Reset 2- New Beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

Memorial Day- Forever Changed in My Life

Originally written 5/23/2014. It’s been almost nine years now. Matt is Never Forgotten

When I was a kid, I was a “June Bug” in the Girl Scouts. I remember on a Memorial Day we put flags on the grave stones of the veterans. I had no idea what the fuss was all about, all the flags everywhere, and a day off that, for me, marked the beginning of summer. Really the holiday, throughout the years, sadly, hasn’t meant that much to me. Not until almost 3 years ago when I got the call that my nephew Matt, who was serving in the Navy as a linguistic interpreter, had been lost at sea. There was a search for him for a few days and then all hope for his return to us was lost and we were left with just our memories of a boy who turned into a man and followed hard his passion to serve our country.

Miss you Matt. You’ll always have a special place in my heart.

I didn’t get to see Matt a whole lot throughout the years. He lived in another state. On an average, I saw him once or twice a year, but that kid was always the sweetest to me. He always greeted me with a hug and excitement to see me, and when our time together passed, he would always give me a warm hug and say, “I love you, Aunt Janet.”

I have many fond memories of him. He was the cutest ring bearer in our wedding. One time during a winter storm, my brother brought him and his sister to our duplex and sledded in front of my house, just because in the the south, where he lived, there wasn’t enough snow to sled like we always got to do as kids. We went camping together in family camp outs, and there was Christmas time eating goodies and playing games with Great Grandpa.

Matt at my wedding. Such a cutie.

    The last time I saw Matt was at the celebration of my parents 50th anniversary.  He was excited about his first time out to sea, in the Navy.  When we had to leave to go home, he made a point to get to me and give me a big hug, and as always he said, ” I love you , Aunt Janet.”  

     It was surreal going to his military funeral.  It was the first military funeral I had ever attended.  We arrived and the Freedom Riders were there, because of a threat of the possibility of Westboro Baptist showing up.  When the family walked in they representatives of the Navy saluted us, and then the 21 gun salute and the sounding of taps all that in the memory of a someone I think the most of as a kid with a big smile, blue eyes, and a warm hug. 

Matt’s Gravestone

This will mark the second Memorial Day since we have lost Matt. The meaning of the day has changed a lot for me. Now one of the white memorial stones represents someone I love, and the day of remembering has went from an excuse to barbeque to another day, like his birthday and the day he died, that sticks out as a reminder that he is gone. Now the statement, “Freedom is not Free” means a lot to me, and when I see a young man or woman in their uniform I appreciate the sacrifice they are making in putting their life on the line for my freedom.

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” was the verse that was emphasized at his funeral. It is so true. Matt loved his family. He loved his friends. He loved his country, and most important, he loved his God. Knowing this gives me hope that He is waiting for me to finish my race here on earth, and when I finally make it home to heaven, he will be waiting there with that same big hug and greeting, and once again I will hear him say, “I love you , Aunt Janet.” In the meantime, know I will never forget you Matt. You are in my heart forever, and I love you too.

Pain into Pulpit

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“ProcessME” vrs “InstaME”

 

A life with no struggles, wouldn’t that be awesome?  Somehow a segment of the Christian world in America has adopted this view.  If you do struggle, you lack the faith you should have to overcome the obstacle that presents itself to you.  That’s hard news for people who struggle with addictions, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues or even physical issues that have not yet been healed.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t ever set you completely free from the challenges you face, but I am saying if He hasn’t it’s time to let go of the guilt of not being good enough to overcome and trust in a God who may slowly refine us, mold us, and change us into the image He has created us to be.

In the midst of a struggle that I have fought against most of my life, I’m slowly getting an understanding of this.  A friend recently pointed me back to Paul’s quote on his “Thorn in his flesh.” I was talking about my struggle with anxiety and memories of bad times.  She encouraged me to look at these times as an opportunity to praise God for the struggle because it is the very thing that has driven me to my awareness of how much I need Him throughout the years.  As 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 puts it in the Message, it is the very thing that has “pushed me to my knees.”  Had I felt no pain, I would not know the need for God’s healing.  Had I not struggled, I would not know the need for God’s help.  Had I not seen all that I lack, I wouldn’t understand how I am only complete in Jesus.  It is in my understanding of how broken I am that I find my need for Jesus to make me new, and I am able to allow Him to do just that so I can live the life of freedom, peace, and joy He has promised.

Sometimes the process of being chiseled into the Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) that God makes me  uncomfortable, and I cannot in my own strength produce the change that needs to be.  But God Is here with me He doesn’t leave me alone or unfinished.  He completes the good work He begins. (Philippians 1:6)

There’s a skit by The Skit Guys called “God’s Chisel”  I have thought of it often through the years since I saw it first.  I’m kind of fond of “InstaME”  instantly I am everything I wished I could be, perfect teeth, hair, mood, etc.  But that simply isn’t reality.  I am “ProcessME”.  One lesson at a time learned, one battle at a time fought and with Christ won, One area of struggle resolved at a time as I learn to walk in victory.  “ProcessMe” is began when I begin my life in Christ and He begins to slowly change me and strengthen me to make what I was meant to be all along.  It may take time and involve struggle, but as I learn to turn these things over to Him one struggle at a time, I find myself free.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

His Choice, His Desire, His Love

Right off the bat I want to put a personal plug in for “The Bible App” or “YouVersion”  It’s a game changer if your looking for a way to get into the Bible more and understand it better.  There are all kinds of nifty little details that it covers: making pictures with Bible verses on them, open your app daily for the daily verse streaks, devotions, and reading plans to mention a few.  My husband and I picked “The Bible Project: New Testament in One year” almost a year ago to do together.  We don’t really have a time we actually sit down and read the Bible together, but we are reading the same passage and on occasion we have struck up conversations on it.  It’s good to grow Spiritually together.  It’s been a joy.

As I mentioned, we’ve been at this for almost a year.  Which puts us in the book of Revelations.  Not really my favorite book of the Bible.  It has good stuff in it. They all do, but if there is one thing I’m not, an end times scholar is one of them.  So far we’ve made it to chapter 4 and so far so good.  In fact, what I read today is what’s been rolling around inside of me today.  Probably because I need it.  I would venture to say most people do.

Revelations 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” NIV

My first read of this verse it kind of stuck out to me.  I thought, “Oh yeah I think some worship song in the 80’s quoted that verse or something.”  But it kept sticking out to me. So to satisfy my curiosity, I figured I’d check it out in some other versions.  I’ve got my go to list of versions I like to compare verses to.  One of them is “The Message”.  Sometimes I read it and think, “That couldn’t possibly be what the Bible was trying to say.”  But most of the time I come away looking at things a little different.  This is one of those times.

Revelations 4:11 “Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all;  It was created because you wanted it.”

Shazaam!  That last little bit struck me.  God didn’t just willy nilly wake up one day and decide that just for funzies He was going to create everything.  No, He created everything “Because HE wanted it.”

It’s turkey season in our neck of the woods.  My husband and son have been hunting most mornings this week.  They get up, excited at 5 am, and go sit out in the woods/ field near our home for hours on end.  So far after 5 days of trying, no Turkey.  My husband put a selfie of himself and my son from the first morning, with the quote “Gotta love the outdoors” on Facebook. He has told me more than once how much he loves just going out and sitting in the outdoors and enjoying creation.  I get it.  I’m fond of an occasional nature hike, trout fishing, and camping.  I love the peace I feel when I look up at the sky at night and see the stars quietly shining in the sky and hear the frogs and crickets singing in the background.  It’s beautiful.  So in reading that verse, I told God, “I get it.  You wanted all that so you made it.  That’s really cool.” But then it hit me… He made me. He wanted me.”

When my kids we little and I held them on my lap, I wanted to convey to them how much they were worth to me and to God.  I would say, “Do you know who loves you?”

“Yeah Momma, you do.”

“That’s right who else?” “Daddy”

“Yep, who else?”  (The list could go on for awhile with Grandparents, cousins, friends.) But I always ended it with this statement. “That’s true, but Jesus loves you the most. More than any of us can or could.”  This usually wrapped around to the final statement I would say, “You know, God wanted a sun. So He made one.  God wanted our dog Jack so He made him. But more than anything, He wanted you, an Andy, so He made an Andy.”

That is all fine and good when you’re talking to your precious child, but it’s hard to apply when you turn the table and apply it to you.  Especially if you struggle with self esteem/ self worth issues. If God made me, and I am certain He did, that means He wanted me…

If God made you, and I am certain He did, that means He wanted you…  Let that sink in.  All the things that are right, all the things that are wrong.  He looks right at us and “wants us.”  Things I want I don’t throw away.  Things I want I take care of.  Things I want I look at with affection.  Things I want I would fight for.  Things I want I would pay the price to Get.   Hmmm… The picture comes in clearer and clearer.  I’m not a thing, but I am His creation, and everything He has made was made by His choice, His desire, and His love.

Maybe, like me, that makes your mind go “tilt” like an old pinball game.  But I’m sure if that truth is applied to my heart and mind enough, the crooked will be made straight, and my value will become clearer and clearer.  The same for you.

It’s probably time to break out the old conversation I used to have with my kids and just fill in the blanks.  “Who loves you?  Yeah yeah, but Who Really Loves YOU? Yes, Jesus.  He wanted a (your name goes here) so HE made one. That is why you are here.”

https://www.youversion.com/the-bible-app/

Nothing But Blue Sky Above the Storm

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2 NIV

Wow! What a week! At the beginning of the week, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that said, “Time change, a full moon, Friday the 13th…What could possibly go wrong?” I laughed at the pile of superstitions heaped onto one week, and scrolled on. I don’t believe that any of that had any weight to bear on where we are after this week of frightening announcements and unprecedented actions of our leaders. Gazing at the “natural realm” after the past week could make it quite possible for a person to be left shaking in their boots. But I can assure you that when I laid my head on my pillow last night I slept with perfect peace. Because I am assured that my God is in absolute control, and I know He cares for me.

I’ve openly shared in this blog that I struggle with the thoughts in my mind.  I think that’s pretty common for the human condition. It’s a struggle that I have, at times, felt very defeated in. I have tried so many different techniques to try to conquer the fears, anxiety, and at times torments that have existed in my mind. Some successful, some not so much… Recently, I have been approaching the fight with an all weapons out approach. Everything from uplifting music, self-care, and exercise, to Bible meditation, Bible study, prayer, counseling, etc. It really seems to help. One of the videos I watched recently on focusing our thoughts has had a profound impact on me.  Especially after taking the little gem of information it held and combining it with what the Word of God says.  

The video pointed out how our minds are like the blue sky. Occasionally we see a peaceful little cloud float by and that doesn’t bother us so bad because we can still see the blue.  However, there are times that storms rage and it seems the blue sky has disappeared, but just like an airplane can rise above the storms and see the blue again we know the blue is always there.  

I like this illustration better when I put God into the equation.  My mind focused on Christ is like the blue sky.  It’s the mind “set on Christ, Things above.” Occasionally cute little white clouds float by and get my attention.  They may be daily interactions with loved ones that are seemingly unspiritual, enjoying a cookie, laughing at a funny meme on Facebook etc.  I notice them, but over all the blue sky (Jesus) is the main focus of my mind.  Occasionally a storm starts to blow.  As it comes in, I find myself unable to see the blue sky (Jesus) and focus on it.  I know deep in my heart He is there somewhere.  But the Holy Spirit has given me the power to rise above the storm of my mind. He is the airplane that can help me to fly above the clouds and once again see the blue sky, Jesus, having confidence that the storm will pass in time.  But HE, Jesus, the blue sky will never leave me. 

I went grocery shopping Thursday morning, as the fears of COVID 19 were starting to ramp up in my area of the Nation. I was amazed at the similarities in the over all moods of my co-shoppers that were with me and the moods of the co-shoppers I felt the evening of 9/11/2001 when I went to Walmart, the somberness, anxiousness, etc. It seems that the over all feelings of uncertainty, panic, and being out of control had hit everyone. As I was checking out, I heard an older gentleman talking to his checker and discussing the current situation. After a few words, he said, “We don’t have to fear. God is in control.” He had his mind set on the “Blue sky- Jesus” that reigns above the storm. That impressed upon me the importance of this moment we live in. While talking to my kids that remain at home, trying to give them a sense of stability in a tumultuous week, where their social lives and school lives have been wrought with changes, not to mention, dad coming home to work for several weeks (something they have never seen), I quoted a Bible verse. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

This is our time to shine! It is the time I can point out how I have found peace in a mind that struggles. It is a time that I can speak peace to my neighbors, friends, and family that surround me. Jesus is the blue sky above the storm, whether it be anxious thoughts in my mind, or a global pandemic. I can rest in Him. Could I or someone I love suffer in the upcoming weeks? Yes, that is a possibility, but I know that Jesus is the healer. Whether HE steps in a physically heals our afflictions, or I stand face to face with Him in the time of my death. (Not that I’m afraid I’ll get sick and die). I am with Him. I can be at peace. I can let my mind rise above the clouds that try to keep it constrained, and fly high in the blue sky of God’s love knowing that He cares for me. I can be free from fear.

Judge Janet Judges Janet

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is a judge that sits in the courtroom of my mind. She scrutinizes every move I make. Her raspy little voice shouting down all the imperfections, misjudgments, and mistakes with the occasional bang of her gavel keeps me constantly in a state of trying to avoid her gaze. Her name is Judge Janet, and her game is judging Janet. Judge Janet is a lot harder on Janet than any other judge in town. She sets the standards so high that achieving them is only a pipe dream, and her constant critique after all the accusations is “You will never be enough”.

It’s bad that in a world full of critics we often allow our own selves to be the most highly critical one of ourselves and in that judgement, we always find ourselves lacking, guilty, bad, or wrong. My inner critic is the most brutal judge of me, and unfortunately it is often the voice I pay attention to the most.

Paul, in the Bible, must have experienced wrestling with his inner judge. Because he made a statement about judging that pointed to a person he did not judge anymore himself. He had fired his inner judge. He said “I do not even judge myself. “. He also said that there was “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul left the judging of self to God, who looks at those in Christ as being just that “in Christ.” He didn’t have to judge himself. He left that to God, and God at His judgement, had spoken to him just as Jesus did the woman caught in adultery: “Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.””
‭‭John‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Jesus was the only one who really had the power to condemn, and He was the one who didn’t.

Recent news has reported that another famous Judge has recently retired, Judge Judy. Occasionally, I’ve caught episodes of Judge Judy. Her style of confrontation and crassness has caught my eye from time to time. Judge Judy can sure rip a good one into the party she senses to be in the wrong. She holds nothing back. Her style is compatible with Judge Janet. There’s no mercy when she’s on her judgement seat judging Janet.

While on a walk today, it occurred to me that Judge Janet needs to retire too. She needs to step down from the bench and let God be the judge. I’m pretty sure His judgements are fair and He is far from condemning. He’s about freedom in Him and walking without the condemning little voice nagging me. God is quite capable of letting me know what areas I need to change and what areas I need to leave alone. Judge Janet hasn’t got a clue. So letting her retire and leave the broadcasting air of my mind would be a nice change of programming. Playing the programs of truth God designed to be broadcasted from the beginning is the change that I need.

High Maintenance Me

Looking back at my younger life I believe I lived in survival mode. In my early 30’s, I found myself a stay at home mom with four kids and homeschooling them on top of that. I remember looking at the cluttered mess of my house, toys, dirty clothes, clean clothes, books, etc. Thinking to myself, “I am going to have to conquer them or they will conquer me.” So the battle began. I am not naturally an organizer, but I knew I would have to become one. I knew it would take long hours, less sleep, and hard work to wage the war. But I was an accomplice in making these children so I would have to be a warrior to survive them. The problem is when all your energy is spent on survival you barely have time to refuel. After the birth of my fourth kid, I found myself around 220 lbs with knee problems, back problems, emotional stress, etc. And I then figured out that I was going to have to take care of me too.

Taking care of me is not an easy business. First of all “me” is not the first person I think to take care of. I’ve awaken to this reality more than once in my life. Whether it was “you need to walk daily for 30 minutes.” Or “ you need to eat right”. Or “you’re going to have to take some time to pray and read your Bible to recharge your spirit.” I can get in the habit. Start feeling better then lay off of it. Next quit. Then I wake up feeling like I did before I started.

A couple of years ago as I was running through my morning routine: Bible time, walk, bath, lotion on my drying out body (thank you hormones), brushing, flossing, and mouthwash (I’m tired of having cavities), speaking my daily who I am in Christ confessions, etc. I looked in the mirror and thought, “You know what… you’re high maintenance.” There’s a lot that goes into just maintaining me.

I don’t want to do maintenance. I would rather wake up and instantly have a great body, perfect hair, teeth, clean house, awesome kids, etc. It would be so much easier that way. But alas, “High Maintenance” is my destiny until I see Jesus face to face.

Lately, among all the physical and spiritual things I do to promote my maintenance, I’ve had to develop some “mental maintenance” practices. Thankfully some of the physical i.e walking, and spiritual i.e. daily Biblical meditation and confession of scripture can cross over. But other things like setting an hourly Thankfulness reminder, planning out hobbies, and keeping a watch out for what I’m thinking have become a necessity on my “High Maintenance Me” list. Unfortunately I get lazy at times and stop doing them. It’s probably the equivalent of stopping taking a daily medicine or brushing my teeth. If you need to do it and quit you’re going to feel bad in a matter of a few days or the people around you will wish you had (bad breath).

This morning I was talking on the phone to my bestie. We were discussing the survival of my younger years as a young mom. I was telling her about my desperate attempts to take a not so organized personality and organize. Daily lists of cleaning areas, menus, schedules, and a calendar. It really was what helped me survive. I told her that although I hated it I have had to fight. That means get up, show up, do what I need to do, and keep doing it. It occurred to me as I was saying it that nothing has really changed. I may not be folding baby clothes and washing bottles and sippy cups, but I am still doing maintenance/ fighting. There are things I have to do both spiritually and mentally on the daily if not the hourly to keep up with life. I told her I would rather not have to make all the effort, but she quickly pointed out the Bible verse about how we are to “renew our minds” Romans 12:1-2. Just like I can’t expect my house to clean itself, my car to run without being refilled by gas and oil changes, my body to do fine without regular sleep, food, and exercise, I can’t expect my thought life to be perfect without working on it.

High maintenance has its perks. If I’m in the business of taking care of myself, all those around me benefit from a well groomed, spiritually attuned, more joyful version of me. Not a bad exchange for the energy and effort. Keeping that in the forefront of my mind when I want to slack off should be a priority. There is a promise for the person with a “renewed mind”. I can test and approve God’s “good, perfect, and pleasing will.”

Maintenance of the mind and spirit insures that I will walk closer to my creator and in doing that I will find exactly what He had in mind for me, His High Maintenance Girl that He dearly loves and wants the best for.

Leave It All Behind

Genesis 12:1 MSG “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.”

While growing up in the 70’s/80’s, one of my favorite TV shows was “Little House on the Prairie”. If I listen closely in my mind, I can hear the theme song starting up with the view of a covered wagon being pulled along. The TV show is a classic. I could watch the reruns over and over. There’s something about the Ingalls family arriving out in the vast openness of unsettled territory and building something of their own against opposition that strikes a warm feeling in my heart. The bravery and unity makes it a novelty to the adventurous side of me. Leaving it all behind and starting out fresh. That’s an adventure.

The Bible is full of stories of people who left the familiar behind to pursue the extraordinary. From Abram, later Abraham, to Moses and the Jews, to the disciples and their fish nets, to the prostitute brought to Jesus to be judged and then executed, but was told to go and sin no more. Leaving behind is a concept that God championed from the moment Adam and Eve decided to pick up sin in the Garden and began the burden carrying of the human race. It would take a “leaving behind” of sorts to really be free.

I’ve often thought of the courage it took to hop into a covered wagon with husband and kids and traverse such a long distance that seeing family and the town you grew up in would become virtually impossible. That is truly leaving it behind. That’s the kind of courage that Abram needed to get up and leave all the familiar to pursue the promises in the vastness of the Call of God. Abram did what God wanted with full assurance that the One who called him out was taking him to a better land. He believed he would see a “city whose architect and builder was God” Hebrews 11:10.

There are places, in our minds, that are very hard to “leave behind” Anxieties, Guilt, false responsibility, fears, etc. I have wrestled with walking away from them on the daily. I try to imagine how it would be if I were to hop on a covered wagon and travel for days to a new place far away from them. It would be impossible to pick them up or entertain them in the least. I would be “forced” to entertain the factors of the New Life. The truth of the matter is that I do have a New Life, and I am not “forced” but invited to leave behind and travel far away from the land of captivity I have lived. I can leave behind the anxieties and pick up trust. I can leave behind the guilt and pick up my freedom from fault. I can leave behind all the false responsibility I have carried and accept what is truly mine to maintain. I can leave behind the fears and pick up the courage to accept what is. I can drop off the chains because I am free.

When the crushing weight of what I was never meant to be tries to weigh my mind down, I can get out from underneath it all. Because I am a new creation that is free.  God has called me out. 

I love Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” God wants us free. He wants us to know a life without the burdens we carry, some self-imposed, some others imposed. As it says in Psalms 40, God has lifted us from a pit and set us upon a rock. He has filled our mouths with a new song of praise to God. So that many will see just what God can do and put their trust in Him. Our leaving behind the old to pursue the vast newness of God’s Freedom Frontier is a testimony to all those behind us struggling in their own pits. It speaks of how you can be pulled out and move on to the Land of the Blessed Life that Jesus died to give. The land of freedom for which Christ in His great love has set us free to explore and enjoy.