A Heavenly Hug

A Heavenly Hug

Today’s post is from my friend Cherrilynn Bisbano. She is part of my weekly Christmas posts. Her story is precious and amazing. It is truly a story of God’s love for us–working through a child. Please enjoy her story!

Merry Christmas!

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 31:24

“Your son saved my life,” my friend whispered to me after the church service.

     A few days earlier we were at a Christmas Dinner together and my then eight-year-old son ran to her and gave her a big hug. Bonnie welcomed his interruption. I was curious why he clung to my friend because he did not hug strangers. Bonnie held tight. I deduced it was because I was standing with her and, after all, it was Christmas.

     “What do you mean, my son saved your life?” I touched her arm.

  My friend shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Remember the party when your son ran hugged me?”

“Yes. Is that the first time you met him?” 

Placing her hand on top of the table to steady herself, she shared.

     “Yes, that was the first time. My life is horrible—my daughter and grandchildren don’t want me around for Christmas, and I am devastated. I was seriously thinking of ending it all. When your son hugged me, I felt the love of Jesus. I knew I would be OK. He truly saved my life”

I was speechless. We hugged, cried, and parted ways.

While driving home, I asked my son if he had met my friend before.

“No mommy, I like her; she is nice.”

“So, Michael, why did you run to hug her? I know you don’t hug people unless you know them?”

“Oh Mommy, God told me to do it!”

Tears of joy wet my cheeks as I praised God for my son’s courage.

The angel Gabriel interrupted Mary’s wedding preparation. He told her not to fear. He proclaimed she would conceive the Messiah.

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”

Luke 1:30 NASB

Mary’s Courage

She revealed courage when she declared,

“Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

She did not question the angel about the consequences of her holy pregnancy. The results could have lifelong ramifications if no one believed her. Her marriage could end, and people would have labeled her an adulterer and a liar.

Bravery led Mary on a spectacular journey.

God calls us to be courageous. The word in the original language is: ‘amats confirm, be courageous of good courage, steadfastly minded, to prevail.

I learned from my son that listening to God and believing is life-changing.

What is God calling you to do today?

Take Courage.

Meet Cherrilynn Bisbano

Cherrilynn is an award-winning writer, speaker, and coach. She loves encouraging her brothers and sister to stand firm and shine for Jesus. She is an expert in Book Proposals and memoirs. Her book Shine Don’t Whine is helping many women overcome fear, anxiety, perfectionism, and worry. She considers it an honor to be published twice in Chicken Soup for the Soul-; Award-winning books, Kiss Guilt GoodBye, Heart Reno, Breaking the Chains, and Get to the Margins Author’s

Anthology. She is a monthly contributor to Arise Daily Devotions, Blue Ridge Writers Blog, and VineWords.net.

Cherrilynn proudly served in the military for twenty years, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. She lives with her seventeen-year-old son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 23 years, Michael, Sr. She loves Christ, chocolate, coffee, and cats.

CONNECT WITH CHERILYNN BISBANO AT

Website: https://cherrilynnbisbano.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherrilynnbisbano/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cherrilynn3/

Twitter @bisbanowrites

 LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/cherrilynn-bisbano-569b8838/

Shine Don’t Whine

tinyurl.com/shinedontwhine

Lord, help my unbelief

Lord, help my unbelief

Have you ever had a very sick child?

Or maybe you found out your child would be diabetic, deaf, blind, autistic, or have some type of disability.

Since my son was premature, he didn’t hit developmental milestones on time. He was taking his time crawling; he rolled everywhere he wanted to go.

We held his hands while helping him stand or take a few steps. But he did not want to do that. He cried and clung to us terrified we would let go of him. After a while of this, and taking him to our doctor for regular checkups, our doctor recommended an orthopedist.

Matthew was nearly two years old when he saw Dr. Schrader.

After being in his office for three minutes, Dr. Schrader told us, “I’m pretty sure I know what’s wrong, but let me do some x-rays first.”

He came back to the room with the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy.

This diagnosis shocked us and left us in disbelief. I knew of Cerebral Palsy, but my husband did not know what this meant. He immediately thought it was like Muscular Dystrophy, which can mean death at a fairly young age.

The doctor assured us Matthew would get no worse. He would need physical and occupational therapy but would be fine.

Still, it was hard to see our son barely able to walk at four years old, and needing extremely painful surgery. It killed me. He recovered well but used a tiny walker for two years or so, and needed multiple surgeries.

My husband didn’t take it well. We sought prayer for healing many times; even taking him to a local faith healer. We wanted Matthew to have a “normal” life.

Mike and I wondered what God was doing, and why He allowed this. I struggled with my faith at times as well.

Mark 9:14-29 tells us of a story of a man struggling with his faith.

The disciples could not cast out the demon in his son, so he took it up with Jesus. The father asked Jesus,

“If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” I love Jesus’ answer…”If I can?”

The father cried out, “I believe; Lord help my unbelief!”

What does this mean? I have heard many explanations about it and have attempted to explain it myself.

I read a devotional on this by Chaim Bentorah from Biblical Hebrew Studies. He explains that a certain Aramaic (another Semitic language) word for faith or believe (there are more than one) refers to a mother nursing her baby. There is an underlying meaning, he explained:

Faith or belief in the Semitic mindset is a bonding, an expression of love, honor and respect.  We tell people in our Western culture that they must believe, like it is a great effort. They must grit their teeth, clutch their fist and like the child in “Miracle on 34th Street” keep repeating over and over: “I believe, I believe.” Yet hayaman (belief, faith) is as natural as a mother nursing her baby.  The baby looking up into its mother’s eyes and the mother looking into her child’s face shows pure love, commitment, and bonding.  Nothing is forced, disciplined, it just happens.

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2013/01/devotional-mark-924/

We can imagine the father in Mark’s story having plans for his son’s future just as we do for our children. I often thought about Matthew’s life when he was an infant–who he would grow up to be, do, and what sports he may play.

When this father said, “Help my unbelief,” the Aramaic word for unbelief correlates with “little faith” more than lack of faith.

Chaim goes on to say this father loved his son and he loved Jesus, but he needed his love in the proper order. We know we need to love Jesus more than anything, but when your child, spouse, or other loved one needs healing, it’s hard to think of anything else.

Chaim explains this even more:

His love at that moment for his son was greater than his love for Jesus, but what little love he had for Jesus he asked that Jesus accept that as its priority. The man was literally saying: “I want to love you more than my son, but to be honest, that is a little hard right now, accept what love I can give you.” 

How did Jesus respond to this..?

Jesus responded by healing the man’s son.

He is so good! When we struggle with unbelief or putting our love for God in the right order, He understands!

He understood how much we wanted Matthew healed. He understands the love of a parent for their child…God knows the love of a child as well as we do.

When we struggle with our faith, sometimes it’s not that we don’t love Jesus, it’s just that we need our love put in the proper order. Jesus can help with that. He doesn’t hold back healing or His love because we struggle.

Jesus doesn’t hold back healing or His love because we struggle. #disablities #specialneeds #ThisSideofHeaven

God did not heal Matthew all at once. He had other issues, medications, and surgeries until he was seventeen. But God loves us and always knew our needs. He has never stopped providing for us or our children.

Matthew still has some minor difficulties. Our pastor at that time, asked us if a complete healing meant Matthew’s personality, love for God, and his gentle spirit changed, would we still want it?

Our answer was NO.

Matthew’s struggles (and ours) is creating us to be who God wants us to be. Matthew’s love for the Lord is evident to all who know him. He has never felt sorry for himself or wanted pity from others. He is stronger than most people I know.

We wouldn’t want it any other way.

In what ways do you need help putting your love for Jesus in the proper priority?

From Daddy, with Love

From Daddy, with Love

Love makes us do crazy things.

We sing more love songs than any other song. We hear Country songs about what a man will do for his love, and pop singers singing about the love of their life. And who doesn’t like a great love story? Hallmark movies, romance novels, and magazine articles all boast of love. It is everywhere. We adore love.

History holds incredible love stories.  King Edward VIII of England abdicated his throne for the love of an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, in 1936. He could not take her as his bride as king, so he gave his kingship to his brother, King George, and married the woman he loved. They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Who doesn’t remember reading about the famous Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra and the Roman General Mark Antony? After losing a war on Rome, they took their lives rather than be apart in life. [i]

In a recent El Paso Walmart shooting, a man shot a couple, Jordan and Andre Anchondo, to death while they tried to protect their two-month-old son. The shooter shot Andre as he threw his body in front of his wife and then shot Jordan as she tried to protect their son. [ii]  

What has love caused you to do?

When my children were young, my husband built them a swing set and fort with a slide and tunnel to play on in our backyard. He started it in our garage in the middle of winter. I have the cutest pictures of my three bundled children sitting on the steps of the garage watching my husband, hammer nails, saw wood and piece together this surprise. They could not wait to play on it.

On Father’s Day, I gave Mike a small plaque inscribed with “From Daddy, with love” to attach to the wooden beam of the playset so my children would always remember who built it for them. My kids are nearing the end of their college careers and that playset still stands in our yard.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is “The exact imprint of [God’s] nature…” God sent his Son as a loving imprint of his nature and love for us. One of the most famous Bible verses is John 3:16 (ESV),

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

We could also say, “From Daddy, with love.”

Who among us would give their child for the life of a good person, let alone an evil, selfish, or hateful person? Only a loving God would offer His Son for sinners like you and me. Jesus suffered and died for us, for love.

Hebrews 2:9 says,

“But we see him, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Not only was Jesus willing to die, but Hebrews tells us how He went to the cross. Hebrews 12: 2 says,

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who, for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Emphasis mine).

The Greek word for joy means gladness, state of rejoicing, happiness. [iii] Why would Jesus be in a state of rejoicing in going to the cross?  Because He knew that cross would restore the relationship He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit wanted with us. We could finally come to the Father, be in the presence of the Godhead, and experience Their love.

Jesus said in John 15:13,

“Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

There are many people who have not only laid down their life for a friend or family member but also a total stranger. How often do we see videos of or read about someone who risked their life to save another or gave their life saving someone? Just as Andre Anchondo threw himself in front of his wife to save her from the shooter, Jesus did the same for us.

Jesus took the blame and punishment for a crime He did not commit. Soldiers beat Him and He bled the blood we should have bled. He allowed the soldiers to nail His body to a cross that ours should have been nailed to.

But, Jesus did what we could not do. He raised himself from the dead (John 2:19, 10:18). Love raised Him. Love gave Jesus life from a horrible death. Love left scars on His resurrected body. Love seated Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

Remember, when we read verses like “Love is patient, love is kind…” from 1 Corinthians 13, we can replace all the “Love is” with God is.

God is love. So God is patient, God is kind; God does not envy or boast…God never ends.


[i] https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/news/g3233/greatest-love-stories-in-history/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/04/mass-shooting-el-paso-texas-woman-killed-saved-baby

[iii] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

The Lies of Rejection

The Lies of Rejection

I originally wrote this for a friend’s blog. I am reposting here, because today I received my first rejection from a publisher for my Bible study called The Jewels of Hebrews.

There was a post going around on Facebook which stated, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Its truth crashed head on into my thoughts of rejection.

Throughout most of my life it felt as though others rejected me. It’s one of those feelings which is so easy to believe, like fear. We can spend our entire existence thinking people are talking about us, believing no one values us, even feeling sure people don’t want us around.

I can feel excluded when I see my friends on Facebook sharing pictures of themselves having a great time together, wondering why they didn’t invite me. When people don’t attend my Bible study classes, I assume it is because of me. When people won’t buy my book, it looks, feels, and smells like… rejection.

I am not ignoring the fact people have distanced or removed themselves from my life. It hurt when a boyfriend broke up with me because I wasn’t right for him, and when friends thought I was a “Jesus freak”, or a woman didn’t want to be friends any longer.

Even though people have rejected me doesn’t mean I am rejected.

Rejection can become a stronghold in our Christian walk. It is the lie which keeps us captive by Satan, who tells us we are not worthy, wanted, or appreciated.

One night in a dream, I saw myself with different people, in a church, at a restaurant, and in a friend’s home. I saw myself looking down at the ground not making eye contact with anyone, feeling alone, and despised. Everywhere I went people treated me the way I saw myself. I woke up knowing I needed to stop believing the lie that no one wanted me around. If I kept acting rejected not only did I believe it but soon everyone else would as well.

Victory came when I repented for believing the lie that I am rejected. I asked God to replace that lie with His truth.

Psalm 94:14 (ESV) says, “For the LORD will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance.”

We are His inheritance.

God has not rejected us—quite the opposite, in fact. He faced the ultimate rejection by His death so we can live as adopted sons and daughters.

We can turn the tables on Satan by rejecting him and his lies and forgiving those who rejected us. Forgiveness is a weapon for victory. It removes the power of the evil one and frees us from the captivity of unforgiveness. It will allow healing.

 One of the greatest gifts we have is being able to spend time with the Lord. He strengthens us through our relationship with Him. He affirms us and shows us love and patience while healing the hurts of our hearts.

Another source of truth for victorious living is God’s Word. Ephesians 1:4 tells us He chose us before He created the world and Ephesians 2:4 tells us God loves us with a great love.

I love Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV). Let your heart hear God’s love:

“The Lord your God is in your midst,

    a Mighty One Who will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

    He will quiet you by His love;

He will exult over you with loud singing.

Scripture memorization means we always have access to the truth even when we don’t have our Bibles with us. Satan cannot steal what is in our hearts. We can repeat verses when the temptation to believe a lie assails us.

Prayer is a mighty weapon for continuous victory over rejection. Be honest with the Lord. We can tell Him the emotions of our hearts and our desire to believe all He says. He wants us to tell Him about our hurts and disappointments. We can approach His throne confidently and we will receive mercy and find grace when we need it (Hebrews 4:16). Continuous conversations with our Father gives us hope and the power to stand even when we feel rejected.

How have you conquered the feelings of rejection?

Agape…and God’s Love

Agape…and God’s Love

Are you a dog or a cat lover? Maybe you love all animals; most of them anyway.

I love animals. People who have been to my house and met my two dogs, six ducks, chickens, and three goats, know this about me.

My family especially loves German shepherd dogs. They are so easy to train and are loyal, protective and lovable.

Many years ago after the death of my beloved Nadia, a white German shepherd, my husband and I went looking for the perfect family dog. Our kids were only 6 (twins) and 4, so we knew we wanted a puppy. We found a German shepherd we fell in love with. She was about twenty-three pounds when we brought her home but my kids wouldn’t go near her at first.

We named her Agape. You may know it’s a Greek word which means unconditional love. Little did we know how she would fulfill her name.

After two days, they lost their fear of her and did not let her out of their sight.

Nor did she let them out of hers. She loved her pack (children).

My son, Matthew has cerebral palsy. Once Agape got a little older, she recognized something different in Matthew. She became protective of him. Not in an aggressive sense, but she stayed with him everywhere he went.  If he fell, she let him grab ahold of her to get back on his feet. If he was sitting down in the grass, Agape lay down next to him until he moved, then she moved with Matthew.

We have four and a half fenced-in acres of land with a long winding driveway. She followed my children all over it. One time, all three kids and Agape were at the end of our property down our driveway. I called to Agape to feed her. She looked at me but refused to come.

Now, Agape was a well-trained dog. She knew to listen and obey. But she was not leaving her kids. Once I called the kids, she followed them to me.

Every day during the school year, she trailed the kids down the driveway where they waited for the bus. She stayed just inside our gate watching them get on the bus and continued to stay there until the bus was out of sight. Then, she made the trek back to the house.

Another time, all five of us were walking around our property. Agape always took the lead. As we walked, Agape saw a hole where a drain had been. After putting her nose in it, she looked up at Mike and me, then put her nose back in the hole and looked up again. She stood over that hole until we had all passed her and then took the lead again.

Agape’s attention to detail and sensitivity amazed me. I wondered how far she would go to protect my kids.

My husband returned from work one warm, sunny day. This time Agape was not next to the kids. As he pulled up the hill to our house, Agape ran from the garage out in front of his car. He almost hit her. Our children were on that hill but she didn’t know Mike had seen them. She put herself between his car and our children.

He was a little shaken, but it made us realize how special this dog was to our kids and us. She would have given her life for them.

We serve a God and Savior Jesus Christ who also loves us with agape love. He does not base His love on what we do or have done. If it was, it would not be unconditional. He does not just love those who love Him, but even those who do not. That’s unconditional love. You can do nothing to earn it.

He is also a friend who will never leave us nor forsake us. He goes with us throughout our life even in the mundane comings and goings.

Agape spent her thirteen and a half years outside within our fenced in property protecting us and our animals from predators. It didn’t make her less loved because she was outside. She was family. She was a protector.

But she loved it when we came out first thing in the morning. It was as if she waited all night for us.

While we sleep, Jesus is the ultimate protector. He guards our hearts and minds. He protects us physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Have you ever considered that Jesus cannot wait for you to wake in the morning?  He looks forward to time alone with you.

Jesus gave His life for us. His agape love allowed Him to die a lonely and excruciatingly painful death for us. He did what He did to keep us from spiritual death and an eternity without us.

I thank God for animals, pets, and dogs like Agape.

But I can’t express how thankful I am that He loves me unconditionally. There is no condemnation. We cannot surprise or disappoint Him. He is all-knowing. He sees your past, present, and future and He still adores you.

Isn’t He worth knowing? Do you want a friend who is closer than a brother or a dog?

His name is Jesus.