“Sick of It!” Eyes Off the Lie!

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

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

So much truth in this song!

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

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

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

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

Swimming in a sea of legs…

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

His Delight

“Grace (unmerited favor) and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 AMP

My Little man helping me unwrap my new Grinch Cookie Jar this Christmas

Let me start this off with a statement. “Being a Grandparent ROCKS!” I have a grandson that is almost 2 and one on the way. It is one of the biggest joys of my husband’s and my life. It changes you. I guess it’s because 26 years of being a parent wore off all the rough edges in us and now we’re mellow and relaxed. ha ha. I was commenting the other day while shopping with my husband at some Thrift stores how I don’t believe I have ever seen him in our 29 years of marriage spend more time in the Toy section of a store. When our kids were little, I could barely drag him through it. Now he gravitates toward it and spends significant time trying out every button and calling to me for my attention on what the toy does. To be fair, as a younger man, he was pretty stinking busy trying to make a living and provide for us and probably just didn’t feel like he had the time. But nonetheless, our little grandson has stirred up a favor within us toward him that no other has. If he comes over and tells me “Ganny, I hungy, Waffles” you better believe “Ganny” is plugging in her animal shaped waffle maker and whipping up a batch for my little man. Because he has my heart.

This Christmas season I have been thinking about the love of God and different aspects of the Christmas story. Last night I was drawn to the section of the Christmas story where the angels announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14. “Favor” when translated from the Greek means “satisfaction, delight, kindness”. Delight really stuck out to me. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor (delight) rests.

Me knowing me, finds it hard to believe in a God who “delights” in me, sometimes. But that is exactly how God, my heavenly Daddy feels toward me. The same kind of delight that my husband feels at a toy store contemplating the latest and greatest toy that would give our grandson a thrill, is the same kind of delight that my heavenly Daddy feels when He thinks of me, which is ALL the time. (a whole other blog I’m sure). The same kind of delight I feel when my little guy asks “Ganny” for waffles as he rubs his little tummy with his little hand, God feels towards me as He goes with me throughout the day. The good news is this favor/ delight is not just poured out on me. (though I’ll take it). It is poured out on all of us, and the more we spend time with God, getting to know Him, the more we experience His delight in us. As the verse above in 2 Peter says, it is multiplied to us as we become more intimate with our heavenly Daddy and Jesus our Lord. The more I know Him, the more I understand that God is love. The kind of Love that delights in me enough to come to earth on a Christmas day, live His life out displaying just how Good and loving He is, then dying as the sacrifice for all the wrongs/sin I have done. Rising again so I can live. That is delight that makes my mind “tilt” when I contemplate it. That is the delight, the favor, the grace that He multiplies towards me over and over, and not only toward me, but toward you. Because He loves us and He is Oh so Good!

An Oak of Righteousness on Display

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

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

Oak Slab table that looks similar to my dream table.

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

A majestic Oak

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

The Heart Set on Pilgrimage

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis

Finally the Christmas Season! I’m one of those Thanksgiving/ Christmas purist. My Fall Decorations go up toward the end of September and they stay up until the Thanksgiving Celebrations are over for our Family. This year it feels like I’ve been looking at pumpkins and scarecrows FOREVER! I want to properly spend my time in Thankfulness during the Month of November. Sometimes I think we miss just how important it is to give thanks. But now Thanksgiving is done it’s time to break out the Christmas decorations, pull out my Peanuts Christmas and Grinch shirts, and start wearing my new “Elf” socks that include a pair that says “Cotten headed niny muggins”. Oh yeah!!! But most importantly it’s time to focus in on the real reason for celebration, Jesus’ Birth.

A couple of days ago my Bible reading included Psalm 84. In it was a short section of scripture that has not ever stood out to me before.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭84:5-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The word “Pilgrimage” has been resonating inside of me each time I read it. It has me thinking about different kind of Pilgrimages. I live a couple of hours away from my home town, my brothers both live out of state. About a 7 hour drive for each of them. So each year we try to pick a time to meet at my parents house to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. It’s kind of like a mini pilgrimage home.

Then there was the Pilgrimage that Mary and Joseph set out on,before Jesus was born, to return to Bethlehem via decree of Caesar for a Census. Not exactly the type of Pilgrimage that Mary appreciated late in her pregnancy with Jesus, but totally ordained by God so that the prophecies about Jesus could be fulfilled. Some pilgrimages are joyful. Some are not. Some are easier than others, some not so much

This particular section of scripture has had me thinking of my “spiritual pilgrimage”. And how it says that I am blessed if my heart is “set on it”. This got me curious. What exactly is a “pilgrimage” so I consulted my handy dandy Webster’s 1828 Dictionary app.

PIL’GRIMAGE, n. A long journey, particularly a journey to some place deemed sacred and venerable, in order to pay devotion.

Painting my Grandma Fern Burkman did. Makes me think of our Pilgrimage from dark to light.

The Psalm points out that if my heart is “set upon this long journey to a sacred place, Zion, the Mountain of God, I am blessed. And that as I pass through the “valley of baca” (weeping, tears) it is transformed to a place of springs and pools and I go from Strength to Strength in this journey. What an assurance that God has His way of taking the chapters written about our pilgrimage that were hard, sad, and even unbearable and changing them to the chapters that produced the most beautiful endings in our lives! Our valley of weeping truly is changed to a place of fruitfulness by the touch of His hand.

Ask Mary and Joseph some 2000 years ago as they traveled a hard road to a place with no room for them during a forced pilgrimage, what God can do. A dirty stable can be transformed to a place of heavenly worship, complete with Angel choirs when Jesus “steps in”, or is “born into” our pilgrimage. He has a way of doing that kind of transformation just by being here with us, our pilgrimage is blessed as we set our hearts on the Him and the destination of our heavenly home with Him. Weeping truly is turned to Joy as we set our Longing on being with Him every step of the way to our Heavenly home. This longing for another world C.S. Lewis was talking about in the quote above is the destination of our pilgrimage that we were made for and the journey that God gladly goes with us on. That is who He is and we are reminded of this fact this Christmas Season.

Emmanuel, God With Us! Now and Forevermore!

Freedom From The Vortex Of Doom

Vortex of Doom

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

Peace, Live Long, and Prosper

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

Tractor Beam on the Enterprise

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

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in HIm.” Psalm 40 1-3 NIV

WHY?… For Our Good For His Glory

Last weekend I got to get out with my youngest daughter and some friends for an overnight Ladies Retreat called, INSPIRE Retreat with Candace Payne as the guest speaker. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she is also known as “The Chewbacca Mom” for her viral video watched more than 145 million times. She was awesome! Such words of encouragement and also words that challenged me. The last session on Saturday has set off a churning of things inside that I haven’t experienced in awhile. Mainly because in her comical communicating she landed a concept of depth that I’ve not been able to grab ahold of for quite some time. All this from her thoughts on an account of a man in the Bible named Lazarus and a miracle that few have witnessed and seems to be impossible, but I guess that’s why it is a miracle, his resurrection from the dead. John 11 in the Bible contains all the details of this miracle, and the truth is I’ve probably read this, heard it read, heard songs about it, etc. off and on for hundreds of times throughout my 50 years on Planet Earth. But this time something finally hit home.

The account of Lazarus begins with him getting sick, and his sisters, Jesus’s friends, asking Jesus, a known healer to come and heal him. But for some reason Jesus gets in no hurry to go the two mile journey to their house. He waits for two days. The thing that has hit me so hard about this concept is just that “two days”. Why wait? Why allow Lazarus to go through the pain and suffering of the dying process? and Why allow Mary and Martha to have to sit and watch their brother go through all that pain? Especially if the journey only takes a two mile walk. That’s about 40 minutes at the pace I usually walk. Not a very long time or distance to go.

The more this churns around in my mind memories of my own experiences watching my Father in law die of cancer 10 years ago and my Mother in law die of cancer 1 1/2 years ago have been replaying in my mind. Mary and Martha must have felt the things I felt as I sat there and slowly watched my loved ones slip away. Helplessness, deep heart pain, the finality of it all, etc… Then there’s all the other things I’ve walked through in life that have been unfair, unjust, painful, just plain sad… I can relate to the feeling they must have had when you know that Jesus is soooo close, but for some reason He seems to be ignoring it all. This is where the profound statement that Jesus makes changes things. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV This is the point that God changes what we see as our “break down” as His “break through”, Our “End” as “His beginning” , our “dead end” as His “way through”. I’ve been becoming more and more aware as of late that Jesus does not ever “ignore”. He is always there, always hearing ever cry, always collecting every tear. He sees our hurt but what seems to be His delay really is His perfect time. Because He wants us to be able to participate in glorifying Him and even as He says when trying to explain His delay, it may just be for “our sake” that He waits and that He is “glad … so that we may believe.” John 11:14.

Prayers are not answered, unless there is a need that has to be prayed for, Miracles don’t happen unless there is something that is broken and in need of a supernatural intervention, Resurrections don’t occur unless someone has died. A life adrift and lost cannot be rescued unless it is just that “adrift and lost”. I think you may be getting the picture. All these things cannot happen and bring glory to God unless there is someone who needs Him to show up and show off all the Good He can do!

I know what it’s like to sit thinking “I am DONE”. There is nothing more. I can’t hurt any worse. I cannot fix this. But that is exactly where God steps in and shows me how He IS! Sometimes I need the delay of action on His part so I can see that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out of the mess I’ve been in and then finally take the chance to “Believe”. I think when we finally hit the “it’s either I believe, or I will die” mark, the end of us, that we see.

I don’t know I need a Rescuer until I realize I am in peril. I don’t understand I need to be free until I see just how enslaved I am, and I don’t know how I need a new/ resurrected life until I find myself rotting in a stinky grave of all the bad choices I can make. It’s only when I find myself spiritually dead that I realize how much I need Jesus to be that “resurrection and life” for me.

The cool ending to the account of Lazarus is a resurrected man, given back to his sisters. Great sadness turned into the greatest of joy! And the most important thing was all those around watching as two sisters grieved for 4 days over their loss, those who comforted them, cried with them, and stood by them in their sadness, saw what Jesus did and “Believed in HIM”. John 11:45.

Awesome song!!!

Whatever we face that breaks our hearts, deteriorates our bodies, or just plain hurts are all things that Jesus “The Resurrection and The Life” takes and makes a part of our story that brings glory to HIM and reason for us to Praise Him, the one who makes all things work out for our Good and His Glory! AMEN!

Teenage Insecurity, The Brady Bunch, and Me

My 3 oldest leading worship as teens at youth group.

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

How it felt sometimes to raise my teens. 😂

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

A perfect day to drum on the front porch

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

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

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

Me

“Dancing on Shattered Walls” Poem from 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Dancing on Shattered Walls- 3/1/2007 

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

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

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

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

“Do You Love Me That Much?” – Poem from 2009

View from the upper deck this morning.

God blessed our family with the home we own a little over 13 years ago. It’s a long story, but let’s just say we got our property that fit all our needs and then over and above through a bankruptcy auction at the price we could afford for much less than appraised value. It was our ticket out of a small earth contact home with no windows and a yard with no grass. The Earth Contact/ basement home was basically as 13 year old son at the time called it “a Hobbit hole” Thank you “Lord of the Rings”.

There are so many features of our home that fit all the things I had dreamed of that I won’t list right now, but let’s just say God truly Blessed us.
Probably the one feature that I did not realize I would love so much was the East facing upper deck and the West facing deck. I didn’t know as a busy mom of four how much I needed to slow down and watch the Sunrise and Sunset, but God did. Off and on through the years I’ve spent time in the early morning sitting on the Upper Deck with a cup of coffee watching the sunrise with Jesus, a practice I would do well to not get out of. However, as someone who occasionally loses focus on what’s important, I have been out of that practice for awhile.

This morning I was up bright and early, 5 am. As I sat in my recliner with my Bible, drinking a cup of coffee, I looked out the window at the darkness with a hint of light starting to appear. The only thing holding me back from taking advantage of the sunrise to come was my disdain for being cold, but I bundled up, took my coffee and a chair, and headed for the upper deck.
Phone in pocket, except for a couple of pictures that didn’t do it justice, me, Jesus, coffee, and the beautiful sensations of sunrise: the sounds, the smell, the sights. Wow! Have I missed it! And just praying, talking to God about how Blessed I am.

Years ago I was quite the poetry phenom. Ha ha. I wrote a lot of them. Not sure why that hasn’t been the case lately, Blogs seem to be the thing that bubbles up from the insides on the regular. I remembered a poem I wrote at least 12 years ago. Around the time we moved into this house with the perfectly placed decks. I wrote this thinking about how God cares about the smallest of details in our life to show His extravagant love. We sometimes miss it because we get so easily distracted by so many things. Like I tend to forget that God cared enough to meet the needs of my growing family, with an impossible deal, at the time we needed it most. He not only gave me a home I had dreamed about having, but blessed me with His daily display of his artistic expertise. He paints each sky I take the time to look at just to “Wow” me with His gifts to me to let me experience His love in small ways that I can understand if I take the time. I think He gets a kick out of it, and I on the other hand, can only sit there mind blown by how awesome He is and whisper to Him, “You’re Beautiful”.

Do You Love Me That Much?

Yes, I love you that much.
I delight in your joy.
I want to bless you with
Special gifts that you have longed for.

Yes, I love you that much.
I want to be close.
I want to hold you to my heart.
I long to feel you near.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've given you all that I have.
I've painted my heart for you in the sky.
My love song for you fills the air.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've created a dance.
Rest in my arms.
Follow my steps.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've held you in my heart.
I've wanted you throughout eternity.
I gave all of me so we would never part.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've given you sunrise in the morning
And sunset in the evening.
My love covers you.
You are my darling.

Yes, I love you that much.
I know it's hard for you to see.
How much my heart is for you.
How I long for you to be with me.

Social Deterioration: Our Time to Shine!

My husband and I lived in a suburb of St. Louis for the first 4 years of our marriage. That was enough time for me to come to the full assurance that a boy from the country and a girl from a small town (less than 5000 people) needed to not live in suburbia. Thankfully the Lord heard our cry and my husband ended up with a good job in his home town. So we moved.

The first few months we were stunned by the difference of the more rural news outlets evening news and the evening news we were used to in St. Louis. Rarely was there a murder or any violent crime. Things that were reported was more about the crowds at pumpkin festivals, local high school football rivalries, and if the Farmers Almanac would be accurate in it’s weather predictions for the winter. MUCH more our speed!

Ecclesiastes talks about how there is nothing new under the sun. I agree with it. The heart and intent of the human race has been what it has been since the first sin in the Garden. Thank you Adam and Eve. But it’s not hard to notice the social deterioration. This week has been a prime example of it to me. First there was the trip to a local Walmart, where I was approached 3 times in the parking lot for a hand out of money by people that looked pretty desperate. I’m not thinking getting money for gas was their real agenda. Then there was waiting in line to pay for gas at our local gas station. A young man stood next to me, sores on his face, hyped up and aggressively licking a tootsie pop he had bought. He was jittery and his eyes were crazy looking. He started telling me about how delicious the tootsie pop was and how I needed to try the new flavors. I listened to him while we waited in line thinking to myself, “you have got to be on Meth” , “you’re probably my son’s age” , “God, is there anything I can say to him to help him see your love?” Then that evening, a group of men that my husband goes to Bible study with put together another time of “Praise in the Park”. The idea behind the gathering is to unite fellow believers to spend time in worship, sharing the word, and individuals giving testimony of what Jesus has done in their lives, open air, in the park, in the middle of town. While setting up, a couple ,who apparently spent a lot of time in the park, possibly homeless, started to argue loudly, and the man became aggressive to the woman. One of the guys from the Bible study went over and offered the woman a ride somewhere and tried to diffuse the situation. Then last but not least, my husband and I get up this morning, hop in our truck and head out for Sunday School at our church. Since we live in the country, we drive a stretch of highway that is rural before we arrive at our church that is in a local small city. As we drive along admiring the blue skies and sunshine, my husband points out a large presence of sheriffs department vehicles, highway patrol, and some ambulances, and a fire truck. I turn my head to momentarily see an arrest going down on the side of the road. Four officers, subduing and handcuffing another desperate looking man. All this going on in my quiet country community in the Midwest. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention a significant drug bust this week within a couple of mile radius of my home. Crazy stuff!

A few years ago my husband and I worked with a ministry that had as its goal to reach those who were bound up with addictions, struggling in broken marriages, and hurting from the lifestyle of sin they had been held captive to. For 4 years we ran an accountability group/ Bible study for this ministry. We also worked in a local youth group that bussed in kids from a high school that lived in desperate situations, kids of addicts, prisoners, and other sad situations. Since I follow the local Sheriff’s Facebook page I see their mugshots they release. On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone from youth group, someone from the Bible study has been arrested. That happened this week too. So really all this stuff has been running through my mind. It would be easy to get discouraged, roll up in a ball, and shut ourselves off to the world. Because as I’ve heard it said more than once lately, “It is really getting bad out there…” But for some strange reason, when I run into the Young man strung out on Meth with the lolly pop, the woman asking for $3 for gas in the Walmart parking lot, and some homeless/ addicts hanging out in a gazebo at a local park, I can’t help but think, “What can a middle aged wife, mother, and granny do or say that might help these broken people for one moment to come to their senses and see the Love God offers them?” and “What can be done to make that change lasting?” Then I go back to a quote from the book of Esther when she faced a challenge in the darkest of times for her world. “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

Now is not the time to cower. It is the time to shine! It is the time to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, we who are in Christ have the remedy! We have the answer! We must not hold back!

Results of our efforts may not always show up where we see them right then and there, but that is not our responsibility. Ours is obedience to whatever the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or say as we do our daily life and to keep doing it, over and over until our work here is done. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, not the depth of depravity we see around us.

In short, Go where Jesus would go, Do what Jesus would do, Be what Jesus would have us to be. SHINE!

This!!!