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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Overthinking it...

I woke up this morning to pouring rain and thunder rumbles. It was lovely. Made me wish I could stay in my bed and enjoy it just a bit longer. But - instead I immediately started worrying. I can "what if" a situation to death.

When I was a little girl and my family would plan to go to the beach for the day, I would be sick with a stomach ache and pray over and over again that God would protect us. The whole night before I would be rejecting scenarios of harm and asking God to keep us safe. I would be exhausted, and fragile feeling the next morning. But being a kid...once I got there  - the joy of the sand and the Gulf would totally erase the worry from my mind. Thankfully.

I have done this my whole life.

So this morning I immediately started wondering whether I should wait and take the boys in later to school...because we all know folks forget how to drive when it is raining.

And I stopped myself.

I am overthinking it again.

The fact is, we have no guarantees in life. This world is broken and imperfect. And no matter how hard we try we cannot always keep the ick from happening.

Romans 8:37-39

English Standard Version (ESV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 

Psalm 18:31-33

English Standard Version (ESV)
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
 
Yesterday I was watching a show about the end of the earth and it showed a man (Nichlas Cage) gathered with his family. They had no fear. Right before their destruction the dad looked at them all and said, "You know this is not the end", and his son looked back at him and said, "I know".
 
Now I am not placing any spiritual meaning on the movie. But I LOVED the end. If we all had that security would we not do more? Would we not try something GREAT for God?
 
I am going to do my best to practice the following:
 
Philippians 4:
 
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 
I am going to do my best to quit overthinking it all...it's exhausting!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

I had a conversation with a sweet sister a few weeks ago. And in that conversation I said something that upon reflection I think it is sort of a belated epiphany.

I am secure in my place as a daughter of the King. Now anyway. My heavenly Father loves me and there is no doubt that I am secure in that. I have struggled with this before though...for years. And it has come across in my behavior and my relationships. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to look perfect, to be admired, to be the best at whatever I put my hand to...and when I was not, it caused a horrible desperation inside of me. I was needy and would lash out at whatever made me feel insecure.

But during the last couple of years, my heavenly Father has assured me time and time again that no matter what state I am in, I am well loved. I am cared for. I am provided for. I have never been more secure.

As my sister in Christ and I were chatting I said, "If I never saw a mirror again, I would be great".

I am not talking about slovenliness, never taking showers, or giving a rats petoot about what I look like. I mean - by not seeing myself I am quite content with the physical me. I do not worry about my hair or my makeup or that zit that popped up on my chin unbeknownst to me that would cause serious mayhem if I see it in the mirror.

I love that without a mirror I think I am quite lovely. I see myself as I did when I was 19. When I happen to see a mirror or a picture I am always slightly shocked at the 46 year old looking back at me.

But most happily, what I have found lately is, when I am most content with my Lord - I am most content with me and all of my foibles and oddities. It is a lovely thing....the mirror is no longer of consequence.

Of course the mirror is a good thing, as long as I am not obsessing and using it to determine my value. That is a total waste of time.

I am thankful for my epiphany because I realize that I am finally (for now) free of that bondage to the mirror and my previous burden of what I think I should be.

If you have had a similar experience let me know how you handle it. I would love to hear how you manage the hurdles that come to us all. Have a happy weekend and God bless!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

They will know us by our love...

I have long been convicted of our behavior. I am talking about the behavior of Christians. I suppose I should say of my behavior but this is something I have observed of us as a whole.

Followers of Christ, folks who identify themselves with Christ, those who believe in a Savior that came to earth, SACRIFICED himself, became as a servant to save ANYONE who would believe. He did it all because of love.

I know that is me. I am anyone. But something bothers me. And I think it is a maturity thing as much as anything. I remember telling someone they were going to bust hell wide open. I was 19 years old. I will tell you - that the person I said that to - knew I loved them. But I would rethink my language now. Pretty sure anyway. Because I have matured. And I have learned that making others agree with me is no longer my goal. It really should never be part of the Christian philosophy. Loving well should be what we are known for. Not this "holler til they hear us" mentality that seems to pervade the news media every time we are transgressed against.

Christians, from the worlds standpoint, tend to be mean. We tend to think we need to fight. We think we have to prove we are right. We do not love very well. Or sacrifice very well. There is no turning of the cheek - as a whole.

And it has hurt our reputation. Instead of being people that folks are drawn to...not for our beauty, or our charm, but because we display an unspeakable love that comes from Christ, we tend to repel, and to make others hate us. We belittle, and are snide. We tell others that God reviles them because of their sin. And unfortunately we - many times - are connected with conservative radicals that bomb clinics and spew hateful words. The fact is - sin is sin - my sin is no better than the doctor who performs abortions. So if I can say it's okay to bomb the abortion clinic for their sin, I am in essence saying I deserve the same thing. That is - if I believe God's Word and am truly a follower of Christ.

That is not Christ's example. His example was to eat with publicans and sinners. He turned the other cheek. He asked other people's opinion. He spoke with people that it was not looked well upon to speak with. He loved others so well.

Am I generalizing? Absolutely. I am just seeing Christians as a group - and  as a whole from a non-believer's viewpoint. I have the good fortune of being part of an online community that are a group of sweet folks. But they do not think well of Christians as a whole.
This makes me sad.

I am sure our example lies here:

Philippians 2 English Standard Version (ESV)

Christ's Example of Humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. 

 

I am sure our example should be one that is in standing with this scripture. I think we should love others, and "shine as lights in the world". Love well, sacrificially, putting others before ourselves. Let the Spirit do his work on the hearts. There is no need for us to prove we are right. That is pride.

After all....

John 13:35

35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

*****An aside - I know not all Christians are loud, obnoxious and argumentative. I do believe we take a stand and are firm about it. I am talking about our language that sounds uncompassionate and our need to debate ad nauseum. My new favorite thing is to ask questions. If I can leave someone with a thought and a pleasant memory of me and any gracious thing I shared, then maybe the Holy Spirit can find root in a heart. Which is my desire in all I say and do. (smile)

 


 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Solving the problem...

I know. We worry. I worry.

So much.

Things don't go the way we want. We think, "If this would just happen then everything would be okay".

Plug in: My candidate becomes president then America would prosper. My husband would get a job or get a better paying job, we could finally breathe. My kids would just make the team, they would be happy and that would make me happy - I can't see them be disappointed. My parents health would improve I could finally rest. And the list goes on.

So many things. Important things.

The problem.

I do not know. I do not know what is best. I cannot see the future. I don't even know the right decisions to make over things that don't matter sometimes. And yet, I find myself winding myself up into a fine tizzy. I think we all do it.

The bigger problem:

I think I know. I want to control it all. And I despair when I cannot.

The answer.

Matthew 6:24-34

New International Version (NIV)
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


It is a blessed relief to read these words and to believe them, accept them and to practice them. I have had moments of actually exercising this small faith of mine and seeing glimpses of the glorious thing it will become. The release and rest that comes from believing God's Word and practising it is a blessing. And one we resist - crazily enough.

I want to tell you a story. It is mine. And I have shared parts of it before, but today, as we prepare for the Thanksgiving Holiday and share our thanks each day for how we are blessed, I am particularly overwhelmed and thankful for how God has worked in my and my family's life this past year.

A year ago I was working a hard job. It was a lot of work and not enough people and I had to make hard decisions every day. I had to put what I could into it and then leave it at the end of the working day and then serve my family. I had to leave my kids by themselves until a certain time every day and it felt wrong. My anxiety levels were through the roof. I had to have a tooth pulled from an abcess that occurred from the constant jaw clenching. I even had to go to the emergency care facility because I thought I was having a heart attack. Turned out it was anxiety attacks. I finally came to a point where I asked God if this was right. Something I had never really asked because the job came so easily to me that I thought it had to be his will. He said no. He said leave it. I tried to stay because I was scared. We needed that job. I thought. I finally obeyed and - peace and provision were ours.

Shortly after leaving, I was having lunch with a friend and I confided in her that my greatest fear after leaving that job was my husband losing his. It was something I thought I could not handle.

A few short weeks later he walked through the door and he told me, he was sorry. His job was gone.

Seriously. It felt like a dream. No way. I rejected it. I felt the horrible panic and what felt like my life falling apart all in the matter of about a minute. My reaction to him was ugly. It shames me to remember instead of showing faith and confidence, I pushed him away.

But within an hour, I felt something that was not of me, pass through me. I accepted the fact that we were where I thought I could not live and I was still living. God instilled the vision of a moment by moment grace. I thought about what was the worst that could happen. We could lose the house, we might have to live with family, it could be humbling, embarrassing even at times. This was not unbearable to me. I did have to disengage the control freak within me, but when I locked that beast up, I felt I could take the next step. And I did, along with my family, holding onto the hand of God.

And I spoke to God. And he brought me to the scripture. And I listened. He gave me the understanding and the ability to say when I felt the panic rising, "We have everything we NEED". He even gave me the ability to be thankful, "Thank you Lord for giving us everything we need for today". And I would wake up the next day and do it all again.

Interview after interview...several times there would be three interviews and my very capable, experienced and certification laden husband would find that he did not get the job. Questions? I had them. But the Spirit would prompt me with remembering to stop my imagination and to be grateful for everything we had. And our provision was overwhelming. Money - a huge amount given from a young couple that had a limited income and a new baby. Humbling? Yes. Encouraging? So very! We tried not to accept it but were reprimanded by them for not accepting what they freely gave. We were overwhelmingly provided for. Gift cards and prayers - the most amazing, heart lifting, unbelievably, generous folks gave. And they taught me what my response should be. Gratitude. Following their example. Trust. Greater faith. My heart is about to bust just recounting it all.

Five months later, I am working pretty steadily. I am substitute teaching in as many Special Education classrooms I can as a teacher's aid. I love it. It energizes me. And I am asking God to provide me with a teacher's aid position so that I can be there every day. I come home and am here with my boys the same time they are. I will be home with them in the summer. My husband just got contract work and is making a very good salary. It is not permanent. But it is through the holidays and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Worry? Worry is an absolute waste of time.

Matthew 6:  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It is true. I am a different person. I know I will always struggle with worry. But I am so grateful for this experience and seeing how God has provided through friends and family. I felt the prayers, and love and am thrilled to have learned so much from the precious generosity - sacrificial generosity of others and it makes me want to do the same.

My heart is full. I pray that God will continue to grow my family and I. I pray that we will give generously in return and find ways to serve others.

I pray that my fellow believers will find the peace in the midst of difficult times. That we will trust moment by moment in God's provision, for our families, our friends and our government. I do pray we will humble ourselves and pray for others...especially our leaders. And that we will learn to trust and give control to the One who knows.

It will always be an issue - worry - but we do not have to. I hope we learn to live more often than not without it.







Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You can have Church anywhere!

This past week I had nothing on the books. No sub jobs. Not a single one. I have had my weeks full long before the day actually gets here so this was perplexing to me. But I did not worry for some strange reason. Not at all like me - but praise God for change! Anyway - before Monday got here I had a call from someone who needed me at the High School and then another from a friend who works at a trade show downtown called Christmas Village.

Christmas Village is an amazing show where artists and crafters gather to sell their wares each year before Christmas. It is vast and amazing what you can find. People are so talented! I worked Cotton Tails which is a smaller version of the same thing put on in the Spring. So I met a couple of sweet folks last year and was thrilled when some other folks called me to help out this year. It just so happened that it was in the middle of my non-scheduled work week! So I worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week as well as Sunday.

I worked two different venues and loved each one. The one I worked with for a few days was an artist from Georgia. Her name is Pam Coxwell. http://fromtheheartart.com/catalog/. Here is her link so you can see the inspirational and lovely prints and things she has to offer. Pam and her husband Terry, have an amazing entourage they bring with them to help out. Not only did my heart immediately find kindred spirits, but I had work. It was a joy to be there. It didn't feel like work at all - until I got home and had to soak my feet - which is a typical issue when you work those trade shows!

One day while I was eating lunch I had the privilege of sitting with Peggy. Peggy went to church with Pam and Terri and is a beautiful lady that is a joy to be around. I was amazed at how easy our lunch together was (I can be awkward at times - go figure) but I loved hearing what she had to say. She shared her story which was heartwrenching, but such an encouragement. How God used her past to encourage and comfort me - right where I was that day -  was a wonderful thing to be a part of. I left lunch feeling like I had just been to Church. I was uplifted and encouraged and full of joy that God provided such a huge encouragement in the middle of my day. I got two hugs from her when I left that day. One from her and one from our heavenly Father. For she and those I worked with that week were truly part of the family of God. I love seeing God's Word in action.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.

I love this verse...not only for it's implication of extending our love of the family of God as far as we can...but also for the practical no nonsense advice at the end. Mind your own business and keep busy. I need to hear those words! Over and over again... 

I just wanted to share my blessings from last week....hope you find church in unexpected places as well. (smile)