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!
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(Last Sunday afternoon I spent some time surfing the internet. I came across a church service online from a church that my husband and I attended years ago. This illustration came from their opening of the service. It struck me because it is something I’m sure we all experience. In fact, I experienced it a couple of weeks ago, so I will relay my occurrence.)
Every once and awhile I get a hankering for a large McDonalds UNSWEET Tea. It’s a dollar and some change, so when I’m out and about it seems like a little treat to me. I DO NOT LIKE the Sweet Tea. It is so thick with sugar. I feel like I’m trying to suck down some kind of syrup. So strange as it may seem Unsweet is what I go after. Two weeks ago, I took my grandson for a ride in my Jeep. We ran through the McDonald’s drive thru to get him an ice cream cone and me… you guessed it an UNSWEET tea. I tried my best to enunciate in the drive through order box that I wanted UNNNNNN Sweet. So, I felt pretty confident they would get it right. I handed the mini-ice cream cone to my grandson and sat my Tea in the cup holder. Off we went. All was well until I finally found the straw they gave me, stuck it in the cup, and took a swig. SWEET… UGH! I was already down the hill and entering the roundabout towards the next destination. My first thought was, “Oh well, you didn’t really need it anyway.” But then it hit me. I paid for Unsweet. I wanted Unsweet. I will go back and get it. So I did. I pulled up to the window and explained that I had purchased an Unsweet Tea and they had given me sweet. In a matter of less than a minute, I was happily pulling away from the window with the Tea I ordered. All this over a cup of tea that cost me a little over a dollar and some change. But I wanted what I paid for.
Starting today, Palm Sunday, we have entered Holy Week. I come from a tradition that observed little of the week with exception of Good Friday. But In more recent years I appreciate the remembrance and celebration of the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Especially the observance of Good Friday. Reflecting on the price Jesus paid for me to live free each year is so very important. As the verse above states, “The punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Him”. He gave all of Himself, so we could be in relationship with Him and live the life we were originally created to live before sin entered and our world, our lives were broken. We however choose to live lives that are far from what He purchased for us to live. He came that we would “have life and have it more abundantly” or as some versions say “to the full”. John 10:10. He came to make us subjects of His royal kingdom, heirs to His promises. Yet we choose to do what I almost did at the roundabout when I discovered I did not get the Tea I paid for: think oh well, I don’t need it anyway, and drive away… BUT Jesus wants us to live in EVERY Blessing He paid for us to live within. He “Wants what He paid for ” in our lives. He wants us to not settle, but to be willing to pursue and run towards the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14. He wants us to “take ahold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of Us”. As we go through each day approaching the celebration of Good Friday and then Easter, I believe God wants us to reflect on this one thing. As the old Hymn says, “Jesus Paid it all. All to Him I owe…” Am I living a life full of what Jesus paid the price for me to obtain? Am I experiencing His peace? If not, time to go through the spiritual roundabout back to where you got away from HIm and the peace He paid for you to have. Am I experiencing His joy? If not, time for a U Turn Go back to the only true source of Joy, Jesus. Am I living in His Love? No? Go back to the place you were when you walked away from your First Love. He paid such a great price on the cross so we could live in these. Don’t cheapen the tears that rolled down His face, the bloody stripes across His back, the nail prints in His hands and feet, by being unwilling to go back to Him. He is saying “I want what I have paid for in your life!” not because He is a “demanding” God, But because HE IS GOOD! And He loves us SOOOOO much! He is not satisfied for us to have a half fulfilled life. He wants to overflow us with ALL He has paid for, we are the ones who choose to go after it by going after Him or going our own way, turning down the Good He offers us.
Winter in Missouri can cause challenges. Especially if you live on a gravel road. (Thank God it’s spring now). Significant snowfalls tend to make traveling our roads into a challenge. Especially when the snow begins to melt and the side of the road becomes sloppy with a mixture of mud and snow. Just ask my son… A narrow road, an oncoming school bus with no intention to slow down or move over, and a little too close to the side creates the perfect opportunity to find yourself in the ditch… stuck.
Once trapped in such a manner with one tire in a hole off the side of the road, there is no amount of tire spinning, or trying to lift oneself out of the ditch. The only solution is to call for help from someone who has the experience and the tools to remove you from it. Thankfully my nephew had a 4-wheel drive truck, a chain, and experience from his own off road/ ditch time.
Years ago, I read the book, “Get Out of That Pit” by Beth Moore. In the book, she made a point about how we get “stuck” in life’s pits: Some we are thrown into, some we fall into, and some we jump into wholeheartedly. That pretty well sums up the times I’ve found myself in an emotional/ spiritual pit. I ended up there one of those three ways. My most recent pit experience was due mainly to a slow slide into it, kind of like my son’s car. Adversity (the school bus) came barreling down my spiritual dirt road with no intention of slowing down, moving over, or yielding to my desperation to get out of its way. Three or four major life issues hitting you at once… not a fun time. But the problem was not so much my problem, although it felt very much like it was. The problem was my response to my problem. I tried to fix it any way so I could feel the slightest bit of relief… Also known as, “my own efforts to save myself”. Feeling overwhelmed… no problem- take some meds, up your meds- again and again. Feeling unheard… no problem- try meditation, empty your mind, find your zen. Feeling angry… no problem- find some angry music, listen to it loud, scream let it out. Feeling (whatever it is) … no problem- fix it yourself. The problem was “I” became my solution… and I cannot do anything to save myself.
“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do. You’ve said, ‘Nothing doing” Isaiah 30:15 – MSG
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in real, police handcuffs. I have once. Not that I was arrested. A friend of ours was a police officer. He offered to let me have the handcuff experience. There’s this nifty little thing about handcuffs. When placed on your wrist, if you resist them, they tighten. Less than 30 seconds with them on and experiencing that tightening, I was telling him, “Ok get the key. Take them off.” Our wrestling in self effort to save ourselves is very much like having handcuffs placed on us and the movement only causes the issue/ problem to tighten. There is only one way out, and that is for the one with the key to unlock them and set you free. Let me tell you in no uncertain terms, “YOU FIXING YOU WILL NOT WORK!” It is the same as wrestling with the handcuffs on your wrists. It will only hold you more captive than when you started.
Maybe it’s just I’m hardheaded (my husband would probably say “amen”), but when I started my own self effort to fix me, I was convinced just a little more of my effort would be the cure to the struggle on the inside. Anxiety, depression, anger, etc. are not fixed by me. They are only fixed by allowing the holder of the key, Jesus, to do His work. The only way out of the ditch we find ourselves in by our choices to do it our way, is for Jesus to pull us out. As the verse above states, “Stop your silly efforts to save yourselves”.
My first session with a Christian counselor actually contained the key, that I was unwilling to allow unlock my chains, presented to me. She said, “You know all the things of modern psychology, relies on changing how you see and think about your situation. God already told us how to do that centuries ago in the Bible. Philippians 4:8 is true, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent, or praiseworthy… Think on these things.”” Here is where I went wrong… When she told me this, I was annoyed instead of accepting. I gave it a weak try instead of being determined that I would have to believe and stand in the power of HIs (Jesus’) might. Instead of asking God to help me to think about what He told me to think upon, which equates to thinking on HIM, I started my journey into trying all the solutions that did not include the true key, Jesus. That plan, built on self-sufficiency simply does not work.
God sufficiency does! He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Ephesians 3:20. It is a matter of me turning to Him and allowing Him to work. It is a matter of me focusing on who He is giving worship and thanks for who He is. It is a matter of believing. Believing that He is my defender, my rescuer, my strength, my fortress, my teacher, my waymaker, my provider, etc. And in that believing, doing just what Isaiah 30:15 says, “settling down in complete dependence in Him”. God does not fail!! He is waiting for me to stop my “silly efforts to save myself” so He can be who He has always been my savior! He is just that good!
“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”.
My oldest son Aaron lived in a land of make believe when he was 3-5 years old. He loved to dress up in costumes. So, we made sure to supply him with a bunch of them. He had a cowboy outfit complete with chaps, a vest, guns and a holster, cowboy hat, lasso, sheriff’s badge that said his name, Aaron, and boots. He had a Spider man suit. He had a hard hat and tools to be a “worker”. His favorite was his Superman suit. It was really a pair of pajamas that had Velcro to attach a Superman cape to. He would put that on and then want me to fix his hair to have a curl in the front, just like the curl on the cartoon Superman he would watch on TV. He lived in that suit. The thing about his make believe was he really identified as whoever he was dressed as that day. If I called his name for lunch, “Aaron, time to eat lunch.” He would respond, “MOM, I’m not Aaron. I’m Cowboy.” or “Batman” or “Spiderman”, etc. But “Superman” flew the halls of my house frequently. It was my duty to acknowledge him as such and keep his curl of his bangs in tip top shape.
One afternoon, he was invited to play next door at our neighbor’s house. When I went to get him in the evening, he threw a fit. The object of objection was his desire to wear the neighbor boy’s superman suit, even though he had one at home. He pitched such a fit that I had to drag him out of the house kicking and screaming. He did the biggest of absolute “no no’s” he took a swing at me. From what little I knew of parenting, I figured I better make the punishment fit the crime when it came time to discipline him for hitting his momma. So, I grounded him from playing at the neighbors for a while and his Superman suit. That was where it really hurt. He lived to be Superman… Each day following the grounding, he would tell me how he would be good. He would NEVER hit his Momma again. I believed him, but I had to be strong. He was grounded from his Superman suit, and he was going to stay grounded for a good while. This went on for a couple of weeks. Til, my husband came home one day from work, to see Aaron sitting on a step to our family room. With his little chin in his hands. Rich asked him, “What’s wrong son?” Aaron replied, “I used to be Superman.” There next to him was a picture of him in his Superman suit. Rich told me that Aaron had been grounded long enough. He told Aaron, “You can have your Superman suit back.” He was one happy and very well behaved boy from that point on. He never wanted to lose the privilege of being Superman ever again.
I opened my memories today on Facebook like I always do. I’ve been on there for a while. Much of my youngest son’s childhood has been documented on there, with pictures and cute sayings. Along with my oldest three kids’ teen years. It can be a memory book of sorts. Today’s memory was something that happened 3 years ago when my husband and I were very active in our local church. There was a period of time in our 7 years attending there that we had quite a few friends there, fish fries, barbeques, almost every weekend we were playing cards at one of our houses or going out to eat somewhere hanging out. There were awesome times we had of prayer, encouragement, Bible discussions, etc. We were doing life together. It was so good. Then things went awry. The church we were in went through a lot, kind of a split, and our friend base ended up going different directions. We’re all still friends, but just living out different lives than we were living back then. It hit me as I looked at that memory on Facebook from the church, “I miss those days.”
I hopped in my Jeep to run to the store, and as I was driving the memories of Aaron and his Superman suit came to me. I’m a lot like my little man all those 20 some years ago… I find myself telling God “I’m not Superman any more…” with a tear drop rolling down my cheek. Then there’s the song by Five for Fighting “Superman” that started to go through my head.
“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet Digging for kryptonite on this one-way street Only a man in a funny red sheet Looking for special things inside of me Inside of me, inside of me… And it’s not easy. It’s not easy to be me.”
It occurred to me; my 4-year-old son who was grounded from his Superman suit was pretty wrapped up in an identity he thought he was. I have been too. What looked like “productive” years in my Christian walk where I was being some kind of spiritual Superwoman, was also one of the times I got far away from the most important, just being me, the one who God loves. My little boy never was “Superman”. He was “my little boy”. In his mind he could fly and fight off bad guys, but the truth of the matter was he needed his momma to watch out for him and protect him from the real “bad guys” in our broken world. I didn’t love him because of some “Superman” suit he wore. I loved him because he was MINE.
Even though I dearly miss my friends and lunches at Jalisco’s every Sunday after church. I miss the card games, the fish fries, the laughter and fun and I felt “Super” back then. I know the one thing that never changed was who I was underneath my “Super suit”. I was His. I am His now. Things change, but God does not. Maybe I was “Super”, that really wasn’t what my heavenly Daddy was after anyway. He just wanted me to be what He created me to be … His beloved. He wasn’t all that impressed when I tried to fly. He just wanted me to be close to Him. That’s all that mattered anyway.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.(Jesus)” Philippians 4:11-13 MSG
Life seldom goes the way we have it planned. That is something I should get used to. I can’t count how many times when my kids were growing up that my husband and I would plan the perfect camping trip. Hours of packing, preparing, and then driving, only to find the first night is a night when one of the kids came down with the croup, or threw up all over our pop up camper. There was the first trip to the ocean, only to discover it was jelly fish mating season and several jelly fish stings to be dealt with in the hotel, or we also had the long planned trip to Disney World that was interrupted with a short lived bout of head lice. That was a real treat… I should not be surprised when circumstances are not the glorious picture I had weeks before the actual experience.
I guess I had it in my mind that since our kids are all adults, I would be immune to the disappointment of a planned getaway going south. But here I sit in the most perfect March weather literally yards from one of my favorite trout fishing parks with a sick husband. (The stomach bug had to be going around). Bummer… disappointment.
This disappointment is minor in the scheme of things. Lay around, eat junk food, watch Westerns on the cabin’s tv, and play the occasional game of solitaire. I’ve weathered far worse.
As I’ve sat here this evening on our front porch watching the cars go by our cabin, I thought about Paul saying “I have learned the secret of being content” in Philippians 4. Contentment is not easy to gain. It requires a focus on Jesus and a trust in His plan. Both of which are hard to come by if you’ve lived an anxious life. Self-focus and self preserving protection are what seems right in our world, but it is far from God’s greater plan of our total trust(dependence), total submission, and total obedience as He provides all we need for our life and directs us in His good plan for us.
There’s a lot of things in my world that are disappointing right now. There are the global things, the National things, the local, and the personal. Plus this minor fishing trip thing. There are a lot of things that beg for me to pay attention to them and live in discouragement, apprehension, and fear. Not to mention the temptation to walk in distrust, unforgiveness, etc. The list could go on and on. But God knew there would be times like this- the one we live in. He also knew there would be months like this, weeks like this and days like this one. Whether the situation is a minor disappointment or a large earth shaking one, He tells me how to be content. I am to hang as close to Jesus as I possibly can. Listen to His voice alone, and be faithful to what I know He has told me to be obedient in.
The old Hymn I sang as a girl in the small country church I grew up in says it best,”Trust and Obey. There is no other way to be Happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
His Joy conquers all disappointment. Gigantic ones or small ones like a sick hubby on a get away. My God is good! All the time!
The Tea- “Gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop, the news …” -Urban Dictionary
Conversations with my 21-year-old daughter tend to prove to me just how old I am getting:
Faith: “Here’s the tea Mom…”
ME: “The what?”
Faith: “The tea… Gosh MOM! The tea, It means, the scoop on, what’s up with so and so, the…” and on and on…
My mind goes to “I am getting old.” But I assure you the next conversation I was asking, “What’s the tea on…?”
“The Tea” that was probably started due to tea parties or teatime where people sat together and talked about other people and all kinds of subjects.
It’s taken me awhile, but I am learning. We need to be careful of what voices we allow ourselves to listen to. This morning my Bible reading was in John 10. Jesus is describing the Good Shepherd and His relationship with His sheep. One thing that has been sticking out to me more and more lately is how the sheep know the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how they listen to it. They won’t follow another voice. In John 3:5 Jesus says, ” they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” It occurred to me that not only do I not run away at times, there are times I sit down and have a regular old “Tea Party with Satan” where I listen to him fill me “Spill the tea” on others around me with accusations and assumptions. Or I listen to him give me “the tea” on myself: What I am, What I am not, what I’ve done or did not do. He is a very chatty “Tea Party” host if I allow him to be. Unfortunately, I had been attending Tea Parties with him, frequently. Here is where I make a very bold statement… I’m pretty sure the source of much of the anxiety and depression I have suffered is my frequent attendance to “ALL DAY LONG Tea Parties with Satan.” That he throws. He pulls out a chair, whispers a juicy lie, and offers me a seat to a morning, noon, and night, sometimes all night Spilling of the Tea. It usually starts with, “You know you are not enough for X,Y,Z you face.” “You know so and so doesn’t really like you, they tolerate you…” “You know, If your friends only knew this and such about you…” On and on and on…If I accept his invitation, and sit down for a listen, I find myself drowning in all the fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, etc. That he wants me to be overcome with. His Tea Party is a success.
Jesus said, “His Sheep run away from a strangers voice.” This has been resounding in my soul today. It is time to not only decline an initiation to Satan’s Tea Party, but to run. I must run away from his voice and run straight to Jesus’ voice. Jesus declares the truth. He declares the truth about who I am and who He and the Father are. His voice is there calling out. It truly is a question of “Who will I listen to?” and to “Who’s table will I run?” Jesus offers me a banqueting table, full of delights, that the Word says has “Banner of me of Love”. It is there that I find myself fulfilled, at peace, and with joy. But it requires that I decline my invitation to Teatime with Satan, that comes frequently throughout my day. And that I run from the tantalizing whisper of the lies he spews. Focusing instead on the feast of the truth and promises in God’s word regarding who He is and who I am. Positioning myself close to His heart. Where I can clearly hear Jesus. It is there that I am safe from the tea of anxiety and depression, and whatever other flavors of his deadly teas, Satan wants to serve.
Invitation to Teatime with Satan Declined!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8
When I was in college, I went on two short term mission trips with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to Juarez, Mexico and also Creel, Mexico near the Copper Canyon where the Tarahumara Indians live. It was life changing. I loved the culture and the people (still do). At that time in my life, I had plans of finishing school, I was majoring in Spanish, and then joining YWAM full time, working in Mexico or possibly Guatemala. Of course, I… had plans… God had other ones. Long story, but here I am a 51 year old, mother of 4, homeschool mom for 22 years, grandma, and housewife for almost 27 years. Definitely not a foreign country missionary.
One of the phrases that has stuck out with me through the years from the trips I made besides the Spanish name for YWAM, Juventude Con una Mision, is “Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer”- “To Know Him and to Make Him Known”. My first trip to Mexico was with a youth group from a church near my hometown. I was sponsored by some of the leaders of that youth group. It was for a week. It was awesome! My second mission trip signed up for a “Summer of Service” which was a 3-week trip. I boarded a plane to El Paso, by myself (20 years old) and went with a group that I knew no one. I ended up with a group of kids from another youth group. Some of the kids, were obviously not into missions, more into drama… So we spent the first few days on the El Paso side of the border trying to get our attitudes right. We were cleaning ministry buildings, and basically working on tasks that were sweaty and unenjoyable like moving boxes that had cock roaches under them that were big enough you could put a leash on and take for a walk. YUCK! Then when we finally got to cross the border, we ended up cleaning up a goat pen for one of our first major projects. It was good, but kind of a bummer for someone who had worked hard at raising money, and had visions of “getting a little taste of the glory” while in another country.
On my second trip, word got out that I was a cook at a nursing home, back in the states. So, I got put on the kitchen crew, another blow to my ego. Since I was cooking all the time as my job at home…Ha ha. When we went down further south into Mexico, I was one of the two cooks for the whole team. At the time, I was thinking, “this isn’t so glorious”. Cooking on wood stoves in a kitchen with a skirt on (almost caught it on fire), with a bunch of Mexican ladies that I could barely communicate with. For some reason I had not learned the word for “Spoon” in my Spanish lessons. You should have seen them laughing at me while I was telling them in Spanish “I need a thing that does this” making wild stirring motions. ha ha Looking back, it was perfect, and I would not change anything in those experiences for the world.
Then there was sleeping on a concrete floor of a church (we were helping to build) with only a sleeping bag. Experiencing Montezuma’s revenge (diarrhea) after eating vegetables that were washed with local water. Everyone on the team using the same outhouse while having the diarrhea as well (Words cannot describe the smell). “Showering” using a barrel and a scoop. All this, to “¡Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer!”. “Know Him and Make Him Known”.
I’ve mentioned before that I was given a bracelet at a Skillet concert recently. When I put it on, something on it deeply resonated within me. It says, “Make Me Like Jesus”. “Yes Lord, that is all I want, ‘Make me like Jesus'”. Here lately, when I look at it, a question comes up in my mind. “What would Jesus be like in this….?” The answers are challenging. Jesus would be patient. Jesus would forgive. Jesus would give himself away… etc. It’s having the same affect on me that the 20 year old Janet experienced 21 years ago in Mexico. Humbling to see how far away from Christlike I can be…
Life is not always what I expect it to be. Sometimes it can be somewhat “mundane”, lacking excitement, dull. But God is far from mundane. He is beyond all the expectations I have. That is why in the daily, mundane tasks of life, even sometimes the gross tasks…, my aim should always be simply “to know Him” and with what I learn of Him, “make Him known”. Had the mission team I was on back in the early 90’s not been there for the mundane.working on projects, helping the full time missionaries, we would have missed our chance to help an elderly missionary make it to the local hospital in the dead of night while having a health issue, a very dangerous drive through the mountains of Mexico. We also would have missed being able to pick up a young Mexican mother along the way who was in labor and rush her along to the hospital as well. Believe me, that was a hair raising, exciting story. Had I missed the mundane times in motherhood, I would have missed the excitement of getting to pray with each of my children to ask Jesus in their heart. I would have missed the deep conversations on faith that have shaped them and quite honestly myself. Had I missed the mundane tasks of going to the grocery store, paying bills, cleaning house, etc. I would have missed the excitement of having friends over for an evening of food, fellowship, worship in our living room, and prayer. All the seemingly mundane of the world, when set apart by the constant companionship of Jesus through prayer and worship, (while driving, folding clothes, doing dishes, etc.) suddenly becomes a Holy time. It prepares us for that opportunity to come where I am able to “make Him known”. Whether it be in conversation with a friend, giving to a stranger, or helping someone in need. That is what Jesus would be like. Make me like HIM!!
The current events of our world have been in the forefront of my heart and my mind. It would be hard for it not to be. There is something in the human heart that cries for justice. It is a part of “Imago Dei” Image of God. God is just. We were originally created in God’s image. Sin has broken our representation of that image, but our hearts long for the restoration of His image, complete, whole, in all His attributes of God including perfect love, peace and… Justice.
Somehow the reality of a world superpower, Russia, criminally attacking and making war against a small country yearning for nothing, but freedom, not only breaks my heart, it angers it. Then there is the response of those in leadership in my own country… Such a sad time in history.
Then there’s this photo that has went viral on the internet. It struck me. The uncommon valor/ courage this 80-year-old Ukrainian man displayed has hit me in the core of my being. He has come volunteering to fight for the freedom of his country, and he is doing it for the “Sake of his grandchildren”.
I’m old enough to remember the Cold War. I remember being afraid of nuclear attack on American soil when I was a kid. Being somewhat of a fear-based kid, I remember thinking about what a mushroom cloud over my town would look like right before I died by the explosion of a nuclear bomb. The occasional nuclear bomb drill and the “nuclear fallout shelter” signs in my elementary school may have contributed to that being in my mind. I also remember when the Soviet Union dissolved and the little countries, such as the Ukraine were finally free of communism. This elderly Ukrainian hero lived that life, and he is willing to join the ranks of fighters. Not only because he wants to be free, but “for his grandchildren” to be free as well.
“Live Free or Die”. it’s part of the motto of New Hampshire. After seeing the picture of the elderly Ukrainian hero, this phrase has been rolling around inside of me. There is so much truth packed into that little phrase. I, living where I do, do not face a physical enemy that is bombing my homeland as the Ukrainians do, but I do face a spiritual enemy that wants me to live in oppression, hopelessness, and captivity to his devices of hatred and fear. I like the elderly Ukranian hero have an influence not only on the present world I live in, but the world of the future where my children, and my grandchildren will live. Make no mistake, my choices to engage the spiritual enemy or to disengage him will impact those generations as well as my current life where God offers me freedom from satan and the sin he wants to chain me up in. The question becomes “Will I live free, or will I die?”. Will I come with what little I have, as the Elderly Ukranian hero did, volunteering to fight/ stand against the evil in my small area of the world? or will I simply close my eyes and try to hide?
Isaiah 7:9 NIV says “… If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” At my age, the temptation is to settle into a life of comfort. But there is much to contend for spiritually in my life. My small area of the world has thousands of people struggling addictions, abuses, lives totally decimated by the evil of our spiritual enemy. In fact, I no longer need to hop on a plane and fly halfway around the world to see a mission field. My mission field, walks the aisles of the local Walmart, sits in the restaurant next to me, lives within small radius of my home. Lives are being destroyed here. They need to hear that they can live free. Then there are those closer to my heart, my kids, my grandkids… Am I willing to pray for them, encourage them, and stand with them as they face the giants that taunt them? Or am I so ME focused, my comfort focused, my life focused that I do not engage in prayer on their behalf? And yes, there is me… I am faced on the daily with whether I crumble to enemies that seem larger than me… Fear, Anxiety, Anger, Unforgiveness, etc. Do I close my eyes when they taunt, or do I look to Jesus and follow His lead as I stand firm in my faith in Him? This spiritual freedom that I am to be willing to fight for here, where I am now, will impact my world and the world beyond.
The Ukrainians are facing a giant much bigger than they with the courage of a giant slayer of history, David. God gave him victory over the Philistine Giant that wanted to take captive and torment the people of Israel. May God give the Ukrainians victory over the giant they are facing now. But also, may I never forget that the circumstances in my life and world may seem larger than life itself, a Giant, may I face off with courage that says my hope is in the Lord. I will live free! There is no option to turn back or run. This courage is for God’s glory not just for my good. This glory of God displayed in me will point to the only way, Jesus, for my family, my friends, my world. He is the only way we truly “Live Free”.
Pray for the Ukraine. Pray for Russia. Pray for our President, Vice President, and leaders. Pray for our communities, for our neighbors, our families. Contend!
Offense- a crime,sin; act of wickedness … an injury… Attack; assault
Living life on planet earth opens everyone up to an Offense within their life. Someone, somewhere will commit a crime against us, a sin, an injury, an attack. Some offenses are purely intentional by the offending party. Some are not. Other offenses are taken, just because there is a hurt already in place that the perceived offense bumps up against. Offenses in life can cause a person to find themselves in a stone throwing war. They have a tendency to make a person feel justified in “picking up a stone” for later use. Holding onto that stone and watching for an opportunity then becomes the focus. You threw something at me, I wish to get you back. It may take me awhile, but when I will appear to be justified in my actions, my time will come, and whammo my stone will fly. I may throw my stone subtly or I may throw it with the desire for all to see. It all depends on the occasion for the stone throwing. The offender then responds in same and thus the stones fly and no peace is ever found. There’s a story in the Bible of a woman who found herself in a literal stone war. She had been caught in her offense of adultery, and by what was considered justice at that time she should be stoned. All those offended by her sin were prepared and carrying their stones ready to let them fly. I have often related to the woman caught in her sin. How often in my life have I found myself trapped by a sin and deserving of punishment? More times than I would want to count. I have felt indignation towards the crowd of “stone carriers” ready to launch their offensive. How dare they?! What a group of self-righteous, religious men eager to trap Jesus and hungry to show just how right they are by taking care of that sinful woman in a manner that follows all the rules. Commit adultery…get stoned. It’s the old eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth thing. This morning as I look into the mirror of the word, I see things a little differently. There are times that I am just like the men in the crowd. I have been self-righteous and religious. I have wanted my vindication for the wrongs committed against me. I want an eye for an eye, and I want a tooth for a tooth. I want to grip onto my stone and wait for the green light to let it fly, but I can picture Jesus looking directly into me saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” What Jesus said as a rebuke to all the potential stone throwers is actually a very freeing statement if you let it be. He had opened the door to the concept of forgiveness and letting the stones drop. Being set free from the weight of carrying a stone and letting go of spending all our energies looking for the right time to let the stone fly sets you free. It may be uncomfortable at first to let the stone drop, but it is freedom and life. The very thing that Jesus intends to give to anyone who will receive.