SHINE!!!

The news today… you would have to be hiding under a gigantic rock to not see what is going on. I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not so out with it, I have been a avid Trump supporter this past election cycle. I’ll admit that four years ago he would not have been my cup of tea, but these past four years he has proven himself, presidentially, over and over.

I have found the censorship on major social media platforms maddening, the left wing agenda driven news media scary, and myself, little ole me, insufficient to really do anything of substance to change any of it. Really at times it can be scary. BUT GOD!!

It just so happens that my husband and I have been reading 2 Kings in the Bible on our YouVersion Bible App Plan (if you don’t have it get it!!!) 2 Kings is a history of the Kings of Israel and Judah as they were a split Kingdom. So you guessed it, division, good kings and then bad kings, actually really horrible kings, are accounted for. Times of peace and prosperity, times of oppression, and horrific injustices, blatant evil are all recounted in that book. In light of our current events in America and around the world, some of the accounts can seem eerily familiar. Which is something my husband and I have been discussing on the regular lately. We’ve almost got to the point, in the Bible, where God’s chosen people have chosen evil over God so much that they end up in exile. Oppressed by foreign rulers and taken away to a foreign land. Through a series of events and several hundred years they end up in the time when Jesus appears on the scene as a baby.

This scene has been playing in my mind a lot this morning. In particular a verse written by the prophet Isaiah centuries before that is about Jesus has been resounding in my heart.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/isa.9.2.niv

Jesus came to the world in a time of great darkness of hearts. Brutality, oppression, injustice, inequality, dishonesty, etc abounded by those ruling a majority of their world, the Romans. Sadly the religious institutions weren’t too far behind them on their abuses as well. But into that scene Jesus appeared. That light broke through and began a revolution that has changed the world and will continue to do so until God’s Kingdom is fully realized. “Your kingdom come, Your Will be done”.

I have no idea where this will go. I have no idea how all this will affect my life, but I also know that the light of Jesus has not been snuffed out by all these events. It cannot be. It goes forward and it fills the earth with God’s glory!

So what does all this mean for little ol me, Midwestern, middle class, mid aged woman in the Middle of the USA? SHINE!!! That light that burst on the scene is still shining and it burns brightly through every Jesus lover on the planet. This is not the time to cower in fear of all the what if’s of the future. This is the time to display the love, the joy, and the peace that won my heart so many years ago. In the end whether Trump is able to prove the allegations of fraud true and the results of the election are turned around or Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the reigns of our country. I am not to fear. God has always had a plan. I must trust it, and I must do what I was created to do by Him all along. SHINE!!

Thorns in My Flesh: Foot Pain and Anxiety

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

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

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

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

Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.

Considering the Cost- The Spiritual Heart Check Luke 14

Discipleship has been on my heart a lot the past year. What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to in the “Great Commission” of the church? Exploration of this topic has brought me to a Bible study workbook called “Discipleship The Growing Christian’s Lifestyle” by James and Martha Reapsom. It’s a pretty straight forward type of study: Look up verses, think about them, answer questions. I enjoy taking time to think about and “chew” on portions of scripture. This study, however, has led me to some of the hardest verses in the Bible for me to wrap my mind around. Luke 14:25-35. They’re all about what it costs to follow Jesus. Modern Christianity, especially American Christianity, seems to focus on all the good stuff we get when we follow Jesus: He wants a relationship with us, He loves us unconditionally, He chases after us and woos us to yield to Him, He heals our hearts, He blesses our lives, etc. All these things are so very true of Jesus and His love for us, but He also says some very hard things in these verses. Things like, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yet even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple.” or “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Those are both bars set very high by Jesus, Himself, and they aren’t exactly what I would call “Feel Good” quotes.

I think looking at these verses in the light of the Apostle Peter’s life has helped me understand them better. Peter was there when Jesus said these words, and It is recorded that Peter had a mother in law, so this meant he was a married man. Jesus wasn’t speaking of Peter hating his wife. He was setting a comparison of our commitment to Him over the other relationships we have. The Greek for the word “hate” in verse 25 means “to esteem less”. Jesus is first. His direction for our lives and His will comes before any other endeavor. Another thing that strikes me about Peter being a disciple is that when the rubber hit the road and Jesus was crucified, he bailed. Jesus had told the crowds the day He taught on the cost for being a disciple that they would need to “Consider the Cost” of following Him. Peter considered and when the threat was there the first time around, he denied Jesus and ran away. But Jesus doesn’t leave Peter there in his mess. He meets him on a beach days after the resurrection, with a fish breakfast for Peter, who had given up the whole disciple thing and decided to go back to what he knew before, fishing. Jesus didn’t meet him with an “I told you you’ve got to hate your family and give up everything quote.” Instead He asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus knew Peter’s heart was desiring to follow Him. It was just a case of the “spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak.” Then Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit empowered Peter in his human frailty to be the disciple that Jesus wanted him to be all along.

It seems to me that every time I come across the words of Luke 14 I do a little self examination. Do I love Jesus more? more than my own family, my things, my hobbies, my life… Do I have what it takes to “Consider the cost” and give up everything I have? For someone who struggles with feelings of insufficiency on the regular, these verses rattle something inside of me. I probably feel like Peter did on that beach when Jesus asked him three times, “Peter do you love Me?”. Peter replied, “Lord You know all things, You know that I love You.”

Peter was the fireball preacher on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. He was a major leader in the early church, and he died a martyr’s death. He fulfilled the call that Jesus gave to him despite his internal struggles of his younger years. He literally “took up his cross” to follow Jesus as he was crucified himself, upside down as he requested because he was, “not worthy to be crucified in the same manor of his Lord” But all these things weren’t because Peter was some spectacular guy who could do anything Jesus wanted him to on his own. It was the power of the Holy Spirit inside of him that gave him the power to be Jesus’s “witness/ martyr”.

So back to me and my spiritual heart check. God knows me. He sees inside. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. I need the power of the Holy Spirit, just like Peter did so I can have the power to be a witness as well, and I too can follow Him wherever He leads because Jesus sees deep inside of my heart as well. I love Him and want to be whatever He wants me to be. The Spirit will help me in my weakness just as He helped Peter. So Be it! Amen

Anxiety vrs The God Who Fights for Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Intercedes

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas and Me

Opposites attract would probably describe the relationship I have with my husband. He’s direct, I am not. He says what he’s thinking, I do not. He cannot get enough of being a social butterfly, I like it some, but also enjoy being alone. The list could go on and on. The other night we were “discussing” our differences after a stressful day. He aptly pointed out that he was an optimist, I am not. I am much more of a realist. I like to look at a situation and prepare to deal with it. He would prefer to look for the hope in a situation and expect a favorable outcome. In our conversation we came to the conclusion that of the twelve disciples Jesus picked he would be more like Peter, quick to believe, ready to jump out of the boat to walk on water, ready to take action, quick to shoot off his mouth, etc… I on the other hand am more like Thomas, doubting… Or is that really his hallmark after all?

Since that conversation, I’ve been contemplating Thomas. Probably the only thing I really knew about him was his nickname, “Doubting Thomas”. I can remember hearing about him in Sunday school as a kid and shuddering at the thought of being the one to “Doubt Jesus”. As a kid with a lot of fears, the very thought of how mad it would make God for me to doubt terrified me. I never wanted to “tick God off”. So being like Thomas, was definitely not a goal of mine. Until today…

There are three places in the Bible where Thomas is actually recorded as saying something. The first was John 11:1-16. Jesus disciples had just learned of Jesus’ friend Lazarus being near death. He and His disciples also were aware of people in Judea that were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples tried to convince Jesus that going there wasn’t the best plan, but Jesus insisted. Thomas told the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Optimism of a good outcome wasn’t Thomas’ forte, but Loyalty was. He was realistically aware of the chances of death to accompany Jesus, and he was willing to do it. An attribute that followed through in his later years, Church tradition counts Thomas as a martyr after his extensive missionary work in India. Loyalty… not too bad.

The next place we see Thomas is in a conversation Jesus is having with his disciples in John 14. Jesus is trying to give His disciples an understanding that He would leave them soon, and that He would prepare a place for them to come and be with Him forever. He concludes by saying, “you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas being the thoughtful questioner, said “Lord we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Thomas didn’t just sit there and nod his head “yes” like he got everything Jesus was talking about. He questioned. Jesus didn’t scold him or kick him out of the disciple group either, He replied with one of the more famous quotes that Jesus said about Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I’m sure Thomas took that tidbit with him to bed that night and pondered over and over, “what exactly does he mean?” I’m sure I would have… Desires greatly to understand.

Finally the event that got Thomas the infamous nickname as a “doubter”, Jesus resurrection. I’m not too sure why Thomas wasn’t in the room when Jesus appeared to the disciples. I’d say watching the man you admired, followed, and believed in beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a wooden cross, and die would have probably played a part. The realist in Thomas probably saw his hopes, that he didn’t place lightly on anyone, dashed to pieces. I can’t fault him for wanting to see for himself what the rest of the disciples were excited to proclaim. I’d like evidence too. The thing about this scripture isn’t so much Thomas’ shortcomings, it was about Jesus’ grace. Jesus knew that Thomas had said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) That was an ultimatum that many people would say “lacked faith”. Yet Jesus when He encountered Him didn’t rebuke him for his statement. Jesus didn’t reject him for his doubt. He instead addressed Thomas specifically, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) I take comfort that Jesus didn’t reject “the doubter”. When Thomas saw what he needed to see he stated what was in his heart, “My Lord and my God.” When the realist believes, the realist BELIEVES…

Jesus told us that “In this world we would have troubles, but take courage I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Wind of adversity certainly blow. Considering that all the disciples, with exception of John, died a martyr’s death and suffered persecution, points to this reality. Thomas got ahold of something the day that Jesus had him feel the very things that had killed Him days before. The believing, understanding, loyal realist got ahold of the anchor for when times would get tough on the mission field later in India and ultimately staying true in a martyr’s death. I too have got ahold of Him as well. My questions, my doubts , my realism doesn’t surprise Jesus. Every once in awhile He graciously invites me to feel Him and see Him as He is. It is then that I gain courage as I understand. His love for me doesn’t depend on how much I have it together. His love for me is there period He wants me to feel it in the nail scars that He bore for me. He wants me to touch it in the depths of the hole in His pierced side. He wants me to believe that He is bigger than what seemed to separate us when in darkness I couldn’t see. Because that is who Jesus is, realistically.

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

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

This morning I have been contemplating Psalm 62:8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Main Thing The Main Thing: Response for Uncertain Times

Several years ago my husband and I attended a smaller church that sat on top of a large hill in the middle of a small city. The Church was two story and rectangular(kind of looked like an ark in my mind) and situated right in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood that I would get uncomfortable the nights we would be there if I didn’t know the door was locked. One Sunday we drove up the hill and noticed the SWAT team for the city surrounding the house next door to our church. We opted to drive around for awhile until the arrest was made. There were many Sundays that I would sit during service near a window and watch the neighborhood people walking up and down the hill on the way to the stores on the main strip. I would often think about how comfortable I was sitting in my padded chair, dressed nicely, surrounded by my family and friends. Then look out the window to see someone who looked desperate and alone walking down the hill. The image of Noah and his family sitting in the ark would play through my head. “Is this what they might have felt listening to the world fall apart while they were safe in the ark?” Lately, I’ve felt that feeling again. As I’ve watched the evening news drone on and on about riots, unrest, virus totals, statues being demolished, etc. Then I look around me in my nice country house, acreage, and miles from the closest conflicts. “Am I sitting on the ark again?” Even Noah in his time was a preacher of righteousness up until he got on the ark and it started to rain, why would I just sit here… The discussion with friends I’ve met up with lately has centered around “What on earth is going on in our country?” There’s anger and sadness over the changes that we’ve seen, and the biggest question of all is “What are we going to do?” I’ve thought of that a lot too. “What is my response?”

I’ve been contemplating Philippians quite a bit the past couple of months, and this week is no exception. The verse I’ve been chewing on is Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV Actually the Passion Translation version has been resounding in my heart, “But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “colony” stood out. I figured it was quite a jump from “citizenship” to “colony” so I checked it out in the Greek. (It’s that deep thinker side of me coming out.) And sure enough the word “politeuma” was used which could be a state or a commonwealth, “colony” would work. Why all the fuss? Simple, it is easy to get caught up in thinking there’s nothing we can do. Our citizenship is in heaven. The earth will go to pot, and we will get out of here. We will sit on our ark and watch the world drown. But when I look at my life as a colonist of heaven. My viewpoint of today’s events changes. Colonists of Rome during Paul’s time “were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.” As a colonist of heaven I am to “Promote Heaven’s interest on earth and lead a life worthy of heavenly citizenship.” (notes from Life Application Study Bible on Philippians 3:20). My home, my brothers and sisters in Jesus are all Colonist of Heaven. We are here to plant heavenly citizenships all around us (make disciples) and influence the world we live in. Not hide our allegiance and wait for the great escape. We must not get our eyes off of the main thing. What is the main thing you may ask? Jesus gave us the main thing, the mission, after His death and resurrection right before He ascended into Heaven. The Main Thing is this: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

The American Christian, really the American anything, waits for a program. We want our kids to play in organized sports as opposed to organic sports that occurs in our neighborhoods. We want our relationships to start in organized groups and clubs as opposed to organic relationships that occur when we talk across the fence to our neighbors, smile at the cashier at Walmart, leave a significant tip for our waitress, etc. We don’t have to have a program to do what we are commanded to do! Look at who is around you and get started. “Make disciples!” Look at the tools you have around you, your home, your food, your social media, etc. and do what looks obvious to do. As colonist of heaven and ambassadors for Christ, all we have to do is represent. Represent by listening, praying, giving, and teaching others about how they too can become part of the Everlasting Kingdom that will not fail.

The other thing the American Christian is prone to get hung up on is numbers. “Great I’ll make disciples, how do I make the most?” Start with the one. The one who is in front of you. The one you run into on the regular. The one who listens when you share and when you point the best you know how to the King of your Kingdom, Jesus- who started the Colony of heaven in your heart. Simplify it even more, the one can be the ones who live in your own home, your kids/ grandkids (they are great disciples).

It is easy for me to get caught up in the drama on Social Media and the nightly news. But our current situation has not changed the mission that as a Heavenly Colonist I have embraced. I am not called to get caught up in the name calling, blame games. I am to proclaim the answer, Jesus is King over all and His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.

“There Was Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There was Jesus”.

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