Held

Newborn babies are wonderful! I could hold one for hours, as long as they don’t cry. Holding a newborn does not get old. My newest grandson is one of those cuddly babies. I haven’t heard to many whimpers out of him, never seen him mad, in fact, I’ve not really seen his eyes very much. He’s sleeping most of the time. I absolutely love him. What Grandma wouldn’t?

There’s this newer/ probably not so new idea that hospitals are using with the newborns called, skin on skin time. (They didn’t do this when my 4 were born) It provides bonding between the parents and the baby. The warmth of the parent’s body against the warmth of the newborn’s body is a time the newborn can feel the presence of his parent and listen to their heartbeat. The parent gets to hold their little bundle of love. Absolutely beautiful!

This morning while I spent my time with God, I was reminded of another old worship song, “Heart of Worship”.

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus”

I started thinking about how close God wants to be to me. Just as close as little Levi in the hospital bonding with his Daddy during their skin-on-skin time. The problem is unlike little Levi, I wrestle with God and fight getting close at times. My mind flies through so many different things. Then I got this picture of how it would be if Levi lay there refusing to be comforted, refusing to be held. That is me and I’m sure that is you sometimes as well. I was reminded of a verse Psalm 77:2 “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted.” The issue with having that close “skin-on-skin” time is having something in between you and your Heavenly Daddy. We can choose to lay on our bed of offences- injury, anger, displeasure, or we can choose to let Him wrap us up in the warmth of His arms of love. We can refuse to be comforted or we can choose to let go of everything and simply come seeking to let our lives be “all about our God”. Only one way leads to the peace we all seek and that is intimate, unhindered communion with our Heavenly Daddy. This only happens as we let every unclean, soiled part of us be washed by Jesus’ precious blood, and we simply come willing to leave behind what we sometimes hold onto for dear life, thinking it protects us. Trusting that there is no safer place than against our Heavenly Daddy’s chest, held by His all powerfully strong arms, listening to His heartbeat of Love for us. It is the only way to the peace He gives. Just be held! He is just that Good!

To Take His Hand: Submission and Trust

The first date my husband and I went on was to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, May 9th,1992. We jokingly say that date was “WORLDS OF FUN!!” He was (and still is) the total package. 6 ft 2, brown wavy mullet, sparkly eyes, muscles, our conversations as we rode to Kansas City together and walked around the park were easy. After a full day we went to ride the Ferris wheel one last time. His final pickup line had me, “Hey, I would like to ask you out, but I don’t have much money.” My reply was, “We could go for walks and get a soda. Just hang out. You know the old song says,’ I don’t care if you ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey.'” So began our “Summer of Love”. I have jokingly told him to this day he was a poor college student when we met, but I was sure he had ‘money making potential’. This began our fun dates: walking around Mizzou, laying on the ground in front of Memorial Union at night watching the bat’s fly around the lights, Swimming at Finger Lakes, hanging out at his parent’s house on the trampoline, going line dancing at 54 Country (both of us not the best of dancers so stepping on each other’s toes all night.)

One of the first of these dates sticks out in my mind above them all. We decided to go for a walk on the Katy Trail, an old railroad track turned into State Park. We went to a friend’s family’s cabin to park the car. Then to access the trail, we had to go down this short incline. He went down first. Then as a true gentleman should, he turned and held his hand up to me and said, “Let me help you down.” I was 21. I hadn’t dated anyone since I was 17. I was used to living my life, my way, or at least I thought I was. I remember looking at him and thinking, “I could do this a lot better on my own.” But to humor him I took his hand and allowed him to help. I didn’t want to scare him off with my independence on our second date. Little did he know this was also the beginning of my struggle to submit.

Seven months later we were married. A whirlwind romance, then the real battle began. I wanted my way, he wanted his. I believed the Biblical model for marriage as the man being the head of the relationship, but I struggled to trust. My experiences before marriage had led me to believe that authority did not always do what was best for me (not with any ill intentions). So, believing firmly in the verse in the Bible about “not letting the sun go down on your anger”, meant some days of us dragging our butts into work after a late night/ early morning spent fighting and then making up. One of these fights he told me something that has stuck with me, “Janet you don’t understand, I love you! I would take a bullet for you if I had to.” OUCH.

Twenty-nine years later, the struggles between us have not been nearly as intense. I’ve learned through the years that as he told me, he has only my best interests at heart. He loves me, and we usually work to a mutual agreement. We live pretty harmoniously for the most part.

Enter the past few months. We have had an area of contention between us, and I, in my true fashion, have been struggling to admit he was right. I briefly went back to my 21-year-old self on the edge of the Katy Trail. I didn’t want his hand, help, or his wisdom. My fears of ‘what would happen if I trusted what he and God were saying was right’ were ruling. But finally, I caved, and I actually feel a lot better.

This morning I have been thinking about the parallels between my struggle to trust and submit to my husband, and the struggle to trust and submit to God. I am so very grateful that God is patient with me. He has always had the best interest at heart for me, but there are many times I want my way, because I lack the trust, I should have in Him. This lack of trust comes from not really knowing the heart of the Lover of My Soul. Submitting to Him is not because He is a tyrant that just wants His way. It is because I really don’t know where I am going and what I am doing in this life. The only way to wholeness is to stay close to the One who does and obey as He speaks what direction and how many steps to take. I may think that my best interest will be met by my way, but it is actually best met by HIs. The trust I lack comes through me agreeing with the truth, God is Good. God is Love. God is my Heavenly Father/ Daddy. God is Right in all ways. God is true. And quite honestly, just as my husband told me years ago, God “would take a bullet for me” in fact, He did. Jesus died on the cross so I could live free.

Supreme Authority, just typing it for me can churn up some uneasy feelings. It means me laying down my “rights” to “choose my own destiny”, and to OBEY, not only obey, but to continually depend on someone besides myself to take care of my every need. Here’s the kicker… It is true God is the only Supreme Authority. His purposes will be fulfilled whether I go willingly, or I choose to do it all my own way apart from His purposes. But just like I experienced on that day in late May 1992 I am being offered the opportunity to take the hand of the Lover of My Soul who wants to show me a life of His goodness and His love. I only have to take His Hand, go His way, and enjoy His relationship of Love. His way is BEST!

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. 

The God of a Billion Snowflakes

View off my front porch this morning.

The summer before my 8th grade year my mom talked me into going to church camp. She must have known it was exactly what I needed. Things weren’t easy for me my 7th grade year. There were the typical things: becoming a teenager, first year of junior high, trying to navigate all the changes of growing up. There were the hard things I went through too. The kind of stuff that sent me out for long bike rides on the regular each day after school. Blasting rock music into my ears as loud as I could to try to shut off my brain and deaden the feelings inside. I wanted to wear black all the time leaning toward going “Goth” when I didn’t even know Goth was a thing. Anyway, Mom convinced me to go to camp, though I protested much.

Camp Sharon held its evening worship services in what they called a tabernacle. It was a large open sided building with sawdust floors and rustic wooden pews for seats. I remember sitting through the first night of service feeling like God wanted me to come forward and pray during the altar call/ prayer time, but I was determined I would not go. The second night I sat there determined not to yield again, until they said service was over. Then I could take it no more. I went up to the front knelt in the saw dust and cried so hard I could not talk. The only thing I can remember thinking is, “God, IF you want me, you can have me.”

“IF”, I don’t know if you have ever approached God with the feeling of “If you want me” before, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have. I believe one of satan’s biggest lies he spews to try to get us to not turn to God in our time of need is the lie of, “God does not want you.” “You’ve fallen too far. You’re not good enough. God tolerates your existence. God doesn’t see you or care about you. etc. ” If satan can get you thinking about God in “if you want me…” terms, he has succeeded in propagating one of his biggest lies. Thankfully, God has His way of tearing down that lie and breaking through.

As I sit here this morning with my heated throw blanket, cup of coffee, and laptop on my lap, I am watching it snow. We’re getting quite a lot of it for my neck of the woods. It is beautiful. A few days ago, when the forecast started talking snow, I started thinking about snowflakes. When my kids were little, we would take a black piece of construction paper out on a snowy day and catch snowflakes so we could see the individual detail of each one. Each one was unique. I remember us talking about the God of details. Then it hit me, this current snowstorm has millions, maybe billions of flakes, much more than I can count. And God has given each tiny flake an individual identity. He knows their shape. He knows their size. He knows the moment they will form and the moment they will melt. God cares that much about detail, and all this fuss over a tiny snowflake. Yet He never took the time to send His one and only Son, Jesus to earth so the snowflake could experience Him and His goodness. Not so with us, You and I are exactly the reason Jesus came. How much more then does this God of a billion snowflakes, actually care about me. To say He wants me is an understatement. The God of that much detail, took the time to zero in on a 13 year old Missouri girl out of the billions of people on this planet, to draw me to a place that I could say, “If You want me, You can have me.” It was there at that point that the layers of lies began to peel off. Some of them still slowly being removed some 38 years later. The God of a billion snowflakes wanted the heart of this one Missouri Girl. That is good news! He not only wanted me, but He wanted to have me, to hold me, and to show me what a Good, Good Heavenly Father He is to me. You and I can both be assured if the God who takes the time to design a billion snowflakes can step into my, one in the billions of people, world, He can take the time to step into yours. He’s just that Big and yet He comes to us individually in just that small of a way! He not only Loves us, He wants us! He is good!

The God of a Billion Snowflakes, made me.

For Love or Money? PASSION for God

My youngest son, my baby, turned 18 on Friday. A few weeks ago, he and I began discussing plans for his birthday party. My son is a huge people person. So long story short, we ended up with 14 teenage boys here at my house for a party and 10 of them staying for overnight. It was a night of bowling, playing pool, lifting weights, video games, watching “Napoleon Dynamite”, pizza, and homemade ice cream cake. They were laughing and having a good time into the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, I did the mom thing, I cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits, and gravy. When I yelled down the stairs to the basement that there was biscuits and gravy, it didn’t take much time for them to surface. They ate to their fill and thanked me repeatedly for the “great breakfast”.

While I was cooking it hit me, I really enjoy cooking for these kids. If you knew my history with cooking, you would understand why that stuck out to me. I was not much for cooking when I was growing up. My mom would try and try to get me to join her in the kitchen, but I had absolutely NO interest. I took home ec in high school and when it came time for the cooking labs, I would try to get in a group that had good cooks, and I would offer to do the dishes so I wouldn’t have to cook, but still get the good grade. When I moved out at 18, I ended up with a job as a cook at a nursing home. I had listed my youth pastors for references on my application. So during my interview, the dietician who managed the kitchen told me, “I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian. I can teach you how to cook.” A miracle… lol. God knew I’d end up married with 4 kids and a stay-at-home mom. He also knew I would need to learn to cook. When I called my mom to let her know I got a new job as a cook at a nursing home, she jokingly told me not to lie to her. “You never cooked when you were home, how on earth will you cook for a nursing home?” I told her, “There are two reasons I will cook, Love or Money. Someday I’ll have a husband and a family and then I will cook for love. For now, it’s MONEY!” I may have been trying to crack somewhat of a joke at that moment, but I realize now there was a lot of truth to it.

My boss taught me how to cook all kinds of stuff, and not just off a recipe, sometimes just throwing what I had together to make something tasty, I did it happily for 3 years. Then my husband came along, we were married, I quit the kitchen, and my cooking for love began. I wanted to impress him with my skill, since his mom also worked in a kitchen, and was an awesome cook. So, our first year was me trying my best to bring out the best meals from my repertoire of dishes I knew. Love or money… Love had finally won out! I’ve been cooking for love for the past 29 years.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit the past few months about my relationship with God and the motives behind what I do. As one who has struggled with the shackles of performance-based religion chained to my feet more than once, an evaluation of motives is a good thing from time to time. 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.” God wants me serving Him for the same reason I have cooked for my husband and kids for the past 29 years, love. There’s freedom in that. Serving for “money” or I do x, y, z and you reward me with whatever I want, or hope God will give me, is a business transaction with no heart involved. I become a slave of the need I am trying to get filled or the reward I want to receive. The more I strive, the more I receive. The hamster wheel of performance with the hope of an occasional treat drives me. When you are driven, you are a slave. When you love you willingly do things you would not naturally do, and you do it from the heart.

God is after our love. He has made it pretty clear that the things we think we can do to make Him happy with us are not enough. He compares our righteous acts to filthy rags, Menstrual cloths to be exact (gross). He’s not looking for us to come to Him with the latest and greatest of our performance tricks. He is wanting us to come to just come. He wants us to come to Him so we can know Him. I can believe that with confidence because Jesus’ life on earth is the evidence of that. Jesus said that when we see Him we have seen the Father. This means our Daddy in Heaven is the kind of God that would touch the untouchable, love the unloveable, heal the impossible, and restore the broken. It says in Acts 10: 38 “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Jesus and our Heavenly Father are not playing Good Cop/ Bad Cop with us. Jesus Good Cop/ God the Father Bad cop. Jesus did all the good He did because God was with Him. Our Heavenly Father loves it when we experience His goodness just as much as Jesus does. And His desire is for us to come to Him and interact with Him from a heart that Loves, not one that is just looking for a payout of some kind of “money”.

James 2 in the Bible has a lot to say about our actions and our faith. It gets as bold as saying that if we have faith but have no actions to back them up our faith is dead. This seems to be a statement of us “cooking for money” again. No one wants a dead faith, so we need to get busy. But I would like to propose that it is actually about “cooking for love”. God wants our faith in Him to be born out “PASSION” for knowing Him. “LOVE”. The kind of Love that can’t wait to get up and spend time with Him in the morning, not checking a box off our spiritual to do list. The kind of love that wants to tell others about Him, because they are just so blown away and excited by being Passionately loved by the creator of all. He wants our faith to be alive with actions that come from a heart motivated by LOVE for Him. This love is not something we just drum up within ourselves. If we lack that kind of Love, our faith could very well be dead. Thankfully our God is the God of the resurrection. He brings the dead, even our dead and cold love to life. A passionate love within us comes because HE LOVED US FIRST! and His Spirit has poured HIs love out in our hearts. It is a passion given by Him. HE DOES IT ALL! If I feel like I lack the love and desire for Him I need, I just ask, and He will give.

He wants us close to Him. That is why He came and why He still pursues us. He is just that Good!

Sunrise and Sunset Experiencing Him

“You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” – Angel “Redeeming Love” The Movie.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8

The second house my husband and I owned was an earth contact (basement house). It was surrounded on three sides with dirt. It is super energy efficient, but if you’re a fan of having sunlight shining in your house, the lack of windows would not be your thing. This basement house was located in the middle of the woods with lots of trees around it. it was so shaded that we literally had no grass. It just would not grow. I have several happy memories in that house. It is where we lived when my kids were little before their teens. I would back the suburban out of the garage, crank the stereo in the living room and we had an instant roller-skating rink. We did nature walks in the woods identifying the trees that surrounded it, and probably one of the funniest memories was the deer running across our roof. An earth contact in the woods… makes perfect sense. Happy memories are a plus, but I really didn’t like that house. No windows in the bedrooms worked on my fear of house fires (my grandparent’s house burned to the ground when I was 11). And only 3 windows that were 2 sliding glass doors in the living room area and a kitchen sink window. This caused serious issues with my needing all the lights in the house turned on from the moment I woke up until I went to bed at night. Words could not express how happy I was when we moved to our current house, grass in the yard, windows everywhere. Since we live out in the middle of 23 acres, my first act as an official homeowner was to strip every curtain and shade off of every window with the exception of the bedrooms. I told my husband, “I don’t want any curtains. I haven’t seen outside for the past 7 years.” I didn’t put curtains up for 11 years. Three years ago, I put up some decorative ones much to my husband’s surprise, but they are never closed…

The two things that I had missed in the 7 years of living in our earth contact was sunrise and sunset. Quite honestly, I don’t remember watching a sunrise or sunset before that either. I just never noticed them. Maybe I was young, maybe I was busy, maybe I just didn’t care. I’m not really sure why I don’t remember really paying attention to them until I moved here. The view out of my dining room and also over my kitchen sink looks over our back field and faces west. It didn’t take too many evenings here to realize I had suddenly been given the most perfect premium seats for watching the sunset EVERY night. Then there is the front upstairs deck. It faces east. I quickly figured out I could put a chair out there, take a cup of coffee with me and enjoy God’s artistry of the sunrise EVERY morning too. The more I watched the sunrises and the sunsets, the more I began to appreciate how God made each one different and unique. I would contemplate how awesome it would be if I could paint such beauty. I’ve tried my hand at painting before, I’m pretty sure this is out of my expertise.

I’ve blogged quite a bit lately about the women’s Bible study I have been attending, WOW (Women on Wednesday). Today’s discussion in the class I am in got me to thinking about all this. We were talking about “Knowing God”. One of the aspects of knowing God was to “Experience Him”. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my life thinking that experiencing God was always related to a “Goosebump” moment. It was something very emotional. I am not opposed to the emotional/ goosebump experiences of God that do occur occasionally. However, some of my sweetest experiences with God have not involved goosebumps or exciting emotions. They have occurred when I have paused and looked at the sunrise or the sunset. It occurred to me back when I started pausing to gaze that God truly is an artist. He paints scenery that cannot be recreated by human hands. But more than that, when I pause and look at what He has made, I realize that very moment, that very combinations of colors and shades were placed in the sky for me to look at and to stand in awe and wonder of God, who wanted me to enjoy what He made for me. God orchestrated it right then just for me. I whispered, “Thank you God”. Right then I experienced God. It was beautiful and it was simple. For me, a person who tends to overcomplicate things when it comes to my relationship with God, experiencing Him is an area that I easily overcomplicate. Pausing to simply enjoy His blessing and thank Him has been a source of experiencing Him like none other. It is beautiful!

This past weekend I went to watch the new movie “Redeeming Love” at the movie theater twice. One of the scenes involves Angel, a prostitute that had endured horrendous abuse at the hands of men from a young age, and Michael Hosea, a farmer who loves Angel with a pure love as they watch a sunrise over the mountains near their home. Angel recalls that moment and the tenderness of sharing something so beautiful with someone who loved her. “You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” It was the first experience she shared with the first person who loved her with a pure love. It hit me, that is me and God. I never paid attention to sunrises or sunsets either, until God blessed me with the home I now have that has windows facing east and west. It was then, I stopped for a moment to watch the beauty of them, and I experienced God’s tenderness with me. He did all this so I could know Him better and get another glimpse of His great love and I respond with “Thank you my heavenly Daddy, I worship you”.

Amazing Sunset not far from my home. God is Awesome!

Testify!! He Can, He Will!

There is an account in the book of John chapter 9, in the Bible, of Jesus healing a man who was blind since birth. It’s been rolling around in my mind and my heart today. Partly because it is just such an incredible miracle and partly because of the response of everyone involved in the account of that miracle. First of all, you have Jesus, then the blind man, the spectators that saw the blind man healed, the skeptic/ religious men, and the blind man’s parents all played a role in its retelling. For some reason, today I see a reflection myself in the middle of it all.

When you struggle with an issue whether it’s physical blindness or spiritual blindness for a long time, possibly all your life, as the blind man was blind all his life, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut. For this man it was the rut of hopelessness with regards to his eyes, begging for the necessities to just get by, with no chance at a full and abundant life. From what is in the text, there isn’t any calling out, there isn’t any asking, no hoping against all hope, he quite honestly wasn’t even portrayed as looking for Jesus to swing by. Jesus simply saw the blind man as He was walking by him. Jesus’ disciples, like many of us wanted to know the “Why” behind the suffering so they asked Jesus “whose fault it was” That the blind man was blind. Jesus simply said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this has happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus healed him.

I identify with that blind man in so many ways. I have struggled with the spiritual blindness of anxiety and depression. They had dug a giant rut of hopelessness in my life. I found myself coping i.e., begging for the necessities to just get by, and really not living in the reality of a full and abundant life. Probably the one difference in the blind man and my own parallel stories is I had been asking Jesus to heal my mind, but I wasn’t convinced He ever would.

One morning I woke up and something was different. Jesus had pulled me up out of the rut. I simply thought, “This anxiety and depression is not a part of my inheritance in Christ”. Then the grip it had on me started to be peeled away, not instantly but much quicker than I thought it would ever happen. Jesus simply wanted for His works to be displayed in me, so the healing began.

This is the point I wanted to come to in this Blog. The thing that has been rolling around inside of me. All the other key players in the account of the Blind man being healed began asking the blind man “how did you get healed?” “What did Jesus do to you?” They wanted an explanation for the unexplainable. All the Blind man knew to say was “One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!” That is the beauty of God’s working in our lives. We get to experience the unexplainable! When Jesus comes by and touches you, setting you free, there is no way of saying “I did x, y, z and now I’m free.” Because the truth is I did not do anything. He came by and touched me so His works could be displayed in me. All of a sudden, the desire to place my mind on Jesus came. All of a sudden, the ability to fight against the enemy’s schemes and the strategies began. All of a sudden, I found myself surrounded by people who would fight with me to see His freedom a reality within me. People who would continually point me to God’s word having the power to renew my mind and God’s peace that abounds when our mind is focused on Him. People brave enough to say something that our culture and our world believes is simply impossible, “In Jesus, you can have total freedom from anxiety and depression.” All of a sudden, feeling of anxiety became less and less to none. All of sudden, I think I don’t need the Buspar, and I didn’t.

Like the blind man, who Jesus came to again after being grilled by the Pharisees because he didn’t fit into their narrative on how life was and who Jesus was, I find myself saying “Jesus whatever you want that is what I want”. Jesus asked him “Do you believe in the son of man…?” He had a simple reply, “Lord show Him to me. Lord I believe” and he worshipped Jesus.

Even though all this feels like I’m walking on wobbly baby deer legs, I say that as well. “Jesus, I believe. You can do anything, things I don’t understand. Thank you for taking time to stop by and touch me.” And this same God who touched me can touch you. He is no respecter of persons. He can, He wlll! He is Good!

Resurrected Thoughts

I have some of the happiest of memories: the look on my groom’s face when I walked in the sanctuary of the church and slowly walked towards him down the aisle at our wedding, he had the biggest smile; The first time I saw my first born as the doctor held him up over this sheet that covered the area where the c section was being performed, he was one mad little guy; the curls on my first daughter’s hair as a 3 year old and her sucking her thumb; my second daughter watching veggie tales in her bouncy saucer sucking on her passy when she was around 9 months; and my youngest son, at the age of almost two telling me verbally he wanted to nurse on “the other side” … time to wean that kid. lol I could go on and on with the good memories especially now that I have the good memory pump primed. But I, like many of you have also struggled with some very hard memories, traumatic ones. Things that when remembered, cause my mind to freeze up for a moment and feelings of fear to flood me. Those memories are hard to shut off once they get to rolling.

I was thinking about the nature of traumatic memories this morning. Having went to counseling for over 3 years, there have been tools that were given to me to deal with the reoccurring memories that try to play in my mind: the 5,4,3,2,1 method, distraction by doing something physical like exercise, etc. They have been helpful, but lately I have been on a quest for “Shalom” in my mind. Peace but a little more than just our English word for peace. It encompasses well-being, tranquility, prosperity, security, wholeness. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” That perfect peace refers to “shalom” a wholeness in my mind. This is promised to the one whose thoughts are “fixed on you!”. During my time in counseling there was established a “safe place” in my thought life that I could go if something came up that was unpleasant to think of. So bad thought comes, think about safe place. When I first thought about it, honestly, I thought, that seems pretty dumb… But with help I established that place, “in my mind” and it did “help” a lot. But I don’t just want “help”, I want “whole”, and the Bible has a concept very similar to this that promises to bring the “wholeness” I am looking for it is “fixing my mind on Jesus”.

Years ago, I watched “The Passion” Not an easy movie to watch… The accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and the beating he received just before it was horrendous. It occurred to me this morning just how traumatic of an event this would have been for his disciples to witness. It really is no wonder they denied, they ran, they hid, etc. Watching the torment of someone you love would be horrible. Watching the final breath… more than a person can take, traumatic. But God did not leave them there to deal with the repeated flashbacks of evil unleashed on the one they loved. God gave them a resurrection. Thank God that in Jesus there is always a resurrection! There is life beyond the hardships we suffer, the trauma we endure. He takes what was dead in us and makes it alive in Him. As the verse says He “makes all things new”. If there is a “Cross” and a “grave” in our life, there is always a “resurrection”. That should be the “safe place” in our minds, the place we go when the thoughts of a painful past try to replay over and over in high definition. That traumatic thought deserves its place nailed on the cross, but don’t stop there it deserves its NEW resurrected thought that always comes after the cross in God’s kingdom. “I am not there, I am FREE!”

Death cannot conquer HIS LIFE!!

The movie “The Passion” also has its short scene of Jesus in the resurrection. I am glad that Mel Gibson did not stop with just the death. In that scene, the grave clothes are empty and Jesus with His nail scared hands, stands, moving forward into His resurrected, victorious life. That will be my new “Safe place” thought. There is nothing safer than a life closely lived to the power and presence of the resurrected Lord. Traumatic thoughts of a crucified past… resurrected reality of our all-powerful risen Lord! Victory! There is no dead thought that can overpower the thoughts centered in His life! There is no thought wrapped in grave clothes that can hold His resurrected thoughts down! Hallelujah!!

So True!!

“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.