Monthly Archives: October 2015


IMG_4579By Judy Villanueva

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Revelations 2:4)

Colorful umbrellas celebrated along the shoreline, each granting shade and place-marking the towels and coolers that awaited hundreds of sea loving swimmers.  To avoid confusion we were careful to take note of our specific picnic area before we ran out into the ocean to play. There’s nothing like the thrill of catching the perfect wave or gasping for air after a salt water tumble! When finally we exhausted ourselves, we placed our feet on the sandy shore and looked up expecting to find our bright yellow umbrella.  What we found instead was a sea of towels and beach chairs a football field away from where we had started!  The current was subtle and, lost in play, we never even noticed we had drifted.

Drifting is the kind of thing that often happens little by little.  One minute we are where we plan to be and the next, in a place we hardly recognize.  When we do finally look up and find ourselves it is with bewilderment that we ask, “How did I get here?” or “How did I become this person?” To drift is “to wander or move gradually away from a fixed course or point” and it happens one decision at a time… one thought, one attitude, one act.  It happens when we give ourselves permission to lose our temper “just this once” or set our tongue free to say whatever it wants. It happens when we wander over to an improper TV show, justify a lie, or look the other way when our hearts are unkind.

It happens when we are not paying the most careful attention to the beautiful words of Christ.

Sitting in church today I felt a familiar tug. “Uh-Oh,” I thought warily, “I recognize this tug.” As the pastor spoke about one thing, I felt God speaking to me about another.  I sensed Him asking if I wanted to see where I have drifted. “Seriously, Lord? I’ve drifted? Ugh.”  As He gently opened my eyes I felt a piercing that burned somewhere inside me.  It hurt to see my willfulness and pride.  I honestly didn’t want to know this, but wrapped in His love, I let myself see and then bowed in tearful sorrow.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrills and tumbles of the days and drift from who we want to be and how we want to live.

Paying careful attention involves learning to listen to God as He speaks to us about our lives…wherever we are!  He helps us see our lives, notice where we have drifted and find the way back to our first Love.

“Father, I thank you that you love me enough to confront me.  After all these years, I need your gentle corrections more than ever.  Help me to return to my first Love every day and forgive my wandering heart. Amen.”

What about you?

Do you want to know where you have drifted?

Is Jesus your first Love?

Do you let God confront you?  He is that still, small voice that we bump into when we read the Bible, hear a sermon or pray.

Everyone’s life is aimed at something.  What is your life aimed at?

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DSC_1435By Judy Villanueva

Mark 2:2-5

 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“I’m hungry!” we complained. “I see”, said my mother with a knowing smile. “Well, feel free to grab an apple!” Not surprising, we were not hungry for an apple and had set our sights on the cookie jar.  In truth, we were not hungry at all,  just bored and in search of a quick fix…something to satisfy something inside us that we could not quite name.  How easily we learn the signals our bodies give that alert us of our need for food, drink, or sleep.  A growling tummy, a dry mouth or heavy eyelids are discernable clues!  But, what about the yearning of our souls…that “something” inside us that needs God and hungers to be filled up with Him?

Can you feel it when your soul hungers for God?

I’ve read this passage many times, but today what lifts up off the pages is the hunger that filled the air in Capernaum! Notice the crowd who came hungry to hear Jesus preach the word, the four men who arrived hungry for a healing, and the paralyzed man who ached for legs that could walk.  Our hungers are designed to lead us to places that will fill and satisfy  us, body and soul.   The problem isn’t usually that we won’t follow our hungers to nourishment but rather, that we are woefully inclined to plug-up our hungers with temporal things.  We set our sights on the cookie jar when what we really need is Jesus!

It is a challenge to recognize our hunger for God amidst the noise and distractions of modern life. To do so, we must pay attention and tolerate the discomfort of hunger pains long enough to understand them. Then we must let our hunger for God move and motivate us to get to Jesus!

And, if there is no room even outside the door, then we must follow our hunger to the roof and start digging!

We may need to turn off the television, put away our cellphones and patiently learn how to enter His presence. Ten minutes on our knees, an unhurried reading of Scripture, time spent in silence or praying with a friend place us on the mat before Jesus.

It is where our deepest longings are satisfied and where that something within us gets loved by Someone named Jesus.

“Jesus, help me to recognize my soul’s hunger for you and guide me into your presence. I thank you that you wait for me to notice you and are eager and generous to love me. Amen.”

What about you?

Can you feel it when your soul is hungry for God?

What are the obstacles that get in your way…of getting to Jesus?

What helps you enter His presence?

I pray you will follow your hunger pains to Jesus.  He longs to fill our souls with love.

“In His presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)

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Do You Love me?

UP! aspens

By Judy Villanueva

“Do you love Me?”  (John 21:15)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Stuck in the bathroom, I attempted to muster the courage to go back out into the party. It was a gathering of people with whom I felt out of place and misunderstood. Granted, they were just feelings and likely not even true, but it is how I felt. Overwhelmed, I slipped into this awkward space to pray. “Lord, I thought I would do better today! I prepared beforehand. I prayed, read the Word, determined to love well, and yet, here I am, stuck in the bathroom feeling so defeated. Help me to be strong!” What I heard in reply surprised me. “I am here. It’s ok. Return to love in weakness. I am with you.” This felt strangely freeing, mostly because the only place I could love from, at that moment, was from weakness. So, I returned to the party and loved…weak and a bit scrambled up inside, but freed to love!

The only thing that keeps me from loving on any given day is me.

For sure, many things threaten to box me in and block God’s flow of love. I might be tired, irritable, or anxious. I might be constrained by the pressure of feeling insecure, less than, or judged. It might even be that the person in front of me is just plain unloving! Each and every time, I have a decision to make to either step back from loving or, to pause and ask for God’s help to move forward. When I am in these situations, my first taste of freedom often comes from simply deciding to love, and the next ones from giving myself fully to this decision. In other words, as I act on believing that God is able to empower me to love beyond my fatigue, insecurity or dread, grace begins to flow!

Here is the incredible thing about any decision to love. When we love, we bless and honor Jesus! We answer His question, “Do you love Me?” with a resounding “Yes! I love You, Jesus!” whenever we avail ourselves to be filled and poured out for another.

Can you imagine that it is possible to bless the heart of God when and as we love?

That is quite a notion!  And, thankfully, it counts even when we love imperfectly and in weakness. We must never forget what it means that the Spirit of God lives within us.  We walk around with access to an inexhaustible spring of deep and bountiful love! We may feel boxed in and scrambled up, but when we find our way out of our awkward spaces and cry out for help, we discover that wide and rich waters of love await us.  Come, drink and love Jesus!

“Lord, I bump into mini-crossroads every day where I am aware of my love-limitations. I am selfish and in need of Your well that is inexhaustible! I want You to hear my “Yes, I love you!” as I love others. I want to bless You! Fill me and free me to love. Amen.”

What about you?

Do you feel free to love others? Are you aware of what closes off your heart?

Have you considered that in loving others, you bless the heart of God?

What do you think Jesus meant by asking “Do you love Me?” How would you respond?

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