Unhooked- Freedom from Painful Memories

I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.

A small hook can do a lot of damage in a trout’s life.

One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.

This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.

There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.

I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.

Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!

Too Many Voices

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:1‬ NIV

We all hear “voices”. Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let me clarify that statement. We are surrounded/ bombarded by so many opinions, statements, ideas every day. These are the voices that shout at us from the moment our eyes open until we close them in sleep, and if we are lucky, they don’t come to us at night in our dreams as well… nightmares. These voices are liars. They want to get us off course from the only way to get them to shut up, the Peace found only in Jesus.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook, something I do way too much of… But I happened upon a post a friend had reposted of someone who is struggling with Anxiety. As I read it, it was like looking of a reflection of something I was a few months ago. Statements like: “I need a break from my mind itself which isn’t possible.” “My mind is traumatized my memory is foggy and absolutely full of triggers” “I am actually just busy trying to hold it together in my safe box.” Stuck out to me. I’ve been blogging for quite a while. This all started because writing has been an outlet for me, a stuffer of emotions… Anxiety has been one of the hot topics for my blog. I have several entries if you go back and look at the history of what I have written. It has been a lifelong struggle, but I would say the most intense battles have been the past 4 years. But God has worked a miracle in my life since around September/ October. It’s one of those kinds of miracles that it sometimes seems like it is too good to be true. You know, “pinch me” so I can make sure this is real kind of deals. With each passing day, I am convinced all the more of how real it is. I am walking free! So when I read the post like I saw yesterday, or I hear of someone who is struggling with anxiety, my heart aches. Because I know just how many voices I listened to and how many lies I believed.

Satan is deliberate in his onslaught of anxiety that he has unleashed in my generation and the generations after me. From the first twinge of it until you find yourself being squeezed to death by it, he has a purpose and a lie that is not new at all that is the root of all anxiety. “Did God really say…?” I believe anxiety is satan’s way of getting us to doubt God, His goodness, His provision, His Love. I would not be surprised if it is the very force driving the “deconstruction of Christian faith” movement we hear about frequently in the news. If anxiety is ruling in your head and your heart, doubts begin.

Deconstruction Christianity is a false religion. You cannot have Jesus and not have the truth of the Bible. There is no me making a “better version of myself”

Then begins all the futile attempts to “fix ourselves”. Believe me, I tried them. Self help books galore, Headspace meditation app- started by a Buddhist monk, trying new hobbies (not a bad thing as long as it isn’t a replacement for crying out to Jesus), numbing it all with medicine, etc. The truth of it all is “I CANNOT FIX MYSELF!!!” All my attempts to fix my anxiety, outside of getting my eyes off of me and onto Jesus, only served to dig me deeper into a pit, a very ugly pit… The truth in the lyrics of the Switchfoot song “Mess of Me” rings truer to me every day.

“I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
There ain’t no drug that they could sell
Ah there ain’t no drugs to make me well
There ain’t no drug
It’s not enough
There ain’t no drug
The sickness is myself
I made a mess of me I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive”

About a year ago, I made contact with an old friend from my college days. We began talking about some mutual experiences of abuse that opened us up to lies. One thing stuck out to me that she said in the beginning of our weekly conversations. “Janet, you have the Holy Spirit within you. You can hear the truth. You know the truth.” She had hit the nail on the head. I have been listening to WAY TOO MANY VOICES! (ME, a seasoned Christian of 39 years…”) Whether it was the lies of “what you have been will never change”, the lies of “You call yourself a Christian, yet you think these horrible things”, “try to find your ZEN”, “make a better version of yourself each day”, “the Bible does not hold the answer to what you are struggling with”, etc. Those voices only lead to one thing “DESTRUCTION”. Let me be so bold as to say that “Deconstruction of faith” is not a brave move. It is an opening to the very “destruction of ourselves”.

Here’s the deal. I cannot say do x,y,and z and you will find yourself free. I’m not 100% sure how I have ended up in this place of peace I am in today. The one thing I did do was I decided my listening to “too many voices” was not working. I needed to listen to ONE voice, JESUS. Tune yourself daily into that voice and refuse to allow even the hint of a whisper of the lying voice of anxiety to enter your ears. Let desperation for freedom cause you to RUN as hard as you can into your Heavenly Father’s arms. It is only there that refuge is found from all the voices that come against you. God is no respecter of persons, granting freedom to one and then not to another. If He has answered the cry for freedom that I uttered, He will answer you! He is just that Good!

The only WAY of Peace, Love and Wholeness- JESUS!!

Daddy, Abba Father

Although I have been present during the birth of all four of my kids (It would have been hard not to not be), I have never watched a baby be born in person. My husband did. He cut the cord for three of our four. (One needed immediate medical care.) Each one of the births was a moment like no other. For lack of a better word, I would call it magical. Those first few moments holding your newborn, listening to the first cry, pretty special.

Today is my birthday… for reasons not altogether known to me, it’s a day I don’t always eagerly anticipate. Not for the lack of celebration. My mom always made me my favorite cake, angel food with icing, when I was growing up. In recent years my husband and kids have made it a point to make the day special too: Surprise parties, dinners out at restaurants, etc. Each year I end up feeling loved and appreciated by them. It’s just getting there and getting through it that seems to be hard.

Years ago, my husband and I took our stab at song writing. I wrote quite a bit of poetry and he put a song or two to music on his guitar. I wrote a couple of songs as well that I came up with music for on the piano. This song is one of the songs I wrote. While sitting here this morning with my Bible and cup of coffee, I was praying about my birthday aversion, and I remembered this song. It’s been almost 15 years ago that I wrote it. I felt that still small voice say, “You know, I was there when you were born, and the way Rich felt for each one of your kids was born, I felt for you.”

Probably the reason I’ve not made too much hoopla over this song is the lyrics can be a bit uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve not always had an accurate perspective of God being a Good, good Father. Religion (not relationship with Jesus) has often left me and I’m sure others viewing Him as the God of lightning bolts for the ones who don’t uphold a very strict standard. But Jesus, Himself presented God as Abba (Papa) Father. Galatians 4:6-7 says, ” Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” The God that so many think is a God of punishment, lightning bolts, and tolerance of us, is actually a God of Tender love toward us. Tender love that watched with eager anticipation as we were born, but not only that, He intimately knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is the God that longingly desires for us to run to Him so He can show us just how great HIs lovingkindness towards us is. And even when we feel like our imperfections are glaring and disqualifying, He is known to be the Heavenly Father/ Daddy that Zephaniah 3:17 “Takes great delight in us” and “Rejoices over us with singing”.

So even when we feel like our birthday marks ANOTHER trip around the sun for us (ho hum). Our Heavenly Father sees it as a day special to Him, because He was there, and it was one of the beginnings of Him waiting for the time we would turn to Him and allow Him to show us just how much He loves and wants us to be in a close loving Father/ Daughter (son) relationship. He is just that Good!

Daddy, Abba Father (originally written March 25, 2007)

You were there when I was formed
There when I was born
You held me close when I breathed my first breath of life. 

You have drawn me to your side.
In Your Safety I abide.
I am deeply loved and cherished I know.

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight. 
I am Yours I know you never let me go. 

I am loved
I am your child. 
You are always there for me.
I can safely rest in You, my God. 

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The giver of my life. 
I am deeply loved, and I love you. 

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight. 
I am deeply loved and God, I love you. 

“Sick of It!” Eyes Off the Lie!

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

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

So much truth in this song!

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

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

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

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

Swimming in a sea of legs…

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

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

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.

Don’t Miss It- Once in a Lifetime

Awww summertime! Or at least we’re getting really close to the summer solstice. Family vacation usually sets off the official summertime routine in our household. This year we’re down to two out of our four kids still left at home. So a trip to Steamboat Springs in the Rockies seemed like the appropriate trip for our crew. From our neck in the woods it is about a two day drive, if you like to take your time and have plenty of breaks. So off we went. The evening we arrived and got ourselves settled in to our condo a peak out our window at the Western sunset over the mountains caused me to pause. “I’ve got to go out and look at this sunset. It’s a once in a lifetime event.” That may sound kind of crazy to the people who live in Steamboat day in and day out. They’ve probably seen thousands of the sunsets over that mountain. It may even be so familiar they don’t even pause to gaze. But the truth of the matter is for the minutes the sunbeams shine upon the clouds as the angle changes of the light with the setting sun, each second is totally different from the first. The hues of the colors transitions from bright orange, to red, to purple to dark. It really is a “Once in a lifetime event” for anyone, not just this Missouri girl. It was awesome! But I’m sure had I let myself be preoccupied, I would have missed it…

Then yesterday, my husband and I went over to our friends home. They own a deer farm. They’ve been at this for a few years. So seeing the little fawns and petting them is nothing new, but I saw something yesterday that quite possible could be another “once in a lifetime” event, a fawn be born. When we went out to the pens to look at their growing herd of deer, we noticed a momma deer that had had her first buck fawn of twins she was bearing. Carefully we walked into the pen that allowed a better look and stood in awe as we watched her labor for around 20 minutes and finally push the second fawn out. We stood there and watched the momma clean her fawn and nurse the other one until the light of day was so far gone that we could not see very well. Once again something I could have easily missed if I was too busy to stop, or too preoccupied in my mind to realize I was going to miss something so unique that I will never see it go down like it did last night again.

It’s funny how life is just that way. If we are too locked into what happened in the past or too preoccupied with what might happen in the future, we miss the now, something that only happens “once in a lifetime”.

Saturday is wedding day for my oldest daughter. The plans are made, the ball is in motion, things seem to be ready to roll. But once again I find myself fighting anxieties of what was, what is, and what may come… preoccupied. If I am not careful I will miss it. I’ll miss the moment that will only happen “once in a lifetime”. The moment her groom first sees his bride. The moment her daddy walks her down the aisle and gives her away. The moment they exchange their vows and unite their lives. I’ll miss it all and it will never happen the way it will on that day again.

Guilt, anxiety, and worries are robbers and thieves. They come to steal one of the things that means the most, the gift God has given to us as we sojourn here on earth, our present life. In John 10:10 Jesus said something that would do us all some good to have tattooed into the back of our brains ever present in our memories. “The thief (satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Some translations say “abundant life”. All the good God has for us is not stored up for us to only be released in heaven. God has goodness and mercy for us “all the days of our lives”. Psalm 23:6. It is satan who wants to blind us with his toxic whirlwind of afflictions to the mind and block us from seeing just that- God has goodness and mercy for us every second, every minute, every hour of every day. And blinding us with toxic thoughts is the only way he can steal from a child of God. Whispering lies and getting us to believe them so we get our focus off the truth is his only game plan. Because the truth is he is already defeated at the cross. Jesus gave us His goodness when our past was forgiven, our future with Him was secured, and our present is spent dwelling in Him.

May I never forget THAT when the enemy tries to get my focus off. God intended for me to live in the Present. Fully engaged in the life to the full that He gives to me, His abundant life given to His children He dearly loves and has chosen.

Shalom- God’s Remedy for Never Enough

“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.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This morning during devotions I felt impressed to spend some time chewing on this verse. The punishment that brought us “peace” (Hebrew “shalom”- wholeness, completeness, soundness.) What Jesus did on the cross has made me whole, complete, sound in my mind as well as my spirit. I have walked in the identity of Never Enough. I am Never Enough for life’s situations. The feeling that I as “Never Enough” was me in my past that tries to haunt me, me in my present that tries to hold me back, and Never Enough in my Future that tries to paralyze me from walking in Christ’s plan. Praise God!! The identity of Never Enough stops at the cross. Because Jesus brings completeness. He is more than enough. I can walk in His confidence knowing that where I fall short He fills to overflowing. He is the God who turns a shortage of wine at a wedding into an abundance of the good stuff with water in clay pots. He is the God who takes a few loaves and fish of a boy willing to give them up and feeds 5000. He is the God who takes what little we have to offer and does exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think. His Shalom He gives us at the cross makes us complete. Happy weekend you all!

“ProcessME” vrs “InstaME”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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