Facing Those Fears Like a Boss

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Well folks, I’m sitting here in Chicago O’Hare waiting for my connecting flight to take me the rest of the way to my final destination. Eek! Final destination. I actually hate saying that phrase because it conjures up images of the movies with the same name where everyone always dies in the end. I guess if I do wind up going to my final destination today that would be ok too cause can’t complain about going to heaven. But I feel like I still have some stuff to do here so I’d rather just go to Vermont today, OK God?

I’m pretty proud of myself for making it this far without any Xanax. I have it with me just in case but so far haven’t taken any. That’s huge because I have a big old fat fear of flying. But today I did just fine on the plane. I was jittery and nervous when I got to the airport but there was no trace of that fear left once I got in the plane. Maybe I’ll tackle roller coasters next. Gulp. Maybe not. I think I’ll just tackle the second half of this flight and go wish my daddy a happy 85th birthday. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

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Like a Blind Man Groping the Walls

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I had no idea what I was going to write about today. I was totally uninspired. I considered not writing anything at all (sorry), but decided to pray about it before I gave up.  I’ll give you a step-by-step of how I went from total blank to this post you are reading now. It’s kind of all over the place but bear with me. That’s how I am– I’m an all over the place kind of woman. A fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-and-land-wherever-the-wind-takes-me kind of woman. God knows that about me so he’s always very gracious in guiding the wind so I land where he wants me. Today, just for fun, I’m giving you a peek into my whirlwind. Here’s how it all went down:

I sat down to pray in my favorite comfy chair. I told God that I didn’t have anything to write about and asked him if he had any ideas. Then I sat. Quietly. Total silence. Filtering through all the trivial thoughts that popped into my head (like “what shall I eat for breakfast today?” and “I wonder who got kicked off of Dancing With the Stars last night”) This is hard to do! Have you tried it? When you sit in total silence with your eyes shut all those little thoughts come at you. It’s nearly impossible to let your mind be totally empty. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.  Anyway, I sat. I waited– for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 2 or 3 minutes. I focused on a mental image of Jesus. And then it happened. I started thinking about fear, making a mental list of all the things I am afraid of.

  • spiders
  • scorpions
  • snakes
  • airplanes
  • roller coasters
  • heights
  • abandonment
  • rejection… and so on

“Bah!”, I thought. “There I go wandering off again”. I tried to push the thoughts about fear away but they weren’t going anywhere. So, I decided perhaps this was God speaking to me. Maybe he wants me to write about fear today. I closed my eyes and prayed some more. Then, I did one of my favorite things. I picked up my Bible and I asked God to speak to me through his word. With eyes still closed I opened the Bible to a random page.

When I opened my eyes I saw the second chapter of Ezekiel. God has used the book of Ezekiel a lot to speak to me. My eyes were drawn to a section highlighted in yellow:

“The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”- Ezekiel 2:4-8

Did you notice? I highlighted it in red text so I’m guessing you probably did. That passage includes “do not be afraid” three times AND mentions scorpions which were on my mental list of fears just a few minutes earlier. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I took it as confirmation from God that I was on the right track, so I dug a little deeper into the passage. What is it talking about? Basically, it’s about courage to do what God has set out for you to do– not to rebel because of fear. Boy can I relate to that, can’t you? So much easier said than done. Fear is a powerful tool of the devil, and I have to confess that I’ve let him use it on me way too many times. 

I figured I was on to something here, so I went back to the beginning of the book for context. The very first verse – Ezekiel 2:1 reads:

He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.”

That phrase reached out and grabbed me, but I wasn’t sure why. I read on, but kept getting pulled back to the first verse. Wait. Does God want me to literally stand up right now? What on earth for? But then I thought “Obedience. This is about obedience”. So I stood up and immediately felt the quickening of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever felt that? Like a warm buzz of electrical energy filling you from top to bottom? I don’t know, maybe that’s just me too. But I felt it and it was powerful. So I stood there in my living room praying and praising, holding my Bible. I opened it again to the following passage:

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. – Isaiah 59:9-11

And bingo. That hit home. That’s me. Our finances have been a real struggle since I became disabled. We never have enough money to make ends meet, it’s always a struggle. I cannot tell you the number of times I have cried “unfair!”. How I’ve stressed over being treated unjustly by Social Security, how I have been waiting 4 years for my benefits and still nothing. Every day I grope along the wall like a blind man just trying to make it all work. Just to survive. I feel lost, weak, and powerless in this part of my life. I growl and complain like a bear, I moan mournfully about my situation. “When will this end?” “I’ve worked hard all my life, where is the justice?”. “I have way more health problems than some people who have disability. Why not me? Where is the justice?” Yes, this is me. I have been afraid. Very afraid. I am a blind groper, feeling my way through this struggle– seeking deliverance rather than fixing my eyes on the deliverer.

After having this epiphany I opened my Bible to one final random page:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.  Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. – Acts 3:1-8

Such a great story, isn’t it? This beggar was looking for money. It’s what he thought he needed and all he thought he could hope for. Along comes Peter and John who didn’t give him what he thought he needed. They gave him something much better– a miracle of healing from God! I realized in that moment that I am the beggar. I am focusing all my hope for survival on money because it’s what I think I need most and all that I think I can hope for. But this passage reminded me that God is able to do anything and everything. Maybe he has bigger dreams and plans for me than I can even conceive of. I need to remember to stop focusing so much on my own limitations and allow God to work his miracles. No more groping blindly. It’s time to look up and trust that God’s got this.


So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:31-34

Let’s Go Higher

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Ah, Monday. You don’t scare me. Whatever the devil decides to throw at me this week, I’m ready– cause’ when he goes low, I go higher. Can I get an amen?!? Let’s do this thing.

Higher by Unspoken

I gotta try to do right when life’s doing me wrong
Gotta shake the dust off my feet and keep marchin’ on
When trouble weighs me down, brings me to my knees
Lord, my needs are many, but that’s a pretty
Yeah, a pretty good place to be
Don’t blame it on the preacher ’cause the preacher done told
“The devil’s got a target on my heart and my soul”
But let me tell you, brother, what the devil don’t know
The lower I go, the more I’m gonna lift you
Higher (higher) higher (higher) higher
I’m gonna lift you higher (higher) higher (higher) higher
God Almighty, you are worthy
Higher (higher) higher (higher) higher
I may never get money, I may never have fame
But if I’m ever in the spotlight, I’ll point it back your way
‘Cause standing at the top was never-ever my goal
But if you put me on a mountain then I’ll tell the whole world
Singing hallelujah ’til I hit the dirt, oh
I’m gonna lift you higher (higher) higher (higher) higher
I’m gonna lift you higher (higher) higher (higher) higher
God Almighty, you are worthy
Higher, higher, higher
Hallelujah, He is worthy
Hallelujah, He is good
Leave me in rags and ruins and I’ll praise You through it
Clothe me in glory and riches, I’ll praise You just the same
All that I have, all I’ve been given, all of my life’s ambition
Is to worship, is to honor, is to bring You praise
I’m gonna lift you higher, higher, higher
I’m gonna lift you higher, higher, higher
God Almighty, you are worthy
Higher, higher, higher
God Almighty, you are worthy

Songwriters: America Jimenez / Dorio Ferreira / Shaila Durcal / Carlos Cabral
Higher lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

No weapon that is formed against you will succeed; And every tongue that rises against you in judgment you will condemn.This [peace, righteousness, security, and triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the LordAnd this is their vindication from Me,” says the Lord. – Isaiah 54:17 (Amplified Bible)

Pants On Fire Week 5 – Toxic Guilt

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The next entry in my lie journal is that I am guilty of my past mistakes. While it’s true that I am guilty of making the mistakes in the legal sense of the word, it is not true that I am worthless, hopeless, tainted, bad or in any way defined by my mistakes. That’s toxic guilt and it’s one of Satan’s favorite lies. Let’s shoot it down.

Acts 13:39 -Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Romans 3:10 – As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one”

1 Corinthians 15:10a  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

God knows who we are. He created us. None of us is perfect. We all know right from wrong yet we all choose wrong sometimes. That’s why he sent us Jesus.

Colossians 2:13-14  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Because God knew we were never going to be perfect, he sent Jesus to be perfect for us. My guilt was nailed to the cross, tossed into the sea.

Romans 6:14  For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Galatians 5:1  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Isaiah 1:18 – Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Isaiah 54:4 Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

God set us free from our sins– our mistakes, our poor choices, our bad behavior. He doesn’t hold them against us and neither should we. He wants us to stay free. Our bad choices do not define us as long as we repent.

Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we start to stew in our toxic brew of guilt and shame, we need to recognize our past mistakes for what they are– a symptom of our human condition. Nothing more and nothing less. Instead of ruminating in our failures we just need to consider them learning experiences, repent and let God do his work in us.


Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.- 1 John 4:1

How God Used a Cat to Heal Me

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I’ve always been allergic to cats. Really allergic. Not just a-little-sniffle-and-itchy-eyes allergic, but eyes-swollen-shut-wheezing-and-help- I-can’t-breathe allergic. Never did I ever plan to be a cat owner. Not just because of the allergy, which by itself was enough, but because I never really liked cats much. They seemed arrogant and aloof and a bit too prissy and stand-offish for my taste. I always preferred a playful pooch — one who would run up to me, tail wagging, drooling on my shoes and demanding to be played with. If you would have told me a year ago that I would share my home with four (yes four) cats, I would have said you were crazy. But the joke is on me because apparently I am the crazy one– the crazy cat lady, that is!

It just sort of happened. Last December, my husband and I moved into a place that was frequented by several stray cats. One of them, a fluffy gray and white Norwegian Forest cat took quite a liking to my husband and the feeling was mutual. Every time we would sit outside this cat came running, jumping up on my husband’s lap purring and kneading and cuddling. My husband’s face would light up. He loved her, I could tell. It didn’t take long before he mentioned that he would like to keep her. Seeing them together melted my heart. If there was anyone on earth that deserved something good in his life, it was my husband. He’d worked so hard to keep us afloat as the sole bread-winner ever since I became disabled. He stayed by my side through physical illness, depression and anxiety. He was my rock and never complained. I wanted this for him!  So far I’d been able to hold this cat a few times and not have any problems.I didn’t understand it but I hoped that it would continue to be OK if we brought her inside. After all he has done for me, I figured I could put up with a little discomfort to give him this gift. I told my husband I was willing to try and as long as I could still breathe I’d be OK with it.

We took the cat in and gave her a name. Daisy. She quickly became my little buddy. She kept me company all day when my husband was at work. Sitting by my side or at my feet, following me everywhere I went. Every morning when I finished my bowl of yogurt I would put it on the floor and she would lick it clean. She would sit on my lap and purr and knead my soft belly and suck on my shirt. The empty-nested nurturing mom in me loved that I was able to provide her with the suckling comfort she clearly did not get from her mother as a stray. I didn’t care that she made me soggy. We were bonding. Much to my surprise, I began to love her too. That’s not all that surprised me though. I still didn’t have so much as a sniffle. Even though she was long haired and shed like crazy, I had zero allergic reaction. I decided at that point that we were meant to be. That God, knowing the needs of me and my husband, had performed some miracle to bring her into our lives. Not just the allergy miracle though. There’s more.

For all of my adult life I swore I would never have a pet. Part of me always wanted a dog, but the part of me that didn’t want one always won out.When my kids were small I said it was because I was a nurse. I took care of people all day long, and then I came home to take care of six kids. I didn’t want another living creature dependent upon me for survival. It was too much. It was a valid reason. But  as my kids grew older and I was no longer a single mom,  those arguments became less valid. I had plenty of people around me who could share the burden. But I still refused to have a pet because I was unwilling to allow myself to be vulnerable. I knew that in all likelihood I would outlive a pet. I would fall in love with it and then have it ripped away from me again.  I’d suffered enough loss in my life. My soul could not bear the thought of any more suffering. Any more loss. I did not agree with Tennyson’s proclamation that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to love at all. Not anymore. Nope. I would skip the love if I could skip the loss.

Ok, back to the Daisy story. By the end of the first month we had her, Daisy ran off for a weekend of frolicking with the other neighborhood cats. She came back pregnant. On March 4th she began pacing around the living room. At one point she stopped at my feet and howled, locked eyes with me in a look that clearly meant “Do something!”. After that she ran under my heavy couch and disappeared. I tried everything but I couldn’t get her out. I was not able to lift the couch, and she was just back there howling away. I knew she was in labor but I didn’t want her to do it alone. “She needs me”, I thought. She didn’t agree. She stayed under that couch giving birth (actually it was in it, if truth be told. She crawled into a rip in the lining ) and I — the woman who refused to let a pet in my heart all those years– laid on the hard tile floor in front of the couch singing Bicycle Built For Two to her. (It was our song, after all). Who was I??

I’ll tell you who I was. I was a woman that learned it was OK to let love in her heart. That sometimes loving is worth the risk. I learned that Tennyson was onto something after all. The ice in my soul had melted, and my grinch heart grew three sizes. Oh– and in case you were wondering. We still have three of the four kittens (the fourth was adopted by my son so he’s still in the family!) They bring lots of joy to my life, and still not a single sniffle.


Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29

Forgiving and Forgetting

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Forgiveness. It’s an important step in healing when we’ve been wronged. This is true even in the world of secular psychology. For the Christian, the need to extend forgiveness goes even deeper. It’s the cornerstone of our faith. We have been forgiven, so we must forgive. Sometimes it’s a tall order though. Thankfully as Christians we don’t have to do it alone. Even when we feel like we just can’t forgive, we can draw on the power of Jesus to do the forgiving for us.

What is forgiveness?

The world’s view of forgiveness is a little bit different than the Christ-like forgiveness we as Christians are accountable for. Here’s one definition:

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.

Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.

Berkeley University Greater Good Website

The Bible says Forgiveness is:

  • Undeserved

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

  • Unrelenting

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22

  • Non-Negotiable

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.  – Luke 6:37

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. –  Colossians 3:13

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Both definitions of forgiveness look similar, but there’s something in the psychologist’s definition of forgiveness that doesn’t quite line up with the Biblical definition. It might just be semantics here, but the psychological view stresses the importance of forgiving but not forgetting. This is where it takes a different trajectory from what we are called to do as Christians.  Colossians 3:13 tells us to forgive as the Lord forgave us.  Here’s what that looks like:

  • “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” – Isaiah 43:25
  • He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. – Psalm 103:12
  • Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Hebrews 10:17-18

So for Christians, forgiving does mean forgetting. I don’t mean literal forgetting. Depending on the depth of the wound it will likely leave scars. I will remember the wrong done to me, but once I have forgiven it I cannot let the memory interfere with my love for that person. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we put ourselves in dangerous situations or set ourselves up for ongoing abuse. We must by all means do what we must to be safe. What we cannot do is hold a grudge. We have to extend the same grace that was extended to us through Christ. We still have to love them.

How the heck do we do this?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? If only it were easy. It isn’t. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, we don’t do this. We can’t. That kind of forgiveness is impossible for me to achieve. It goes against human nature. I just have to surrender it to God. I pray, and pray some more. I take all my pain and my anger and I lift it up to the sky and cry out for him to help me forgive. And he always has. Maybe not in that very instant but over time I have always managed to forgive the people who have hurt me so deeply. Since most of them were family members, we still have relationships. I still remember what they did to me, but when I look at them or talk to them I don’t have bitter feelings. I don’t sit there constantly thinking of the the thing they did to hurt me. It’s as far from my mind as the east is from the west. Not because of my own wonderful forgiveness skills. I’m just as human as the rest of us. It’s all because of Jesus. 

More Like Christ, Less Like Christians

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Today’s post might not make me any friends. It might even make a few enemies. I considered not writing it because I  didn’t want to step on any toes, but it’s what’s on my heart and that’s the whole point of this blog. To speak whatever comes to my heart and mind in the hopes that it brings about healing– for me, and maybe for you too. So, after prayerful consideration I decided to go ahead and put the thing that’s burning in my heart today on “paper” (What else would I call it? Put it on “blog”? On “pixels”? I don’t know, I’m old school. I’m going with paper).

The Pharisees of the Bible are alive and well. Nowadays, they’re called Christians. Not all Christians, but some of them. Enough of them. These are the people Ghandi spoke about when he (supposedly) said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  You know the type. The holier-than-thou I’m right and you’re wrong kind of Christians that seem to proliferate whenever they think somebody is not following God’s law. They respond by picketing and judging and puffing themselves up for their rightness while condemning another’s wrongness. This week I even had one of them tell me that I couldn’t possibly be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time. But I proved them wrong because here I am loving Jesus and Obama at the same time. Go figure.

Look, I’m not saying I’m perfect. Lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes. But that’s my point, really. The Lord knows it. If he doesn’t like what I’m doing, his Spirit will convict me. I don’t need a picket sign or someone giving me attitude to do it. It’s between me and God, and I believe this is the same way we are supposed to interact with this world. It is not our job to judge or condemn. It is our job to love. To show people Jesus through our lives and to make them see him in us and want him! That’s it. That’s all! Not to point fingers or tell others how to live. They’ll make their own choices between them and God. We are to focus on our own planks not other people’s splinters. We are supposed to let our lights shine so others will see him through us and God will be glorified. John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. Not by picket signs and pointing fingers.

I want the world to want Jesus, and I don’t see how I can serve him in that purpose by being a bully. Jesus wasn’t a bully. He didn’t carry picket signs. He didn’t condemn, judge, or accuse. He loved. Remember the woman who committed adultery? The Pharisees wanted to stone her. Jesus said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). No one was without sin, so no one threw a stone. Jesus forgave her and told her not to sin again. He didn’t condone her  behavior, he corrected her with love. That’s his job, to do the correcting. Ours is only to bring people to him. This is what I believe and, right or wrong, it’s how I try to live my life.

Love. I’m going to choose love. Peace out.


 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40