The Giant Question Mark Left Behind…Suicide

I went for a walk this evening and was thinking about today’s sermon at the church I attend. There was a statement our Pastor made that stuck out to me. He was talking about the events around Jesus’ death and resurrection and how Thomas doubted Jesus being alive. “Thank God He is the God of second chances!! Or third, or fourth or more.” In light of events in my week these words hung in my mind.

Last Monday my husband and I went for our evening walk on the track at our local YMCA. While finishing up our laps, we got a call from my oldest son with very sad news. A family friend that we have known him and his wife for several years, Clint, had ended his life by shooting himself. Leaving behind a wake of sadness and gigantic question marks in the hearts of his family and his friends. My husband and I went to the home of Clint’s best friend, also a family friend for decades. As I sat there with Clint’s wife and other ladies who knew him or were friends with the family, I watched different ones shuffle in and out of the house. It was that night that I watched a grown man, biker from Clint’s motorcycle club, cry harder than I have ever seen a grown man cry. My heart broke and I have had no words to say.

Clint, his smile could light up a room.

This is the third suicide that has touched someone I know in less than a year: One a friend’s grandson in his early teens, another a sister in law’s nephew in his 20’s and then Clint, a husband, father, grandpa, son and friend. Tragedies beyond any words to describe. All this leaving me thinking about my own struggles and trying to understand. As one who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I would be lying to say that I have never ever thought of suicide as something that would be the cure. It’s a horrible thing to have your mind running with thoughts so jumbled that ending the thoughts permanently seems like a good solution. Thankfully God has graciously helped me to see something in the distance, past the jumbled mess of my mind to hope in a second chance, or third, fourth or 50th.

It occurred to me tonight as I walked, that God is always waiting there with another chance. We turn down that chance when we say we’re done and take the final step ending it all. I’m not saying God is eternally done with us at that moment. But I am saying the chance we had here on earth to see Him make something beautiful out of our broken goes away. That’s probably why the big question mark is left with all those who knew and loved us. Why? If we only knew what could we have done differently to help? There is always hope. It’s just a momentary blindness to it that leaves us choosing the ultimate act of hopelessness and leaving a gaping hollow hole in the hearts of all those who loved us in the aftermath of that choice.

The story in the Bible of Jesus’ death includes each of His closest friends struggling to find hope. One denied his friendship. One doubted his resurrection, all of them scattered so many different ways. Of these, Jesus gave them each a second chance. It makes me wonder, “What about Judas?” If he had taken his mess of betraying Jesus to God in repentance instead of hanging himself, could his brokenness been made beautiful too? That’s yet another question mark left behind by the act of suicide.

I want to find myself on the side of always taking that second chance, third chance, fiftieth… Jesus paid a huge price out of His great love to give that to me. If I can get just get a glimpse of it. There is always hope no matter how small and far away it may seem. If we can somehow let Jesus in, even in our darkest hour, that hope will do the impossible with our broken pieces of our mess. Because that is what Jesus does. He makes all things new. Even the ones that seem impossible.

(Clint was a believer in Jesus. I want to honor his Memory. I am sure that anything that points to the hope found in Jesus would be on Clint’s heart right now for those who hear his story to grab ahold of, and even in these moments of extreme brokenness that all who knew him and loved him that are left behind feel, God still will take the brokenness and make it beautiful once more. That is what God does.

There is no shame in asking for help. If these thoughts of self harm plague you, talk about them. Reach out. There is no shame in getting help. I know in religious circles there can sometimes be a stigma with receiving professional help. I go to a doctor if I can’t get over a sore throat or a cough. I go to a mental health therapist if I can’t get past the thoughts that run in my head. This in no way negates what God can do. God can use these professionals to let the healing begin. Don’t leave behind a giant question mark for those you know and love to wrestle with. You are worth more than that to God and them.)

Do Not Fret/ Trust

This blog has been my outlet for the past few years. As a habitual “stuffer” I’ve found the best way to get stuff out and let a little pressure off has been to write. I often think of the old pressure cooker my mom used to can vegetables with when I was a kid. The gauge on top would shake and make noises the longer the heat increased and the pressure grew inside until she opened it a little and let the steam out and turned down the heat. Writing is just one of those tools that releases a little of my internal steam and pressure as I live my life day in and day out, amongst many other tools I’ve been developing to deal with anxiety and depression. (exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, etc.).

I would have to admit this week I’ve been thinking about exactly what I would say to help ease a lot of the tensions I’ve been feeling in my world and let off a little of the internal pressure I’ve been feeling. There are just so many angles and avenues of thought and discussion going on inside of me. Everything from interpersonal interactions, spiritual direction, the political environment as of late, and me knocking on the door of turning 50 years old in a matter of days. It all kind of shakes my internal pressure gauge and feels like something needs to be let out. Thus this blog entry…

I stand in pretty good company when it comes to blogging as a “feelings outlet”. My favorite “feelings blogger”of Biblical times, would be David. The book of Psalms in the Bible are mainly entries written by him as he too wrestled with inner pressures and outer circumstances. Reading his entries gives comfort to me on the regular. David was my kind of guy. He would lay out his feelings in poems, songs, and verses that would always end up concluding that God was the answer for all uncertain times, feelings, and circumstances.

This week, in particular, I’ve been reading and rereading Psalm 37. A Psalm written by an older more experienced David, who had seen a lot.

As a young man, David had worked in the Palace of a spiritually and mentally unstable King, who threw a spear at him. David had been a warrior in battles that had impossible odds (Fully armored giant vrs. slingshot toting Shepherd boy, David). He then found himself chosen and anointed by God to be the king of Israel. Then there’s David’s struggles with sin. David watching his own son turn against him, taking over the Kingdom. David hiding in caves, pretending to be insane to save his own life, the return to his Kingdom, etc. David reflects on all the ins and outs of life. The ups the downs. The good times and the bad. He says this:

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Psalms‬ ‭37:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:23-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A few days ago my 20 year old daughter and I went to the YMCA for our morning walk. She said something that kind of hit me. “Mom, a lot of my friends and the people I follow on Social Media talk about how they wish they had been born in a less complicated time, like the 80’s…” I told her I understood that sentiment. When I was her age, living in the 80’s I wished for a life as simple as the 50’s when my mom was a teen. It’s funny how there really isn’t anything new under the sun. Bad rulers have come and gone. Good ones have too. Times of peace and prosperity and freedom have been around, times more restricted and harsh have been too. But in the end when we stand with God we will be alright. Just like David said, “Evil people and their agendas will come and go. But God takes care of those of us who trust in Him.” It is only a matter of me keeping my eyes on God and staying close to Him in my relationship with Him.

David’s words “Do not fret” are what’s been churning around inside of me. I’m pretty good at fretting. I come by it honestly I guess. But God’s goodness to me proves I can “trust”. Somewhere along the line He is going to work all these things out. He has a plan and He is in control. I just need to keep showing up. Show up in my time with Him, reading His word (the Bible) and praying. Show up in my time with my husband and family. Enjoy them and soak up the gift they are. Show up for my friends, who are God’s gift too. Spend time with them and enjoy them encouraging me while I try to encourage them. Show up for those I don’t know that I’m around. You know… “shine your light”. We have been given God’s love to share. It is the cure for our struggles in the uncertain times. God will take care of His kids. That I can be assured.

David said “I’ve been young and now I’m old. I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken”. God will not leave us alone. Eyes on Him. It will all be alright.

Process- One Step at a Time Toward Freedom

“So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There are some things that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Things don’t go as you think they would, life takes turns that surprise the most confident and secure of us shaking us to the core. Then there is the constant nagging of an area of struggle. “Paul’s Thorn in the flesh” played out in our everyday life. The one thing that keeps us on our knees holding on to what we can grasp of Jesus when we can’t seem to see what’s up and what’s down.

I imagine the mood of ancient Israel during the time of its enslavement to Egypt was a combination of these emotions. There was this promise given by God to Jacob. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again” Genesis 46:3-4 And then there was the reality of their daily life trapped, enslaved, beaten, berated, suffering… somehow the two didn’t seem to go together. But God had a plan.

I’ve been living the Christian life most of my life. I grew up in church, Gave my life to God at a young age. I am one of those read my Bible daily, pray often, regular church goers. But I can honestly say that some of the “good” ideas to help others has been some of the most devastating areas of struggle in my life. Sometimes life doesn’t go like you think it will and instead of being a temporary resident of Egypt for a good cause you end up enslaved, beaten down, and suffering in a place that in your mind was not meant to be like that. “What did I do wrong?” May be the thought you play over and over in your mind. When really you didn’t do anything “wrong” at all. It may feel like you were left for a long term stay in Egypt.

The anxiety and depression I have battled in my life feels just like a long term stay in Egypt with a cruel task master on my back. Now that I admit that I struggle, (an act of being defeated as seen by some in the “Faith” world) I can see just how long the nagging taskmasters of “you’re never enough” and “everything is all up to you” have been driving me with their long mental whips. It’s been quite awhile, and much like the Israelites, I have asked God to step in and fix it all time and time again.

This morning I sat in the quiet of the pre dawn hours reading my Bible and praying thinking of my day ahead and my appointment with my counselor to come in a matter of a few hours When I came across the verses above. It hit me. God sees me. God has heard my cries because of the driving of my cruel task masters that try to tule over me and He is concerned. God sees our struggles. It’s not a disappointment or a surprise to Him. But He also has a plan and provision made for bringing us out of them. Sometimes it may be one by one, slowly, and not exactly how we expected. But He will come. He does not fail. Even though I may view my world through the eyes distorted by what the disappointment in Egypt caused, God sees me as I really am, His. His promise is not to be enslaved by the thoughts of my mind, but to step into His “spacious place” where I, with Him am “more than enough” and “cared for greatly” by Him.

And here’s the main kicker, He is going to show me all of this. Every hour, every minute, every second that I look to Him. It took God to step in a miraculously free the Israelites from their land of oppression. God has already stepped in and purchased my freedom through Jesus. I have to learn how to walk as one who is free, one of freedom’s steps at a time. (Sounds like the power of the P word “Process” Baby! 😬)

https://youtu.be/NieC8KA0EvI

Thorns in My Flesh: Foot Pain and Anxiety

“Foot pain Sucks!” There I said it. As a person who has suffered with foot issues and pain all my life, it kind of feels relieving just letting that out. My earliest memories of heading to the big city from my very small rural hometown was for the very purpose of visiting a foot specialist. My parents saw my need and did their best to provide the best they could for their flat footed child. Which meant orthopedic shoes. They were kind of special when you are 7 or 8, but by the time I hit my teen years I was fairly certain I would rather hurt than wear anything so ugly, bring on the Nikes and Adidas! But as time went on and the pain increased, my willingness to see pediatrist or orthopedic surgeons that specialize in feet increased. It gets old trying to decide if you would rather stay seated or stand on up and work on through the pain. So began my love for Birkenstock anything, Feet Fleet Shoe stores, orthopedic shoe inserts, ankle stretches, an overnight foot splint to help with plantar fasciitis (takes a little getting used to), etc. It’s amazing the lengths I go to so I don’t have to slow down, sit down, and live with a ton of pain… All this being said, The battle against foot pain still goes on and due to pain in both of my feet, I’ve got an appointment with a specialist this week to see if there are any other tricks up his sleeve that can help…

Being a person of faith, and one who believes that God does answer prayers, and that He still heals today, I’ve brought this issue up to God more than once. I’ve asked for the elders of the church to lay hands on me, anoint me with oil, and pray for me more than once as the Bible talks about in James 5:14. I know God can heal my feet, but for now I tend to view them as Paul did his affliction he mentions as his “Thorn in His Flesh”. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul asked for God to take it away from him three times and God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and there is no record of Paul’s thorn ever being removed.

This all came to mind this morning as I have contemplated another couple of “Thorns in my flesh” That seem to stick around, Anxiety and depression. Once again I have found myself going to great lengths to try to keep up with my “self care” regimen of exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, medication, rest, fresh air, daily confessions of who I am in Christ, etc. Plus the appointments with a counselor… It’s uncanny the parallel between my foot pain and my struggle with anxiety and depression. Probably the thing that sticks out the most is to what lengths I would go to get some relief for both of them. Because whether it’s pain in every step you take or pain in a majority of the thoughts you think, both are uncomfortable and therefore worth being treated the best way you can, self care, spiritually, and with help from the professionals. And just as I have taken my physical foot pain to God and asked for healing, I have done the same with my mind, but I believe part of the reason my struggle has not been totally relieved isn’t because I am doing something wrong. It’s more a matter of God helping me to get a perspective I never had before.

My youngest son has some of the same issues with his feet that I have, sorry son… If he complains of his feet aching, I automatically empathize with him deeply. I’ve been there, as a matter of fact, I’m there now… I can also say that my accepting where I am in my struggles with anxiety and depression, has given me compassion for those who struggle in their mind. I can tell you what little I know that works the best for me to get relief and I can point you to the One who ultimately makes sense out of all the ins and outs of life- Jesus. I know that looking back through the years and seeing the path I’ve walked that His presence and His help is what has made the difference for me, and although I haven’t seen Him come in and zap my mind into always thinking happy thoughts, I have found Him more than enough when I was unable to see straight or find the will to keep getting up and keep going on. In fact, it is in my growing in knowing Him more that I can take the time to stop and appreciate the little things like the changing leaves, my grandson’s smile, laughter with my kids, or the embrace of my husband. All of these are gifts He has given me to show me that it is true, “God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Whether the weakness be the aching of my feet or the struggles in my head, I can confidently say, “God and His grace is enough for me.” and “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13. Because the Evidence of God’s goodness is there, even in our struggles. It’s whether or not we chose to open our eyes to see it.

Anxiety vrs The God Who Fights for Me

Sometimes life is bigger than me. Actually, a lot of times life is bigger than me… My problem is admitting that little fact. Admitting weakness is not something that comes easy for me. I guess I come from a long line of the “never let them see you sweat” type. So not letting you see me sweat is my specialty. Not asking for help is one of my mantras, not necessarily a good one, but definitely one. So laying this out there is a little uncomfortable, but needs to be said. Mainly because I’ve been stewing on it for about a week. So someone probably needs to hear this…

You’re not alone. I know I need to hear that from time to time too.

A few days ago, I hopped in my car and opened my Amazon Music app. I figured I needed to find something new to listen to and one of the suggestions was Bethel’s new album, “Revival’s in the Air”. As I was listening, I was struck by the song “Egypt” with Cory Asbury. I’ve found myself listening to it over and over. As one who struggles with anxiety, I found the words comforting.

“You’re the God who fights for me
Lord of every victory
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You have torn apart the sea
You have led me through the deep
Hallelujah
Hallelujah”

I’ve tried a lot of different things to try to bring peace while fighting the war inside of me through the years. Not that I don’t ever experience the peace, but the fears, the feelings, the thoughts, sometimes become more than I know how to fight. As an outspoken lover of Jesus, this seems to be a contradiction to some to admit that there are times that what I fight becomes bigger than my ability to see Him clearly in all my situations. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I fear. Sometimes I hide. Sometimes I struggle with guilt over things beyond my control. That’s why these lyrics resonated so clearly with me this week. I am clearly weak, but “in my weakness He is made strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 God is not surprised by my struggles, or yours for a matter of fact. He is the one who steps in where we are at and fights for us against the foes that are stronger than us, even if that foe is waging war between your ears- in your mind. The battle right now may feel greater than what you are able to endure, but He does not leave us alone in it. God assures us that “His grace is sufficient for us”.

Looking back over the years of my life I can see that God truly is the one “who fights for me, and He is the Lord of every victory.” He’s done it time and time again, and He will do it many more times. He’s not in the business of leaving us alone in disgust, because of struggles. He is the one who sees, hears, and moves on our behalf.

My favorite Psalm is Psalm 40. Especially verses 1-3, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him..” More than once, I’ve found God faithful to take me out of situations beyond me and set me in a place of security. He did not fail me then, and He will not fail me now. His faithfulness extends beyond what I’ve experienced. He has abounding Grace not only for me but for you where you are against your foe that is bigger than you. He will step into your Egypt!

Jesus Intercedes

I remember my first experience with labor pains. The best way to describe it is the feeling of such deep pain that you can’t think or talk. It didn’t take me long to figure out an epidural was the mode of pain control I wanted to experience. Feeling nothing. I can also remember a time of such fear I experienced. I couldn’t think or talk, just freeze. Lay still and wait for the threat to pass. Then there was the time of such emotional pain that I couldn’t think or talk, just cry. It was a chore to put one foot in front of the other to go on. I think experiences like this are part of the human condition. They occur in our lives when our world seems to be out our of control. It is in those gut wrenching times that I felt alone, abandoned and out of sorts.

This week has been a week. I’ve had to at times stand off to the side and hear the cries of pain as someone I love has endured physical and medical trials. It’s not been easy. One morning I sat down in my recliner with a cup of coffee to clear my head and spend some time with God. My devotion was about Jesus interceding for us. (Hebrews 7:35) my first thought was, “what exactly is interceding?” I’ve pondered that thought a lot the past few days.

Prayer in my life is a lot like conversation. Those prayers are awesome. They are the part of a relationship that I’ve experienced with God. However, I’ve had my times that I’ve kicked it up a notch and continually prayed for someone asking for God’s intervention. I’ve done it with feeling and with urgency. Not my typical dialog I have with God. It’s the “God they need you to step in! God this cannot go on! God we need your help” kind of prayers. I believe that is what intercession is. It’s when the person I pray for can’t pray for themselves, so I will- kind of prayer. “Going between” – “intercession”.

Then it hit me. Jesus intercedes for me. The time the physical pain was too much, the fear was too overwhelming, and the emotional turmoil was too great for me to even be able to think to utter a word. He was there. He was going between me in my situation and the very throne room of God where all I needed in that moment was being released on my behalf. He intercedes. What a comfort this past few days! Life sometimes takes us down paths we never wanted to step upon, but when I find myself there not sure what to do, Jesus intercedes for me.

As I sit here writing my thoughts, I am with someone I love watching her sleep on the oncology ward of a major hospital for my area. Away across the hall a man is moaning in great pain. I don’t know who he is or anything about him. But I pray, and then I said, “Jesus you know him. He’s unable to do this on his own. May your intercession be for him as well.” Because Jesus loves us all and when we can’t He can. It’s who He is and what He does. He intercedes.

Pour Out Your Heart to Him- He Already Knows What’s Inside

I’ve often thought that the Psalms of David in the Bible are perfect examples of how God does not expect us to live in denial for the sake of “Faith”. David had this way of taking the good, the bad, and the ugly to God. At times, his writings were gut wrenchingly honest. He told God about his fears, his doubts, his trials, his anger, etc…and still God commended David not for how perfect his faith was, but how in all things David pursued Him and was “a man after God’s own heart.”

This morning I have been contemplating Psalm 62:8.

I am a “stuffer”. I’ve been one for a long time. Adversity hits and I try my best to push down the feelings that arise from dealing with it. I’m not British, but the whole “stiff upper lip” thing would be my mantra if I could only achieve it, but quite honestly, that isn’t working so well for me. Apparently “stuffing” oozes out after awhile, whether it be in depression or anxiety, or both. After awhile it begins to take it’s toll. It’s the little things, like lack of sleep, loss of interest in activities, etc. that start to add up to the big things and boom, you’re overwhelmed. That is where David’s words written thousands of years ago offers wisdom for a “stuffer” like me. “Pour out your heart to Him”.

I’m not sure what makes the proposition of telling God exactly what you’re feeling so scary. He already knows it. He’s God. Letting it out and leaving it in the open gives Him the opportunity to work with it. Stuffed away it is held on tightly by ourselves and He’s not going to barge in and rip it from our hands to work with it.

Mark 9:14-29 is an account of a man who brings his tormented son to Jesus. He had brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples prior, and they were unable to deliver him from the demons that haunted him. The man says something that does not fit comfortably in the circles of some schools of thought regarding faith. He says, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” to Jesus. Jesus responds with, “If you can?… Everything is possible for one who believes.” The man then says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I don’t know how many times I have sat in this man’s shoes. I’ve tried everything I know to fix a situation on my own. I find myself at Jesus’ feet, wanting to say “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. All the while, I know Jesus can do anything. I believe, but I need help to overcome my unbelief. The comfort I find is that in this man’s honesty he did not find Jesus turning him away saying, “You didn’t believe right. I cannot do anything for you.” Instead, Jesus cast the spirit out of the boy and brought wholeness and healing to a seemingly helpless situation. The man “poured out his heart” to Jesus. He did not hide what was inside, and Jesus responded.

The words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 have been rolling around in my heart as well this week.

The Passion Translation really struck a chord in me, “Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” “Tell Him every detail…” that includes the areas of struggle, fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, etc. Letting God in on everything, letting the “stuffing” out is the key to peace and answers for the struggles and questions we face.

Tough times are upon us: Nationally, Spiritually, and the daily stuff as well. To be honest, tough times are upon me. Denying the struggle does not make it go away, but taking every aspect, “every detail” to God and telling Him is the key. Letting the feelings out so I can let Him in: His answers, His peace. It is only at that point that I can experience God the way David did, as a “refuge” from the storm and the winds of adversity that blow and rest in His peace.

“There Was Jesus”

July 2nd 1984, 36 years ago at a small church camp, Camp Sharon, was where I had my awakening. It was where I suddenly became aware of God’s desire, not just for me to give my life to Him, but my awakening to His desire for me to be close to Him. It all started when He began calling to me to let Him have everything, my plans, my life, my hurts, etc.

For an 8th grade girl, I’m sure I had become quite a surprise to those around me. I wanted to do this relationship right, and I wasn’t sure how to get there. I went to the local Christian Bookstore and bought a book that talked about how to have a relationship with God. It covered praying and reading the Bible. It said I should read 10 chapters of the Bible a day. So that is what I did. I wanted to experience God. Not just know about Him. I would spend hours in my room reading the Bible and praying. It was such a surprising response that my mom, a faithful Christian, was worried about just how much I was reading and pursuing. She was afraid that I would burn out on it. I was just HUNGRY. Hungry to know more of that feeling of peace and love I felt kneeling and uncontrollably sobbing in the sawdust near the altars of an outdoor church camp tabernacle. I remember telling God, “If you really want me you can have me.” It’s funny how much I didn’t understand. “really want me”?!?! He wanted me so much He walked the lonely road of Calvary and died on a cross to make a relationship with me possible. He tugged at my heart so heavily that night at camp that no matter how hard I tried to walk away, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’m so glad I didn’t! I left that time of prayer new and free and filled with joy!

Through the years I’ve had my “hot on fire, so close to you” relationship with God, and others I’ve had my “It’s getting cold, where are you at God?” relationship. I’ve had my times of feeling like I had it all together and understood it. I’ve had times when I understood that I will never have it together and I won’t ever understand life. 36 years that Jesus was right there. His Holy Spirit living inside of me gently speaking to me which way I should go even when on my own I couldn’t figure out the way.

Lately I’ve been listening to Zac William’s album “Rescue Story”. I kind of have a tendency to get stuck on a song that speaks to me. Surprisingly to me, the song that sticks out to me the most off that album is a duet with Dolly Parton. “There Was Jesus”.

It hits where I find myself as of late. I’ve been looking at where I am in my life, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. The thing about the lyrics of that song that sticks out to me is that no matter where we’ve been, no matter where we are, no matter where we go, “There Was Jesus”. So the days of blessing that I laugh and smile through, He’s there enjoying the times of joy with me. The days that I struggle to understand and see, He’s there holding me up showing me the next step to take. He’s there with me when I feel nothing. He’s there with me when I feel it all.

I’ve been pretty open on this blog about my struggles and questions. It’s kind of the outlet I’ve chosen to let what I’m think about on the inside come out. You all get a little picture of what I’ve been contemplating as you take the time to read my thoughts. Most of the time I am able to lay out “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, but somehow take the turn back to the only answer I’ve found that resonates inside of me, Jesus. Struggles that we all face, whether they be depression, anxiety, addictions, PTSD, abuse, disappointment, etc. only find meaning and healing when looked at in the light of the presence of the only one who has been there for it all, Jesus, the love of our souls. The only One who is able to speak peace into storms of life, bring the dead things that we’ve given up on back to life, take a broken, wrecked life and make it a masterpiece is Jesus.

I can analyze my hurts, categorize my issues- give them names, and get understanding. These aren’t altogether bad things to do, but I shouldn’t stop there. I need to take the tools I learn to deal with the things I struggle with, and go to Jesus asking Him to heal what only He can heal. Do my part and let Him do the rest.

He has proven Himself faithful. I can trust Him where I’m going, even when I cannot see.

“There was Jesus”.

Jesus is there. Jesus was there, Jesus will be there.

Reset 2- New Beginnings

This Sunday morning, just like every Sunday morning, my husband and I got up and ventured off to our local Church congregation for the weekly service. It’s something I appreciate all the more since the Covid 19 outbreak. I sorely missed being “in the house” for a time of worship with the worship band and time in the word. The message today has been percolating in my heart. Probably since it reinforced my ponderings on “The Reset” I’ve been pursuing as of late. The ending of the service was a time of reflection on the times God has stepped in. You know when life appeared to be going one directions with a certain expectation of a bad outcome, and then God changed things. It may have been a time of financial uncertainty, emotional unrest, relationship turmoil, etc. Most certainly it has been a time of great darkness, sadness, pain, etc. The kind of time when there really was no way out. That’s the time the “reset button” of “New Beginnings” is pushed. God has a promise that has brought much comfort to me through the years. His promise is that He “makes all things new”. Revelation 21:5. That is a promise that I have had to dig my fingernails into and hold on with all my might at times. Because as one who has struggled with the monsters of the past lurking in the closet of my mind, that promise assures me the closet they have occupied has it’s light turned on, monsters evicted, and the New Beginning begun.

A few years ago I went in for my first session with a Christian Counselor to aid in my fight against anxiety and depression. The first thing she was quick to point out was how the battle in the mind has it’s rubber hit the road in the thoughts we think. It’s hard, but totally possible to change our focus from all the fear, pain, sadness, etc. to the things that are “True…Noble… Right… Pure… Lovely…Admirable…Excellent… or Praiseworthy.” and for us to “Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 Then with a reassuring smile, she handed me a sheet of confessions of who I am in Christ, and assigned me with the task of speaking these truths out loud every morning. It has been a daily reminder of the “Reset Button of New Beginnings” I pushed so many years ago as a teenager at a Christian youth camp. When I asked God to take what little I had to offer, my life, and do whatever He wanted with it. The New Beginnings began. Looking back I can see that the hard times were the times that pushed me closer to Him, and the reminder of all that I wasn’t, brought the truth of all that He is and wants to be for me.

The “Reset Button of New Beginnings” starts with the first push “Salvation”. It’s the time when we see just how much what we are doing isn’t working, and just how much What He can do in us we need. It starts with an honest talk with God, an offer to give Him all of you, and watching Him do what only He can do, “Reset” your life.

Psalm 40 has been one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible. Verses 1-5 stand out the most to me. “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” The New Beginning I have found has been when God saw where I was, heard my cries, and pulled me out. But He didn’t stop there. He set me in a good secure place and gave me a new song to sing about Him and His Goodness! I Am Not There Anymore!! That is the Philippians 4:8 stuff I am to think about. The Truth is I am His! The Noble thing Is I am the Kings Daughter! The Right thing is I have been made right with Him- righteous! The Pure thing is Me after He cleansed me from my wrong doings and sin and made Pure. The Lovely thing is Me, His master piece! The Admirable thing is the Miracle of New Beginnings He gives! The Excellent thing is His work in me! And the Praiseworthy thing is that He has done all this because He loves me, period.

That is the “Reset Button” He has given to me. That is the “Reset Button” He has given to you! Hit activate! He longs to bless you with “New Beginnings”!

Pain into Pulpit

 

Four years ago my Mother in Love became sick.  We discovered after a hospital stay with complete renal failure that she had Multiple Cell Myeloma.  Months later she went to the city to have a stem cell transplant at one of the nation’s leading hospitals. Her time there was as she has described it her time of “being the closest I’ve ever been to death.”  In the four years since it’s not been an easy road for her.  Monthly and sometimes weekly or more appointments at the Cancer Center, changes in treatments, side effects in medicine, sleepless nights, and sometimes just feeling plain old crappy.

Yesterday, she calls me after returning home from another appointment with some good blood report readings and some not so good.  She relays all that, but then begins to share about a woman that sat by her in the waiting room, probably in her 30’s, recently diagnosed, and scared.  You’d have to know my Mother in Love.  She’s never ever really met a stranger. So she strikes up a conversation with the girl, and then begins to take the pain that she has walked in for these past four years and turns it into a pulpit.  She shared about how God saw her through treatments, transplants, radiation, sickness, it all.  She talks about how faithful and close He is, how much He loves, and how much He loves that girl and that she doesn’t have to be afraid.  Then my spunky 73 year old Mother in Love goes through the rest of her appointment and drives home, a challenge for her but as I tell her jokingly, frequently, “She’s a tough old bird.”

I was out running errands for her today, and thinking about all this and some of the personal challenges I have faced and am currently facing in my life.  Then this verse from Philippians 1 crossed my mind. “…Everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit!” Philippians 1:20 The Message.  It occurred to me that a stranger sitting next to my Mother in Love in a Cancer Center is probably feeling things pretty close to what a Centurion Soldier in Paul’s time must have felt chained up next to Paul. You either love it or hate it, but you for sure are going to hear about Jesus and everything He’s done. Paul reports to the Philippians that during his time in prison he has told everyone around him that he could about Jesus.  Many in his captive audience wanted to know more about this Jesus that turned Paul’s life upside down and changed a persecutor of Christians to a preacher of Christ.  Although beatings, chains, dirty prisons, poor food, and fellowship with rough cut prison guards were Paul’s daily life, he had taken all this and turned his pain into a pulpit at which he proclaimed the Goodness and the Love of God.

For four years my husband and I had been involved in a ministry called Encounter Ministry.  Every month they have had a weekend get away at a small rural church campground.  People from many different denominations of the Church come.  There are several sessions about different topics that typically start with a testimony of what God has done in the life of someone who has struggled.  I’ve heard women at the Ashes to Beauty Encounters speak about losing husbands, children, drug addiction, porn addiction within their home, marital unfaithfulness, PTSD, suicidal intentions, abortions,depression, anxiety, abuse- verbal, physical, mental, and sexual, etc. They talk about how they had suffered such great loss and pain yet they have found peace, joy, love, forgiveness, etc. in Jesus and how much He has changed their lives.  Once again they have taken their pain and turned it into a pulpit to declare a God who understands our weaknesses and wants to reach in and raise us above them.

I’m certain that life in Jesus  is a series of victories over struggles. I know I won’t totally arrive until I arrive i.e. see Jesus face to face.  I have been very aware, as of late, of some of the hard things I have had to walk through in my life.  I know several people who become aware of that and then freeze only to be stuck in the Pain.  I was praying about this as I drove from point A to point B on my outing today.  Suddenly it occurred to me, “What if the hell we experience here on earth, the teeth gritting hard stuff, are the very things that enable us to help some one experience the eternity of heaven?”  My mother in love has not enjoyed the pain of sickness, but what if all that was to reach that young woman at the cancer center with heaven’s hope in eternity for her? Paul didn’t enjoy the things he suffered, but what if the hellish torment he endured was the very thing that spread the gospel to a descendent of the Europeans that went down the line to finally give hope to a small town American girl, me, in the 80’s? There are countless accounts of martyrs, missionaries, and ministers that have endured much to be able to proclaim loudly from the pulpit built upon their pain.  My resolve must be that “what the enemy meant for evil, God will turn for Good.”  Hoist myself on top of it and proclaim from the very tip of the pain the God who Heals.

I’ve been kind of stuck on a song by Elevation Worship as of late.  It’s called “Graves Into Gardens”.  The chorus says, “You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies. You turn seas into highways. You’re the only one who can… You turn mourning to dancing.  You give beauty for ashes.  You turn shame into glory.  You’re the only one who can.”  This same God who does all these things as we let Him into our lives, is the same God who turns the pain we have walked through into a pulpit. That we can proclaim all that Jesus has done for us.  He’s the only one who can!