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
I was most definitely a daddy’s girl. I held the title of baby of the family for the first 9 years of my life, until our family became a Foster Family, and my little sister, who my family adopted later, came to live with us. Up until that point it was my two older brothers and me, and you better believe that I milked my youngest and only girl for all that it was worth. Probably my earliest memories of my dad were being held by him. I can remember sitting in the wooden pews of church during service, trying very hard to not to get in trouble with my older brother Joe on one side of dad, me on the other, and our little hands going behind dad’s waist against the pew trying to reach each other. After a little bit of that, my dad would cross his leg and there would suddenly appear the perfect little seat in the bend of his knee and the place where his ankle met his other leg’s thigh. I just had to crawl up and sit. It wouldn’t be long I would rest my head on his chest. Awww… that was comfy. Then there was the weekly trip to my grandparent’s house in the country. After an evening of cracking peanut shells and eating them with my grandpa and walking around looking at my grandma’s iris beds along her fence row, I would be pretty tired. So, I begged for my dad to pick me up and carry me to the car. I can almost hear my Grandma’s voice saying to my dad, “I believe you will have to carry that girl down the aisle to the altar when she gets married. She needs you to carry her all the time.”
I loved to be held.
This morning as I spent time praying and listening to God, I thought about how much I love to be held still. I’m probably about 130 more pounds than I was back when I was constantly looking for a way to be held by my Dad, so he probably would not appreciate it today as much as he did 48 years ago. And him carrying me is, shall we say… “Out”. Not gonna happen… However, NOTHING can compare to the warmth of being up close to the chest of someone stronger than you, listening to their heartbeat, feeling safe and secure. I may have outgrown my earthly Daddy, but my Heavenly Daddy is impossible to outgrow. So, back to this morning, I found myself telling God how much I wanted to be held by Him. Just to be so close, I could nestle up against Him and listen to His heartbeat and truly realize the reality of His love that wraps around me and holds me.
There are a lot of things in life that try to separate me from knowing I am held by God. It’s 6:52 in the morning here, and my busy day is already trying to whisk me away from the time I am able to spend with God, close to Him. That is just part of being on planet earth. But today as I have been reflecting on how I can take this short time of devotion in the morning when I feel so close to God and make that my entire day, I am reminded that my Heavenly Daddy has no limits of “just this time, just this place is the only way to be held by me.” He is always there. I am always “the apple of His eye”. I may not fully grasp the reality of just how Big He is and how Strong He is. But He never puts me down. I am always carried by Him, I am always Held. God give me eyes to see and a heart to understand how treasured I am.
1 John 3:1 "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..."
Psalm 27:10 "... the Lord will hold me close."
Psalm 17:8 AMP "Keep me [in Your affectionate care, protect me] a the apple of Your eye; Hide me in the [protective] shadow of Your wings."
Deuteronomy 7:6 "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."
“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”.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.(Jesus)” Philippians 4:11-13 MSG
Life seldom goes the way we have it planned. That is something I should get used to. I can’t count how many times when my kids were growing up that my husband and I would plan the perfect camping trip. Hours of packing, preparing, and then driving, only to find the first night is a night when one of the kids came down with the croup, or threw up all over our pop up camper. There was the first trip to the ocean, only to discover it was jelly fish mating season and several jelly fish stings to be dealt with in the hotel, or we also had the long planned trip to Disney World that was interrupted with a short lived bout of head lice. That was a real treat… I should not be surprised when circumstances are not the glorious picture I had weeks before the actual experience.
I guess I had it in my mind that since our kids are all adults, I would be immune to the disappointment of a planned getaway going south. But here I sit in the most perfect March weather literally yards from one of my favorite trout fishing parks with a sick husband. (The stomach bug had to be going around). Bummer… disappointment.
This disappointment is minor in the scheme of things. Lay around, eat junk food, watch Westerns on the cabin’s tv, and play the occasional game of solitaire. I’ve weathered far worse.
As I’ve sat here this evening on our front porch watching the cars go by our cabin, I thought about Paul saying “I have learned the secret of being content” in Philippians 4. Contentment is not easy to gain. It requires a focus on Jesus and a trust in His plan. Both of which are hard to come by if you’ve lived an anxious life. Self-focus and self preserving protection are what seems right in our world, but it is far from God’s greater plan of our total trust(dependence), total submission, and total obedience as He provides all we need for our life and directs us in His good plan for us.
There’s a lot of things in my world that are disappointing right now. There are the global things, the National things, the local, and the personal. Plus this minor fishing trip thing. There are a lot of things that beg for me to pay attention to them and live in discouragement, apprehension, and fear. Not to mention the temptation to walk in distrust, unforgiveness, etc. The list could go on and on. But God knew there would be times like this- the one we live in. He also knew there would be months like this, weeks like this and days like this one. Whether the situation is a minor disappointment or a large earth shaking one, He tells me how to be content. I am to hang as close to Jesus as I possibly can. Listen to His voice alone, and be faithful to what I know He has told me to be obedient in.
The old Hymn I sang as a girl in the small country church I grew up in says it best,”Trust and Obey. There is no other way to be Happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
His Joy conquers all disappointment. Gigantic ones or small ones like a sick hubby on a get away. My God is good! All the time!
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
When I was in college, I went on two short term mission trips with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to Juarez, Mexico and also Creel, Mexico near the Copper Canyon where the Tarahumara Indians live. It was life changing. I loved the culture and the people (still do). At that time in my life, I had plans of finishing school, I was majoring in Spanish, and then joining YWAM full time, working in Mexico or possibly Guatemala. Of course, I… had plans… God had other ones. Long story, but here I am a 51 year old, mother of 4, homeschool mom for 22 years, grandma, and housewife for almost 27 years. Definitely not a foreign country missionary.
One of the phrases that has stuck out with me through the years from the trips I made besides the Spanish name for YWAM, Juventude Con una Mision, is “Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer”- “To Know Him and to Make Him Known”. My first trip to Mexico was with a youth group from a church near my hometown. I was sponsored by some of the leaders of that youth group. It was for a week. It was awesome! My second mission trip signed up for a “Summer of Service” which was a 3-week trip. I boarded a plane to El Paso, by myself (20 years old) and went with a group that I knew no one. I ended up with a group of kids from another youth group. Some of the kids, were obviously not into missions, more into drama… So we spent the first few days on the El Paso side of the border trying to get our attitudes right. We were cleaning ministry buildings, and basically working on tasks that were sweaty and unenjoyable like moving boxes that had cock roaches under them that were big enough you could put a leash on and take for a walk. YUCK! Then when we finally got to cross the border, we ended up cleaning up a goat pen for one of our first major projects. It was good, but kind of a bummer for someone who had worked hard at raising money, and had visions of “getting a little taste of the glory” while in another country.
On my second trip, word got out that I was a cook at a nursing home, back in the states. So, I got put on the kitchen crew, another blow to my ego. Since I was cooking all the time as my job at home…Ha ha. When we went down further south into Mexico, I was one of the two cooks for the whole team. At the time, I was thinking, “this isn’t so glorious”. Cooking on wood stoves in a kitchen with a skirt on (almost caught it on fire), with a bunch of Mexican ladies that I could barely communicate with. For some reason I had not learned the word for “Spoon” in my Spanish lessons. You should have seen them laughing at me while I was telling them in Spanish “I need a thing that does this” making wild stirring motions. ha ha Looking back, it was perfect, and I would not change anything in those experiences for the world.
Then there was sleeping on a concrete floor of a church (we were helping to build) with only a sleeping bag. Experiencing Montezuma’s revenge (diarrhea) after eating vegetables that were washed with local water. Everyone on the team using the same outhouse while having the diarrhea as well (Words cannot describe the smell). “Showering” using a barrel and a scoop. All this, to “¡Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer!”. “Know Him and Make Him Known”.
I’ve mentioned before that I was given a bracelet at a Skillet concert recently. When I put it on, something on it deeply resonated within me. It says, “Make Me Like Jesus”. “Yes Lord, that is all I want, ‘Make me like Jesus'”. Here lately, when I look at it, a question comes up in my mind. “What would Jesus be like in this….?” The answers are challenging. Jesus would be patient. Jesus would forgive. Jesus would give himself away… etc. It’s having the same affect on me that the 20 year old Janet experienced 21 years ago in Mexico. Humbling to see how far away from Christlike I can be…
Life is not always what I expect it to be. Sometimes it can be somewhat “mundane”, lacking excitement, dull. But God is far from mundane. He is beyond all the expectations I have. That is why in the daily, mundane tasks of life, even sometimes the gross tasks…, my aim should always be simply “to know Him” and with what I learn of Him, “make Him known”. Had the mission team I was on back in the early 90’s not been there for the mundane.working on projects, helping the full time missionaries, we would have missed our chance to help an elderly missionary make it to the local hospital in the dead of night while having a health issue, a very dangerous drive through the mountains of Mexico. We also would have missed being able to pick up a young Mexican mother along the way who was in labor and rush her along to the hospital as well. Believe me, that was a hair raising, exciting story. Had I missed the mundane times in motherhood, I would have missed the excitement of getting to pray with each of my children to ask Jesus in their heart. I would have missed the deep conversations on faith that have shaped them and quite honestly myself. Had I missed the mundane tasks of going to the grocery store, paying bills, cleaning house, etc. I would have missed the excitement of having friends over for an evening of food, fellowship, worship in our living room, and prayer. All the seemingly mundane of the world, when set apart by the constant companionship of Jesus through prayer and worship, (while driving, folding clothes, doing dishes, etc.) suddenly becomes a Holy time. It prepares us for that opportunity to come where I am able to “make Him known”. Whether it be in conversation with a friend, giving to a stranger, or helping someone in need. That is what Jesus would be like. Make me like HIM!!
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.
“We never look more like Christ than when we forgive.”- Beth Moore
Being a good church girl in the 80’s I took to listening to CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). After an experience with God in 1983, I decided to get rid of my Rock n Roll music and listen to Christian only. I was ecstatic to find the CCM genre. Especially since I am not a fan of Southern Gospel, Blue Grass, and Sandi Patty (can’t stand her high notes…). Steve Taylor was one of my first favorites in the Christian music scene. I even got to see him in concert live. I’ve never seen anyone jump around so much and still be able to sing. lol. On his 1984 album “On the Fritz” there was a song “To Forgive”. It was a catchy little tune about forgiveness.
I am a child of the 80’s. My teen years were during the heart of the 80’s. I graduated in 1989. I was home sick from school when there was an assassination attempt on President Ronald Regan in 1981. Come to think of it, I was home sick when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing all aboard in 1986. I remember both of those events vividly. But I quite honestly remember very little of another big event of the 80’s the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. Maybe I wasn’t home sick from school, or maybe it’s because I grew up protestant and didn’t think a whole lot about the Pope or understand his significance to the Catholic Church. The Pope’s attempted assassination hasn’t been one of my significant memories from the 80’s.
This morning I woke up with the song “To Forgive” rolling around in my head. When I sat down to spend my time with Jesus, I took the time to look up the lyrics. It’s pretty profound. The first part of the song is about the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. My curiosity was peeked. I looked up the event on Wikipedia. The pictures are very moving. This got me to thinking about another story of forgiveness I have been familiar with Corrie ten Boom and the former Concentration camp guard. Once again, another moving story of forgiving the impossible to forgive.
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, closes with an account of forgiving the unforgiveable. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, and suffered slavery, imprisonment, wrongful accusations, abuse, etc… reassures his brothers of his forgiveness to them in this way, “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 NIV.
Forgiveness… Recently I went to a Skillet concert. While waiting in line to attend, a woman in the crowd was passing out rubber bracelets that said, “Make me like Jesus”. I’ve had it on ever since. It states something that has been the cry of my heart more and more lately. I want to be like Jesus. I’ve been asking God for that to be a reality in my life more and more. The truth of the matter is that in order to be like Jesus, we have to forgive. He openly spoke forgiveness to the lame man, to the woman caught in adultery, to the thief on the cross, and then some of His final words, “Father Forgive them they know not what they do”. Then His present ministry of forgiveness to anyone who comes to Him wanting relationship with Him. Jesus forgave, Jesus forgives. The question is “Do I?” Do I forgive offenses far less harsh than being shot by a gunman as the Pope or tortured in a concentration camp as Corrie ten Boom? How about looking at the hard times of my life where I suffered offense at the hand of another as something that was meant for bad by satan, but intended by God for the good not only of myself, but others as Joseph did? Do I forgive like Jesus? Completely, from the heart, over and over again?
Jesus knew the weight of unforgiveness was more than we could bear. It is the only way to let go so we have arms open wide to receive His pure love and the healing of our hearts.
“Come, find release Go, make your peace Follow his lead Let the madness recede When we shatter the cycle of pain Oh, we will live To forgive?“
If I could only tattoo this truth on my heart… The only way to be like Jesus is to do as He did. I must live to forgive.
Newborn babies are wonderful! I could hold one for hours, as long as they don’t cry. Holding a newborn does not get old. My newest grandson is one of those cuddly babies. I haven’t heard to many whimpers out of him, never seen him mad, in fact, I’ve not really seen his eyes very much. He’s sleeping most of the time. I absolutely love him. What Grandma wouldn’t?
There’s this newer/ probably not so new idea that hospitals are using with the newborns called, skin on skin time. (They didn’t do this when my 4 were born) It provides bonding between the parents and the baby. The warmth of the parent’s body against the warmth of the newborn’s body is a time the newborn can feel the presence of his parent and listen to their heartbeat. The parent gets to hold their little bundle of love. Absolutely beautiful!
This morning while I spent my time with God, I was reminded of another old worship song, “Heart of Worship”.
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship And it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it When it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus”
I started thinking about how close God wants to be to me. Just as close as little Levi in the hospital bonding with his Daddy during their skin-on-skin time. The problem is unlike little Levi, I wrestle with God and fight getting close at times. My mind flies through so many different things. Then I got this picture of how it would be if Levi lay there refusing to be comforted, refusing to be held. That is me and I’m sure that is you sometimes as well. I was reminded of a verse Psalm 77:2 “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted.” The issue with having that close “skin-on-skin” time is having something in between you and your Heavenly Daddy. We can choose to lay on our bed of offences- injury, anger, displeasure, or we can choose to let Him wrap us up in the warmth of His arms of love. We can refuse to be comforted or we can choose to let go of everything and simply come seeking to let our lives be “all about our God”. Only one way leads to the peace we all seek and that is intimate, unhindered communion with our Heavenly Daddy. This only happens as we let every unclean, soiled part of us be washed by Jesus’ precious blood, and we simply come willing to leave behind what we sometimes hold onto for dear life, thinking it protects us. Trusting that there is no safer place than against our Heavenly Daddy’s chest, held by His all powerfully strong arms, listening to His heartbeat of Love for us. It is the only way to the peace He gives. Just be held! He is just that Good!