In this section of scriptures, Jesus teaches His disciples about how the world, the carnal state or corruption of the earth… evil, hates Him. As His disciples, we are to come out of that corruption. He chose us! He pulled us out of its grip. When we agree with Jesus and do as He does, the world will hate us. They won’t want to see us walking free from sin, because they do not want to be free from their sin. The light in us, God’s light, exposes the darkness for what it is… empty and vain. We are not left alone to stand against the evil of the world.
Here is where Jesus gives us a precious promise:
““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27 ESV
The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He is the Spirit of truth. He helps us to bear witness to the truth. We can rely on Him to help us in persecution and hatred that may come against us. Remember, the world hated Jesus it did not know Him intimately. It continues to hate Him now because it still does not know Him. But we have our Helper so we can tell the World about Him so they may know Him too!
Years ago, when I was smack dab in the middle of the years, I spent homeschooling my four kids, we started our day with a daily devotion. I would read a story or two from the “Egermeiers Bible Story Book” then we would talk about it. One day I was describing to the best of my finite capabilities the Greatness of God. I told my kids; God is like an ocean you can explore. You think you have seen it all and there is soooo much more out there of Him.” As soon as I spoke those words, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Yes, and you are content to just dip your toes while sitting on the edge of the shoreline of ME”. “Busted!!”
This morning as I have been praying and reading my Bible the Song “Rest on Us” by Maverick City Music has been going through my mind. Actually, this started yesterday in my living room, while cleaning. This song came on and I was captivated by its words. (Gotta love a time of living room worship 😉)
Rest on Us
Spirit, when You move, You make my heart pound
When You fill the room
You're here and I know You are moving
I'm here and I know You will fill me
'Cause You love to meet us here
He-hey, baptize us afresh tonight
Baptize us afresh tonight"
God is an experiencial God. He wants us to feel Him. Case in Point: Thomas and Jesus after the resurrection. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27. Acts 2 is definitely an account of the disciples experiencing God. The Holy Spirit comes, people hear the sound of a “mighty rushing wind”, the disciples feel joy, so much so that the people around think they are drunk. Acts 2:15. God talks about in His word that we are to “TASTE and SEE that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8. Sounds like an experience to me… The cool thing about God is that He’s not about just one good experience of Him, then endure til Heaven. He desires a vibrant, living relationship with us on the daily! BUT so often I find myself like I was telling my kids that school day long ago, “Dangling my toes on the edge of the ocean of God’s Goodness!” AND He is inviting me to SOOOOO much more!
His desire is for us to dive in and to explore the depths of HIs love, His Joy, His Peace, His Patience, His Kindness, His Goodness, His Self-Control! The question is “Will I dive in?” “Will I explore the depths of His love and His wisdom in HIs Word?” The invitation has been sent out. His depths are calling out to the deep.
"Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me."
Psalm 42:7 NIV
Proof that this pursuit is not a onetime occurrence, but a lifetime endeavor of seeking Him, searching out His word, communion/ experiencing His Spirit’s presence.
Years ago, February 4, 2006, to be exact I was contemplating all this and I wrote a Poem
The Deep (written 2/4/2006)
I can't go deep enough when i dive into You.
I think I arrive, but the hunger returns.
Your deep calls to deep and I am moved.
I follow You on and chase after You.
My heart cries out. "How long until I am consumed?"
You alone I desire. You alone satisfy.
"Fill me with you:" Is my hearts Cry.
Just one taste will NEVER satisfy! More of Jesus! More of the Holy Spirit filling us to the overflowing!
Good Friday is here! Reflecting on what Jesus did on the cross becomes the focus of this day. Where would I be had Good Friday never happened? No hope, Fear, Torment… Lost. The truth of the matter is it was my rebellion, my choices, my sin that Jesus took upon himself on the cross. He essentially did the equivalent of running into a burning building and pulling me out at the cost of His own precious life. All this so I could be free and experience His love. He is just that Good!
Finally Free- (originally written 3/4/2007)
I know where I come from.
I know You are the Holy One
With sin filled heart I spat in your face.
I am nothing apart from your grace.
Your nail scarred feet ran to rescue me.
Your blood stained hands reached out to me.
From the fire you have pulled me.
Oh what I owe is too much to see.
Your arms of love surround me.
And draw me to the side pierced for me.
You saved me
I am finally free!
May I kiss the hand of the one who saved me.
With grateful tears may I wash your feet.
I long to gaze in your beautiful face.
I am grateful for your grace.
Your arms of love surround me.
And draw me to the side pierced for me.
You saved me
I am finally free!
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” Daniel 4:34 NIV
“God, I hate my mind!” – my prayer after another day drowning in anxiety. 8/31/2021
Emotions and feeling can take us on the wildest roller coaster rides of our minds. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond a little extra stress. Having lived with an anxiety disorder for years, I have felt like the crazy inside would never end. But I’ve had what I would call my “Nebuchadnezzar experience”. After raising my eyes toward heaven, my sanity has been restored.
I have known the torment of hideous nightmares, sleepless nights with my mind running 100 mph and no sign of stopping. I have known the fear of going to sleep because of not being to control what was going on around me while my eyes were closed and I slept. I’ve known what it is like to not be able to stay present in a situation. The whole Fight, Flight, Flee, or Freeze. I would freeze under extreme stress of fear. It was fairly unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Zoning out, feeling like you’re sinking into a tunnel inside your head, everything around you becomes just noise. Then there’s the tightness of your throat and chest that would go on for days. Before the meds- crying and not really sure why, after the meds- not crying a drop, numb. Going over and over and over again inside your head trying to make sense of the memories you would like to shut out, but can’t. I would have them hit when I was about to fall asleep and then feeling the tension of my shoulders as they tighten and I would find myself holding my breath like I was waiting for a shot to hit me.
All this going on while I have been a Christian- loved Jesus, a wife, homeschool mom, served on boards for different groups, lead ministries at my church, and tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t hit as much or I would hopefully forget. The problem is it would calm down on occasion, but all it took was a trigger and I would be back into the torment of my mind.
After 3 years of knowing me, my best friend suggested that I would go and see a counselor. So I did. I also began taking Prozac, which then had Hydroxizine added to it, then Buspar as the MG of Prozac grew too. I would make sure I took the pills as soon as I got out of bed and most days I couldn’t wait for my next dose in the evening. But after awhile, even the medicines weren’t working.
Four years of counseling… CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming were some of the things I tried. There were things that definitely helped in some areas, but nothing stopped the anxiety. In fact, it seemed to get worse.
I tried doing everything the counselors I went to recommended. I began reading self-help book after self-help book trying to figure out how to get the feelings to stop. I tried the suggestion of “making room” for your anxiety. Imagining it being able to grow and not be resisted so that if I didn’t struggle it might stop. Then I tried Meditation. I downloaded the “HeadSpace” app. Which was started by a Buddhist Monk. I tried to blend their beliefs in with the Bible. Thinking that maybe I could make them fit and then justify my willingness to embrace things that went against what the Bible said. I wanted to believe that my problems had absolutely nothing to do with a spiritual world. That anxiety was my cross in life to bear/ thorn in my flesh/ in my DNA. That I might have the power within myself to fix myself If I tried to faithfully work through all the coping mechanisms that I was learning about that I had developed. I was starting to believe that the best I could do was to try to be my best me and live my out my truth, whatever that was and manage “my anxiety” (like it was my new lifelong pet). Then there was trying to let out pent up emotions as recommended to me, by getting alone in my car, finding the most angry/depressing music I could think of, usually Metalica or Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, then screaming as loudly as I could. Again, all this while attending church regularly, but not necessarily willingly (as time went on), also reading my Bible after trying to calm my mind by meditating. Every night ending with a tight throat and chest and not so restful sleep.
I tried everything I read and all that was recommended to me. Yet I was still drowning in anxiety and getting to the point that thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more frequently. I would find myself driving my Jeep and praying to God, begging Him to heal my mind and telling Him how much I hated my mind, then having my mind have this weird sensation and thinking, “I have to stay present! I see a red stop sign. White car, my steering wheel is black. I feel it’s rough yet smooth touch. My seat feels like fabric. I smell…”. “The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method” for grounding, all this while driving. My mind was tortured and there seemed to be no end on the horizon.
Finally, I had to come to the end of myself. I found myself sitting in a counseling session talking about the past and these words rolled off my tongue, “If there really are any demons…” In searching to figure out “my truth” (as is a common theme in today’s culture), I had started to doubt “God’s truth”. When the words came out, I immediately thought, “I am in trouble. Am I going to Believe Jesus, the Bible, what my whole life had been built around since childhood, or am I going to turn away? God HELP me I am in trouble, and I can’t get out of this.”
In January of 2021, I had started attending a Bible study in our area called W.O.W. (Women on Wednesdays). One of the sessions talked about how as Christians we choose to wander in the Wilderness, following after fleshly things and this will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Sins were specifically mentioned, among them was “Anxiety”. This offended me. My mind ran like a hamster on a wheel uncontrollably, how could they say that struggle was a sin, something I chose to live in? But for some reason, I knew I needed whatever they had, so I kept going until the Spring session was over. Then, during the summer, I felt like I needed to get to know these people who were saying this, so I would not struggle with anxiety about going to the Bible study so much. I texted one of the leaders and offered to just help- set up or tear down, nothing more. You would have thought that I had shaken a jar of yellow jackets and set them loose inside my chest. I couldn’t do it, not even help. So, I texted her back, and told her that I was rushing things, it would be better for me to just attend for a while. I was too anxious to help even just a little. She urged me to pray about that and not make any quick decisions. I told her, “I struggle with anxiety, but I will pray.” God helped me to say that I would serve as a door greeter. If you knew my history of serving in church, this should be a piece of cake. (I like people, most of them ha ha) But it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to tell women “Good morning” when they arrived. It was because, just walking in the building was hard for me. I would arrive in the morning, on time, and sit there for a few minutes in my Jeep, asking myself, “Why did you say you would do this? Now you have to come all the time… They don’t like you. You’re a bother…” the session of lies would go on and on, then I would think, “I have to go in.” and I would make myself get out of my Jeep and walk into the church. After a while of being there, I would somewhat calm down, but the struggle went on and on. I would occasionally mention the anxiety I suffered with to the leader I was kind of getting to know. She mentioned the Co-founder of the organization had struggled with Anxiety and that she might be good to talk to. She was the one who mentioned Anxiety being a part of the wilderness experience the semester I attended before, it intimidated me to talk to her about it, but I was desperate. So, I texted her and asked her if I could talk to her about anxiety. She made time and we talked. It was then that she told me I was going to have to fight. That I could be free. That I was believing lies. That I had lost my first love, my passion for knowing Jesus. Everything she said hit home. She gave me a paper and told me to take it home and write out what I want, what I want with my relationship with Jesus, my life to be, etc. I took it home that afternoon and this is what I wrote:
“This is what I want… to walk in freedom from anxiety, but more than that I want to be close to Jesus. I want to drop the Buspar- Pop my eyes to you Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things that the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run to Jesus and my response to be one who falls at His feet close to HIm. I want Peace. I want You to be my peace…”
This is the beginning of freedom. I’m not sure of the timing but shortly after I wrote that, I woke up one morning with the words, “Anxiety is not a part of my inheritance. I do not have walk in anxiety anymore.” running through my head. The whole day when anxiety would come to me, I would say, “NOPE, you are not my inheritance. My inheritance in is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness in Jesus.” One day would go by… Not too bad of a struggle, two days, three days, etc. Then I woke up one morning and thought. You don’t need the Buspar. Skip the morning dose. Did that for a week, felt good. Skip the evening dose. Did that for a week, felt good. I think I’ll drop them both. Quit the Buspar. Thank you, Jesus! Feeling less and less numb inside. Then, I started to believe that I can be free from the Prozac. I talked to my doctor and told her I was feeling better, and I wanted to go off it. She was all for it. Drop 10 mg. A much slower tapering off, 10 mg at a time, for weeks and weeks until I am finally Free! And feeling Soooo much better!!
Now when Anxiety comes to rattle my cage, I have a battle plan: I pray. I pop my eyes to Jesus. Speaking who God is and how He is worthy of praise. Worship music. Quoting Psalm 18. If it’s real strong, engage my praying friends. I’ve not lived in this kind of peace ever. God has set me free!
I have not needed the oftentimes-weekly counseling sessions I was going to for 6 months. Spending time in Bible Study and Prayer has been more than enough. Praying with my husband if I’m struggling and having friends pray have helped so much.
Do I battle? Yes, Satan knows where to hit me at, but God has shown me how to let Him hit back. It’s not by anything I do. It’s by me Looking to Jesus. Calling to Him for help. Thinking about How GOOD He is. Doing this over and over and over and then it Goes!
All the ME Centered living: my effort, my wants, my plans, my truth, etc. Only led me further and further away from peace and further and further into a pit. Repentance, and running to Jesus, hiding away in Him, relying totally on Him, trusting Him, surrendering to Him by submittance and obedience. It is the only thing that works because it is how He designed me to live. It is the only way out of the wilderness living to the abundance of Jesus’ Kingdom living.
The song “Too good to Not Believe” has a line in it that brings tears to my eyes on occasion. “Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection. I’ve seen mental health restored. Don’t you tell me He can’t do it… I believe You’re the Wonderworking God… The miracles I’ve seen. You’re too Good to not believe.”
God truly is too good to not believe! He can do anything. A little over a year ago, I was struggling to believe that there was any way to get free from the anxiety inside of me. Fear of needing to take more meds, try more self-help techniques and knowing what I had already done was not cutting it shouted its lies to me over and over. But Jesus heard my cries for help, and He came to my rescue! If you only knew the difference I feel, you would see, God is “Too Good to Not Believe”.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
“Grace (unmerited favor) and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 AMP
Let me start this off with a statement. “Being a Grandparent ROCKS!” I have a grandson that is almost 2 and one on the way. It is one of the biggest joys of my husband’s and my life. It changes you. I guess it’s because 26 years of being a parent wore off all the rough edges in us and now we’re mellow and relaxed. ha ha. I was commenting the other day while shopping with my husband at some Thrift stores how I don’t believe I have ever seen him in our 29 years of marriage spend more time in the Toy section of a store. When our kids were little, I could barely drag him through it. Now he gravitates toward it and spends significant time trying out every button and calling to me for my attention on what the toy does. To be fair, as a younger man, he was pretty stinking busy trying to make a living and provide for us and probably just didn’t feel like he had the time. But nonetheless, our little grandson has stirred up a favor within us toward him that no other has. If he comes over and tells me “Ganny, I hungy, Waffles” you better believe “Ganny” is plugging in her animal shaped waffle maker and whipping up a batch for my little man. Because he has my heart.
This Christmas season I have been thinking about the love of God and different aspects of the Christmas story. Last night I was drawn to the section of the Christmas story where the angels announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14. “Favor” when translated from the Greek means “satisfaction, delight, kindness”. Delight really stuck out to me. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor (delight) rests.
Me knowing me, finds it hard to believe in a God who “delights” in me, sometimes. But that is exactly how God, my heavenly Daddy feels toward me. The same kind of delight that my husband feels at a toy store contemplating the latest and greatest toy that would give our grandson a thrill, is the same kind of delight that my heavenly Daddy feels when He thinks of me, which is ALL the time. (a whole other blog I’m sure). The same kind of delight I feel when my little guy asks “Ganny” for waffles as he rubs his little tummy with his little hand, God feels towards me as He goes with me throughout the day. The good news is this favor/ delight is not just poured out on me. (though I’ll take it). It is poured out on all of us, and the more we spend time with God, getting to know Him, the more we experience His delight in us. As the verse above in 2 Peter says, it is multiplied to us as we become more intimate with our heavenly Daddy and Jesus our Lord. The more I know Him, the more I understand that God is love. The kind of Love that delights in me enough to come to earth on a Christmas day, live His life out displaying just how Good and loving He is, then dying as the sacrifice for all the wrongs/sin I have done. Rising again so I can live. That is delight that makes my mind “tilt” when I contemplate it. That is the delight, the favor, the grace that He multiplies towards me over and over, and not only toward me, but toward you. Because He loves us and He is Oh so Good!
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
We live about an hour away from an old order Amish community. Every once and awhile my husband and I along with my sisters in law and my brothers in law decide to go and visit their shops. It’s relaxing to get out in their area of farmland, to see the occasional horse and buggy, and purchase some of their hand pies and whoppie pies from their bakery. I also enjoy looking in their furniture shops. The quality of their hand made furniture is amazing.
This last weekend our little group of family made the trip up north. We stopped at the aforementioned bakery, and I enjoyed a handheld strawberry pie. Then we walked over to the building next to the bakery, the furniture store. When we walked in there was this handmade slab table made of oak. It was large and oh so beautiful, absolutely stunning would probably be the words that best describe it. It immediately caught the eye of each of us in our group. I could just picture it in my dining room with our growing family seated around it. I bet you could get 10 people around it. I stood there gently rubbing the smooth, shiny top admiring the craftsmanship. Then common sense hit, I probably don’t need it. I have a nice oak table now and I’ve got other things that an extra $4000 or more could be applied to in my life, like new carpet… So, I warmed by the wood stove for a minute, admired its beauty, and then hopped into the truck to go on to the next business.
The past week I have found myself parked in a couple of sections of scripture. Like I shared in my blog yesterday, I usually spend time reading the passage, rereading it, praying about, it and writing about it as well. It’s good for me. Isaiah 61 is the other section I’ve been trying to let soak into my head and my heart. When I read it verse 3 kept drawing me in. “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor”. Immediately my thoughts went to my own oak furniture, end tables, one bought at an Amish furniture shop, and then that gorgeous slab table I had seen. Oak is a quality wood for quality furniture made from an impressive tree. I started googling Oak trees. Turns out Oak trees are all over the world. I probably already knew that, but for some reason it seemed like an American phenomenon to me. They grow LARGE and they grow STRONG. They are some of the most magnificent trees. There is no trouble distinguishing the characteristics of an oak. An Oak tree is just that an Oak tree. And God says in His word that I am just that, an Oak of Righteousness. The two verses before that are among those quoted by Jesus in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry. He read how God had sent Him to proclaim the good news, to bind up our broken hearts, proclaim freedom and release to those held captive by sin and its effects, and to proclaim God’s favor toward us. He gives us beauty where there was nothing but ashes, joy where there was mourning, and praise over our despair, and as if that is not enough, He turns the very core of who we are into something new and enduring, an Oak of righteousness. An oak tree is an oak tree, no matter the size- from seedling to giant. It is an Oak. And we become an oak of righteousness. In Jesus, I am righteous. It’s not something I have to attain. It’s not something I have to work for. It is who I am. Not of my own, but of His doing. It is who I am. No matter what size of faith I may feel like I have, seedling to giant, He has made me 100% righteous in Him. This is all done for the display of His splendor in me. When I live in that reality, it points others to the beauty of what a life in Christ is, and just as I sat in that Amish furniture shop admiring the beauty of an Oak slab table, Christ’s righteousness on display in my life, shows just how beautiful and awesome the transformation of a heart made new really is. A healed, free heart, standing in His favor is beautiful and joyously echoing praises of the One who made them NEW. It is a display of His glorious splendor. That He allows me to take part in. All because He Loves Me and I am His. Excuse me while I stand in awe again of just how Good He is…
Last weekend I got to get out with my youngest daughter and some friends for an overnight Ladies Retreat called, INSPIRE Retreat with Candace Payne as the guest speaker. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she is also known as “The Chewbacca Mom” for her viral video watched more than 145 million times. She was awesome! Such words of encouragement and also words that challenged me. The last session on Saturday has set off a churning of things inside that I haven’t experienced in awhile. Mainly because in her comical communicating she landed a concept of depth that I’ve not been able to grab ahold of for quite some time. All this from her thoughts on an account of a man in the Bible named Lazarus and a miracle that few have witnessed and seems to be impossible, but I guess that’s why it is a miracle, his resurrection from the dead. John 11 in the Bible contains all the details of this miracle, and the truth is I’ve probably read this, heard it read, heard songs about it, etc. off and on for hundreds of times throughout my 50 years on Planet Earth. But this time something finally hit home.
The account of Lazarus begins with him getting sick, and his sisters, Jesus’s friends, asking Jesus, a known healer to come and heal him. But for some reason Jesus gets in no hurry to go the two mile journey to their house. He waits for two days. The thing that has hit me so hard about this concept is just that “two days”. Why wait? Why allow Lazarus to go through the pain and suffering of the dying process? and Why allow Mary and Martha to have to sit and watch their brother go through all that pain? Especially if the journey only takes a two mile walk. That’s about 40 minutes at the pace I usually walk. Not a very long time or distance to go.
The more this churns around in my mind memories of my own experiences watching my Father in law die of cancer 10 years ago and my Mother in law die of cancer 1 1/2 years ago have been replaying in my mind. Mary and Martha must have felt the things I felt as I sat there and slowly watched my loved ones slip away. Helplessness, deep heart pain, the finality of it all, etc… Then there’s all the other things I’ve walked through in life that have been unfair, unjust, painful, just plain sad… I can relate to the feeling they must have had when you know that Jesus is soooo close, but for some reason He seems to be ignoring it all. This is where the profound statement that Jesus makes changes things. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV This is the point that God changes what we see as our “break down” as His “break through”, Our “End” as “His beginning” , our “dead end” as His “way through”. I’ve been becoming more and more aware as of late that Jesus does not ever “ignore”. He is always there, always hearing ever cry, always collecting every tear. He sees our hurt but what seems to be His delay really is His perfect time. Because He wants us to be able to participate in glorifying Him and even as He says when trying to explain His delay, it may just be for “our sake” that He waits and that He is “glad … so that we may believe.” John 11:14.
Prayers are not answered, unless there is a need that has to be prayed for, Miracles don’t happen unless there is something that is broken and in need of a supernatural intervention, Resurrections don’t occur unless someone has died. A life adrift and lost cannot be rescued unless it is just that “adrift and lost”. I think you may be getting the picture. All these things cannot happen and bring glory to God unless there is someone who needs Him to show up and show off all the Good He can do!
I know what it’s like to sit thinking “I am DONE”. There is nothing more. I can’t hurt any worse. I cannot fix this. But that is exactly where God steps in and shows me how He IS! Sometimes I need the delay of action on His part so I can see that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out of the mess I’ve been in and then finally take the chance to “Believe”. I think when we finally hit the “it’s either I believe, or I will die” mark, the end of us, that we see.
I don’t know I need a Rescuer until I realize I am in peril. I don’t understand I need to be free until I see just how enslaved I am, and I don’t know how I need a new/ resurrected life until I find myself rotting in a stinky grave of all the bad choices I can make. It’s only when I find myself spiritually dead that I realize how much I need Jesus to be that “resurrection and life” for me.
The cool ending to the account of Lazarus is a resurrected man, given back to his sisters. Great sadness turned into the greatest of joy! And the most important thing was all those around watching as two sisters grieved for 4 days over their loss, those who comforted them, cried with them, and stood by them in their sadness, saw what Jesus did and “Believed in HIM”. John 11:45.
Whatever we face that breaks our hearts, deteriorates our bodies, or just plain hurts are all things that Jesus “The Resurrection and The Life” takes and makes a part of our story that brings glory to HIM and reason for us to Praise Him, the one who makes all things work out for our Good and His Glory! AMEN!