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. 

The God Who Hears Us!

A much younger me with the little lip smacker. He was a hungry little guy ❤️

Motherhood changes you. I believe that during the 9 months of pregnancy God does this supernatural overhaul of our senses. When it comes to our babies, we all of a sudden see, smell, feel, taste, and hear everything more vividly. Probably the most obvious sense that seems to be affected is our hearing. Have you ever watched a crowd with a young mom in it? All of a sudden she may perk up and say something like, “My baby is crying”. No one else may notice, but she did. The first week of my first born’s life brought this truth home to me. My mom stayed with us for a week to help out with the new baby. But she was amazed at one of my new mom super powers. It could be 3 am. I could be beyond tired, and I would fall asleep. BUT the newborn in the bassinet next to me, could smack his lips while sleeping, and I could hear it. Within a few seconds of the first smack of his lips, I was up and ready to nurse. Mom would come in and ask me, “How did you know he was awake?” I would say, “He smacked his lips.” It was like I had “Spidey Senses”, but they were “Momma senses” 1000 times more powerful.

This morning I was reading Psalm 18 again and listening to a song I recently heard by Michael Farren called “Fighting For Us”. Awesome song! There’s a phrase in the chorus that says, “You won’t hold back when it comes to your children. You fiercely defend us til we stand delivered. You’re fighting for us. Always fighting for us.” and then there’s the quote from Psalms.

“I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.  The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.  The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.  In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.  Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.  He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky.  Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.  The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.  He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.  He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.”  Psalm 13:3-17 NIV

I have written on more than one occasion how good it is to know that God sees us, but I am struck this morning with how good it is for us to know that God hears us, and it doesn’t take us screaming our lungs out for us to get His response. He is much like me with my “Young Mom Super Senses”. He hears the faintest of cries, the smacking of our lips, and He is there bringing the provision we need, “fighting for us.” We are the ones who tend to complicate this by feeling if we “rub the magic Genie lamp” just right with God, then He may finally turn His ear out of obligation to obey us finally getting the right sequence of actions right for His response. NOT SO! He simply is waiting for us to ask, for us to say His Name, to turn toward Him in what little ability we may have to turn and then He comes full on, Fighting For US!

When I was much younger, I suffered from horrendous nightmares. Most of them involved such fear filled scenes, that I would find myself trying to talk in my dream, only to have my voice unable to produce a sound. I can remember thinking, “If I can only say the name “Jesus” in this dream the nightmare will stop.” Only to find myself unable to speak at all in the torment. I think that is much like the way we live sometimes. I have found myself, on occasion overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, so much so that I feel like even trying to turn to God with it all is close to impossible. BUT God never turns away from the cries of His children. He is attentive to our “smacking lips”. He hears the faintest cry, and the most awesome thing is… HE RESPONDS. I can tell you that I am not much of a fighter, but if you messed with one of my babies, the Mama Bear would come out. God so much more so! He does not leave us in our mess. He “fiercely defends us til we stand delivered” because He loves us so much He wants us free to live in that love, Wrapped up in His Peace.

How good it is to know that God hears us! How good it is to know that God responds! How good it is to know that God is, as Michael Farren’s song says, “fighting for us! Always fighting for us!”

The Chisel, The Potter,and Sir Isaac Newton

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

One of the grand things about homeschooling, especially through High School, is you GET to revisit subjects that you probably would have desired to never revisit back when you went through them in High School and College, Such as Algebra. I am not a fan of that subject… Then there’s the occasional grammar rule or scientific law that rolls through your brain just because it’s there and freshly stirred up. Which is what happened to me this morning.

I’m trying to get back in the habit of watching the sunrise as often as I can before Winter sets in here in my neck of the woods. This morning I got out on the deck pretty early so I found myself watching the dark outlines of the trees gently being blown by the wind. Then low and behold Newton’s First Law of Motion- the law of inertia pops into my mind. “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” If you know me, THAT is not something that I sit around and ponder on the regular… BUT the images of the physics experiments with a marble being rolled on my hard wood floors vrs. it being rolled on carpet comes to mind. Plus rolling it and then touching it on the side so it moves in a different trajectory. The inner nerd has been unleashed…

It occurred to me as I was pondering Newton’s law that there really is a spiritual application to all that knowledge I had deemed as useless for my purposes in High School. I can’t tell you how many times I have found my life, my spiritual marble, rolling along the right direction . Then it is acted upon by an outside force, situation, relationship, etc. that knocks it the wrong direction. THEN, the sometimes seemingly unpleasant, redirection by another outside force, God, to get me back on track again. It occurred to me that the marble may not always appreciate it’s course correction after it gets used to going the direction it was set off on, and sometimes the application of that force isn’t pleasant. Kind of like Colonoscopy prep, necessary, but not pleasant at all. ( a whole other blog I’m sure will be coming soon to an electronic device near you… Thank you “50th Birthday” for me). Or the course correction could be related to God simply wanting us to go a new direction. We did all we could where we were. Time to move on. Still unpleasant if you’re not a fan of change, but in the end GOOD, because God’s plans and trajectory for our life is ALWAYS for our Good and for His glory. My role in being set in motion then having a course correction is to submit. To agree with God that wherever He desires to set my course is the direction I want to go, and if the process of getting there is difficult, I must trust that My Shepherd- Jesus knows exactly where I need to be and how He wants me to get there, obedience/ yielding. That kind of stuff.

The Skit Guys have a video on YouTube called “The Chisel” well worth the watch. It talks about how we are God’s masterpiece and how God wants to shape us to be someone He can be close to and someone He can use. God applying His touch/ force to our lives so we can be what He desired for us to be all along. His Beautiful Masterpiece.

All this being said, I’m reminded of a poem I wrote 10 years ago during the difficult season of my Father in Law’s cancer and then death. I pictured the world spinning as the Potter’s wheel for me. Day in Day out it spins and day in day out God molds and shapes me, applies His force to the areas that I need changed, all with the goal of me being the “masterpiece” He wants me to be. Whether it’s The Chisel, The Potter’s Wheel, or Newton’s First Law of Motion that drives the point home in my heart. I find great comfort today knowing that the God who sees me is the same God who takes the time to Touch and rearrange things in my life so the things between us Fall away and I am able to move in close to Him, the Lover of my Soul.

Life on the Potter's Wheel (April 2011)


Life on this Potter's Wheel
Is sometimes not fun at all
The tools You use to shape me
Dig deep as unholy falls.
You mold me and shape me
As I am sitting very still
My world seems unsettled
As I am turning on this Potter's Wheel
Trusting and accepting
What You are making me to be
Is the crux of the battle
As I sit here while You're molding me.
In the Hands of the Potter
Is the safest place I can be
He knows what He's doing
Even when I can barely see.
Your strength and Your wisdom
Is making me what I should be.
I am thankful and comforted
As Your hands are molding me.

Jellyfish, Riptides, and a Heart Adrift

First time to see the ocean

Early in our marriage my husband and I were rich in love but POOR in possessions. However, we decided early on that we wanted to take a literal “vacation” each year. We would scrape around and save enough to go to Missouri’s vacation Meca, Branson, rent a cheap hotel room, and hit Lamberts cafe on the way home for some of their hand thrown rolls, a must if you’ve never been to one. About 15 years ago we agreed we were a little tired of the whole “Wake Up To Missouri” tourism motto and we wanted to venture out. My husband had never seen the ocean in any way, shape, or form. So we did a little research. Packed up our suite cases, Buckled in 4 little kids into the Suburban. and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a chance to see the Gulf/ ocean.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

We arrived after a 13 hour trip, probably more than that with all the potty breaks we had to take. And rushed out of our Suburban to see the vastness of the ocean. It was awesome. It didn’t take long for us to discover we needed some boogie boards to play in the water with. So we went to a local surf shop and bought 4 of them. One for each kid.

As a small group of Missourians we had a small problem, Ignorance of the ocean. It just so happened that we arrived in the midst of Jellyfish mating season. Our hotel displayed flags for ocean condition in it’s lobby, and happened to have the “dangerous animal” flag on display. That did not deter us. We had come to play. So out into the ocean we went, and we got stung. Several times… The other thing we had not thought about is an ocean is not like the Lake of the Ozark. It has currents… So my, at that time 8 year old daughter, who could barely swim, and I decided to hang out together on a boogie board together. She had no life vest on and I’m not a strong swimmer. As we were floating around she asked me, “Uh mom… can you touch?” I put my foot down toward the bottom and low and behold I could not. So in my usual “I will not panic” voice I said “Laura, let’s swim back toward the shore. Hang on tight to this board.” As we headed back toward shore, I could hear a roar behind me… a WAVE! I held on tight to her, the boogie board, and prayed. It slammed into us hard, but we kept kicking and making our way back to shore. Thankfully we did, and the rest of my stay at the ocean I decided I would rather hang out in the hotel’s pool and observe the beauty of the ocean from the shore. Maybe occasionally wading up to my knees in the waves.

Later I learned there’s this thing called a “riptide”. It’s like a river in the ocean, a current. I also found out that people like me from the Midwest can end up in one of these and not realize they are quickly being swept away from the shore by a current much stronger than we are. The thought of the possibility of me and my daughter ending up on a boogie board in a riptide makes me shutter to this day. God protected me in my ignorance from both the riptides and the jellyfish. But I learned a very helpful lesson. “I am from Missouri. I need to respect the ocean, and stay close to shore.”

Siren of Greek Mythology

I’ve been writing a lot about how God has been overhauling my spiritual life, a very good thing. One of the things He has been pointing out to me is all the voices I have been listening to. Voices have their way of distracting us from the one true voice, God’s word. The voices are like the Sirens of Greek mythology, they lure us away from where God has called us to sail, in the depths of His Truth, enchanting us to go closer and closer to the rocky shore of torment on their island of lies. Kind of like me in my ignorance out on a boogie board with my 8 year old daughter in the Gulf. We think we’re all good and wake up realizing we’ve not been paying attention to what the Bible really says or justifying what we want to believe, and “we can’t touch” because we have become a “Heart adrift”. The voices can also be haunting voices of the past: condemnation, guilt, shame, etc. They play over and over as loudly as they can so you can’t hear the gentle voice of the Shepherd, Jesus, who has assured us that His sheep know His voice and they won’t follow another. Yes there are a lot of voices. BUT GOD!

What voice will you listen to?

I find myself parked in Psalm 18 lately. A very good read for a heart that needs to get back to the basics of hanging close to my Shepherd, Jesus. Listening to His voice speaking truth. Verse 16 -19 says “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

How good it is to know that God sees us! He sees us when our hearts begin to drift. He reminds us, like my daughter did that day, “Uh mom… can you touch?” His desire for us is to be safely on the shore of HIs love with Him. He hears our faintest cry and pulls us out of the “deep waters” that are too much for us.

So much in this analogy of our trip to the Gulf. I haven’t even touched us ignoring the “Dangerous Animal” flag, stinging Jelly Fish, and paying attention to the things we have heard or read from God’s truth. God’s life lessons really are like the ocean in many ways. I’m pretty sure He delighted to watch our young family on the beach that day so many years ago saying, “She doesn’t even know how I’m going to bring this memory back of some family fun. In about 15 years, when she needs to remember how I had her on that Boogie board with her small child, I’ll remind her. I had her then and I have had her these past few years as she struggled to keep herself close to me. I never did take my eye or my hand off of her either time. She’s my girl.”

Flags do mean something. Jellyfish stings are not fun…

Consider it Pure Joy… Anxiety

My husband and I have been doing the church thing for 29 years. We met in church, got married in one, and have attended one on the weekly for the most part of our 28 years of marriage. In all of that 29 years we’ve not really done “Sunday School”. Mainly because the churches we attended didn’t offer one. They offered “Home Fellowships” and “Sunday School” seemed a little “Old School” to me. Around two years ago we began attending a different church that offered Sunday School, and to be honest, I thought, “That’s nice. Not for me.” But a few months ago we decided to attend one. It’s been good for us even if we have to drag our butts in on occasion.(Mainly because we want to be lazy or flat out the enemy of our souls has been working overtime to keep us away from the Family God wants to give us in a church fellowship). This morning was another one of those “drag our butts” in occurrence. Because if I’m honest, of our 29 years of church attendance, there have been ALOT of times we had to make ourselves go, but once we are there and feel God’s presence and the encouragement of those around us it becomes more than worthwhile and we usually leave with the saying out of Psalms 122:1 ringing true, ” I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (You’re not alone if you suffer from “I must Drag my Butt to church syndrome”)

Anyway, back to dragging myself into class, the Bible book of study for awhile in our class is James. Not really a favorite of mine. Mainly because there is a lot of hard stuff in it about controlling your tongue, being patient in suffering, and showing our faith by our deeds. It’s not exactly a “feel good all the time” kind of book. And today’s verse that we discussed would be another not so “Feel good all the time” kind of verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 But today it hit me. I need to reconsider my aversion to the book of James. It’s in the Bible you know so it’s gotta be GOOD!

I’d say the past week has been kind of tough. Not because of anything in particular, just mainly I have issues with anxiety, and I’ve been getting tired of having that issue. I can’t think of how many times I’ve asked God to take it away from me. I’d say it’s been an issue of mine most of my life. I have had times I’ve thought, “you’re finally getting somewhere” only to find myself sitting for a few days with my throat and chest feeling tight, for really no real good reason. It’s more than aggravating. Especially when as a believer in Jesus I believe what He did on the Cross paid for my healing not only physically, but emotionally as well. And my inheritance as a child of God does not include in any way shape or form anxiety, fear, or depression. So I bounce back and forth between I should be walking in victory over this, and I know I need to take my medicine or it won’t be pretty… Not to mention the counseling I’ve been going to for the past 3 years. It kind of shrinks you down to feeling like you’re far from a spiritual giant in the kingdom. More like a someone who struggles and struggles, and then struggles some more. Then enters James 1:2-4. Anxiety has been a trial for me, and if I’m honest my husband too. He probably at times wonders what to do with his wife. We pray, we talk, we try to distract, and we keep plugging along. Anxiety has been a test of my faith. Because to be honest, admitting that you have an area of struggle, a weakness, is not fun. It doesn’t seem very victorious or overcoming. However, that testing of my faith, when the feelings arise, is working something in me that I told my husband just this week, “If this is the only way I can get it worked into me, then so be it.” It has produced in me a longing to be closer to God. The only way to experience the peace and the joy that God intended for me to walk in is to be in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says “…in your presence there is the fulness of Joy.” The only place I can find wholeness is in Him, so I have got to be closer and closer to Jesus so His peace and His presence are what I live in. Hanging tight with Jesus is the only way to make me “complete and not lacking anything.” I was thinking about it last night. If I never had experienced the painful things that I have walked through, I would not have reason to look for healing that can only be found in Jesus. If I never had experienced loneliness, I would never had known the need for His ever abiding close friendship. And if I never had known the torments of anxiety and fear, I would never have cried out for the Prince of Peace to rescue me and pull me out of a circumstances that were greater than me. So these light and momentary afflictions, that I hate to feel, are working something in me. In them, I know I need God more and more. He is the only answer and it is only in me totally surrendering to Him and His ways, and hanging as close to Him as I can, will I walk in His paths of freedom and experience the abundant life He promised me as I keep my eyes on Him. (John 10:10)

Maybe James isn’t so bad…. “Consider it pure Joy…”

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

A Beautiful Mind—A Mind Made New

Life has it’s way of leaving scars on us. No one is exempt. We may like to pretend like we all have it all together and put up a pretty facade, but behind the good exterior is an inside that has had it’s share of struggles. Some scars come because we jumped right into a hurtful situation feet first with eyes wide open. Some scars come because good intentions did not work out and situations were more than anyone could fix. To be a player in that type of play is tragic in many ways, but God… He has a plan to work all things out for our good, even the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Psalm 147:3

Last week I found myself contemplating life’s issues and suffocating with anxiety. As I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the anxiety and the physical sensations that go along with that, I shot an honest assessment of my feelings up to Him. “God, I hate my mind…” There are times in battle that it seems victory is far away. That pretty well summed up my situation at that point, but deep inside the still small voice spoke in a whisper, “You have a beautiful mind”. Though my mind may have scars from times past, scars point to something greater, Healing. Though there may be remnants of the hurts that still need for God’s hand to touch, there has already been so much He has already healed. So my mind, with it’s struggles and sometimes pain, is actually a display of what God can do for someone who has fought a long, hard battle on the inside.

It’s been a long, long time since I have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, and to be honest, I barely remember it. Except for the plot which was about a mathematician, John Forbes Nash Jr., suffered with a psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia. He fought a long hard battle inside his mind, and then finally went on to do extraordinary things in his field of mathematics earning awards in that field. Reading bits and pieces of his story on Wikipedia today has made me think about the struggle we all face, and the tenacity we all need. I, however, fight my battle with an advantage that I am unsure if Mr. Nash knew about. The healing power of the blood of Jesus, poured out for me.

John Forbes Nash JR. And his wife Alicia

There is a popular worship song that comes to mind. It’s wording is fairly easy since it repeats ALOT! “Surrounded”- “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” Some versions throw in “At your table”. There is a place that I can take my mind as it tries to run the show for me with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. That place is at the table that God has prepared for me. It is in His presence that I am surrounded by His peace and wholeness can be found. It is there at His table that I am strengthened to get up, set my mind on what is True, Noble, Right, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) i.e. Get my eyes on Jesus, and It is at His table that I am made new by Him renewing my mind. 1 Corinthians 12:1-2.

This morning as I sat down at His table, my time with God in His word, I contemplated some hard memories that have recently hit me of days gone by. It was there that I sat saying, “God I know, You have said, “I have a Beautiful Mind” because Your word assures me that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16.) I can’t imagine a mind more beautiful than His. I pictured the blood of Jesus pouring over my mind again and again, calming the anxiety, healing the hurts, restoring the broken. Because that is exactly what Jesus does. He makes all things new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He is never late concerning His healing, His strength, His power. He is always right on time. At times, I may not feel all the feels about the truth of God over my situations, but I can rest assured that what He started He will complete, and that includes the transformation of my mind into what He had prepared for it to be all along, “A Beautiful Mind”.