More than once in my 40 year walk with the Lord, I’ve come to conclusions that my way is best, and more than once in my 40 year walk with the Lord, I’ve figured out it isn’t. Every so often God allows me a course correction, usually entailing me having a brief glimpse of who I really am and who He is. It’s at that point I feel all the feels Isaiah did when he exclaimed, “Woe to me!! … I am ruined!!” I think God allows us those peeks every so often so we can see just how much it was that we thought we knew and we didn’t.
I Thought I Knew
I thought I knew how to grab ahold of You, to be close to Your side. But how can I know how to dwell in unapproachable light?
I thought I had you figured out, what to say to move Your heart. But how can my earthly words command You, the One who orders the stars?
I thought I could impress You by all the good I've done. But how can I compare to You, whose righteousness outshines the sun?
I thought I had perfected the tricks to make me be alright. But how can my performance compare to the price You paid when on the cross You died?
I thought I could fix myself, present to You my best side. But all You wanted me to do was surrender and Abide.
Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
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.
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!
A sheep’s life has to be fairly uncomplicated. Graze on grassy slopes, drink cool water from streams, stay with the herd, listen to the shepherd’s voice, hang close to the shepherd. Wool just naturally grows on your back so you don’t have to work up some wool growing ritual, just occasionally yield to the shepherd as he shears it off. Yep, that’s pretty uncomplicated…
However, there are some sheep that complicate the good life. Case in point, New Zealand’s very own Shrek the sheep. Shrek decided he wasn’t content with the good life of sheepness. For six years he evaded his shepherd hiding in a cave living life his own way. He had avoided his only responsibility, yielding to the shepherd as the shepherd would sheer his sheep. Six years of missing his annual sheering left him with 60 lbs of wool on his back, a typical year yielded 10 lbs. Enough wool to make 20 large men’s suits. That, my friend, is a lot of excess weight for one wandering sheep to carry, and Shrek was having troubles bearing up under the weight he had taken on.
I heard the story of Shrek the Sheep years ago at “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter”. After attending this past weekend, I was reminded of it. Now this morning the images, the thoughts about the spiritual parallel keep running through my mind. (That’s usually a sign a blog is about to be written.)
Oh, the parallels in the life of Shrek the Sheep and me… I am Shrek the Sheep. Something inside of me finds it hard to rest in the beautiful green meadows. That something feels the need to rush on by the peaceful streams. Jesus assures me that a life living under His shepherding would be a life of His provision, His protection, and His care, but I tend to wander away, like Shrek. Maybe it’s my disdain for the process of being sheered every so often. I’m sure for a sheep that isn’t a comfortable procedure. Yielding to my Shepherd’s will isn’t always comfortable for me. Maybe it’s the “I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it” that rolls around on the inside of me. I’m sure that’s what Shrek had in mind as he slipped away to “do his own thing”. Me too… And then there’s the weight that piles on from time away from the shepherd’s care. Not to mention the discomfort of a summer with way too much wool on your back. For me all the choices, the voices, the burden to bear piles on after time spent away from the Good Shepherd’s gentle hand. Thankfully my shepherd has no trouble finding me, taking the unnecessary weights off of me, and showing me time and time again how much His love is for me even when I do not understand.
Yes, I am Shrek the Sheep. Once back in the Shepherds care, I am treasured, loved, healed, freed to roam in the life of abundance that He gives freely to me knowing that my every need will be met, and I am safe as I stay close to Him.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:NLT
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.
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!
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(Last Sunday afternoon I spent some time surfing the internet. I came across a church service online from a church that my husband and I attended years ago. This illustration came from their opening of the service. It struck me because it is something I’m sure we all experience. In fact, I experienced it a couple of weeks ago, so I will relay my occurrence.)
Every once and awhile I get a hankering for a large McDonalds UNSWEET Tea. It’s a dollar and some change, so when I’m out and about it seems like a little treat to me. I DO NOT LIKE the Sweet Tea. It is so thick with sugar. I feel like I’m trying to suck down some kind of syrup. So strange as it may seem Unsweet is what I go after. Two weeks ago, I took my grandson for a ride in my Jeep. We ran through the McDonald’s drive thru to get him an ice cream cone and me… you guessed it an UNSWEET tea. I tried my best to enunciate in the drive through order box that I wanted UNNNNNN Sweet. So, I felt pretty confident they would get it right. I handed the mini-ice cream cone to my grandson and sat my Tea in the cup holder. Off we went. All was well until I finally found the straw they gave me, stuck it in the cup, and took a swig. SWEET… UGH! I was already down the hill and entering the roundabout towards the next destination. My first thought was, “Oh well, you didn’t really need it anyway.” But then it hit me. I paid for Unsweet. I wanted Unsweet. I will go back and get it. So I did. I pulled up to the window and explained that I had purchased an Unsweet Tea and they had given me sweet. In a matter of less than a minute, I was happily pulling away from the window with the Tea I ordered. All this over a cup of tea that cost me a little over a dollar and some change. But I wanted what I paid for.
Starting today, Palm Sunday, we have entered Holy Week. I come from a tradition that observed little of the week with exception of Good Friday. But In more recent years I appreciate the remembrance and celebration of the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Especially the observance of Good Friday. Reflecting on the price Jesus paid for me to live free each year is so very important. As the verse above states, “The punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Him”. He gave all of Himself, so we could be in relationship with Him and live the life we were originally created to live before sin entered and our world, our lives were broken. We however choose to live lives that are far from what He purchased for us to live. He came that we would “have life and have it more abundantly” or as some versions say “to the full”. John 10:10. He came to make us subjects of His royal kingdom, heirs to His promises. Yet we choose to do what I almost did at the roundabout when I discovered I did not get the Tea I paid for: think oh well, I don’t need it anyway, and drive away… BUT Jesus wants us to live in EVERY Blessing He paid for us to live within. He “Wants what He paid for ” in our lives. He wants us to not settle, but to be willing to pursue and run towards the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14. He wants us to “take ahold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of Us”. As we go through each day approaching the celebration of Good Friday and then Easter, I believe God wants us to reflect on this one thing. As the old Hymn says, “Jesus Paid it all. All to Him I owe…” Am I living a life full of what Jesus paid the price for me to obtain? Am I experiencing His peace? If not, time to go through the spiritual roundabout back to where you got away from HIm and the peace He paid for you to have. Am I experiencing His joy? If not, time for a U Turn Go back to the only true source of Joy, Jesus. Am I living in His Love? No? Go back to the place you were when you walked away from your First Love. He paid such a great price on the cross so we could live in these. Don’t cheapen the tears that rolled down His face, the bloody stripes across His back, the nail prints in His hands and feet, by being unwilling to go back to Him. He is saying “I want what I have paid for in your life!” not because He is a “demanding” God, But because HE IS GOOD! And He loves us SOOOOO much! He is not satisfied for us to have a half fulfilled life. He wants to overflow us with ALL He has paid for, we are the ones who choose to go after it by going after Him or going our own way, turning down the Good He offers us.
“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
“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.
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.”
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…”
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!
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.”
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”.
The Tea- “Gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop, the news …” -Urban Dictionary
Conversations with my 21-year-old daughter tend to prove to me just how old I am getting:
Faith: “Here’s the tea Mom…”
ME: “The what?”
Faith: “The tea… Gosh MOM! The tea, It means, the scoop on, what’s up with so and so, the…” and on and on…
My mind goes to “I am getting old.” But I assure you the next conversation I was asking, “What’s the tea on…?”
“The Tea” that was probably started due to tea parties or teatime where people sat together and talked about other people and all kinds of subjects.
It’s taken me awhile, but I am learning. We need to be careful of what voices we allow ourselves to listen to. This morning my Bible reading was in John 10. Jesus is describing the Good Shepherd and His relationship with His sheep. One thing that has been sticking out to me more and more lately is how the sheep know the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how they listen to it. They won’t follow another voice. In John 3:5 Jesus says, ” they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” It occurred to me that not only do I not run away at times, there are times I sit down and have a regular old “Tea Party with Satan” where I listen to him fill me “Spill the tea” on others around me with accusations and assumptions. Or I listen to him give me “the tea” on myself: What I am, What I am not, what I’ve done or did not do. He is a very chatty “Tea Party” host if I allow him to be. Unfortunately, I had been attending Tea Parties with him, frequently. Here is where I make a very bold statement… I’m pretty sure the source of much of the anxiety and depression I have suffered is my frequent attendance to “ALL DAY LONG Tea Parties with Satan.” That he throws. He pulls out a chair, whispers a juicy lie, and offers me a seat to a morning, noon, and night, sometimes all night Spilling of the Tea. It usually starts with, “You know you are not enough for X,Y,Z you face.” “You know so and so doesn’t really like you, they tolerate you…” “You know, If your friends only knew this and such about you…” On and on and on…If I accept his invitation, and sit down for a listen, I find myself drowning in all the fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, etc. That he wants me to be overcome with. His Tea Party is a success.
Jesus said, “His Sheep run away from a strangers voice.” This has been resounding in my soul today. It is time to not only decline an initiation to Satan’s Tea Party, but to run. I must run away from his voice and run straight to Jesus’ voice. Jesus declares the truth. He declares the truth about who I am and who He and the Father are. His voice is there calling out. It truly is a question of “Who will I listen to?” and to “Who’s table will I run?” Jesus offers me a banqueting table, full of delights, that the Word says has “Banner of me of Love”. It is there that I find myself fulfilled, at peace, and with joy. But it requires that I decline my invitation to Teatime with Satan, that comes frequently throughout my day. And that I run from the tantalizing whisper of the lies he spews. Focusing instead on the feast of the truth and promises in God’s word regarding who He is and who I am. Positioning myself close to His heart. Where I can clearly hear Jesus. It is there that I am safe from the tea of anxiety and depression, and whatever other flavors of his deadly teas, Satan wants to serve.
Invitation to Teatime with Satan Declined!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8
The current events of our world have been in the forefront of my heart and my mind. It would be hard for it not to be. There is something in the human heart that cries for justice. It is a part of “Imago Dei” Image of God. God is just. We were originally created in God’s image. Sin has broken our representation of that image, but our hearts long for the restoration of His image, complete, whole, in all His attributes of God including perfect love, peace and… Justice.
Somehow the reality of a world superpower, Russia, criminally attacking and making war against a small country yearning for nothing, but freedom, not only breaks my heart, it angers it. Then there is the response of those in leadership in my own country… Such a sad time in history.
Then there’s this photo that has went viral on the internet. It struck me. The uncommon valor/ courage this 80-year-old Ukrainian man displayed has hit me in the core of my being. He has come volunteering to fight for the freedom of his country, and he is doing it for the “Sake of his grandchildren”.
I’m old enough to remember the Cold War. I remember being afraid of nuclear attack on American soil when I was a kid. Being somewhat of a fear-based kid, I remember thinking about what a mushroom cloud over my town would look like right before I died by the explosion of a nuclear bomb. The occasional nuclear bomb drill and the “nuclear fallout shelter” signs in my elementary school may have contributed to that being in my mind. I also remember when the Soviet Union dissolved and the little countries, such as the Ukraine were finally free of communism. This elderly Ukrainian hero lived that life, and he is willing to join the ranks of fighters. Not only because he wants to be free, but “for his grandchildren” to be free as well.
“Live Free or Die”. it’s part of the motto of New Hampshire. After seeing the picture of the elderly Ukrainian hero, this phrase has been rolling around inside of me. There is so much truth packed into that little phrase. I, living where I do, do not face a physical enemy that is bombing my homeland as the Ukrainians do, but I do face a spiritual enemy that wants me to live in oppression, hopelessness, and captivity to his devices of hatred and fear. I like the elderly Ukranian hero have an influence not only on the present world I live in, but the world of the future where my children, and my grandchildren will live. Make no mistake, my choices to engage the spiritual enemy or to disengage him will impact those generations as well as my current life where God offers me freedom from satan and the sin he wants to chain me up in. The question becomes “Will I live free, or will I die?”. Will I come with what little I have, as the Elderly Ukranian hero did, volunteering to fight/ stand against the evil in my small area of the world? or will I simply close my eyes and try to hide?
Isaiah 7:9 NIV says “… If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” At my age, the temptation is to settle into a life of comfort. But there is much to contend for spiritually in my life. My small area of the world has thousands of people struggling addictions, abuses, lives totally decimated by the evil of our spiritual enemy. In fact, I no longer need to hop on a plane and fly halfway around the world to see a mission field. My mission field, walks the aisles of the local Walmart, sits in the restaurant next to me, lives within small radius of my home. Lives are being destroyed here. They need to hear that they can live free. Then there are those closer to my heart, my kids, my grandkids… Am I willing to pray for them, encourage them, and stand with them as they face the giants that taunt them? Or am I so ME focused, my comfort focused, my life focused that I do not engage in prayer on their behalf? And yes, there is me… I am faced on the daily with whether I crumble to enemies that seem larger than me… Fear, Anxiety, Anger, Unforgiveness, etc. Do I close my eyes when they taunt, or do I look to Jesus and follow His lead as I stand firm in my faith in Him? This spiritual freedom that I am to be willing to fight for here, where I am now, will impact my world and the world beyond.
The Ukrainians are facing a giant much bigger than they with the courage of a giant slayer of history, David. God gave him victory over the Philistine Giant that wanted to take captive and torment the people of Israel. May God give the Ukrainians victory over the giant they are facing now. But also, may I never forget that the circumstances in my life and world may seem larger than life itself, a Giant, may I face off with courage that says my hope is in the Lord. I will live free! There is no option to turn back or run. This courage is for God’s glory not just for my good. This glory of God displayed in me will point to the only way, Jesus, for my family, my friends, my world. He is the only way we truly “Live Free”.
Pray for the Ukraine. Pray for Russia. Pray for our President, Vice President, and leaders. Pray for our communities, for our neighbors, our families. Contend!
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.
The first date my husband and I went on was to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, May 9th,1992. We jokingly say that date was “WORLDS OF FUN!!” He was (and still is) the total package. 6 ft 2, brown wavy mullet, sparkly eyes, muscles, our conversations as we rode to Kansas City together and walked around the park were easy. After a full day we went to ride the Ferris wheel one last time. His final pickup line had me, “Hey, I would like to ask you out, but I don’t have much money.” My reply was, “We could go for walks and get a soda. Just hang out. You know the old song says,’ I don’t care if you ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey.'” So began our “Summer of Love”. I have jokingly told him to this day he was a poor college student when we met, but I was sure he had ‘money making potential’. This began our fun dates: walking around Mizzou, laying on the ground in front of Memorial Union at night watching the bat’s fly around the lights, Swimming at Finger Lakes, hanging out at his parent’s house on the trampoline, going line dancing at 54 Country (both of us not the best of dancers so stepping on each other’s toes all night.)
One of the first of these dates sticks out in my mind above them all. We decided to go for a walk on the Katy Trail, an old railroad track turned into State Park. We went to a friend’s family’s cabin to park the car. Then to access the trail, we had to go down this short incline. He went down first. Then as a true gentleman should, he turned and held his hand up to me and said, “Let me help you down.” I was 21. I hadn’t dated anyone since I was 17. I was used to living my life, my way, or at least I thought I was. I remember looking at him and thinking, “I could do this a lot better on my own.” But to humor him I took his hand and allowed him to help. I didn’t want to scare him off with my independence on our second date. Little did he know this was also the beginning of my struggle to submit.
Seven months later we were married. A whirlwind romance, then the real battle began. I wanted my way, he wanted his. I believed the Biblical model for marriage as the man being the head of the relationship, but I struggled to trust. My experiences before marriage had led me to believe that authority did not always do what was best for me (not with any ill intentions). So, believing firmly in the verse in the Bible about “not letting the sun go down on your anger”, meant some days of us dragging our butts into work after a late night/ early morning spent fighting and then making up. One of these fights he told me something that has stuck with me, “Janet you don’t understand, I love you! I would take a bullet for you if I had to.” OUCH.
Twenty-nine years later, the struggles between us have not been nearly as intense. I’ve learned through the years that as he told me, he has only my best interests at heart. He loves me, and we usually work to a mutual agreement. We live pretty harmoniously for the most part.
Enter the past few months. We have had an area of contention between us, and I, in my true fashion, have been struggling to admit he was right. I briefly went back to my 21-year-old self on the edge of the Katy Trail. I didn’t want his hand, help, or his wisdom. My fears of ‘what would happen if I trusted what he and God were saying was right’ were ruling. But finally, I caved, and I actually feel a lot better.
This morning I have been thinking about the parallels between my struggle to trust and submit to my husband, and the struggle to trust and submit to God. I am so very grateful that God is patient with me. He has always had the best interest at heart for me, but there are many times I want my way, because I lack the trust, I should have in Him. This lack of trust comes from not really knowing the heart of the Lover of My Soul. Submitting to Him is not because He is a tyrant that just wants His way. It is because I really don’t know where I am going and what I am doing in this life. The only way to wholeness is to stay close to the One who does and obey as He speaks what direction and how many steps to take. I may think that my best interest will be met by my way, but it is actually best met by HIs. The trust I lack comes through me agreeing with the truth, God is Good. God is Love. God is my Heavenly Father/ Daddy. God is Right in all ways. God is true. And quite honestly, just as my husband told me years ago, God “would take a bullet for me” in fact, He did. Jesus died on the cross so I could live free.
Supreme Authority, just typing it for me can churn up some uneasy feelings. It means me laying down my “rights” to “choose my own destiny”, and to OBEY, not only obey, but to continually depend on someone besides myself to take care of my every need. Here’s the kicker… It is true God is the only Supreme Authority. His purposes will be fulfilled whether I go willingly, or I choose to do it all my own way apart from His purposes. But just like I experienced on that day in late May 1992 I am being offered the opportunity to take the hand of the Lover of My Soul who wants to show me a life of His goodness and His love. I only have to take His Hand, go His way, and enjoy His relationship of Love. His way is BEST!