Monday, January 30, 2012

Not just an old poem

I love the book of Psalms, don't you?
It is not only lyrical, but can be read in bite size pieces. There are poems about being afraid, being thankful, asking for guidance,
crying out for help, on and on it goes.
It is one of those books in the Bible
that is easy to read and hard to get tired of.
Although I know all of this, there are times when I take the book of Psalms for granted. I can open it up and grab an emotional high and then just go about my day, not giving anything I read a second thought. Yes, it felt warm and fuzzy while I was reading it and maybe even a few moments after, but then I allow life to take over. And really, if I need another shot of the warm fuzzies I will just read it again.Somehow that sounds alright in my head, but as I read it, it sounds really shallow.

It is really shallow.

The truth is that all of God's word is precious,
not caffeine to get me through the day.


It is also instructive.
Teaching us how to live, act, react, cope, and ask for help. 

My favorite go to Psalm right now is 116. It is chock full of instruction.
If I could just embrace what the psalmist wrote here,
it seems my life would have the aroma of grace.
I love reading it in various versions and paraphrases.
It helps me to imagine how the psalmist would have sung it as a song.
Here is one version:
I love the Lord,
because He listens to my prayer for help.
He paid attention to me,
so I will call to Him for help as long as I live.
The ropes of death bound me,
and the fear of the grave took hold of me.
I was troubled and sad.
Then I called out the name of the Lord.
I said, "Please, Lord, save me!"

The Lord is kind and does what is right;
our God is merciful.
The Lord watches over the foolish;
when I was helpless, He saved me.
I said to myself, "Relax, because the Lord takes care of you."
Lord, you saved me from death.
You stopped my eyes from crying;
you kept me from being defeated.

So I will walk with the Lord in the land of the living.

I believed, so I said, " I am completely ruined."
In my distress I said, "All people are liars."

What can I give the Lord for all the good things He has given me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation, and I will pray to the Lord.
I will give the Lord what I promised in front of all His people.
The death of one that belongs to the Lord is precious in His sight.

I am your servant;
You have freed me from my chains.
I will give you an offering to show thanks to you,
and I will pray to the Lord.
I will give the Lord what I promised in front of His people,
in the Temple courtyards in Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

See what I mean. It is beautiful, like a song.
But read it again and you will find nuggets of instruction.
We can read how God hears us when we pray,
He is near when we need help,
He answers when we cry out to Him,
We see how to acknowledge who God is and for what He has done for us,
even when everyone else disappoints.
We read what our response should be to The One who always hears us,
never disappoints and frees us from bondage.
We pray to Him, we serve Him and we shout from the roof tops what He has done for us.
How awesome is that!
All that from one little old poem written thousands of years ago.
Not bad huh?  

What is your favorite Psalm and why?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Slippers on - Slippers off...

It is getting cold and cloudy out today. We don't see that too often around here. So, many of us run for our crock-pots, our coffee cups, our slippers and snuggle in for a cozy afternoon. The slurping of soup can be heard up and down the neighborhood streets. We pull out that much loved sweater that only sees the outside of our closet once or twice a year and run outside to show it off. Silly, I know....but true.
We love the change and embrace it before the 110 degree weather begins in a few months.

There are other things that we tend to put on, but they end up hindering us instead of bringing us joy and contentment. We put these on as ways to handle the hard things that we go through in life, on our own. We make a decision to go through loss our way without inviting the Savior to help us and walk with us. The examples below are what happens when we choose to stay stuck in our hard place, our loss or grief. When we have forgotten how to move forward and maybe over time this has become a pattern as to how we respond to stress, loss or suffering. We all have tendencies and perhaps you may find one or two of your own in this list. I have related to all of these at different times in my life, and I definitely have my "favorites" that even now I struggle against.

Here are six accessories that we can do without:
1. Crown: Some of us like to put on a crown that "helps" to show everyone just how special our circumstances are and that they should take notice and act accordingly. We wear our grief/loss with pride. We don't want anyone to ever forget what has happened to us, so we readily remind them. We find that response in the beginning is one of love towards us, but the longer we wear our grief as a way to get attention and to receive special treatment, we find ourselves with less and less subjects to behold the splendor. Others begin to see us as a tyrant, when what may really be happening in our heart is unforgiveness, bitterness and possibly fear of loss of control.
But God is being a child of His that makes us special, not what has happened to us. God is distant from the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5 

2.Badge of Honor: Some of us like to wear our loss/grief like a badge, showing recognition of what we have been through. We are now part of a "club" of those that grieve over the same things that we grieve about. We have things in common. This badge allows us to relive our grief over and over and over again with those like us. It becomes the thing that identifies who we are. We are most comfortable around those that have lived through the same pain. Those outside of the "club" begin to see us as unapproachable, when what may really be happening in our heart is fear of the unknown, loneliness, and belief in the lie that our loss is our identity.
But God believers we are heirs of God. He is our identity, not what has happened.
Romans 8:14-17; Colossians 3:1-4

3. Flashlight: Some of us use what has happened to us as a weapon. We use it to focus on others faults, instead of looking at our own struggles. We find ourselves lashing out at others; we have bouts of rage and anger when things are out of our control. We seek revenge when we feel wronged. The longer we use this in our loss/grief the more bitter and angry we become. When we carry our loss like a light that we flash on those around us, others begin to see us as judgemental and critical, when what may really be happening in our heart is unforgiveness, resentment, and fear of loosing control.
But God God's children we are to be slow to anger, gentle and forgiving.
Proverbs 14:29, 15:1, 29:22; Ephesians 4:31-32; Hebrews 12:15

4. Shovel: Some of us like to bury what has happened to us, never to be spoken of again. If we don't speak of it, then it doesn't affect us or our present circumstances, right? It is in the past, we convince our self that no one wants to hear about our stuff. It's not as bad as so-and-so's situation. We become numb, emotionless, we don't cry, we don't feel anything. Unfortunately, things that are buried eventually make their way back up to the surface. And, once they surface, they can poison everything that they touch. We find our self getting emotional about things that may be common place for others or at inopportune times. Others begin to see us as unfeeling and unapproachable, or possibly we overcompensate by trying to be the "life of the party". When what really might be happening in our heart is fear of being hurt, unwillingness to let go of that has happened, and unforgivness.
But God says...His desire is for us to look up, to cry out, and allow Him to share in all our troubles.
Psalm 63 and 77

5. Backpack: Some of us carry our loss/grief with us wherever we go. As we go about our day, working, caring for others ,just living...we feel the weight of it. Sometimes we acknowledge the weight that we bear to others, but most of the time we just bear it. We try to run from it by distracting ourselves with other things, but it is heavy, and the feeling never leaves. We find that because of its weight we begin to have physical symptoms. We can't sleep, our muscles ache, we gain weight, we lose weight, our head hurts, we sleep all the time. People try to tell us how to bear under it through medication or exercise, but in the end the grief is still there. Others begin to see us as tired, overloaded and unable to keep up. When what really might be happening in our heart is sadness, unforgiveness, and living with regret.
But God says... He offers rest for the heavy-laden, and a better way to bear burdens.
Jeremiah 31:25; Matthew 11:28-30

6. Fuzzy slippers: Some of us have found a respectable way to attach our loss/grief to our everyday life. We are hibernators! We withdraw when things get heated or hard. We check out. All we want is for everyone to leave us alone for a while, no questions, just a cup of coffee, a good book to dive into, no phones, no talk. This all makes us feel safe and secure. "We are fine", we tell ourselves and others. We just don't need too may friends. We are not small talk kinda gals. But deep down, it can be lonely. We find it hard to speak about our hurt, it is hard to put into words. We often feel stuck and so there we stay. It often causes us to lose out on opportunities because we have lost our courage to live out loud. Others begin to see us as over independent and standoffish. When what really might be happening in our heart is fear of what others would think, loss of trust and fear of losing control.
But God says...He comforts us in such a way that it gives hope to His children, causing us to step out and comfort others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7, 2 Corinthians 7:6   

So, as I take off my fuzzy slippers to step out into the world,
I encourage you to remove that accessory that you have grown fond of wearing
and put on what Christ has to give you in its place.
Peace that passes all understanding, love, joy, comfort...the list goes on and on. His accessories make us beautiful inside and out.

Which accessory are you prone to wear?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jesus knows

Today has been a sad day. I am sad. I am sad because my friend is sad. She has had one of those days. One of those, I can't breathe days, this is too hard days, isn't there another way days. My flinch is to try and come up with a solution, but I know that the solution for this one can only come from Jesus. So here I am...sad...heart broken and running into the fire to be with her. I will mourn with her and walk with her, as long as it takes.

Last week I had the privilege to speak about grief. Over the next few posts I am going to share some of my speaking notes on the subject.

With the news of my friend I find myself thinking about Jesus and one of his I can't breathe, very hard, isn't there another way days. We read about this particular day in Mark 14:32-42, Matthew 26:36-46 and Luke 22:40-46. It is where Jesus goes to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane with a few disciples in tow. He cries out to God...
Mark 14:34-36 And He said to the disciples, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt."    Here we see that Jesus, who is all God and all man, has a very human response to a very hard and painful process that he is aware that God has chosen for Him to go through. Even He asked God if there was another way. Somehow it helps me to know that Jesus struggled even for a moment with God's plan for his life. Jesus shows us what to do when God does not give us what we want, when our plan is not God's plan. We pray and seek to align what we want with what God has for us. It is not easy; it was not easy for Jesus. But Jesus loves his heavenly father and knew he could trust Him, draw near to Him.

My dear friend possibly has a long road ahead of her. I am not leaving her, even if she attempts to go it alone. We will grieve together, as she looks at all that God has blessed her with in this life.

God is good and He is near.
His final goal for us all is that our lives glorify His name
and that the world will see His ways reflected in our lives.
I will mourn with her as she mourns.
And I will pray that in the midst of all of this there are times of laughter as well.
God is good and He is near to the broken hearted.
For me, there is a peace in the knowing.

How do you come along side your friends when they are sad and broken hearted?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Full of Butterflies

Do you ever get that anxious, butterfly feeling? Oh! I am so there today!!
In a few days I will be doing something I have never done before.
I will be saying things "out loud" that have only been running around in my head.
It is a leap of faith for sure.

I find that the one butterfly that quietly resides inside has birthed multiple caterpillars who are bursting out of there cocoons and into flight, seeking a way out.
Butterflies when released haphazardly can cause a lot of damage.
Instead of appearing beautiful with fluttery gentleness,
they look like they are running into clear glass trying to find a way of escape.

Hence, my little colony within.

My flinch when I feel anxious is to
a) find a secluded corner, never to be seen again or
b) high-tail it as fast as I can for the hills.

Neither of these are real options if I want to stay relevant in God's kingdom.

So what can I do?
The butterflies(anxiety) exist, I can't ignore it.
My only option is moving forward, butterflies and all.

I will be honest, I have a bit of a process that I use that so far has worked for me.
I never realized that I go through the same steps each time I find myself dealing with anxiety.

I like to call it "active meditation"
First, I listen to truths about God. I have made up a play-list for my ipod of meditation type songs. All the songs are scripture based. This puts me in a place to sit at the feet of my Abba Father.
Second, I have a conversation with my Abba Father, who knows me better than anyone. This could be an all day affair and often includes fasting.
Third, I soak myself in His Word. I read stories in the Bible of God's presence in the lives of His people, of the hard places they found themselves and how God walked with them there.

He is so good!

I am in the middle of this "active meditation" and will stay here until I have finished this task that God has set before me to do.

Mark 4:23-24
Matthew 6:5-18
Psalm 12:6
Colossians 3:16

What are some ways that you deal with anxiety? I would love to hear from you! 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Already Behind

I know that very few people will ever read this post, unless you have decided to scroll back to the beginning. One of my dreams for this year was to begin a blog. I was suppose to start yesterday,
but here I am already behind. 
That is the funny thing about self imposed deadlines,
being self imposed, they can and often are not met.
God's Word has much to say about "man's" plans.
In Genesis 11 we humans thought we had a marvelous goal, the best plan ever! We planned to build a city with a tower so high that it could reach heaven. It would be great! Not only would it show how awesome we are, but it would help us not get lost. We would be able to always stick together. What could be better?  (Read the story yourself to see the results)
God's plan, God's way, is always better.
 Frankly, it is the only way. For when we come up with our own plan, especially when we are aware that God has another plan for us, we are just beating our head against a wall.
His way always prevails.
Does this mean I should never make plans? I don't believe so.
 Proverbs 19:21states it best...
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, But the counsel of the Lord, it will stand".
When we plan, we should be planning with the Lord. We should seek His counsel,
keeping His ways in mind.
What does that look like? Something like this...
We plan, We pray, We plan, We seek guidance for His Word, We plan, We seek wisdom from brothers and sisters in Christ, We plan, We hold our agendas loosely, We plan, We pray....
So, as you plan and prepare for this coming year, keep this in mind.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.