Resurrected Thoughts

I have some of the happiest of memories: the look on my groom’s face when I walked in the sanctuary of the church and slowly walked towards him down the aisle at our wedding, he had the biggest smile; The first time I saw my first born as the doctor held him up over this sheet that covered the area where the c section was being performed, he was one mad little guy; the curls on my first daughter’s hair as a 3 year old and her sucking her thumb; my second daughter watching veggie tales in her bouncy saucer sucking on her passy when she was around 9 months; and my youngest son, at the age of almost two telling me verbally he wanted to nurse on “the other side” … time to wean that kid. lol I could go on and on with the good memories especially now that I have the good memory pump primed. But I, like many of you have also struggled with some very hard memories, traumatic ones. Things that when remembered, cause my mind to freeze up for a moment and feelings of fear to flood me. Those memories are hard to shut off once they get to rolling.

I was thinking about the nature of traumatic memories this morning. Having went to counseling for over 3 years, there have been tools that were given to me to deal with the reoccurring memories that try to play in my mind: the 5,4,3,2,1 method, distraction by doing something physical like exercise, etc. They have been helpful, but lately I have been on a quest for “Shalom” in my mind. Peace but a little more than just our English word for peace. It encompasses well-being, tranquility, prosperity, security, wholeness. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” That perfect peace refers to “shalom” a wholeness in my mind. This is promised to the one whose thoughts are “fixed on you!”. During my time in counseling there was established a “safe place” in my thought life that I could go if something came up that was unpleasant to think of. So bad thought comes, think about safe place. When I first thought about it, honestly, I thought, that seems pretty dumb… But with help I established that place, “in my mind” and it did “help” a lot. But I don’t just want “help”, I want “whole”, and the Bible has a concept very similar to this that promises to bring the “wholeness” I am looking for it is “fixing my mind on Jesus”.

Years ago, I watched “The Passion” Not an easy movie to watch… The accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and the beating he received just before it was horrendous. It occurred to me this morning just how traumatic of an event this would have been for his disciples to witness. It really is no wonder they denied, they ran, they hid, etc. Watching the torment of someone you love would be horrible. Watching the final breath… more than a person can take, traumatic. But God did not leave them there to deal with the repeated flashbacks of evil unleashed on the one they loved. God gave them a resurrection. Thank God that in Jesus there is always a resurrection! There is life beyond the hardships we suffer, the trauma we endure. He takes what was dead in us and makes it alive in Him. As the verse says He “makes all things new”. If there is a “Cross” and a “grave” in our life, there is always a “resurrection”. That should be the “safe place” in our minds, the place we go when the thoughts of a painful past try to replay over and over in high definition. That traumatic thought deserves its place nailed on the cross, but don’t stop there it deserves its NEW resurrected thought that always comes after the cross in God’s kingdom. “I am not there, I am FREE!”

Death cannot conquer HIS LIFE!!

The movie “The Passion” also has its short scene of Jesus in the resurrection. I am glad that Mel Gibson did not stop with just the death. In that scene, the grave clothes are empty and Jesus with His nail scared hands, stands, moving forward into His resurrected, victorious life. That will be my new “Safe place” thought. There is nothing safer than a life closely lived to the power and presence of the resurrected Lord. Traumatic thoughts of a crucified past… resurrected reality of our all-powerful risen Lord! Victory! There is no dead thought that can overpower the thoughts centered in His life! There is no thought wrapped in grave clothes that can hold His resurrected thoughts down! Hallelujah!!

So True!!

“Sick of It!” Eyes Off the Lie!

Last week my husband and I got away for our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a three night get away at Branson at our favorite hotel, The Savannah House Inn. Every night it serves blackberry pie, peach cobbler, ice cream, and cookies, an obvious winner. The week before I started looking for entertainment for us. We have been known to go to shows, my favorite so far “Reza the Illusionist” and “The Cleverly’s” when they are in town. I can do some of the other shows to keep me above boredom, but I’m kind of a child of the 80’s and Rock/ Metal is more up my alley. As I was searching the internet, I stumbled across a youth concert festival with some of my favorite Christian musicians. I had struck gold!! We the Kingdom, Zach Williams, and Skillet were some of the big names. We went to the door to buy tickets and “SCORE!!” we were in. We felt a little out of place since most of the people our age was “youth leaders” or “youth sponsors”, but we were not deterred! We were ready to rock! lol.

The night that Skillet played had arrived and I was super stoked! I knew it would be loud and I knew it would be fun! They did not disappoint! I just had to keep in mind that head banging when you are 50 feels a whole lot different than it does when you were 17. So, I tried to control my enthusiasm. Something impressed me that night that I have been thinking about ever since. The lead singer took some time before introducing the song “Sick of It” to the crowd. He said, “There are some things I am sick of. I am sick of Teen Suicide rates climbing. I am sick of Teen anxiety rates climbing as well. You have been lied to. The media has lied to you. The world has lied to you. It is time to get sick of the lies and take your stand!” Lied to! I may not be a teen, but anxiety has been lying to me. Telling me that I can never be free! Fear has been lying as well. All the self-help techniques haven’t been putting too much of a dent in it. But God!

So much truth in this song!

I’m not sure of exact timing, but I can tell you God has been redirecting me on how to take my stand against the anxiety and depression that has been predominant in my life for several years. It’s been about a year ago that I started to attend a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings called WOW “Women on Wednesdays”. At the time, I was trying to fight my anxiety issues, the best I knew how at the time, with my own effort. They had a slide that they displayed in their main session that quite truthfully, offended me. One talked about living in God’s Kingdom with Joy, Peace, Patience, His Goodness, etc. Then the one about the wilderness that listed things like “conformed to the ways of the world”, “Self-imposed captivity”, “Performing but not obeying”, all of which I could reason my way around but “Fearful and Anxious” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I figured, “They do not know what I experience on the daily. That is not something I can just control.” There was a part of me offended, but a part of me that thought “Could this be true?” “Could I be freed?” Even though those statements bothered me to no end, I kept going. Sometimes with everything I have had within me, making myself walk through the doors of the church each Wednesday morning after sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out why I was making myself do this.

Card of the slide I mentioned. It hangs on my fridge as a reminder.

One day One of the leaders said something to me that stuck out. “You need to write down what it is you want to ask God to do for you.” I went home and did just that. I wrote, “I want to walk in freedom from anxiety.” That was number one. Then I wrote, “I want to drop the Buspar (anti-anxiety med) – pop my eyes to Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run for Jesus and my response to be one who falls at HIs feet. Close to HIm”. This did not happen in an instant, but I can tell you today that I am closer to the “total freedom from anxiety” mark than the “Drowning in it” mark I was at a year ago. But it took something that John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, was describing last Wednesday Night at the Concert. I needed to get sick of it! I needed to be desperate enough to realize that I was not fixing me. It would have to be Jesus.

I don’t know if you have ever gotten lost as a kid. I did. I was around 5 years old, and my parents had taken me and my brothers to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I rode a kiddy ride, and my mom was waiting by the exit for me to get off. Problem was when I got off, I distinctly remember looking at the world of waist down humans walking around me. I couldn’t figure out where on earth she was. I was short, you know, 5 years old kind of height, and they were adults. So, I started to wander around, and because of my height, my mom couldn’t find me either. Then it hit me. “I am lost”. But it also hit me that I could see a hat sales booth just a little bit away. I went to it and told the worker I had lost my mom. I asked for help. Seconds later I looked up and there was my dad and my brothers coming down the hill. Talk about relief. I’ve been thinking about that time this morning quite a bit. Anxiety, fear, and depression can make you feel like you are swimming in a world of legs, like my 5-year-old perception did that day. It feels like there is no way to get above it, but determining that you will not stay there, you will go to Jesus for help is the only way to realize the peace of your Heavenly Father’s arms.

Swimming in a sea of legs…

It may be offensive to read this. It would have offended me, and I certainly don’t have the corner market on an anxiety fix. I’m just coming as one beggar who has found a place to get bread and wanting to share the location of the generous giver. Hanging close to Jesus and keeping your mind fixed on Him has been working pretty well for me here lately and believe me there are plenty of times I need to be reminded where I need to get my focus on, thank God for good friends. Because our enemy is relentless, and a bully, He won’t shut up until we get “Sick of It”, and deliberately decide to stop listening to his lies, and to listen to the words of Jesus instead, running to Him.

An Oak of Righteousness on Display

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3

We live about an hour away from an old order Amish community. Every once and awhile my husband and I along with my sisters in law and my brothers in law decide to go and visit their shops. It’s relaxing to get out in their area of farmland, to see the occasional horse and buggy, and purchase some of their hand pies and whoppie pies from their bakery. I also enjoy looking in their furniture shops. The quality of their hand made furniture is amazing.

Oak Slab table that looks similar to my dream table.

This last weekend our little group of family made the trip up north. We stopped at the aforementioned bakery, and I enjoyed a handheld strawberry pie. Then we walked over to the building next to the bakery, the furniture store. When we walked in there was this handmade slab table made of oak. It was large and oh so beautiful, absolutely stunning would probably be the words that best describe it. It immediately caught the eye of each of us in our group. I could just picture it in my dining room with our growing family seated around it. I bet you could get 10 people around it. I stood there gently rubbing the smooth, shiny top admiring the craftsmanship. Then common sense hit, I probably don’t need it. I have a nice oak table now and I’ve got other things that an extra $4000 or more could be applied to in my life, like new carpet… So, I warmed by the wood stove for a minute, admired its beauty, and then hopped into the truck to go on to the next business.

A majestic Oak

The past week I have found myself parked in a couple of sections of scripture. Like I shared in my blog yesterday, I usually spend time reading the passage, rereading it, praying about, it and writing about it as well. It’s good for me. Isaiah 61 is the other section I’ve been trying to let soak into my head and my heart. When I read it verse 3 kept drawing me in. “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor”. Immediately my thoughts went to my own oak furniture, end tables, one bought at an Amish furniture shop, and then that gorgeous slab table I had seen. Oak is a quality wood for quality furniture made from an impressive tree. I started googling Oak trees. Turns out Oak trees are all over the world. I probably already knew that, but for some reason it seemed like an American phenomenon to me. They grow LARGE and they grow STRONG. They are some of the most magnificent trees. There is no trouble distinguishing the characteristics of an oak. An Oak tree is just that an Oak tree. And God says in His word that I am just that, an Oak of Righteousness. The two verses before that are among those quoted by Jesus in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry. He read how God had sent Him to proclaim the good news, to bind up our broken hearts, proclaim freedom and release to those held captive by sin and its effects, and to proclaim God’s favor toward us. He gives us beauty where there was nothing but ashes, joy where there was mourning, and praise over our despair, and as if that is not enough, He turns the very core of who we are into something new and enduring, an Oak of righteousness. An oak tree is an oak tree, no matter the size- from seedling to giant. It is an Oak. And we become an oak of righteousness. In Jesus, I am righteous. It’s not something I have to attain. It’s not something I have to work for. It is who I am. Not of my own, but of His doing. It is who I am. No matter what size of faith I may feel like I have, seedling to giant, He has made me 100% righteous in Him. This is all done for the display of His splendor in me. When I live in that reality, it points others to the beauty of what a life in Christ is, and just as I sat in that Amish furniture shop admiring the beauty of an Oak slab table, Christ’s righteousness on display in my life, shows just how beautiful and awesome the transformation of a heart made new really is. A healed, free heart, standing in His favor is beautiful and joyously echoing praises of the One who made them NEW. It is a display of His glorious splendor. That He allows me to take part in. All because He Loves Me and I am His. Excuse me while I stand in awe again of just how Good He is…

Freedom From The Vortex Of Doom

Vortex of Doom

I love a good Sci Fi Movie or TV show, especially Star Trek. As a child of the 80’s, one of my memories of Saturday was catching the old Star Trek reruns, complete with Leonard Nimoy as “Spock”. “Peace, live long, and prosper”. One of the reoccurring themes is the Enterprise getting caught up in some kind of tractor beam that is unseen pulling it toward the impending doom of the entire ship and crew. There seems to be no answer then somehow miraculously, Scotty figures out how to get a little extra power after he exclaims in a thick Scottish brogue, “Captain, I’ve given all the power she’s got!” Yep! Good old classic TV.

Peace, Live Long, and Prosper

As one who has battled frequently with anxiety through the years, it occurred to me how similar a bout with anxiety is like being the Starship Enterprise being sucked into a Vortex of Doom. The tow begins with a thought and before you know it you feel like you’re swirling around the edges of plunging into the unknown. My approach for breaking free from it’s tow was much like the crew on the Enterprise, giving it all I have for effort and then hoping that somehow it would be enough to break the pull. Not very affective and quite the miserable way to go.

Tractor Beam on the Enterprise

Thankfully, this is not the way God wants His girl to live, and He has been showing me a new and living way (HIs grace) to stay above the pull into the “Vortex of Doom”. This is to simply get my eyes off of the “Vortex” i.e. the problem and onto the problem solver, Jesus. When I say simply, it is, but there are times it doesn’t feel that simple. So I need to be reminded that the tug of the Vortex does not mean to it’s time to throw up my hands and surrender to it’s pull. Nor does it mean that, in my own strength, with my own devices and coping mechanisms that I “cope” with Anxiety or even try to fight it. Relying on God’s grace to be free of anxiety is me looking to Jesus, calling out to Him, focusing on who He is: His Faithfulness, His Goodness, His Love. Then in His strength fighting the battle and standing in the victory He gives as I believe what He says about who I am and who He is in His word, the Bible. As I am writing this, I am reminded how new to me this way of freedom from Anxiety’s “vortex of doom” feels to me at this moment. But this way to freedom has been there all along. Jesus paid the price at the cross and won the battle with His resurrection from the dead. His Freedom has been there all along not only for me but for you as well. Because He loves us and He is Good!

“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.” Psalm 40 1-3 NIV

Teenage Insecurity, The Brady Bunch, and Me

My 3 oldest leading worship as teens at youth group.

Awww the teen years, for a parent on the edge of their oldest child jumping into the dreaded unknown of hormones, the opposite sex, driving, moodiness, etc. It can be oh so intimidating. I can honestly say that for the most part I enjoyed my kid’s teen years. Even the year I had three teens at home:18, 15, 13, and another kid just itching to be one at the age of 9. I remember telling a friend that I felt like I was living an episode of “The Brady Bunch” all the time. Especially the one where Peter’s voice changed when they had a band. We could have had our very own “Johnny Bravo” here since we pretty well had a band when they all played their instruments together. Fun times… Most of the time… I’m down to one teen now, everyone’s moved on to their 20’s. So now I’m left to reminisce.

How it felt sometimes to raise my teens. 😂

Probably the one thing that I found the hardest to deal with when my kids were teens was their occasional broken heart. I’m not one to do well with any of my kids crying. Especially, if it’s something I can easily see is just one of the perceptions warped by hormones, lack of development of their brain, and no experience to temper them. My kids never knew how much I hurt for them when they hurt, and they probably never knew how much it bothered me when I would see them thinking that they were less than what I could easily see them as being. I could see how beautiful, talented, and smart they were, but most of the time they could not see it. Insecurity kept blinders tight on them so doubts abounded.

A perfect day to drum on the front porch

I was struck the other morning by my memories of their teen year’s insecurities and self-doubt, but this time it was kind of with the tables turned and the spot light blaring at me. I’ve mentioned several times in the past few months about my involvement in a Bible study on Wednesday mornings, and us discussing the Kendrick Brother’s book “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. It’s been a healthy dose of truth about just how valued I am by my Heavenly Abba -Daddy. The last chapter we went through talked about how God values us enough that He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30) They compared the Holy Spirit living in us to an engagement ring, a promise of the future and what is to come when we reach our Heavenly reward. There’s a lot of mind-blowing stuff there. Especially if you suffer from what my teenage kids occasionally did, low self-esteem- not always seeing just how valued by God you are.

I was reminded of the struggles one of my kids had had. This kid was so insecure about themself that they would say things like, “I’m stupid”. “I’m not good looking”. Etc. I would listen to that kid and my heart would be grieved by how wrong they were when they looked at themself. I would try so hard to convince them of just how wonderful they were. Then it hit me… “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with who you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30. All my life I’ve thought of this verse in terms of willfully sinning and making the Holy Spirit angry at me for choosing to do wrong. But what if it was something more than just that… So I looked the verse up in my handy dandy Blue Letter Bible App where I can see the Greek definitions from the Strong’s concordance (a must for a Bible Nerd). Then I looked up the word “grieve” in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary App I have on my phone. (another must for a Bible Nerd). Low and behold there is another possibility to what the word “grieve” can mean in that particular place in scripture… “to make sorrowful”. Boom! One of those “I’m dropping something in your heart to really think about” moments. What if my inability to see myself as highly valued and treasured by God the Lover of my Soul could possibly “grieve- make sad” the Holy Spirit, who pours God’s love abroad into my heart? What if I am like that teenage kid of mine, unable to see just who I really am, and breaking the heart of the One who loves me most when He sees me struggle. God Help Me… Just like my teenage kids had so many voices shouting lies about their significance, I have listened to voices that have made me believe I am “less than”. Time to tune in to the right voice.

There’s a wonderful statement that Jesus made in John 10:27 “My sheep know my voice.” Or to put it into the whole “living with teens theme” of this blog, “my Kids know my voice too.” I’m fairly certain that if you blind folded one of them and had a hundred people say their name they would recognize when their mom called out to them. It’s just a matter of rejecting all the other noise and focusing in on the One Voice that matters. I’m fairly certain I am not the only one who has got caught up listening to all the accusing voices shouting lies at themselves. It’s time to refuse to listen to those liars anymore. The Holy Spirit wants for us to hear the truth. He’s the one who is to “guide us into all truth”. John 16:13. Far be it from us to “grieve Him- make Him sad” by refusing to listen to His still small voice whispering how loved and valued we are to the One who gave everything so we could be His beloved/ most treasured one.

Me

“Dancing on Shattered Walls” Poem from 2007

“… When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind…” Luke 8:35

There is an account in the Bible of a man who was severely demon possessed. He spent his days running around naked in a grave yard taking rocks and rubbing them on his skin so he could cut himself. No one could subdue him or help him. If they tried to bind him with chains he would break them and run off to be alone. That is precisely where Jesus found him, tormented and alone. The man fell at Jesus feet with the demons inside begging Jesus to send them into the pigs nearby. Jesus cast the demons out of the man, and much to those who lived in the area’s amazement, they found the demonized man “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.”

I’ve often wrote of my struggles with anxiety in this blog. There have been times that I’ve felt tormented, much like the demoniac of Luke 8. Anxiety can make you feel like you are losing your mind, and it tends to make you want to be alone in your misery. There have been times I’ve felt like nothing I tried helped, and at times it’s felt debilitating and hopeless.

God has begun something new in my life. It’s so new that it feels awkward. Kind of like a baby horse figuring out how to stand on it’s legs. BUT I am soooo in awe that I have to share. I’d say the past 4 years at least, but really more I’ve struggled more intensely with Anxiety and depression than any other time in my life, and though I’m not exactly sure how I have found myself here altogether, I have had 10 full days of peace. Jesus has stepped in and I am so grateful. By God’s grace, I have found myself able to hold out my hand to Jesus and ask Him to set me free, and it has been amazing. I find myself much like the man set free of all his demons, wanting to just sit at the feet of Jesus, because I finally feel like I have been restored to my “right mind”. I’m not saying the battle is totally over, because I know as long as I live here on planet earth, the enemy will want to try to beat me over the head with anxious thoughts of distrust, fear, and powerlessness. But by God’s grace I want to stay as close as I can to the shepherd of my soul, Jesus. Because He truly does surround us with peace in His presence, and He goes out of His way to find us where we are to set us free from the chains that bind us. His end game is to have us sitting close to Him, dressed in His garments of righteousness, in our right mind- the mind He has given us, a mind set upon Him-Jesus. He is all about us standing in freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

I was reminded last night, as I thought about my 10 days of peace ,of a poem I wrote back in 2007 about another time that God worked in my life to move things between us out of the way. There have been, are, and will be things that come up from time to time that I will need God to bring freedom to me in, but I can be assured that the closer I get to Him the less that will hold me back from being who He created me to be, His beloved Girl.

Dancing on Shattered Walls- 3/1/2007 

There they go again.
Can't you hear them fall?
The closer I come to Him
Soon I'll have no chains at all. 

His freedom is amazing.
I can stand tall. 
I hear the songs of Heaven.
I am dancing on shattered walls. 

All the things that held me
Melt away in His light.
I am loved so deeply.
He has made all things right. 

His freedom is amazing
I can stand tall.
I hear the songs of Heaven.
I am dancing on Shattered walls. 

The God Who Hears Us!

A much younger me with the little lip smacker. He was a hungry little guy ❤️

Motherhood changes you. I believe that during the 9 months of pregnancy God does this supernatural overhaul of our senses. When it comes to our babies, we all of a sudden see, smell, feel, taste, and hear everything more vividly. Probably the most obvious sense that seems to be affected is our hearing. Have you ever watched a crowd with a young mom in it? All of a sudden she may perk up and say something like, “My baby is crying”. No one else may notice, but she did. The first week of my first born’s life brought this truth home to me. My mom stayed with us for a week to help out with the new baby. But she was amazed at one of my new mom super powers. It could be 3 am. I could be beyond tired, and I would fall asleep. BUT the newborn in the bassinet next to me, could smack his lips while sleeping, and I could hear it. Within a few seconds of the first smack of his lips, I was up and ready to nurse. Mom would come in and ask me, “How did you know he was awake?” I would say, “He smacked his lips.” It was like I had “Spidey Senses”, but they were “Momma senses” 1000 times more powerful.

This morning I was reading Psalm 18 again and listening to a song I recently heard by Michael Farren called “Fighting For Us”. Awesome song! There’s a phrase in the chorus that says, “You won’t hold back when it comes to your children. You fiercely defend us til we stand delivered. You’re fighting for us. Always fighting for us.” and then there’s the quote from Psalms.

“I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.  The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.  The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.  In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.  Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.  He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky.  Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.  The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.  He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.  He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.”  Psalm 13:3-17 NIV

I have written on more than one occasion how good it is to know that God sees us, but I am struck this morning with how good it is for us to know that God hears us, and it doesn’t take us screaming our lungs out for us to get His response. He is much like me with my “Young Mom Super Senses”. He hears the faintest of cries, the smacking of our lips, and He is there bringing the provision we need, “fighting for us.” We are the ones who tend to complicate this by feeling if we “rub the magic Genie lamp” just right with God, then He may finally turn His ear out of obligation to obey us finally getting the right sequence of actions right for His response. NOT SO! He simply is waiting for us to ask, for us to say His Name, to turn toward Him in what little ability we may have to turn and then He comes full on, Fighting For US!

When I was much younger, I suffered from horrendous nightmares. Most of them involved such fear filled scenes, that I would find myself trying to talk in my dream, only to have my voice unable to produce a sound. I can remember thinking, “If I can only say the name “Jesus” in this dream the nightmare will stop.” Only to find myself unable to speak at all in the torment. I think that is much like the way we live sometimes. I have found myself, on occasion overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, so much so that I feel like even trying to turn to God with it all is close to impossible. BUT God never turns away from the cries of His children. He is attentive to our “smacking lips”. He hears the faintest cry, and the most awesome thing is… HE RESPONDS. I can tell you that I am not much of a fighter, but if you messed with one of my babies, the Mama Bear would come out. God so much more so! He does not leave us in our mess. He “fiercely defends us til we stand delivered” because He loves us so much He wants us free to live in that love, Wrapped up in His Peace.

How good it is to know that God hears us! How good it is to know that God responds! How good it is to know that God is, as Michael Farren’s song says, “fighting for us! Always fighting for us!”

Consider it Pure Joy… Anxiety

My husband and I have been doing the church thing for 29 years. We met in church, got married in one, and have attended one on the weekly for the most part of our 28 years of marriage. In all of that 29 years we’ve not really done “Sunday School”. Mainly because the churches we attended didn’t offer one. They offered “Home Fellowships” and “Sunday School” seemed a little “Old School” to me. Around two years ago we began attending a different church that offered Sunday School, and to be honest, I thought, “That’s nice. Not for me.” But a few months ago we decided to attend one. It’s been good for us even if we have to drag our butts in on occasion.(Mainly because we want to be lazy or flat out the enemy of our souls has been working overtime to keep us away from the Family God wants to give us in a church fellowship). This morning was another one of those “drag our butts” in occurrence. Because if I’m honest, of our 29 years of church attendance, there have been ALOT of times we had to make ourselves go, but once we are there and feel God’s presence and the encouragement of those around us it becomes more than worthwhile and we usually leave with the saying out of Psalms 122:1 ringing true, ” I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (You’re not alone if you suffer from “I must Drag my Butt to church syndrome”)

Anyway, back to dragging myself into class, the Bible book of study for awhile in our class is James. Not really a favorite of mine. Mainly because there is a lot of hard stuff in it about controlling your tongue, being patient in suffering, and showing our faith by our deeds. It’s not exactly a “feel good all the time” kind of book. And today’s verse that we discussed would be another not so “Feel good all the time” kind of verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 But today it hit me. I need to reconsider my aversion to the book of James. It’s in the Bible you know so it’s gotta be GOOD!

I’d say the past week has been kind of tough. Not because of anything in particular, just mainly I have issues with anxiety, and I’ve been getting tired of having that issue. I can’t think of how many times I’ve asked God to take it away from me. I’d say it’s been an issue of mine most of my life. I have had times I’ve thought, “you’re finally getting somewhere” only to find myself sitting for a few days with my throat and chest feeling tight, for really no real good reason. It’s more than aggravating. Especially when as a believer in Jesus I believe what He did on the Cross paid for my healing not only physically, but emotionally as well. And my inheritance as a child of God does not include in any way shape or form anxiety, fear, or depression. So I bounce back and forth between I should be walking in victory over this, and I know I need to take my medicine or it won’t be pretty… Not to mention the counseling I’ve been going to for the past 3 years. It kind of shrinks you down to feeling like you’re far from a spiritual giant in the kingdom. More like a someone who struggles and struggles, and then struggles some more. Then enters James 1:2-4. Anxiety has been a trial for me, and if I’m honest my husband too. He probably at times wonders what to do with his wife. We pray, we talk, we try to distract, and we keep plugging along. Anxiety has been a test of my faith. Because to be honest, admitting that you have an area of struggle, a weakness, is not fun. It doesn’t seem very victorious or overcoming. However, that testing of my faith, when the feelings arise, is working something in me that I told my husband just this week, “If this is the only way I can get it worked into me, then so be it.” It has produced in me a longing to be closer to God. The only way to experience the peace and the joy that God intended for me to walk in is to be in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says “…in your presence there is the fulness of Joy.” The only place I can find wholeness is in Him, so I have got to be closer and closer to Jesus so His peace and His presence are what I live in. Hanging tight with Jesus is the only way to make me “complete and not lacking anything.” I was thinking about it last night. If I never had experienced the painful things that I have walked through, I would not have reason to look for healing that can only be found in Jesus. If I never had experienced loneliness, I would never had known the need for His ever abiding close friendship. And if I never had known the torments of anxiety and fear, I would never have cried out for the Prince of Peace to rescue me and pull me out of a circumstances that were greater than me. So these light and momentary afflictions, that I hate to feel, are working something in me. In them, I know I need God more and more. He is the only answer and it is only in me totally surrendering to Him and His ways, and hanging as close to Him as I can, will I walk in His paths of freedom and experience the abundant life He promised me as I keep my eyes on Him. (John 10:10)

Maybe James isn’t so bad…. “Consider it pure Joy…”

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

A Beautiful Mind—A Mind Made New

Life has it’s way of leaving scars on us. No one is exempt. We may like to pretend like we all have it all together and put up a pretty facade, but behind the good exterior is an inside that has had it’s share of struggles. Some scars come because we jumped right into a hurtful situation feet first with eyes wide open. Some scars come because good intentions did not work out and situations were more than anyone could fix. To be a player in that type of play is tragic in many ways, but God… He has a plan to work all things out for our good, even the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Psalm 147:3

Last week I found myself contemplating life’s issues and suffocating with anxiety. As I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the anxiety and the physical sensations that go along with that, I shot an honest assessment of my feelings up to Him. “God, I hate my mind…” There are times in battle that it seems victory is far away. That pretty well summed up my situation at that point, but deep inside the still small voice spoke in a whisper, “You have a beautiful mind”. Though my mind may have scars from times past, scars point to something greater, Healing. Though there may be remnants of the hurts that still need for God’s hand to touch, there has already been so much He has already healed. So my mind, with it’s struggles and sometimes pain, is actually a display of what God can do for someone who has fought a long, hard battle on the inside.

It’s been a long, long time since I have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, and to be honest, I barely remember it. Except for the plot which was about a mathematician, John Forbes Nash Jr., suffered with a psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia. He fought a long hard battle inside his mind, and then finally went on to do extraordinary things in his field of mathematics earning awards in that field. Reading bits and pieces of his story on Wikipedia today has made me think about the struggle we all face, and the tenacity we all need. I, however, fight my battle with an advantage that I am unsure if Mr. Nash knew about. The healing power of the blood of Jesus, poured out for me.

John Forbes Nash JR. And his wife Alicia

There is a popular worship song that comes to mind. It’s wording is fairly easy since it repeats ALOT! “Surrounded”- “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” Some versions throw in “At your table”. There is a place that I can take my mind as it tries to run the show for me with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. That place is at the table that God has prepared for me. It is in His presence that I am surrounded by His peace and wholeness can be found. It is there at His table that I am strengthened to get up, set my mind on what is True, Noble, Right, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) i.e. Get my eyes on Jesus, and It is at His table that I am made new by Him renewing my mind. 1 Corinthians 12:1-2.

This morning as I sat down at His table, my time with God in His word, I contemplated some hard memories that have recently hit me of days gone by. It was there that I sat saying, “God I know, You have said, “I have a Beautiful Mind” because Your word assures me that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16.) I can’t imagine a mind more beautiful than His. I pictured the blood of Jesus pouring over my mind again and again, calming the anxiety, healing the hurts, restoring the broken. Because that is exactly what Jesus does. He makes all things new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He is never late concerning His healing, His strength, His power. He is always right on time. At times, I may not feel all the feels about the truth of God over my situations, but I can rest assured that what He started He will complete, and that includes the transformation of my mind into what He had prepared for it to be all along, “A Beautiful Mind”.