Thursday, May 28, 2015

When You Feel Weak And Not Enough

Hey Friend,
This is a hard post to try to write.  Part of me says, "Wait until you feel better, then you can write with more clarity and insight."  Another part of me says, "No, write it now while you are still climbing out of the pit."  **Note we all have these feelings and experiences to some degree.  What I, and many others experience, takes it to a whole different level. 
I opted for plan "B" here goes.  This is the first day that I have showered in 3 days.  I only showered because I had to go get an injection into a raw, aggravated nerve in my foot to try to deaden it.  It wasn't fact it was horrible...something not worth showering for.
I've mentioned, before, my battles with OCD (anxiety disorder) and depression.  By God's grace, I usually do pretty well, but for the past few days I have been wracked with anxiety and panic attacks to the point of hyperventilating.  I've been curled up in a ball in my bed most of the time, crying and calling out the name of Jesus to rescue me.  My hand clings to a picture that is crinkled and worn over the years. Some of my medicine makes me sleepy.  Sleep, the only respite from the agony that goes on in my mind.  Oh what I would give to have a switch that shuts off the repeated obsessions in my mind. Round and round they go whipping my mind into a frenzy. It really is a heinous and insidious illness. 
I feel oh so weak and not enough.  I feel like you could grab any old stranger off the street, plunk them into my life, and they would do a better job at it than I am doing.  The dirty dishes are stacked in the sink; no lunches were packed and no dinners were made; errands and runs to the grocery store and pharmacy didn't happen; calls, emails, and texts have been ignored; there have been no dog walks, no Bible study, no writing, no nothing; the carpets have dog hairballs and the dust thickens.
My husband deserves a better wife, my children a better mother, my friends a better friend, my mom a better daughter.  Everyone else seems better at handling the stresses of life...but me, I come unglued at times.  I even say under my breath, "I hate myself." I know deep inside I don't mean that but that's how I feel right now. I don't like what I feel inside and I don't like what I see in the mirror.  I am weak, helpless and scared.
Well meaning people tell me to not think what I'm thinking, but to get out into the sunshine and see what is lovely and think about these things instead.  They encourage me to be brave and be strong.  If I just tried harder, had more faith, put more energy into it, I'd be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps.  They love me, I know...and they want to fix "it"... and so they encourage me to be anything other than the mess I am right now.  Be anything, but don't be weak and helpless.
To be perfectly honest, this hurts.  If I could think happy thoughts, don't you think I would have done that by now?  Do you think I enjoy this awful pit that I'm in?
What if when we feel weak and not enough, Jesus speaks a different message?
He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart... (Isaiah 40:11)
I don't know much about sheep, but I know that they are weak, helpless, defenseless creatures that get themselves in jams a lot of the time. They need continual guidance and nurturing. If they get tipped over, they can't even right themselves without the help of the shepherd.
Here, Jesus is likened to the shepherd who doesn't shun or scold the lambs (the weakest of the weak). No, He gathers them in His loving arms and carries them close to his heart. 
When we are weak and not enough, Jesus doesn't say, "Why can't you be as strong as that other sheep?"  No, He gathers us in our weakness and holds us in the closest most intimate place we can be...close to His heart.
Under His wings you will find refuge. (Psalm 91:4)
Jesus calls us unto Himself, not to give us the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" speech.  No, He calls us to come away from the maddening crowd to a place of refuge under his protective wings. 
He guards and comforts the weak...He doesn't chastise them.  He draws them into a place of safety and refuge. 
What if feeling weak and not enough is actually a gift from God?

What if we need to need Him?
When we are strong, self-sufficient, and bringing our "A" game everyday, we really don't need God or Jesus.  We confidently go about our day leaving the deity sitting on the sidelines watching us in all our gloriousness.
But, what if in our weakest, most helpless and not enough moments, we are drawn into the very deepest level of Jesus' love and strength?
What if we experience His love on the grandest level when we are at our weakest?  Might this be the best gift we can experience?
In 2 Corinthians 11:30 Paul says, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
Why would one of the most powerful proclaimers of the gospel say a thing like that?
Perhaps he knows that "Christ's power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)
What if continually being strong and having it all together robs Christ of displaying His awesome power?
Might I be, in my weakness and not enoughness, the perfect stage for Christ's love and strength and power to be made known and glorified?
These are all questions I ponder.
I believe that is why Jesus is likened to a shepherd so many times in scripture...because He has love and compassion on us when we are weak.  He is mindful of our frame...He knows we are human. 
If we could be strong and in control all of the time...well we really wouldn't need Him...we wouldn't need a Savior.
Our weakness reminds us that we need saving.  And that's okay!
I mentioned the crinkled and worn picture I hold in my hand on the really hard days.  It's a picture of Jesus holding a tiny, weak, and helpless lamb in His strong and loving arms close to His heart.  When I'm curled up in my bed, this is where I envision myself being and through that image He speaks to me.
It's okay to be weak and helpless and not enough, Bev, because I am here to hold you.  My love and grace will sustain you.  When you are weak, Bev, I am strong.
My many bouts with OCD and depression have brought me to a place of deep, deep dependence and reliance on Jesus.  I truly don't think I'd have that relationship with Him had I not had this illness. 
So the next time you feel weak and not enough...Jesus' love for you makes you more than enough.  Even if you can't move out of bed and are good for nothing...He loves you in your good for nothingness. 
He loves you JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU and you are His creation. 
You don't have to do anything, prove anything, earn anything, or strive for anything. 
You, in your weakest state, is the lamb He wants to gather up and hold close to His heart...
Lord, Thank you that in our darkest times, you don't abandon us.  Instead you draw near, lift us into your arms and remind us that we are Yours.  Help us to remember that being weak is not a crime, but instead an opportunity for your strength and power to be demonstrated.  Let me boast of my weaknesses so that You may be glorified. Only in You, am I enough.  Thank you for loving me when I can't even lift my head...You lift it for me and remind me that You love me.  To You be the glory and power forever, Amen.

Be blessed...

Ps.  If you or someone you know suffers from mental illness.  Know that it is not a weakness of character or a lack of is an illness (not unlike cancer or diabetes).  It just happens to be an illness of the brain.  There IS help and hope!  Through medicine, counseling, and therapy and a combination of all...there truly is hope.  If you are struggling and would like me to pray for you.  Please feel free to contact me. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Something To Smile About

Hey Friend,
When I first started receiving pictures of the children who had begun coming to Redeemer Christian School, it struck me that, in all of the pictures, none of the children smiled.  Their faces were sullen; their eyes were hollow and distant; despair seemed to literally ooze from their pores. 
Why weren't they smiling?  Living in the US, I have loads of pictures of my children laughing, smiling, giggling with delight.  I see pictures everyday of happy kids on Facebook.  We giddily all say, "Cheese" before a picture is taken.  It's easy to smile when your belly is full, you have a roof over your head, you know that you can safely walk or ride your bike down the street in your neighborhood, or you are securely tucked into bed each night by your parents.
But...what if you have no parents?  What if you are an orphan and roam the streets each day begging for food?  What if each night is spent in a different place and your hope is that the next morning you will be alive?  What if you fear walking down the street because you have seen others your age snatched and sold as sex slaves to extremist terrorists or recruited into jihad seminaries?  What if you went to God's house...the church...only to see your neighbors blown to bits by Islamic extremist suicide bombers?  What if you witnessed youths, professing to being Christians, being burned alive in broad daylight in the streets and the officials doing nothing to stop it?  What if?
Some people have asked me, "Why do you care so much about these people in Pakistan?"  I can appreciate an honest question. I openly admit that when God called me to this ministry, I said, "Who me? You want me to do what? where?"
I had all the perfect excuses...but I began to see the director, the teachers, and the children as real God's children. 
 Would I, as their parent, want to see my innocent daughters with swollen, pregnant bellies because they had been passed from fighter to fighter to gratify lustful desires?  Would I want to see my sons' minds brainwashed with glorified dreams of suicide missions?  Would I want the messengers of my Word rounded up in raids in the middle of the night and thrown in jail and the key thrown away as well?  No...I couldn't rest well knowing that this is going on.  I could not continue to turn a blind eye or keep my head buried in the sand.
In Matthew, Chapter 25, Jesus relates the story of the sheep and the goats.  In this apocalyptic text, Jesus relates:
"All the nations will be gathered before him (the King/the Son of Man), and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (verse 32)
The people question why and how they are being divided...
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'" (verse 40)
Then, furthermore, He adds...and this is the part that makes us squirm...
"'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (verses 45-46)
The interpretations of this part of scripture about "doing for the least of these brothers of mine" go from the narrow:  what we do for our Jewish brothers and sisters - the Nation of Israel, to a broader sweep:  what we do for messengers and missionaries spreading God's word, to an even broader brush stroke:  what we do for the poor, the orphans, the destitute.
I'm not even going to pretend to know fully the mind of God and how the King will choose to interpret "the least of these".
All I do know is that I want to be counted among the sheep whose inheritance is eternal life.
Back to the childrens' faces in pictures.  The faces of those who enter the doors of Redeemer Christian School are beginning to soften into smiles.  They are being ushered into the throne of God's great grace, and love, and mercy.  When they learn that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and a Savior, Jesus, who loves them enough that He was willing to die for them to give them eternal life in paradise...a life far removed from the destitution that they know and live each day...they have reason to smile. 
Though the world outside may be thick with evil, they begin to taste and know that He is good.
I have learned so much from the director.  As a messenger of Christ, he cannot find employment to supplement the school.  He moves from place to place and sleeps restlessly because he must be ready to flee if they come to round up Christians in the middle of the night.  He goes without meals and sells his few belongings to survive.  He knows he has a target on his back...
But, yet he smiles...
Why? Because he knows his Savior.  He knows the Truth that will ultimately set him free.  He knows the Hope that is within him is faithful, constant, and true. 
The example of his faith has stretched and challenged mine in ways I never dreamed imaginable.  He has shown me what a valuable treasure I have in having the gift of God's grace.
I merit it (grace) not, but He (God) gives it anyway.
I stop to ponder...if I had an empty belly, no roof over my head, extreme fear when I walk down the street, but I did know that I have one thing...God's grace, would I be able to smile?
Dear Lord, Thank you for lifting the veil from our eyes to truly see what is going on in this world.  We lift up the messengers of Your Word and the children to whom they teach it and ask for a hedge of protection be placed around them.  Thank you for the refuge that RCS has become for these destitute children.  Let your light and love continue to grow deep into their hearts and let the joy of the hope they now possess be reflected in their smiles.  Move us, Lord, to care for the "least of these" in the same way that You do.  Thank you for our many blessings.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Be blessed...
If you wish to come alongside Redeemer Christian School in providing a haven from the evil that surrounds them and to let them know that God's people love and support them, would you consider making a donation to the good work of the school? **Update: Help Needed: 20 more children are seeking refuge at RCS...we want to enroll them, but need greater financial support.  Please help if you can so that we don't have to turn any child away...
Donations can be sent/made out to:  Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in memo) 
                                                              103 Silver Lining Lane
                                                              Cary, NC  27513
 **Note: RCS is not yet a registered 501c3 organization...we're working on it, but it is very expensive.  Every penny - literally - goes to the children.  That I can promise. 
Please, please, please pray for God's protection to surround them!
Thank you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Got A Case Of The "What If's"?

Hey Friend,
I know I'm a day late in posting.  As a friend of mine says, "Sometimes life is just life."
I've had a case of the "What if's" lately.  One year ago, I had surgery to fix a couple of things that were wrong with my foot and causing me much pain.  Not long after recuperation, I realized that something different was wrong with my foot.  Reassured that time and some cortisone shots would do the trick, I kept on.  Many months and additional opinions later, I was told that I had a rare post-operative nerve problem.  I was given my options...selected a very painful, but potentially successful,  course of action...waited...and now the pain is worse than ever.
What if?  I ask myself, the pain never gets better?  What if this is as good as it's going to get?  What if I'm never able to walk without pain again.  What if?
Maybe you have some "what if's"?  What if my marriage can't be saved?  What if the kids don't stop bullying my child at school?  What if he/she won't stop drinking, doing drugs, (fill in the blank)?  What if my husband can't find another job?  What if?
The words, What if?, are an invitation to worry.
When I ask the question, What if?, I have initiated the worry cycle.  My humanness combined with the enemy whispering in my ear, most often takes me to the worst case scenario.  I'm not sure why, but it just happens that way.
God does not want us to live in worst case scenarios.
God doesn't...but the enemy sure does.  Why?  Because if he can get us caught up in our worrying, then we are rendered ineffective in building God's kingdom.  The enemy wants us all on the disabled list.
That is why Paul exhorts the Philippians to pray when worry and anxiety arise.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7)
So many times I've read these verses, but yet new meaning keeps coming out of them.  I believe that anxiety and prayer are two great opposing forces in the Christian experience.  I also believe that thanksgiving is the antidote to worry.
God does not promise that, if I pray, all my problems will disappear.  What He does promise is, that if I cast my anxiety on Him, He will take my burdens and put in their place a peace and tranquility that transcends all understanding.  God always answers prayer.  It may not be with the answer that we want, but He will indeed answer. 
Often the circumstances may not change, but we will be changed in the circumstances.
I've also begun to take a new look at what it means to pray with thanksgiving.  I suppose I've generally taken the approach that I present my petitions and requests before God and then when He answers my prayer (in the way He chooses), I thank Him.
What if, instead, I thank Him in advance for the way He is going to answer my prayer.  What if the thanking comes before the outcome?  I have found that this way of praying gets me to pray with hopeful expectancy instead of simply throwing up a prayer and waiting to see what happens. 
We are invited to come boldly before the throne of God and part of that boldness is from an attitude of thanksgiving for what He is about to perform.
Hmmm....prayer accompanied with pre-emptive thanksgiving...
"Our prayer and God's mercy are like two buckets in a well; while one ascends, the other descends."  (Arthur Hopkins)
I love this visual that prayer is active.  While our prayers rise up to God, His mercy is already descending to us.  God does not sit and think upon our prayers...He's already answering before we ask.
Perhaps that's why Paul follows up his exhortation to not worry with what we are supposed to think about.
Instead of asking "What if?"  we think about "What is."
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  (Philippians 4:8)
In other words, kick the enemy's lying, worst case scenario, "what if" answers to the curb and instead invite in any thoughts that are excellent or praiseworthy.  God's not just saying "think happy thoughts".  He will enable us, if we ask, to redirect our thoughts to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. 
He simply says, "Ask child...and I will help you."
Sometimes the best answer to prayer is not necessarily a change in circumstances, but instead is a change in perspective. 
That brings me back to my "What if's?" about my foot.  First, I had a good cry...(just being honest). Then I decided, I am going to try presenting my request before God..."God, I would like healing from this pain."  I am going to thank Him in advance for how He is going to answer.  Even if His sovereign answer is "No" for now, the ultimate victory in the end is a "Yes" and in the meantime His grace will be sufficient for all my needs.  I will choose to dwell on what is praiseworthy - all the times that God has been faithful to see me through trials in the past, and deep trust that God is always good.
I may have to repeat this prayer exercise many times...but that's okay...God desires to continually be in relationship and dialogue with us.
Dear Lord, When I am filled with the anxiety of the "what if's", let that be my cue to turn to you in prayer.  You know what I need even before I ask, so please help me learn to pray with expectant thanksgiving for what you are about to do.  Enable me to cast my cares upon you and instead be blanketed with your peace that passes understanding.  Remind me that all I have to do is ask and that you will respond in love...because you ARE love.  Thank you for your mercy, Lord.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Be blessed...
ps. If you have a coin jar stash somewhere in your house...would you consider donating it to help the orphans at Redeemer Christian School?  If you are local, bring me your coins and I will gladly cash them in for you.  If you are not local, would you "cash in your stash" and send a check to:
Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC  27513
Thank you in advance...please, also, would you pray for a hedge of protection around the school because evil is at their doorstep?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Christ Is Enough: Back To Basics

Hey Friend,
It happens in all marriages...a disagreement starts, an argument ensues, emotions get thrown into the mix and then sometimes one, or the other, or both end up saying things they don't mean or things that they regret saying later.
My husband and I have been married for sixteen months now.  Like any couple, we've had our disagreements and have worked through them.  This is hard to share, but this week we got into a doozy of an argument.  Emotions ramped up (especially on my part), and some hurtful things were said.  Words, like toothpaste being squeezed out of the tube, you can't push them back in.  They're out there. 
I love my husband and I think he is the most wonderful man on earth, but he's human, and he said something that triggered some issues and feelings that I thought I had long since completely dealt with.  But, obviously this nerve could still be triggered. 
It became very clear to me that I still have some issues and fear (rational or irrational) about being abandoned.  My ex-husband had left me and our children not once, but twice.   The memories I have of the crushing feelings associated with betrayal, abandonment, worthlessness came flooding back like a raging storm.  I was gripped with intense anxiety and fear.  I knew I never wanted to go through that experience again or to have to feel those awful feelings another time in my life...
What I wanted right then and there was a written 100% guarantee that I would never be abandoned in my life again.
I wanted reassurance that I would never have to feel those terrible feelings again nor deal with the wounded spirit that came along with them.
One small problem...I wanted what I couldn't have.  Knowing and loving my husband as I do, I could cast my vote with probability that that would never happen, but when the enemy jumps onboard and starts whispering lies in your ear and your OCD starts spinning it over and over again in your head, it can become tortuous. The truth of the matter is that there is no 100% guarantee of anything in life. 
In times like these, I find that I need to scrap all the theological complexities and simply go back to basics.
Fortunately God drew me to a devotional that had been written that day by a very good writer friend of mine - Kelly Balarie - at
Her words spoke to my heart.  One simple line that Kelly wrote jumped out at me:
"Jesus is sufficient for all our needs."
I then claimed it for myself praying it, "Jesus is sufficient for all my needs."
Even if, worst case scenario, my husband were ever to abandon me, Jesus is sufficient for all my needs.  I thought back over my life and all the times that Jesus has seen me through things I thought I could never survive; I had a small wave of peace wash over me.  If He was faithful and sufficient then...then He will be faithful and sufficient in my future - whatever it may hold.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The Holy Spirit pulled up this verse and brought it to mind.  A few minutes later I read it in the devotional Kelly had written.  I realized that the answer to all my worst case scenarios, to all of your worst case scenarios, is really very basic and simple...
Jesus and His grace is sufficient for me/you in all our needs.  When we are weakest, He will be our strength.
If I am left alone holding the bag in life...His grace is sufficient. Simple.  Basic.
In my distress another very basic principle in scripture came to mind:
God has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, What can man do to me?"  (Hebrews 13:5)
How many times have I read the scripture "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."?  Perhaps hundreds or more.  But right now I was clinging to these eight words.  Even if everyone in my life deserted me, God's promise still remained that He will never leave nor forsake me.  I could take that guarantee to the bank.  Combine this basic principle (I will not forsake you) with the first basic principle (My grace is sufficient for you) and a promise we can count on and live with is revealed. I was still very anxious but my footing was shifting from sinking sand to a rock that I could stand on.
We also have the power to tell the enemy - the purveyor of lies - to hit the road when he tries to undermine the truth. 
The truth is that God, my husband, and I together are a strand of three cords that is not easily broken.  How thankful I am to have God in the center of our marriage.
Then, God being God, raised up one of my favorite worship songs by Hillsong - "Christ is Enough".  Part of the song goes something like this:
Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back
I've been set free.
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need.
The main line in the chorus is pretty straightforward...Christ is enough for me.
The truth came more sharply into focus.  Not only is Christ enough for me in any situation, but everything I need (maybe not everything I want) is in Him. 
If I have Christ in me, then I have everything I need to get through whatever life may bring...period.
This morning I read a devotion online that asked for prayer requests afterward.  My heart ached as I read everything from people dealing with cancer, illness, death, job loss, infertility, prodigal children, aging and ailing parents, homelessness, failing marriages, divorce, abuse (verbal, emotional, and physical), depression, anxiety, special needs children, failed family dynamics, you name it, the list went on.
Life, in this world as we know it, holds no guarantees.  In fact, just the opposite - the Bible tells us that in this world we will encounter trouble of every kind.
Christ is enough for me.  His grace is sufficient for me.  He will never leave nor forsake me.
I'm not going to tie this up with a pretty bow and say that all my fears were instantly relieved.  I still wrestle with my issues and fears, but in my fear, I can cling to some very basic yet powerful promises.  No matter what worst case scenarios come to pass in our lives we can know that:
Christ is enough and everything we need is in Him.
Lord, Thank you so much for your promises to me.  Thank you that when life and its problems swirl around me I can see myself as cradled in your strong and loving arms.  Thank you for your promise of sufficiency to me and for giving me a rock to stand on.  May I begin to grasp how wide and long and high and deep your love is for me and in that I would be able to experience love and peace that surpasses knowledge.  Enable me to claim the promise that no matter what, You are enough for me.  In Jesus' name, Amen.
Be Blessed...
Ps. Know if you are reading my blog...I am praying for you every morning and every evening.
Update on Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan:  I discovered, during an Easter fundraiser that raised funds to pay for Bibles in Urdu (which the children are LOVING), that MANY people have secret stash jars in which they toss spare change.  These jars have a way of accumulating many coins over time.  When a relatively small group of people added up our "stash" jars, we came up with $300. to buy Bibles for 30 precious children.
Challenge:  This Mother's Day weekend...would you consider going to a CoinStar or similar machine and have your "stash" converted to "cash".  Be a mother to these orphans and help us to purchase tables and chairs for them.  They currently sit on carpets for their schooling. 
Send cash or check to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                                       103 Silver Lining Lane
                                       Cary, NC  27513
***Please continue to pray for their safety!!  Thank you...