Thursday, May 23, 2019

Coming Alive Again

Hey Friend,

After living for many years in what I now realize was a very dysfunctional system, I am coming to truly appreciate "mutually life-giving" relationships.  No one totally lives a Norman Rockwell existence, but if we feel that we've lost ourselves somewhere along the way, it's a red flag signaling that things need to change.  I do believe, however, that dysfunction doesn't just magically pop up in one generation.  It is usually a system that has been passed down through the generations.

My husband, of five years, and I just returned from a wonderful three day weekend in the mountains.  In a short time we took in everything from the grand Biltmore Estate and Gardens to the Asheville River Arts District. 

 

I've always loved photography and the Arts.  It was such fun capturing the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the diversity of the numerous gardens with my camera.  My husband patiently strolled with me as I popped in and out of the artists' studios that held beauty displayed in the mediums of glass, pottery, oil paints, water colors, jewelry, sculpture, and even old inner tubes. 

I told a good friend (after I returned home) that I felt like a part of me, that had shriveled and died, was beginning to come alive again.

I am realizing that a crucial part of self care and soul care is indulging the God-given bents inside of us that make our souls soar.


I studied French in high school and college, but I have learned that if you don't "use" it, you will quickly "lose" it.  That goes for how we nurture and take care of ourselves.  If we have a gift for music, art, writing, running, swimming, gardening, woodworking, dancing, problem solving, (fill in the blank), if we don't use it, we will lose it too.  

God gave us each unique ways to explore and relate to His Creation.  He delights in us using these gifts in order to step out of the daily grind and let our bodies and minds simply breathe.  By giving my soul the space it needs, I find that I am better at re-framing how I look at the daily "to-do" list.

After photographing and breathing in the fragrance of heirloom roses, I am better equipped to let the weekly laundry be an offering vs. an obligation.

Even if we have neglected the soul care we need (for whatever reason), take heart, there is no such thing as "too late."

"I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten." (Joel 2:25)

I am so thankful that God is in the business of restoring and redeeming.  He is an expert in bringing what was dead back to life.  He can do that in us if we will let him.


Having been given this gift by God and my loving husband, makes me want to repay it.  When was the last time you encouraged your spouse or special people in your life to "get in touch with their inner child" or to give their soul some nourishment?  

Soul care is not only a gift we give ourselves or receive from others, it's a gift to be passed on.

Though going to an ACC Baseball Tournament may not be tops on my list of things to do, I know that my sports-loving husband gets a break from work stress and feeds his inner child when he takes in the distinctive "crack" of bat meeting ball, and the unique aroma of hot dogs mixed with popcorn that can only be found at a ballpark.  When was the last time you asked yourself, "What makes my spouse come alive?"  

Maybe it's time to take inventory:
1.  What makes my soul come alive?
2.  What makes my spouse's soul come alive?
3.  What has hindered this from happening?
4.  What steps can I take to make this happen?
5.  Plan it and Do it!!
* These don't have to be vacations, it could be just going for a hike in a nearby park or relaxing with a good book and glass of wine. Let your soul breathe.*

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You that You long to usher our spirits into the unhurried rhythms of grace. Thank you for the unique way in which You created me to be in relationship with You and to enjoy Your creation.  Help me to realize the parts of my soul that need nourishment and, through Your grace, help me to come alive again.  You are the ultimate Redeemer and Restorer.  Let me put my trust in You.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Is there a part of you that has died or gotten lost along the way?  What makes YOU come alive?  What steps can you take to give your soul the care and nourishment it needs?  Will you share?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

May is Mental Health Month - Popular Post Revisited

Hey Friend,

May is National "Mental Health Awareness Month", and if you've read my blog for long, you know this is a subject near and dear to my heart.  I featured this post - "Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness" quite awhile ago and it has been one of the most widely read of my posts, and I have had so many hurting people contact me who were so relieved to know that they weren't alone.

I invite you to read along if you suffer (or think you suffer) from anxiety, depression, or a whole host of illnesses that fall under the "Mental Illness" umbrella or know someone who does.  Let's talk openly and continue to pull away the veil of shame and erase the stigma associated with these debilitating illnesses.  Without further ado, I revisit my post:

This is a rather lengthy and very personal post, but several things have happened this past week that have convinced me that I need to speak up on this subject.  Here is one thing that was posted on Facebook and Instagram:



It was followed by some joking remarks and quite a few laughing emojis.  Now if someone cracked jokes about cancer, or heart disease, or MS, etc., people would be disgusted, yet mental illness is fair game and the stigma is far from being erased.  After all, "It's all in your head," right?  Obviously they don't know that OCD is considered one of the most insidious of the anxiety disorders.  

A young man I know, has an agonizing obsession that loops around, and around, and around endlessly in his brain.  It says, "You're going to hell."  Compulsively, he is led to pray and read scripture continuously (for hours on end) as a way of warding this off from happening. The more he tries, the more anxious he becomes. Meanwhile, he knows somewhere, consciously, that this is irrational, but the obsessions present themselves as being VERY real and threatening, and he is helpless to make them stop.  That to me is hell....not a joke. 

I hope you'll read my personal story and perhaps glean some information that previously you were unaware of.....maybe even read up on mental illness.  Chances are someone you know has such an illness!

I can vividly remember my dad asking me, "Are you still dwelling on that?" and then saying, "For Pete's sake give it a rest already." I would get stuck on thoughts that would keep looping around in my mind without ceasing. 

When I would start a new job, even a simple job like working in a fast food place, I would get so anxious that I would literally get sick.  I was sure I was going to screw up.  

I intrinsically knew I looked at the world differently.  I didn't have as carefree an attitude that others seemed to have.  I was plagued with self-doubt and was certain that anyone else, if placed in my shoes, would do a better job at managing life than I did.

Fast forward to my first child being born.  I couldn't wait for his/her arrival.  I loved this baby and was anticipating its coming...until she came, and a dark cloud blew in and settled over me.  Another friend, who gave birth around the same time I did, seemed to be enjoying motherhood.  I was a nervous wreck. 

I had terrible thoughts like I wanted to give the baby back because I didn't like how I was feeling.  I wasn't the glowing happy mom that doted on this precious child the way others did.  Even writing this now, I feel horrid, ashamed, and embarrassed.  It's hard to think about, let alone write about it. 
I couldn't sleep even when my daughter slept.  I obsessively wrote down and tracked everything she did and when.  I couldn't go to bed at night without putting my hand on her chest and feeling her chest rise and fall.  I'd kiss her and exit the room, only to return seconds later to see if she was still breathing.  This process of checking her breathing, going back and forth, could last for hours. I feared she might die if I left her alone and didn't keep checking. 

I sank deeper into a sadness and despair at what my life had become and felt guilt and shame for not being more grateful for this gift that God had given me.  I would walk around the neighborhood in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep and one time I remember just running.  I was running and crying, and I didn't know where I was running to, but I just wanted to run away.  I remember driving by myself and thinking I just wanted to turn and head into oncoming traffic so that someone would hit me and put me out of my misery.  What on earth was wrong with me?

I finally confided in my family doctor who said I was experiencing post-partum depression and as long as I didn't feel like I'd hurt the baby (which I didn't) that I should just give it time and it would pass.  It was the "baby blues" and it was not unusual and given time I'd feel like myself again.

The trouble was that I didn't feel like myself again.  I felt somewhat better, but I knew that I just didn't feel like I should. I loved and adored my daughter, but something bigger, greater, was wrong.  

It wasn't until around my daughter's third birthday and potty training just about pushed me over the edge, that I was thankfully and mercifully diagnosed as having OCD (an anxiety disorder) and depression (a chemical imbalance in the brain).  


I started taking medicine (albeit with great hesitation) that worked on both the OCD anxiety and the depression.  It took a while, but I began to feel like I could cope.  I wasn't as anxious about things - especially taking care of my daughter.  I didn't have that feeling like if someone said to me, "Could you pour me a bowl of cereal?"  It sounded like they were saying "Go climb Mt. Everest.”  I began to feel joy return. 

I didn't like taking the medicine, however, because that meant I had to admit I had a mental illness.  Well-meaning people told me that if I just read more scripture, or prayed harder, or had more faith then I wouldn't feel this way, nor would I need to take medicine.  I was a Christian, after all, and medicine was a crutch.  

I felt flawed, less than, like my faith wasn't enough.  Surely, if I was just a better Christian I wouldn't be in this state.



These are the thoughts I wrestled with.  I remember going to a new dentist and having to check off medical history.  I would get to the part where it would list anxiety, depression, or mental illness and I’d have to check the little box.

Fast forward many years and I now realize that Mental Illness is, just that, an illness!  It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or by extreme circumstances (like what many of our returning vets experience).  Sometimes it's a combination of chemistry and experience. It's also genetic.  Many people self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, etc. 

The truth is, it's not my fault.  It's not your fault.  You have an illness.

If someone had diabetes, you wouldn't tell them they didn't need insulin, but just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, think happy thoughts, mind over matter and they'd be fine.  Perhaps reading more scripture would alleviate the diabetic symptoms?  Sounds silly, right? But this is how we treat the mentally ill.

I am a cancer survivor.  Cancer, though terribly scary, was something I could wear like a badge of honor that I battled and survived.  No one talks about battling/surviving mental illness in these terms.  When I hear about someone committing suicide and others saying things like, "How could he or she be so selfish to do something like that?" 

All I can say is that unless you've lived the pain and suffering of depression or anxiety or intense fear or all other symptoms of mental illness like mania, or rages wherein you feel like a monster, or multiple personalities, you have absolutely no idea the pain and suffering that a person endures.  It is so bad, and if left untreated, I can understand that a person could get to a point that they are in so much pain, that ending one's life is the only way to make this horrid, unbearable pain stop.

Mental illness is no respecter of persons.  



Most people would not peg me as the poster child for mental illness.  I was the captain of my cheer leading squad.  I graduated 8th in my class of nearly 800 students in high school.  I excelled in college.  I held leadership positions and have worked in Christian ministry most of my adult like.  I love to write and have been published. 

Mentally ill?  No, those are the homeless people begging for money on street corners, right?

I am the face of mental illness.  I know what it's like to wear the gray glasses and have the dark cloud come in and settle over you.  I know pulling the covers over my head and not being able to get out of bed for days at a time.  I know pain so intense that all I can do is let the Holy Spirit groan, "Jesus" on my behalf.

I needed and still need medicine and counseling - hand in hand - to get me to, and keep me in, a healthy place. It's still not a cure.  I have my episodes with OCD and depression, but I am able to function and cope in this world. I can experience joy and can find hope in scripture.

I've learned that stress, and lack of sleep and exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to a greater likelihood of returning symptoms.  I know coping techniques like distracting and holding the lies I hear in my head (from the enemy) up to scripture and if they don't match up with scripture, then I need to take those thoughts captive to Christ and let Him cast them far from me.  I can call on my faith now, because I was able, thanks to medicine and prayer, to get to the field.


Christians, Mental Illness, & Scripture - A Football Analogy: It’s like you are on a football team. God is the Coach and the Bible is His playbook. In order to benefit from the Coach you first need to be able to get to the field so that you can hear the Coach’s instructions from the playbook, practice on the field, and get the encouragement and discipline He offers. The only problem is... you can’t even get to the field. You are stuck miles away in a pit so large and so deep that you can’t possibly climb out of it by yourself. You need medicine or counseling or both to even be able to get out of the pit, to get to the field, to sit at the feet of the Coach so that He can coach you from His playbook. You, first, need to be able to get to the field.

Mental illness is the thorn in my side (like what Paul experienced).  The Lord has not removed it, but I have learned that in it - as in all trials - His grace is sufficient.  He has never left nor forsaken me and He has been faithful to walk with me THROUGH the valleys and has not left me stuck there indefinitely.  

I believe that I have a compassion for others that I would NEVER have had it not been for what I have dealt with and continue to deal with.  I would NEVER have the close relationship that I do with Jesus had I not had to call out to Him from the utter depths of despair and to know He was still holding onto me even when I couldn't hold on to Him.  

So why do I say all this?  Two reasons.  One is to let the world know that God is faithful.  He knows the pain of the mentally ill and is close to the brokenhearted that deal with this illness.

Second, I would like to erase the stigma of mental illness.  One day, perhaps NFL teams will wear bright lime green cleats, gloves, and mouth guards to bring awareness to the one in four people who suffer from mental illness…including Christians. 




One day we might talk with ease about bipolar, panic attacks, anorexia, OCD, depression, schizophrenia, etc.
I strongly encourage you that if you have felt or experienced any of the symptoms I've mentioned, that you PLEASE seek medical advice and counseling.  There IS help and there IS hope!!  We just need to talk more about it.  Take it from one who's been there.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:1-3) 
Thank you for reading.... maybe you know someone who needs to read this...be blessed....

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Come to Him As a Child - Plus Giveaway!

Hey Friend,

When my daughter was two years old (before her brother came along), we did everything together including our weekly trips to the grocery store. On one excursion, I grabbed a cart at the local Jewel Osco and plopped her in the child's seat in the front of the cart.  Every trip was an adventure, so I whispered a short prayer and proceeded to serpentine up and down the aisles.

We had made it about halfway through without incident, but the moment I turned the corner to head down the cereal aisle, I felt a sense of apprehension rise upward starting at my toes.  

Our cart pulled up alongside an employee stocking the shelves.  He was a very friendly man of short stature with a warm smile.  "Good morning," I greeted him.  "How are you ladies, today?" He responded, smiling, and then...

"Why is dat man soooo short, Mommy?" my daughter chimed in.  I felt my face burn because I knew that not only did he hear, but the folks in our aisle and two aisles over, must have heard as well.  Two year old's don't pull any punches.  They just ask or say whatever is on their little minds, and with one volume - LOUD!



I tried to embrace this teachable moment as I reminded my daughter that God makes everyone special. I told her that God created that man with the same care in which He had created her.  I smiled apologetically. The man smiled back with understanding...and then on we went.

Thankfully, as we mature, we hopefully begin to have a filter on our thoughts.  We learn that our mouths are not like a convenience store - open 24/7.  We don't let every thought in our brain come out of our mouth, but there is one person, with whom we clam up, who really DOES want to hear what's on our mind and in our heart.


I know that when I pray, I often think I have to come up with the right words, or I try to say what God wants to hear.  I know I need to praise Him, before I petition Him, but what about the times that I'm in so much pain, I can barely utter a desperate groan?  Perhaps I'm like a child who's fallen, hurt themselves, and is crying uncontrollably?

What if I'm so angry that I raise a fist to God to furiously ask Him, "Why this?"  My words are critical, loud, and filled with hurt and frustration.  Am I so unlike a toddler having a temper tantrum? 

When I blurt out my unfiltered thoughts, doubts, questions, criticism, and disbelief am I not like a little child squirming free of a parent's grip?  When I am afraid, fearful, hurting, or sad, do I not reach longingly for my Father's hand?



God is BIG enough to handle our childlike emotions and feelings.

He wants us to come to Him with pure honesty and not hold anything back.  Our relationship with our heavenly Father is, perhaps, the most HONEST relationship we can possibly have.  

So why do I hesitate to go there?  Many of us have assigned our earthly father's traits to our Heavenly Father.  Perhaps we think He is distant, aloof, critical, not warm and fuzzy, a true disciplinarian that is waiting to make check marks in the mistake column, and is secretly disappointed with us?  Maybe we've had an absentee father or even been abandoned or abused by our earthly father?  

I admit, I related more readily to Jesus at the beginning of my faith journey.  I loved the pictures I saw in Sunday school of Jesus, smiling and warmly beckoning the little children to come unto Him.  But, as I've matured in my faith, I have witnessed and experienced, firsthand, the awesome lovingkindness of my heavenly Father. I asked Him to work that trust deep into my soul and He obliged.

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” 9Jesus replied, “Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen theFather. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works.…(John 9: 8-10)

Jesus reminds me that if I have seen Him, I have seen the Father, because Jesus and the Father are One, and Jesus is actually God in human form.  

Jesus is lovingkindness because God, who dwells in Him, is lovingkindness! 

So if we want to enter the gaits of heaven, we need to have faith and trust like a little child. God desires to have a relationship built on intimacy and honesty.  He wants us to come to Him as a child would - with our REAL selves showing and our questions blazing. Trust me, God's big enough to handle it.

Dear Heavenly Father,  Forgive me for keeping You at a distance or feeling like I have to clean up my act or better myself to come into Your presence.  Remind me that is only by the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus that I can enter Your Holy presence with pure honesty.  I thank You that You are a patient, long-suffering God.  You never tire of my questions; You use our doubts to draw us closer into knowing You.  Give me the reassurance that I can come, real and raw, before You and You will meet me with mercy and grace.  Thank You for giving me Jesus so that I might know Your lovingkindness.  I praise You for Your faithfulness throughout my life.  Let me always, like a child, take hold of Your hand that is outstretched with love toward me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What holds you back from being real with God?  What misperceptions have you had about God?  How do you see Him right now? In what area does your relationship need to grow?  Will you share?

Mother's Day Giveaway!!  "A Moment to Breathe" daily devotional book :)  On Mother's Day I will draw one lucky winner to receive a copy of this devotional book (just hardcover).  I've written two devotions, but there are some well known writers who have contributed: Holley Gerth, Ann Swindell, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Alia Joy, Denise Hughes, Emily Freeman, Lisa-Jo Baker, and more.



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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Are We There Yet?

Hey Friend,
 
We thought we were pretty "high tech" cruising down the road some 20+ years ago in our Pontiac Transport minivan (lovingly known as the dustbuster on wheels).  For long family road trips, we were among the first to have a "deluxe" video tape player that plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Cell phones and video games had not yet been invented and so when my kids invariably asked, "Are we there yet?" I would put it in terms they would understand.  One more "Winnie the Pooh" (30 min) and we'll stop for something to eat.  Or, one more "Sandlot" (90 min) and we'll be there.  This along with a Mary Poppins bag of treats and toys that came out at crucial moments is what got us through those long ventures.  


As an adult who is cruising toward 60,and in the midst of lots of trials and prayers waiting to be answered, I find myself asking God..."Are we there yet?"  

God has been so faithful to answer prayers in ways that I would have never imagined.  Some prayers went on for over 25 years.  It's beginning to dawn on me that some prayers will not be answered on this side of eternity.  We are drawn into thinking that this life is all there is and prayers need to be answered during this limited time we have on earth.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)

God's promises go far beyond our short life spans.  His focus is an eternal one and He calls us to get on the band wagon with this way of thinking.  I took a seminary class on grasping God's word and one of the things it had us focus on, in scripture, was repetition.  When God really wants to make a point, the point is often repeated several times.

Let's look at Psalm 136 that talks about God's love being eternal.  

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

The Psalm goes on to chronicle God's steadfastness throughout Biblical history.  After every point the psalmist makes, the chorus is repeated.  

"His faithful love endures forever." is repeated some 26 times.  I think God is trying to get the point across that His love is not just for this world, but will be especially present in eternity.  What hope, what joy awaits us.

A good friend of mine tragically lost her young adult daughter to a drug overdose.  This is the type of tragedy that is very hard to wrap your mind around and even harder to produce answers to the question, "Why?" After all, my friend and I have spent countless hours on our knees in prayer for our adult children.  We were diligent in presenting our petitions, with thanksgiving, to the Lord.  So why this?

James Banks in his book, "Prayers for Prodigals" offers this advice as we are apt to pray for our child's success, happiness, peace, in this lifetime...

"God has given us our children for eternal purposes, and there is no greater blessing and inheritance we can pass on to them than our prayers for their salvation."  

Even Christian parents have prodigals, but what reassurance to know that our years of "training them up in the way that they should go" is not wasted.  Our training of our children is not for this world...it is for eternity.  

The bible talks a lot about "forever," and "eternity," and "life everlasting."  The Gospels' main theme is that man is not doomed forever for his sins, but by grace, can have life everlasting, salvation in paradise, forever.  

I am convicted that I need to adjust my lens for a more eternal setting.

This life is not all there is.


So, when I am want to ask God, "How long O Lord?"  It's kind of like I'm asking as a child, "Are we there yet?"  As I try to patiently wait upon the Lord, I take heart that even if my prayers aren't answered on this side of the pearly gates, they will certainly receive a glorious answer in eternity.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  I thank you and praise you that this life is not all there is.  Thank you for sending your Son to die for me so that I may live forever, in eternity, with You.  Help me to be patient through these momentary trials and periods of suffering because I know they are building my character for eternal purposes.  Help me to look not just to the end of this lifetime, but instead, look to the blessing of eternal life where all unanswered prayers will finally be answered once and for all.  Thank you for your goodness and faithfulness through all the moments of my life.  You make good on Your promises and Your grace is sufficient for all that we go through.  Grant me patience until I am with You forever.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Are there some prayers of yours that have not been answered?  What hope can you take from knowing that His faithful love extends into eternity where most of our life will be lived?  What do you need grace for in this moment?  Will you share?

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Uncontainable...Undestroyable

Hey Friend,

It has stuck me profoundly, in my scripture reading before this Holy Week, just how "uncontainable" our Triune God (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is.

As humans, we continually try to put God in a box.  That box can be literal (physical) or figurative (a box in our mind).  As the Israelites wandered the desert, they realized that God needed a traveling home, so they put the ten commandments in an ornate box that was intricately designed down to the most minute detail.  That box was called the Ark of the Covenant.  It was God's dwelling place as they moved about in their journey.

POTTERmoi: THE ARK OF THE COVENANT ACCORDING TO JEWISH HISTORY

Fast forward and King Solomon builds an awe inspiring temple in Jerusalem to be used as God's dwelling place among the people.  1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles describe, in great detail, the temple.  The temple Solomon commissioned took seven years to build (the number of completion).


The temple consisted of the finest wood paneling from the mighty cedars of Lebanon.  It's construction used the richest finished stones cut at the quarry so that no hammer, chisel, or iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built.  

Solomon commanded that the interior of the temple be overlaid with pure gold (45 thousand pounds worth).  Around the temple walls were carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and flower blossoms - also overlaid with gold.  The pillars of the doorposts were five sided and the giant doors were made of the best olive wood.  He hired Hiram, a skilled metal worker, to make all of the bronze sculptures and utensils needed in the temple.  There was a gold altar, table, and lampstands.  Long story short, Solomon spared no expense on the Lord's dwelling place.  

The ark of the covenant was then placed within the innermost sanctuary of the temple.  A box within a box, if you will.

The last place mankind attempts to contain the Lord is in the grave where they laid Jesus' dead body.  The last box.  But God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit cannot be contained.

A box, no matter how ornate and beautiful cannot contain God.

Hell, to which Jesus descended after His death, because our sins were upon Him, could not hold Jesus.

The grave could not keep Jesus.  With resurrection power, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.  

If there is one thing for certain, our God, the triune God, cannot be contained. Praise! Furthermore, as believers in Jesus as our Savior, the resurrection power of Jesus resides in us.  In Him we are more than conquerors.  We know how the story ends.  Perfect love casts out fear forever.


Even though the dwelling places of God have been destroyed or lost - the Ark of the Covenant's disappearance is a mystery.  Solomon's temple was destroyed - burned, plundered, and pillaged by the Babylonians...much like the burning of God's beautiful dwelling place in Paris (Notre Dame).

Praise that the Lord is not able to be contained or destroyed by the boxes in which our minds put Him.  

Solomon, himself said:  "But will God indeed live on earth?  Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain you, much less this temple I have built."  (1 Kings 8:27)

Though stained glass may shatter and gold may melt, the power of the Lord will never come to an end.  God is the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end. Only through the death of his precious Son can we be reconciled to God.


The Good News is that the Lord is undestroyable.  He is bigger than the 
boxes that we relegate Him to.  That is certainly reason to kneel in reverence and praise to the Lord this Easter.  Let's celebrate, together, the uncontainable, undestroyable, defeater of the box - our Lord and Savior.  

Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you that You are Creator God above everything and anything.  Forgive us for trying to literally or figuratively put You in a box.  Help us, through this Easter journey, to come to a new and profound reassurance that You are above all; You are uncontainable.  Though we build beautiful temples for You, we praise you that You are undestroyable.  Your love never ends.  Your compassion and mercy sent Your only Son to the cross for my sins.  Let me contemplate this indescribable love deep within my soul.  Let me take the gift of salvation and walk forward in the Freedom You've granted me.  I will praise Your name forever.  In Jesus' holy name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What does Easter mean to you personally?  What can you take from the Easter experience forward into how you live your life?  What reassurance does Jesus death and resurrection bring you?  Will you share?

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Personal Reflections On the Cross

Hey Friend,

I've had this sign in my yard for about a month.  I put it out on the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday, in March).  Truthfully, I'm surprised that the Home Owners Association hasn't asked me to take it down...they can be that way.  



My neighbors have seen it in their comings and goings and I'm sure some think I'm some sort of "Jesus freak", but that's okay.  One of my neighbors, the twelve year old variety, asked me point blank one day, "Ms. Bev, what are you thanking Jesus for?"  Wow, talk about an open door invitation! 

"Keep it conversational...don't preach," I heard that little voice in my head say.  So I proceeded to give him the Good News of the Gospel in sixth grade vernacular.  I could tell he was awe struck by the part about the cross.

"Did that really happen?"  he inquired in disbelief.  "Yep, that's how much he loves you, loves me," I said.  He smiled and then he turned away and rode off on his bike to play with his friends.  It hit home, for me, just how hard it is for children and adults, alike, to truly grasp the reality of the cross.

Author, Sarah Coleman, gives this meaning to the cross: "The cross is a great contradiction. Death and life, hate and love, violence and peace, accusations and forgiveness, sin and purity, brokenness and wholeness, all is lost yet everything is gained, destruction and restoration, defeat and victory.  Once the cruelest form of execution, yet now it is the symbol of abundant life."

I agree that the cross is definitely a paradox.  Ever since my days in Sunday School, I've thought it was a horrible way for Jesus to die.  It wasn't, however, until my adult years that I made it personal.  

The cross was a horrible way for Jesus to die....for me.

Christ died for sinners, of which I am one.  Gone are the myths that I can enter the gates of heaven if I am just "good enough".  Jesus didn't die on the cross because it was forced upon Him.  It was a choice.  A choice made in love.  I knew deep down in my heart that Christ died because He couldn't bear to live without me.  Who does that?  Love does; that's Who.


But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:8)

In all other religions, people strive to reach deity.  Christianity is the only faith in which God reaches down to us.  There is no striving or earning needed.  It is a gift of pure grace which we must then either choose to accept or deny.  Jesus laid down the bridge to God when He laid down His life.  Will we choose to accept it and walk across?

The cross is the ultimate act of humility.  Jesus came to the conclusion to die for humanity as a human - not as God.  He willed His flesh, mind, and emotions to die on that horrific cross.  Terrified of what was to come, Jesus still brought Himself to say, "Not my will, but Yours be done."  I am not threatened by death by torture, yet I am challenged to pray like Jesus, that God's will be done and not my own.  It makes it personal. It makes me humble myself.

The cross is final.

I have gazed at the cross, yet still held onto past hurt, pain, and guilt.  I have realized that this is pride speaking.  What I am, in fact saying, is that Jesus' death on the cross was not enough.  I still need to pay penance for my sins.  I need to do something more. That is a lie from the enemy's lips to my ears.  

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.

When Jesus uttered the words, "It is finished," He meant it.  The debt is paid.  My debt is paid.  Your debt is paid.  It is up to us to look to the cross and receive our salvation.  

God wrote us the most beautiful love letter...it's called Easter.  In it He boldly states that He would rather die than to live without us.  And so, in an act of radical love, He sends His only Son to die on the cross for our sins.  God says, "Christ's death was the ultimate expression of my love for you..." (1 John 4:10) and "I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love..."  (Romans 8:38-39)  What love!!

Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that it is hard for me to fathom a love so great that it would choose torture on the cross in order to gain my love.  Forgive me for gazing at the cross in an impersonal way.  You did this for me and while I was still a sinner.  I praise You that I don't have to clean up my act in order to come into Your holy presence. Jesus, You bridged the chasm between me and God when You took my sins upon You and laid down Your life on the cross.  I am so very thankful that God sees me through Your blood.  You are my Savior.  Thank You for the gift of my salvation.  It is, indeed, finished.  The debt is paid.  In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  What does the cross mean to you personally?  Is there still hurt, pain, guilt, or shame that you are holding onto?  Will you bring it to the cross and lay it down this Easter?  What will your response be to this humble act of great love for you?

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Scared Into Rest & Self Care

Hey Friend,

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you will know that I have some kind of twisted record going - six major surgeries in six years.  I am not looking to extend this streak!

Each time I was sidelined with a surgery and the rehab that followed, it was like God was the coach and I was the player and He was benching me for awhile so as to get a break from playing so hard. I needed a rest.

What I didn't expect was the wonderful time I had in God's Word - reading, meditating, praying, and just being in His calming presence.  Each surgery and rehab had a similar silver lining.  I also felt like I was given a permission slip to be able to rest...nap even.  Rest and fluids are proven healers.  

But, not long after I was given the nod by the Coach to get back in the game, I returned to the playing field with the same full gusto as before.  This, however, was not a good gusto, it was more like "burning the candle at both ends" gusto.  Time and time again this seemed to be my mode of operation.  I read articles on rest and self care, but that seemed like a luxury for the rich and famous or the selfish and lazy.  The rest of us had to keep plowing forward.

That was until my body seemingly turned on me.  I was, once again, burned out beyond belief; had no energy, found myself needing to sleep A LOT.  My body was screaming, "Enough".  That's when I got the triple header news:  I was anemic, my thyroid was no longer producing any hormones, and I was pre-diabetic.  The doctor said that 50% of people who are pre-diabetic, will have full blown diabetes in 5 years.  Risks like going blind, losing limbs, shortening my lifespan severely hit me right between the eyes.  

I was scared.  This was serious.  I had let things go too long and now I was ticking like a time bomb.  That's when God allowed me to be scared into rest and self care. It was no longer a luxury, but a necessity.  We pride ourselves in constantly being busy, but God's plan for us is much, much different. It was time to swallow the pride and humble myself.

My friend, and sister writer, Anita Ojeda was doing a 5 Day Self Care Challenge.  I jumped in.  I realized in a heartbeat just how poorly I was taking care of myself.  Let me share with you her outline for self care and add a bit of what I'm learning.




MAPS:

M:  Mental Self Care:  Active:  Challenging myself to things that keep my brain synapses firing ie:  doing a crossword puzzle, adding up a sequence of numbers vs. pulling out my calculator, reading and trying a new recipe.  Rest:  Closing my laptop and winding down from work at 5 and not doing work on evenings and weekends.  Allowing myself 10 minute mental holidays to watch the birds, daydream, let my mind be empty.

A:  Academic/Artistic Self Care:  We are born to discover and learn.  I've started brushing up on french which I used to speak rather fluently.  I also actually have "read a book" on my to-do list.  Artistically, we can take care of ourselves by creating.  If you like to write, play an instrument, decorate, draw, dance...don't neglect this part of yourself.  Even if you dance in the kitchen, sketch in the carpool line, or hit clunkers on your piano...dabble.  It's good for your brain and your spirit.

P:  Physical:  Active:  Move 30 minutes a day.  You don't have to join a gym.  Break it up:  10 minute walk the dog, 10 minute walk around your workplace or walk around the neighborhood, 10 minute treadmill, recumbent bike, or stretch and lift free weights. EAT Healthy.  Here's a reminder:  If it's green or grown, eat it, if it's processed, put it down. Rest:  Get 8 hours sleep (no rounding off).  Listen to your body.  If it desperately needs a rest, then rest.  Naps are not illegal or lazy.  They are a sign of healthy self care.  ** Note I'm preaching to myself here.**

S:  Spiritual:  Active:  Spend time daily in God's Word.  Don't try to squeeze it in.  This is a non-negotiable.  Make an appointment with God each day.  Pray or journal your prayers.  Write down 3 things each day that you are grateful for.  Rest:  Just be still in His presence.  Ask what He wants you to know.  Meditate on scripture you read and just let it soak into your mind. Imagine being held in the Savior's strong arms or imagine Him singing and rejoicing over you just for being YOU.  Whatever is pure and lovely...dwell on these things.  

I'm blessed to have a husband who asks me everyday:  "What are you going to do that is good for yourself today?"  

So...what's it going to be??  Think about what brings you joy.  Is it digging in the dirt and planting some spring annuals?  Do you like to sing?...sing a song out loud.  Watch the birds at the feeder for five minutes.  Study the unique flowers and plants in your yard or on a walk.  Buy some flowers for yourself and make a quick arrangement just for you.  Write a letter or note to a friend.  Read a book for fun.  Take yourself out for coffee.  Watch the clouds move in the sky and pick out shapes. Pet your dog or cat.  Embrace your inner child...and play :)



Rest and Self Care are NOT LUXURIES. They are NECESSITIES! (read again, and again until it sinks in).

Please don't be like me and wait until it's almost too late.  Do you know how many years stress, alone, takes off your life?  If not for yourself, do it for those you love and for God - He commands us to take care of the temple He's given us.  

Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me for how poorly I have taken care of the temple you've given me.  Give me wisdom to make wise choices about how I rest and how I take care of myself.  If you didn't do it in a day, how can I expect to?  Let me listen to your call to rest as well as your call to come into your presence with thanksgiving and praise.  I praise you that you truly care about each and every aspect of my life. Give me courage and discipline to develop new, healthy habits and let go of those that destroy.  Let me heed YOUR call to do something good for myself today.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you take seriously the biblical precept of rest and self care?  What have you done that is good for yourself today?  What habits of yours need changing with regard to this topic?  What victories have you experienced in rest and self care?

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