Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Love Never Fails: Hope for Tough Journeys

Visit Hope Matters for Dr Mari's Health & Hope Corner for April 2012, Love Never Fails: Hope for Tough Journeys. I was inspired to write this after copyediting newly-released Little Pink Book, When Your Grandma Forgets: Helping Children Cope with Alzheimer's and Beyond. Written by Maryann Makekau, this book provides information and encouragement in a simple, even whimsical way to help families navigate the challenges of Alzheimer's disease with hope.

This month I share about meeting Robert while waiting in line at a local diner. Watching his family love him in the midst of his new life with Alzheimer's reminded me that small things done in love are not small at all. And when we love others, our own hearts are transformed as well.

Our love matters.

Faithfully,
Dr Mari

Follow this link to the full article at Hope Matters: Love Never Fails.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strength for the Journey: Inspiration from Psalm 121

My ten year-old son just recited Psalm 121 to me in preparation for his Bible memory quiz tomorrow. Hear the uplifting words of the psalmist,

"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
   the Maker of heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot slip—
   He who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, He who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The Lord watches over you—
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night. 

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
   He will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore." 



As a doctor and pastor's wife, I continually hear stories of real human suffering. This week, I met a young mother whose son was killed two years ago. A beautiful woman died unexpectedly. An old friend continues to grieve the accidental death of her spouse, and a new friend started chemo. These are just a few of the people weighing heavily on my heart as I lift up my eyes to the Lord. 

So what can I say to each of them? I have only one answer - for them and for everyone else. Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

The One who watches over us never sleeps or slumbers. His love is tireless, His grace unending. His wisdom is beyond comprehension, His mercy a river of life.

More and more, my prayer for myself and for those I love is simply this: Jesus.

When I call on His name, it is as if I've had a drink of life that revives me and makes me long to share Him with others. His power in a surrendered, trusting life is nothing short of miraculous. The tougher life gets, the more I trust Him.

So if you're reading this seeking answers, I have one: Jesus. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is more real than our greatest suffering and stronger than our biggest burden. Trust Him with your life. He will never fail you.

In Him,
Dr Mari 

* Photograph by Manuel Díaz (www.manueldiazphotography.com). All Rights Reserved.

For more inspiration, read Adversity's Gift: Perseverance.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Is Risen! So What Does That Mean to You and Me?

These words from Hillsong United's song The Stand summarize the response of a heart touched by God's grace, 
"So what can I say, what can I do, 
but offer this heart, O God, 
completely to You."

When Jesus died on the cross, eternal life was made available to all. His sacrifice was perfect. His self-giving love unmatched. 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us that, on the cross, Jesus "destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." In 1 Corinthians 15:26, the apostle Paul calls death "the last enemy to be destroyed." What Jesus did for you and me on the cross impacts everything. His unequaled sacrifice deserves a response.

As I reflect on the depth of Christ's love,  Paul's prayer to the believers in Ephesus intrigues me,

"I pray that out of His glorious riches 
He may strengthen you with power 
through His Spirit in your inner being, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 
may have power, 
together with all the saints, 
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep 
is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
(Ephesians 3:16-19)

According to Paul, we need power to grasp Christ's love for us! Perhaps he means that, if we grasped it fully, it would blow us away. We couldn't take it. If we could assimilate the magnitude of Christ's love, it would surpass every experience we've ever had and all the knowledge an eternity of books could hold.

Christ's love is a river of mercy and grace - precisely what we need most! Because of His sacrifice on that lonely cross two thousand years ago we can live free from the grip of sin and safe from the power of death. Christ's love is stronger than death itself. And His love endures. His love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). His love never ends (Psalm 106:1).

So what can I say to that? And what can I do? I can give Him this thankful heart - completely, surrendering all to the One who is trustworthy and good.

When I open my heart to Christ's river of mercy and grace - by the Spirit - His enduring love pours in like a flood. When I say yes, He moves in. Even death could not hold Him and, since He now lives in me, that means death cannot hold me. That means sin has lost its grip on me. That means I have a new life.

Indeed, when I say yes to Him, I am born again!

Jesus is risen! With Him and because of Him, we can rise and walk out of every grave unto new life. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Because of what He has done, I am a new creation! Alive. Made new. Loved.

And so are you.

He is Risen, that we may have life! Hallelujah!

May we all have a blessed and meaningful Easter celebrating our Savior and our Lord!
Dr Mari

For more Holy Week reflections, read What's So Good About Good Friday?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Thirsty Deer Leads Worship!

Last month I joined my youngest son on an exciting overnight field trip to Tallahassee. We packed those two days with everything from a jungle cruise and a visit to the zoo to a tour of the Capitol that included handshakes with Senators and twenty minutes with Florida's Attorney General. The eloquent and down-to-earth woman (Pam Bondi) celebrated our children's manners and knowledge and encouraged them to continue to make good choices. As we left for our next adventure, she pointed to my son as he skipped away and said, "There goes a future president." Not bad for a first impression!

One of my favorite activities was walking through Florida's natural landscapes and learning about our red wolves, white-tailed squirrels, turkey mating behaviors (highly entertaining!), and, of course, the Florida alligator. As we wrapped up an exciting nature walk, a moving sight halted my failed attempts at catching up with the tour group. A group of five white-tailed deer seemed as surprised to see me as I was to spot them. One of them in particular caught my eye as he drank deeply from the waters that served as an almost perfect mirror for the surrounding live oaks.

Clearly more thirsty than the others, this deer closed its eyes with pure delight as he first licked the surface and, not fully satisfied, immersed his nose and mouth into the water, appearing to savor every gulp.


Without a single thought but lost in the moment, these words from Psalm 42 flooded my soul,

"As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
   When can I go and meet with God?" 
(Psalm 42:1,2) 

Answering the psalmist, it occurred to me that I'd just met God right there. As the animal continued to drink deeply, another passage stirred my soul, moving me to worship our Creator. 

 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
   come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
   and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good,
   and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to Me;
   hear Me, that your soul may live."
(Isaiah 55:1-3a)

As these words formed in my soul, it was as if I joined the thirsty deer. I drank in God's goodness, praising Him for the beauty of His creation, for His presence all around us, and for His everlasting love. And I sensed His joy in my slowing down enough to hear His, "Yes! You found Me. Now, stay, and keep on drinking! Learn from that deer to get filled with that which truly satisfies."

Having been invited to such waters, why would we choose to lick only the surface or, worse, to drink from streams that don't last and don't satisfy? 

Its thirst quenched, the deer pranced away, maneuvering perfectly between the towering oaks all around us. And then I pictured my son skipping away, full of joy, after meeting the lovely Attorney General who encouraged him with hopeful words. Like that thirsty deer, may my son - and all of us! - continue to drink from the right streams, the ones that fill our souls and give us life. Whatever it is that God calls each of us to be, may we live to worship only Him.

In Him,
Dr Mari