

Take my dog.  Take me.  Take anything, but please don’t take my child!  And yet, a child is what God gave…

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”  It’s a familiar story and stories begin to have a fairy-tale quality to them once we’ve heard them a time or two.  But, this story is real and invites us to the most beautiful act of love ever demonstrated.

Before Abraham knew a ram would be provided, he said “yes” to God.

This astounds me!  It makes me curious about  Abraham’s relationship with the Father.  Over a lifetime he had come to know God intimately…through trials, long periods of waiting, personal failures and great acts of faith, he had learned to trust God.   Obedience on the mountain of Moriah would require a deep and unwavering confidence.

Love held Abraham and Love held Isaac as the knife was raised!  Love saved Isaac and provided for Abraham another sacrifice.

But, think of it!

Love let go of His most treasured Son—and held us as our Savior hung on the cross and died.  Love spent all He had to have us!

It was an unimaginable gift!

“Father, I don’t know how to take in the wonder and beauty of the gift You gave on Calvary.  Yours truly is a love beyond reason and invites me into its healing power.  To think that I am loved with such vigor and might fills me with hope and deep, deep gratitude.  Don’t let me forget this moment, not for one minute!  Amen.”

What about you?

Is the story of the cross real to you?  Or, has it become a fairy tale without any real impact on your life?

How does it change the way you think of yourself? Think of God?

Do you know that you are deeply and greatly loved?

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