Unhooked- Freedom from Painful Memories

I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.

A small hook can do a lot of damage in a trout’s life.

One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.

This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.

There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.

I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.

Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!

The God of the Breakthrough

David of the Bible spent many years as a shepherd before He became King. During His years as a shepherd, he experienced God’s supernatural help in battles with enemies against his sheep and most famously a Philistine Giant. In 1 Samuel 17:24 he recounts how “The Lord who rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue him from the hand of this Philistine (giant).” as a young man he tells Saul he will not only fight the Giant, who intimidated the entire Israelite army, but defeat him. He did experience that victory. Later, through a series of events, he was anointed King over Israel. 2 Samuel 5:17-25 gives the account of how the Philistines found out David was no longer just a shepherd and a mighty warrior; he had become King of Israel. They decided to pursue him with “full force”. After hearing about this, David went down to the stronghold, a mountain area in the desert of Judah that he had used before when defending himself. It was there that David asked God, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” God told him to “Go” and David defeated the Philistines there at “Baal Perazim”.

In the Bible names have meaning. “Baal Perazim” means “The Lord who breaks out- Breaks through”. After his victory David said, “The Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” 2 Samuels 5: 20. The Lord of the Breakthrough!

Last weekend I attended “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter” sponsored by Encounter Ministries. It was “Awesome!” and that is an understatement. 48 hours of testimony, teaching, worship, and prayer for issues that women battle. Everything from Repentance from our sins, receiving forgiveness, forgiveness for self or past hurts, to how-to live-in victory in everyday life as a woman of God.

One of the songs played during the sessions for worship has touched me deeply and has been stirring around inside my heart, “Breakthrough” by Chris McClarney.

Take me from where I’ve been Into something new
I’m giving up control I need a breakthrough
All of my dreams and fears Are crashing into You
You’re waking up my hope I need a breakthrough

Many of those who attended last weekend, came from situations that needed exactly what the words of this song speak to. They were surrounded by problems too big for them to solve, drowning under the weight of it all, but instead of running to the one who is the answer to their problems and very capable of removing the heavy weight they had been carrying, they had chosen to run after all the solutions the world offers: unbiblical sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, ungodly relationships, etc. Finding themselves struggling with the results of those choices: addictions, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, etc. FAR from the peace that God wants to offer as we hide away in His stronghold, seeking Him. This was exemplified in the account of David I described above. David, being a man after God’s own heart, knew where to go when surrounded by situations bigger than Him, “The Full Force of the Philistine Army” that had it out for him because of Him already having taken out their Champion, Goliath. David was their #1 target. We God’s beloved, made in His image, are also the #1 target of the Enemy of God, Satan. We would do well to follow David’s example: Run to our stronghold, God himself, Seek HIs direction, and Act only on what we are told to do. Totally depending on God’s Omnipotence, the all-powerful Defender and the God who fights for Us! He alone has the power to “Breakthrough” situations that are harder than stone, to free us.

A few weeks ago, my husband was telling me about nuclear submarines in the arctic region. They can run for days far beneath the hardened layers of ice. But at the right time, they are able to surface, breaking through the ice to accomplish what needs to be done. I spent time this morning watching videos of this. It’s pretty cool. Nothing but snow and Ice and suddenly the top of the submarine appears and grows in size until it is the entire length of the submarine. One video showed this, then a hatch opened and out climbed a sailor to stand on the once, impenetrable ice. We are like that sailor. We may have spent days, weeks, months, years underneath something so hard and cold, nothing seems to be able to bring us above it. But hold on. God has the power to “Break us through” the cold layers of hurt, disappointment, poor choices, etc. Our God is as David knew him so long ago, “Baal Perazim”- The Lord of the Breakthrough!! He will not allow us to live out our lives covered over. As we trust Him, seek His face, we will find ourselves standing on top of what once covered us, proclaiming the Goodness of our God who give us the Breakthrough!

Submarine Breaks through Arctic Ice

“Too Good to Not Believe- Mental Health Restored”

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” Daniel 4:34 NIV

The madness of King Nebuchadnezzar – Self centered/ the King restored- God centered. Daniel 4

Me Centered:

“God, I hate my mind!” – my prayer after another day drowning in anxiety. 8/31/2021

Emotions and feeling can take us on the wildest roller coaster rides of our minds. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond a little extra stress. Having lived with an anxiety disorder for years, I have felt like the crazy inside would never end. But I’ve had what I would call my “Nebuchadnezzar experience”. After raising my eyes toward heaven, my sanity has been restored.

I have known the torment of hideous nightmares, sleepless nights with my mind running 100 mph and no sign of stopping. I have known the fear of going to sleep because of not being to control what was going on around me while my eyes were closed and I slept. I’ve known what it is like to not be able to stay present in a situation. The whole Fight, Flight, Flee, or Freeze. I would freeze under extreme stress of fear. It was fairly unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Zoning out, feeling like you’re sinking into a tunnel inside your head, everything around you becomes just noise. Then there’s the tightness of your throat and chest that would go on for days. Before the meds- crying and not really sure why, after the meds- not crying a drop, numb. Going over and over and over again inside your head trying to make sense of the memories you would like to shut out, but can’t. I would have them hit when I was about to fall asleep and then feeling the tension of my shoulders as they tighten and I would find myself holding my breath like I was waiting for a shot to hit me.

All this going on while I have been a Christian- loved Jesus, a wife, homeschool mom, served on boards for different groups, lead ministries at my church, and tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t hit as much or I would hopefully forget. The problem is it would calm down on occasion, but all it took was a trigger and I would be back into the torment of my mind.

After 3 years of knowing me, my best friend suggested that I would go and see a counselor. So I did. I also began taking Prozac, which then had Hydroxizine added to it, then Buspar as the MG of Prozac grew too. I would make sure I took the pills as soon as I got out of bed and most days I couldn’t wait for my next dose in the evening. But after awhile, even the medicines weren’t working.

Four years of counseling… CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming were some of the things I tried. There were things that definitely helped in some areas, but nothing stopped the anxiety. In fact, it seemed to get worse.

I tried doing everything the counselors I went to recommended. I began reading self-help book after self-help book trying to figure out how to get the feelings to stop. I tried the suggestion of “making room” for your anxiety. Imagining it being able to grow and not be resisted so that if I didn’t struggle it might stop. Then I tried Meditation. I downloaded the “HeadSpace” app. Which was started by a Buddhist Monk. I tried to blend their beliefs in with the Bible. Thinking that maybe I could make them fit and then justify my willingness to embrace things that went against what the Bible said. I wanted to believe that my problems had absolutely nothing to do with a spiritual world. That anxiety was my cross in life to bear/ thorn in my flesh/ in my DNA. That I might have the power within myself to fix myself If I tried to faithfully work through all the coping mechanisms that I was learning about that I had developed. I was starting to believe that the best I could do was to try to be my best me and live my out my truth, whatever that was and manage “my anxiety” (like it was my new lifelong pet). Then there was trying to let out pent up emotions as recommended to me, by getting alone in my car, finding the most angry/depressing music I could think of, usually Metalica or Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, then screaming as loudly as I could. Again, all this while attending church regularly, but not necessarily willingly (as time went on), also reading my Bible after trying to calm my mind by meditating. Every night ending with a tight throat and chest and not so restful sleep.

I tried everything I read and all that was recommended to me. Yet I was still drowning in anxiety and getting to the point that thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more frequently. I would find myself driving my Jeep and praying to God, begging Him to heal my mind and telling Him how much I hated my mind, then having my mind have this weird sensation and thinking, “I have to stay present! I see a red stop sign. White car, my steering wheel is black. I feel it’s rough yet smooth touch. My seat feels like fabric. I smell…”. “The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method” for grounding, all this while driving. My mind was tortured and there seemed to be no end on the horizon.

Jesus Centered:

Finally, I had to come to the end of myself. I found myself sitting in a counseling session talking about the past and these words rolled off my tongue, “If there really are any demons…” In searching to figure out “my truth” (as is a common theme in today’s culture), I had started to doubt “God’s truth”. When the words came out, I immediately thought, “I am in trouble. Am I going to Believe Jesus, the Bible, what my whole life had been built around since childhood, or am I going to turn away? God HELP me I am in trouble, and I can’t get out of this.”

W.O.W.’s illustration of the characteristics of Wilderness Living

In January of 2021, I had started attending a Bible study in our area called W.O.W. (Women on Wednesdays). One of the sessions talked about how as Christians we choose to wander in the Wilderness, following after fleshly things and this will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Sins were specifically mentioned, among them was “Anxiety”. This offended me. My mind ran like a hamster on a wheel uncontrollably, how could they say that struggle was a sin, something I chose to live in? But for some reason, I knew I needed whatever they had, so I kept going until the Spring session was over. Then, during the summer, I felt like I needed to get to know these people who were saying this, so I would not struggle with anxiety about going to the Bible study so much. I texted one of the leaders and offered to just help- set up or tear down, nothing more. You would have thought that I had shaken a jar of yellow jackets and set them loose inside my chest. I couldn’t do it, not even help. So, I texted her back, and told her that I was rushing things, it would be better for me to just attend for a while. I was too anxious to help even just a little. She urged me to pray about that and not make any quick decisions. I told her, “I struggle with anxiety, but I will pray.” God helped me to say that I would serve as a door greeter. If you knew my history of serving in church, this should be a piece of cake. (I like people, most of them ha ha) But it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to tell women “Good morning” when they arrived. It was because, just walking in the building was hard for me. I would arrive in the morning, on time, and sit there for a few minutes in my Jeep, asking myself, “Why did you say you would do this? Now you have to come all the time… They don’t like you. You’re a bother…” the session of lies would go on and on, then I would think, “I have to go in.” and I would make myself get out of my Jeep and walk into the church. After a while of being there, I would somewhat calm down, but the struggle went on and on.
I would occasionally mention the anxiety I suffered with to the leader I was kind of getting to know. She mentioned the Co-founder of the organization had struggled with Anxiety and that she might be good to talk to. She was the one who mentioned Anxiety being a part of the wilderness experience the semester I attended before, it intimidated me to talk to her about it, but I was desperate. So, I texted her and asked her if I could talk to her about anxiety. She made time and we talked. It was then that she told me I was going to have to fight. That I could be free. That I was believing lies. That I had lost my first love, my passion for knowing Jesus. Everything she said hit home. She gave me a paper and told me to take it home and write out what I want, what I want with my relationship with Jesus, my life to be, etc. I took it home that afternoon and this is what I wrote:

“This is what I want… to walk in freedom from anxiety, but more than that I want to be close to Jesus. I want to drop the Buspar- Pop my eyes to you Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things that the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run to Jesus and my response to be one who falls at His feet close to HIm. I want Peace. I want You to be my peace…”

The Demoniac of Gardenes “When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind…”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭5:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬
An Encounter with Jesus leaves a tormented man free and in his right mind. It was nothing he did. It was ALL Jesus
!

This is the beginning of freedom. I’m not sure of the timing but shortly after I wrote that, I woke up one morning with the words, “Anxiety is not a part of my inheritance. I do not have walk in anxiety anymore.” running through my head. The whole day when anxiety would come to me, I would say, “NOPE, you are not my inheritance. My inheritance in is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness in Jesus.” One day would go by… Not too bad of a struggle, two days, three days, etc. Then I woke up one morning and thought. You don’t need the Buspar. Skip the morning dose. Did that for a week, felt good. Skip the evening dose. Did that for a week, felt good. I think I’ll drop them both. Quit the Buspar. Thank you, Jesus! Feeling less and less numb inside. Then, I started to believe that I can be free from the Prozac. I talked to my doctor and told her I was feeling better, and I wanted to go off it. She was all for it. Drop 10 mg. A much slower tapering off, 10 mg at a time, for weeks and weeks until I am finally Free! And feeling Soooo much better!!

Now when Anxiety comes to rattle my cage, I have a battle plan: I pray. I pop my eyes to Jesus. Speaking who God is and how He is worthy of praise. Worship music. Quoting Psalm 18. If it’s real strong, engage my praying friends. I’ve not lived in this kind of peace ever. God has set me free!

I have not needed the oftentimes-weekly counseling sessions I was going to for 6 months. Spending time in Bible Study and Prayer has been more than enough. Praying with my husband if I’m struggling and having friends pray have helped so much.

Do I battle? Yes, Satan knows where to hit me at, but God has shown me how to let Him hit back. It’s not by anything I do. It’s by me Looking to Jesus. Calling to Him for help. Thinking about How GOOD He is. Doing this over and over and over and then it Goes!

W.O.W. ‘S illustration of Kingdom Living

All the ME Centered living: my effort, my wants, my plans, my truth, etc. Only led me further and further away from peace and further and further into a pit. Repentance, and running to Jesus, hiding away in Him, relying totally on Him, trusting Him, surrendering to Him by submittance and obedience. It is the only thing that works because it is how He designed me to live. It is the only way out of the wilderness living to the abundance of Jesus’ Kingdom living.

The song “Too good to Not Believe” has a line in it that brings tears to my eyes on occasion. “Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection. I’ve seen mental health restored. Don’t you tell me He can’t do it… I believe You’re the Wonderworking God… The miracles I’ve seen. You’re too Good to not believe.”

“Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection
I’ve seen mental health restored
Don’t you tell me He can’t do it!”

God truly is too good to not believe! He can do anything. A little over a year ago, I was struggling to believe that there was any way to get free from the anxiety inside of me. Fear of needing to take more meds, try more self-help techniques and knowing what I had already done was not cutting it shouted its lies to me over and over. But Jesus heard my cries for help, and He came to my rescue! If you only knew the difference I feel, you would see, God is “Too Good to Not Believe”.

Dropping My Stone (Originally written 7/24/2013)

“You know, it’s very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”-Inigo Montoya “The Princess Bride”.

Offense- a crime,sin; act of wickedness … an injury… Attack; assault

Living life on planet earth opens everyone up to an Offense within their life. Someone, somewhere will commit a crime against us, a sin, an injury, an attack. Some offenses are purely intentional by the offending party. Some are not. Other offenses are taken, just because there is a hurt already in place that the perceived offense bumps up against.
Offenses in life can cause a person to find themselves in a stone throwing war. They have a tendency to make a person feel justified in “picking up a stone” for later use. Holding onto that stone and watching for an opportunity then becomes the focus. You threw something at me, I wish to get you back. It may take me awhile, but when I will appear to be justified in my actions, my time will come, and whammo my stone will fly. I may throw my stone subtly or I may throw it with the desire for all to see. It all depends on the occasion for the stone throwing. The offender then responds in same and thus the stones fly and no peace is ever found.
There’s a story in the Bible of a woman who found herself in a literal stone war. She had been caught in her offense of adultery, and by what was considered justice at that time she should be stoned. All those offended by her sin were prepared and carrying their stones ready to let them fly. I have often related to the woman caught in her sin. How often in my life have I found myself trapped by a sin and deserving of punishment? More times than I would want to count. I have felt indignation towards the crowd of “stone carriers” ready to launch their offensive. How dare they?! What a group of self-righteous, religious men eager to trap Jesus and hungry to show just how right they are by taking care of that sinful woman in a manner that follows all the rules. Commit adultery…get stoned. It’s the old eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth thing.
This morning as I look into the mirror of the word, I see things a little differently. There are times that I am just like the men in the crowd. I have been self-righteous and religious. I have wanted my vindication for the wrongs committed against me. I want an eye for an eye, and I want a tooth for a tooth. I want to grip onto my stone and wait for the green light to let it fly, but I can picture Jesus looking directly into me saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
What Jesus said as a rebuke to all the potential stone throwers is actually a very freeing statement if you let it be. He had opened the door to the concept of forgiveness and letting the stones drop. Being set free from the weight of carrying a stone and letting go of spending all our energies looking for the right time to let the stone fly sets you free.
It may be uncomfortable at first to let the stone drop, but it is freedom and life. The very thing that Jesus intends to give to anyone who will receive.

Live to Forgive

“We never look more like Christ than when we forgive.”- Beth Moore

Being a good church girl in the 80’s I took to listening to CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). After an experience with God in 1983, I decided to get rid of my Rock n Roll music and listen to Christian only. I was ecstatic to find the CCM genre. Especially since I am not a fan of Southern Gospel, Blue Grass, and Sandi Patty (can’t stand her high notes…). Steve Taylor was one of my first favorites in the Christian music scene. I even got to see him in concert live. I’ve never seen anyone jump around so much and still be able to sing. lol. On his 1984 album “On the Fritz” there was a song “To Forgive”. It was a catchy little tune about forgiveness.

I am a child of the 80’s. My teen years were during the heart of the 80’s. I graduated in 1989. I was home sick from school when there was an assassination attempt on President Ronald Regan in 1981. Come to think of it, I was home sick when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing all aboard in 1986. I remember both of those events vividly. But I quite honestly remember very little of another big event of the 80’s the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. Maybe I wasn’t home sick from school, or maybe it’s because I grew up protestant and didn’t think a whole lot about the Pope or understand his significance to the Catholic Church. The Pope’s attempted assassination hasn’t been one of my significant memories from the 80’s.

I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live
To forgive?
I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live
To forgive?
Come, find release
Go, make your peace
Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?
Come, find release
Go, make your peace
I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive
Oh, He said live
I forgive

This morning I woke up with the song “To Forgive” rolling around in my head. When I sat down to spend my time with Jesus, I took the time to look up the lyrics. It’s pretty profound. The first part of the song is about the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. My curiosity was peeked. I looked up the event on Wikipedia. The pictures are very moving. This got me to thinking about another story of forgiveness I have been familiar with Corrie ten Boom and the former Concentration camp guard. Once again, another moving story of forgiving the impossible to forgive.

Nazi Concentration Camp survivor speaks on forgiving during a face-to-face encounter after the war of one of the abusive guards she and her sister Betsy, who died while in the camp, had suffered under.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, closes with an account of forgiving the unforgiveable. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, and suffered slavery, imprisonment, wrongful accusations, abuse, etc… reassures his brothers of his forgiveness to them in this way, “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 NIV.

Forgiveness… Recently I went to a Skillet concert. While waiting in line to attend, a woman in the crowd was passing out rubber bracelets that said, “Make me like Jesus”. I’ve had it on ever since. It states something that has been the cry of my heart more and more lately. I want to be like Jesus. I’ve been asking God for that to be a reality in my life more and more. The truth of the matter is that in order to be like Jesus, we have to forgive. He openly spoke forgiveness to the lame man, to the woman caught in adultery, to the thief on the cross, and then some of His final words, “Father Forgive them they know not what they do”. Then His present ministry of forgiveness to anyone who comes to Him wanting relationship with Him. Jesus forgave, Jesus forgives. The question is “Do I?” Do I forgive offenses far less harsh than being shot by a gunman as the Pope or tortured in a concentration camp as Corrie ten Boom? How about looking at the hard times of my life where I suffered offense at the hand of another as something that was meant for bad by satan, but intended by God for the good not only of myself, but others as Joseph did? Do I forgive like Jesus? Completely, from the heart, over and over again?

Jesus knew the weight of unforgiveness was more than we could bear. It is the only way to let go so we have arms open wide to receive His pure love and the healing of our hearts.

Come, find release
Go, make your peace
Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?

If I could only tattoo this truth on my heart… The only way to be like Jesus is to do as He did. I must live to forgive.

Too Many Voices

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:1‬ NIV

We all hear “voices”. Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let me clarify that statement. We are surrounded/ bombarded by so many opinions, statements, ideas every day. These are the voices that shout at us from the moment our eyes open until we close them in sleep, and if we are lucky, they don’t come to us at night in our dreams as well… nightmares. These voices are liars. They want to get us off course from the only way to get them to shut up, the Peace found only in Jesus.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook, something I do way too much of… But I happened upon a post a friend had reposted of someone who is struggling with Anxiety. As I read it, it was like looking of a reflection of something I was a few months ago. Statements like: “I need a break from my mind itself which isn’t possible.” “My mind is traumatized my memory is foggy and absolutely full of triggers” “I am actually just busy trying to hold it together in my safe box.” Stuck out to me. I’ve been blogging for quite a while. This all started because writing has been an outlet for me, a stuffer of emotions… Anxiety has been one of the hot topics for my blog. I have several entries if you go back and look at the history of what I have written. It has been a lifelong struggle, but I would say the most intense battles have been the past 4 years. But God has worked a miracle in my life since around September/ October. It’s one of those kinds of miracles that it sometimes seems like it is too good to be true. You know, “pinch me” so I can make sure this is real kind of deals. With each passing day, I am convinced all the more of how real it is. I am walking free! So when I read the post like I saw yesterday, or I hear of someone who is struggling with anxiety, my heart aches. Because I know just how many voices I listened to and how many lies I believed.

Satan is deliberate in his onslaught of anxiety that he has unleashed in my generation and the generations after me. From the first twinge of it until you find yourself being squeezed to death by it, he has a purpose and a lie that is not new at all that is the root of all anxiety. “Did God really say…?” I believe anxiety is satan’s way of getting us to doubt God, His goodness, His provision, His Love. I would not be surprised if it is the very force driving the “deconstruction of Christian faith” movement we hear about frequently in the news. If anxiety is ruling in your head and your heart, doubts begin.

Deconstruction Christianity is a false religion. You cannot have Jesus and not have the truth of the Bible. There is no me making a “better version of myself”

Then begins all the futile attempts to “fix ourselves”. Believe me, I tried them. Self help books galore, Headspace meditation app- started by a Buddhist monk, trying new hobbies (not a bad thing as long as it isn’t a replacement for crying out to Jesus), numbing it all with medicine, etc. The truth of it all is “I CANNOT FIX MYSELF!!!” All my attempts to fix my anxiety, outside of getting my eyes off of me and onto Jesus, only served to dig me deeper into a pit, a very ugly pit… The truth in the lyrics of the Switchfoot song “Mess of Me” rings truer to me every day.

“I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
There ain’t no drug that they could sell
Ah there ain’t no drugs to make me well
There ain’t no drug
It’s not enough
There ain’t no drug
The sickness is myself
I made a mess of me I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive”

About a year ago, I made contact with an old friend from my college days. We began talking about some mutual experiences of abuse that opened us up to lies. One thing stuck out to me that she said in the beginning of our weekly conversations. “Janet, you have the Holy Spirit within you. You can hear the truth. You know the truth.” She had hit the nail on the head. I have been listening to WAY TOO MANY VOICES! (ME, a seasoned Christian of 39 years…”) Whether it was the lies of “what you have been will never change”, the lies of “You call yourself a Christian, yet you think these horrible things”, “try to find your ZEN”, “make a better version of yourself each day”, “the Bible does not hold the answer to what you are struggling with”, etc. Those voices only lead to one thing “DESTRUCTION”. Let me be so bold as to say that “Deconstruction of faith” is not a brave move. It is an opening to the very “destruction of ourselves”.

Here’s the deal. I cannot say do x,y,and z and you will find yourself free. I’m not 100% sure how I have ended up in this place of peace I am in today. The one thing I did do was I decided my listening to “too many voices” was not working. I needed to listen to ONE voice, JESUS. Tune yourself daily into that voice and refuse to allow even the hint of a whisper of the lying voice of anxiety to enter your ears. Let desperation for freedom cause you to RUN as hard as you can into your Heavenly Father’s arms. It is only there that refuge is found from all the voices that come against you. God is no respecter of persons, granting freedom to one and then not to another. If He has answered the cry for freedom that I uttered, He will answer you! He is just that Good!

The only WAY of Peace, Love and Wholeness- JESUS!!

Daddy, Abba Father

Although I have been present during the birth of all four of my kids (It would have been hard not to not be), I have never watched a baby be born in person. My husband did. He cut the cord for three of our four. (One needed immediate medical care.) Each one of the births was a moment like no other. For lack of a better word, I would call it magical. Those first few moments holding your newborn, listening to the first cry, pretty special.

Today is my birthday… for reasons not altogether known to me, it’s a day I don’t always eagerly anticipate. Not for the lack of celebration. My mom always made me my favorite cake, angel food with icing, when I was growing up. In recent years my husband and kids have made it a point to make the day special too: Surprise parties, dinners out at restaurants, etc. Each year I end up feeling loved and appreciated by them. It’s just getting there and getting through it that seems to be hard.

Years ago, my husband and I took our stab at song writing. I wrote quite a bit of poetry and he put a song or two to music on his guitar. I wrote a couple of songs as well that I came up with music for on the piano. This song is one of the songs I wrote. While sitting here this morning with my Bible and cup of coffee, I was praying about my birthday aversion, and I remembered this song. It’s been almost 15 years ago that I wrote it. I felt that still small voice say, “You know, I was there when you were born, and the way Rich felt for each one of your kids was born, I felt for you.”

Probably the reason I’ve not made too much hoopla over this song is the lyrics can be a bit uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve not always had an accurate perspective of God being a Good, good Father. Religion (not relationship with Jesus) has often left me and I’m sure others viewing Him as the God of lightning bolts for the ones who don’t uphold a very strict standard. But Jesus, Himself presented God as Abba (Papa) Father. Galatians 4:6-7 says, ” Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” The God that so many think is a God of punishment, lightning bolts, and tolerance of us, is actually a God of Tender love toward us. Tender love that watched with eager anticipation as we were born, but not only that, He intimately knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is the God that longingly desires for us to run to Him so He can show us just how great HIs lovingkindness towards us is. And even when we feel like our imperfections are glaring and disqualifying, He is known to be the Heavenly Father/ Daddy that Zephaniah 3:17 “Takes great delight in us” and “Rejoices over us with singing”.

So even when we feel like our birthday marks ANOTHER trip around the sun for us (ho hum). Our Heavenly Father sees it as a day special to Him, because He was there, and it was one of the beginnings of Him waiting for the time we would turn to Him and allow Him to show us just how much He loves and wants us to be in a close loving Father/ Daughter (son) relationship. He is just that Good!

Daddy, Abba Father (originally written March 25, 2007)

You were there when I was formed
There when I was born
You held me close when I breathed my first breath of life. 

You have drawn me to your side.
In Your Safety I abide.
I am deeply loved and cherished I know.

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight. 
I am Yours I know you never let me go. 

I am loved
I am your child. 
You are always there for me.
I can safely rest in You, my God. 

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The giver of my life. 
I am deeply loved, and I love you. 

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight. 
I am deeply loved and God, I love you. 

The God of a Billion Snowflakes

View off my front porch this morning.

The summer before my 8th grade year my mom talked me into going to church camp. She must have known it was exactly what I needed. Things weren’t easy for me my 7th grade year. There were the typical things: becoming a teenager, first year of junior high, trying to navigate all the changes of growing up. There were the hard things I went through too. The kind of stuff that sent me out for long bike rides on the regular each day after school. Blasting rock music into my ears as loud as I could to try to shut off my brain and deaden the feelings inside. I wanted to wear black all the time leaning toward going “Goth” when I didn’t even know Goth was a thing. Anyway, Mom convinced me to go to camp, though I protested much.

Camp Sharon held its evening worship services in what they called a tabernacle. It was a large open sided building with sawdust floors and rustic wooden pews for seats. I remember sitting through the first night of service feeling like God wanted me to come forward and pray during the altar call/ prayer time, but I was determined I would not go. The second night I sat there determined not to yield again, until they said service was over. Then I could take it no more. I went up to the front knelt in the saw dust and cried so hard I could not talk. The only thing I can remember thinking is, “God, IF you want me, you can have me.”

“IF”, I don’t know if you have ever approached God with the feeling of “If you want me” before, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have. I believe one of satan’s biggest lies he spews to try to get us to not turn to God in our time of need is the lie of, “God does not want you.” “You’ve fallen too far. You’re not good enough. God tolerates your existence. God doesn’t see you or care about you. etc. ” If satan can get you thinking about God in “if you want me…” terms, he has succeeded in propagating one of his biggest lies. Thankfully, God has His way of tearing down that lie and breaking through.

As I sit here this morning with my heated throw blanket, cup of coffee, and laptop on my lap, I am watching it snow. We’re getting quite a lot of it for my neck of the woods. It is beautiful. A few days ago, when the forecast started talking snow, I started thinking about snowflakes. When my kids were little, we would take a black piece of construction paper out on a snowy day and catch snowflakes so we could see the individual detail of each one. Each one was unique. I remember us talking about the God of details. Then it hit me, this current snowstorm has millions, maybe billions of flakes, much more than I can count. And God has given each tiny flake an individual identity. He knows their shape. He knows their size. He knows the moment they will form and the moment they will melt. God cares that much about detail, and all this fuss over a tiny snowflake. Yet He never took the time to send His one and only Son, Jesus to earth so the snowflake could experience Him and His goodness. Not so with us, You and I are exactly the reason Jesus came. How much more then does this God of a billion snowflakes, actually care about me. To say He wants me is an understatement. The God of that much detail, took the time to zero in on a 13 year old Missouri girl out of the billions of people on this planet, to draw me to a place that I could say, “If You want me, You can have me.” It was there at that point that the layers of lies began to peel off. Some of them still slowly being removed some 38 years later. The God of a billion snowflakes wanted the heart of this one Missouri Girl. That is good news! He not only wanted me, but He wanted to have me, to hold me, and to show me what a Good, Good Heavenly Father He is to me. You and I can both be assured if the God who takes the time to design a billion snowflakes can step into my, one in the billions of people, world, He can take the time to step into yours. He’s just that Big and yet He comes to us individually in just that small of a way! He not only Loves us, He wants us! He is good!

The God of a Billion Snowflakes, made me.

Testify!! He Can, He Will!

There is an account in the book of John chapter 9, in the Bible, of Jesus healing a man who was blind since birth. It’s been rolling around in my mind and my heart today. Partly because it is just such an incredible miracle and partly because of the response of everyone involved in the account of that miracle. First of all, you have Jesus, then the blind man, the spectators that saw the blind man healed, the skeptic/ religious men, and the blind man’s parents all played a role in its retelling. For some reason, today I see a reflection myself in the middle of it all.

When you struggle with an issue whether it’s physical blindness or spiritual blindness for a long time, possibly all your life, as the blind man was blind all his life, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut. For this man it was the rut of hopelessness with regards to his eyes, begging for the necessities to just get by, with no chance at a full and abundant life. From what is in the text, there isn’t any calling out, there isn’t any asking, no hoping against all hope, he quite honestly wasn’t even portrayed as looking for Jesus to swing by. Jesus simply saw the blind man as He was walking by him. Jesus’ disciples, like many of us wanted to know the “Why” behind the suffering so they asked Jesus “whose fault it was” That the blind man was blind. Jesus simply said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this has happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus healed him.

I identify with that blind man in so many ways. I have struggled with the spiritual blindness of anxiety and depression. They had dug a giant rut of hopelessness in my life. I found myself coping i.e., begging for the necessities to just get by, and really not living in the reality of a full and abundant life. Probably the one difference in the blind man and my own parallel stories is I had been asking Jesus to heal my mind, but I wasn’t convinced He ever would.

One morning I woke up and something was different. Jesus had pulled me up out of the rut. I simply thought, “This anxiety and depression is not a part of my inheritance in Christ”. Then the grip it had on me started to be peeled away, not instantly but much quicker than I thought it would ever happen. Jesus simply wanted for His works to be displayed in me, so the healing began.

This is the point I wanted to come to in this Blog. The thing that has been rolling around inside of me. All the other key players in the account of the Blind man being healed began asking the blind man “how did you get healed?” “What did Jesus do to you?” They wanted an explanation for the unexplainable. All the Blind man knew to say was “One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!” That is the beauty of God’s working in our lives. We get to experience the unexplainable! When Jesus comes by and touches you, setting you free, there is no way of saying “I did x, y, z and now I’m free.” Because the truth is I did not do anything. He came by and touched me so His works could be displayed in me. All of a sudden, the desire to place my mind on Jesus came. All of a sudden, the ability to fight against the enemy’s schemes and the strategies began. All of a sudden, I found myself surrounded by people who would fight with me to see His freedom a reality within me. People who would continually point me to God’s word having the power to renew my mind and God’s peace that abounds when our mind is focused on Him. People brave enough to say something that our culture and our world believes is simply impossible, “In Jesus, you can have total freedom from anxiety and depression.” All of a sudden, feeling of anxiety became less and less to none. All of sudden, I think I don’t need the Buspar, and I didn’t.

Like the blind man, who Jesus came to again after being grilled by the Pharisees because he didn’t fit into their narrative on how life was and who Jesus was, I find myself saying “Jesus whatever you want that is what I want”. Jesus asked him “Do you believe in the son of man…?” He had a simple reply, “Lord show Him to me. Lord I believe” and he worshipped Jesus.

Even though all this feels like I’m walking on wobbly baby deer legs, I say that as well. “Jesus, I believe. You can do anything, things I don’t understand. Thank you for taking time to stop by and touch me.” And this same God who touched me can touch you. He is no respecter of persons. He can, He wlll! He is Good!

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!!