Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Surrender

Hey Friend,
I feel like I need to write a disclaimer on this week's post.  After spending a wonderful, yet busy week with my mom visiting, I now have a miserable summer cold.  So, I'm not sure if my writing is Spirit inspired or cold medicine inspired, but here goes anyway...
I mentioned my mom.  We have a great relationship even though we are very different people.  As a little girl, I sometimes wondered whose child I was?  Both of my parents were very stoic - rarely showing emotion.  I, on the other hand, wore my heart and my emotions on my sleeve.  It didn't take a genius to figure out what I was feeling. 
I was also raised on the premise of self-sufficiency.  One did not admit they needed help and rarely, if ever, asked for it. And as for quitting or giving up...well let's just say my dad, a vet himself, often quoted Winston Churchill's famous, "Never, never, never give up!"   Surrendering was not an option.
And so, I, armed with this knowledge, embarked upon this journey we call life. 
I did fairly well through high school and college.  It wasn't until marriage and my first child being born that I encountered trials that rocked my battle cry of self-sufficiency and never giving up.  I won't go into all the details here, but suffice it to say that I quickly began to realize that life was not exactly a bowl of cherries.
I was said to be suffering with post-partum depression (later to be diagnosed as severe OCD).  I was depressed and anxious.  I quickly got to the end of my rope - my self sufficiency.  Still fighting the urge to ask for help, I fell deeper into despair and perpetual anxiousness.  I remember exactly the day that I had to get real with God!  
I had been holding back turning things over to Him because not giving up or quitting had been so ingrained in me.  
God taught me, however, that there is a difference between quitting and surrendering.
I was not "giving up" I was giving over to God and letting go of self.
Perhaps you've heard the saying that if God is your co-pilot, then you need to get up and change seats.  God wants to be the pilot of our lives, but He will not force His way in...we need to willingly turn over the steering wheel.
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."  (Matthew 16: 24-25)
In order to survive, I quickly realized that I would have to deny self and then, of my own free will, I needed to surrender to God.
In life we have a choice:  surrender to self, surrender to the enemy or surrender to the Lord.
I had tried self; I certainly didn't want to surrender to the enemy (who by the way can whisper some awful lies); so the Lord was my last resort.
I'm not proud that it took me to the end of my rope to finally surrender to the Lord, but that's often the point we need to get to until we will finally take hold of his strong and mighty hand.
"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."  (Proverbs 16:3)
I had taken the path of Self sufficiency------> Surrender
Once we pry our fingers off our pride, our merciful and loving God does not just stop there.  He takes it a step further...
Self sufficiency---->Surrender---->Surrounded
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. (Psalm 32:10)
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.  (Psalm 125:2)
Once we surrender, the Lord surrounds us with His unfailing love.  Like the little helpless lamb, the Lord lifted me into His strong and loving arms and surrounded me with His love.  He didn't leave me alone and unguarded.
Again, the Lord does not stop there:
Self sufficiency---->Surrender---->Surrounded---->Security
His heart (the man who loves the Lord) is secure, he will have no fear...(Psalm 112:8)
[Now] We have this hope (oath/promise) as and anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  (Hebrews 6:19)
I love this imagery...the Lord as an anchor for our soul; holding us firm and secure when the rough and turbulent seas swirl around us.  My friend, if you are dealing with something you can no longer handle are not a failure!  It is okay to say I surrender!  In fact the Lord is waiting patiently for you to do so.  It is only in our weakness that He can then be strong.  I am, as always, praying for you!
What do you need to surrender to the Lord today?  If you have a prayer request, leave it in the comments or contact me directly.  I am a vigilant prayer warrior - I've witnessed first hand the power of prayer.  I pray that you will let Him take you from self sufficiency all the way to security!  Be blessed...
In His love,
ps. If you suffer from depression or anxiety...I am a strong supporter of seeking medical help as well as Christian counseling.  Depression and anxiety are treatable illnesses.

Monday, July 21, 2014

An Unending, Open Invitation

Hey Friend,
My husband and I just got back from a business conference that he attended (I went along for the ride).  Before we went, my husband forwarded to me an invitation that he had received.  The invitation read: So and So's Estate & Wealth Planning Group invites you and a guest to join us for a Lowcountry Oyster Roast and Barbeque.  Date, Time, Location (Kiawah Island, SC).
Immediately I started having thoughts and questions...Who would be there?  Like my husband, would it be a lot of lawyers, bankers, estate and wealth planning professionals?  Would I feel out of my league?  After all it's been a long time since I worked in the business world.  Oh they're going to ask me the dreaded, "So what do you do?"  Would my resume be impressive enough? 
Then it morphed into what do I wear?  The invitation said "business casual".  Do yoga pants and a tank top count?  Suddenly I wished I had shed that extra ten pounds.  I recently had foot surgery and had graduated to wearing sneakers.  Sneakers and a that will impress 'em!  And don't even get me started on accessories!
About the time I got myself all worked into a tizzy, a favorite old hymn of mine mercifully popped into my head.  I knew immediately that this was a "God thing".  Let me share just two of the verses here:
Just as I Am, Without One Plea
Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Right away I was drawn to and focused on the word, "Come".  And how do I come? "Just as I am." 
Unlike earthly invitations, God's invitation is unending, open and bids us to come just as we are. 
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)
How thankful I am that we don't have to get our act together first, in order to be invited.  God invites us while we are still sinners.
On Bible Gateway, I looked up the phrase, "Come to me".  I found 339 results.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)
This is probably one of my favorite "come to me" verses.  Christ issues an awesome promise when we come to him...He promises us rest!
Let me share some other invitations found in the Bible:
In Exodus, the Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and the commandments I have written for their instruction." 
God says, "Come" and gives a gift of guidance
"Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people."  (Matthew 4:19)
Jesus says, "Come" and gives purpose
"For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  (Matthew 9:13)
Jesus comes to call sinners to himself
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  (Matthew 19:14)
Jesus' invitation is universal
"Then come follow me."  (Matthew 19:21)
When Jesus invites us to come, He is prepared to lead
Unlike a one time invitation, the Lord issues an unending, open invitation.  The invitation doesn't discriminate between gender, color, age, sinner or righteous.  We are truly welcome to come just as we are with doubts, worries, a past, in spite of what we've done or not done.
We do not make ourselves righteous in order to come to God, but instead, Christ's blood cleanses us when we come as is!
If you wonder if you are invited?  Friend, you are!!  The cross bids you and me to come...come just as we are.  Come and be released of whatever it is that holds you down.  Come and be given freedom to dance.  Come and be loved, truly loved, just as you are. 
What a glorious invitation.  His loving heart has broken every barrier down.  Will you R.S.V.P. Yes, I will come?  I pray so... 
In His love,


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dealing With Doubt

Hey Friend,
As I have mentioned in other posts, I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  OCD, one of the anxiety spectrum disorders, is nicknamed "the doubters disease".  What the ordinary person is able to dismiss as irrational, throws the person with OCD into a vortex of doubt and anxiety.  It really is an insidious illness.  I guess that's why I get a little touchy when people casually throw the term OCD around.  Living it can be pure hell at times.
I guess it would come as no surprise, that when asked which disciple I can most relate to, I would have to say Thomas (nicknamed the doubter).  When confronted with Jesus, recently risen from the dead, Thomas wants so desperately to believe it truly is Christ.  His doubts, however, get in the way and he needs just a little more proof and reassurance. 
I love what Jesus does here...He doesn't chide or rebuke Thomas.  Far from it.  Jesus lovingly says to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see my hands; and reach out your hand and put it into my side."  (John 20:27)
Jesus knows full well that we are programmed for doubt.
Yet, He responds to our doubt with a loving offering of proof.  We may not be able to actually put our finger in Jesus' wounds, but we are given His word - His proof of promises that we can depend on.
You may not have OCD, but you do have the enemy to deal with.  Even though the enemy is not omniscient, he knows our weak places...our Achilles heel and he goes after it with a vengeance.  He whispers words of doubt:
*  Are you really saved? 
*  Does God really, truly love you?
*  Is God really good?
*  Are you sure you can trust God?
*  God doesn't care about little you...
*  Are you sure you are sealed with the Holy Spirit?
*  Are you certain you're going to Heaven?
*  You're not worthy...and on and on it goes.
The enemy is the accuser of the brethren.  Have you ever had thoughts that go something like this:
You are NOT a good (Fill in the blank)...person, believer, spouse, parent, friend, etc.
Lean in and hear this...It is ALL LIES!!  Like Thomas touching Jesus' wounds, we can trace our finger over Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
"The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by one who knows what you can be and fears it."  (John Eldredge, "Waking the Dead".
Doubt will always be an integral part of our lives.  Why?  Because the enemy hates us and wants us to doubt all the good gifts we've been given in Christ such as :  grace, forgiveness, mercy, acceptance, strength, wisdom, redemption, an inheritance, a new heart...
In the book of Mark, chapter 9, a man begs Jesus to heal his mute and seizure ridden son.
Verse 23:  Jesus tells the father, "All things are possible for him who believes."
Verse 24:  The father cries out, "I do believe; help my unbelief."
Doubting, actually, is not all bad.  Doubting drives me to seek answers. When regular doubt crops up and even when the awful OCD doubt flares, it sends me running into the arms of my Heavenly Father.  He does not chide or rebuke me but instead, lovingly reminds me that I am His.
God can take what Satan hands me and uses it to draw me closer to Himself.
Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."  (Hebrews 12: 1b-2)
Jesus is the author and perfecter of my faith (not me).  He can even use my doubts to grow me in my faith. 
Do you have doubts?  Do you ever cry out, "I do believe; help my unbelief."?
Know you are not alone.  We all doubt.  Just like Jesus lovingly reassured Thomas, He reassures us.  You are His child.  He will not chide or rebuke you.  He applauds each step forward you take in your faith.  And, when you fall (which you will), He picks you back up again and urges you onward. 
Offer your doubts up to the Lord and see what He can do with them.  As always, I would love to hear from you and am always willing to pray for you.  If you are reading this...know you are being lifted up as you read.
From one doubter to another...
In His love,
ps.  Next week I will be going "off the grid" to enjoy a little time with my family.  I hope you'll use this time to enjoy your family or perhaps check out the archives.  Be blessed!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Practice Of Pondering

Hey Friend,
Last week I challenged you to choose people over pixels, Creation over cyber-space and now this week I would like to take a look at scripture over surfing and scrolling.  Remember, it's all in finding a balance.
Even as a child, I was a voracious reader.  Perhaps being an only child contributed to my being able to get so caught up in a book that I would barely take time to eat.  I devoured books and loved to let my imagination run wild.  Another offshoot of reading a lot, I believe, is that I learned to read very quickly while still retaining comprehension of what I had just read.
I remember in school...the teacher would give us a section to read out of our books silently in class.  She would tell us to close our books to signal that we were done.  As you might imagine, I would read the section lickity split and be sitting there twiddling my thumbs wondering what in the world was taking everyone so long?
The down side of my speedy reading is that I tend to skim just about everything...the newspaper, books, magazines, devotionals and yes...even scripture.  If I have read/heard a scripture many times, I am guilty of really skimming past it.  Jean Fleming in her book "Pursue The Intentional Life", challenges readers to practice the art of pondering.
I would like to take the pondering one step further and challenge you to make the scripture personal...claim it as your own!!
One way to make it personal is to insert your name into the scripture or use the words "I" and "me".
Example:  "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  (John 8:36)
Ponder:  "So if the Son sets me free, I will be free indeed."
Remember when your mom told you to really chew your food?  I encourage you to really chew on scripture.  Break it down word by word and let it roll around in your mind for awhile.  Claim its truth for yourself.  Personalize it. 
Mary, mother of Jesus, was good at pondering God's words to her through the angel Gabriel.  The Bible says: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
Scripture itself compels us to ponder:  "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."  (Colossians 3:16)
Let = allow in (allow the word of Christ in)
Dwell = meditate upon (no skimming or speed reading)
Sing = recite what you've learned
Oh, if only we let the word of Christ dwell richly in us.  If only we gave His Word plenty of room in our lives?!
So when do we ponder the Word?
David says, "The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes."  (Psalm 119:95)
But his [man's] delight is in the word of the Lord, and on his word he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
So why do we ponder the Word?
Revelation 1:3 says there is a special blessing for those who read God's word.
"The secret of joy is the practice of meditation - that is the way to have this joy of the Lord.  We must meditate upon Him, upon what He is, what He has done, His love to us and upon God's care for us who are His people."  (Martyn LLoyd-Jones)
"The secret to joy is meditating on God's care - not on earth's snares."  (Ann Voskamp)
So how do we ponder the Word?
One summer when I was not teaching I put together what I call a First-Aid or Emergency Kit of scriptures.  I actually wrote down scriptures that spoke to me during certain trials and tribulations in my life.  I included scriptures that spoke to my "hot buttons" or Achilles heel.  I wrote each verse individually on brightly colored index cards and laminated them (teachers laminate everything). 
If I was really organized I would group them according to topic ie: grace, guilt, worry, hope, anxiety, etc.  I hole punched them and put them on a round ring so that I can remove a certain scripture and tape it on my bathroom mirror if I feel like I need that extra reminder. 
Hide God's word in your heart.  Memorize it.  Study it.
The day is going to come when you will need the sword of scripture.
Don't be like me...don't skim scripture.  Ponder it.  Chew on it.  Take it line by line and word by word if you have to.  Read it in context.  Who was talking to whom?  What was the context or situation?  Then personalize it and claim it!
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand.
(Psalm 139:17-18)
How I pray that God's words and thoughts would be precious to me like the way they were to David.  Notice his use of exclamation marks (which are not widely used in the Bible).  How I pray that I would slow down and drink in God's word and really and truly ponder it in my heart the way Mary did. 
Will you join me in practicing the art of pondering God's Holy word?  Would you share ways you've been able to personalize and claim scripture as your own?  I would love to hear from you!
In His love,
ps.  As we look forward to celebrating Independence Day, may we all personally thank someone who has served or who is serving in our armed forces so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we have.  Extend that thanks to the spouses of service men and women too - who hold down the fort at home.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
Dear Service men and women (and their families),
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.  (Numbers 6: 24-26)