Lemon Drop Memories

Another road trip to the new house, another stop at Kwik Trip for more coffee. And there I saw them, a bag of lemon drops. I pulled the bag off the metal piece it hung from and immediately tears stung my eyes. Lemon drop memories. It’s funny how little things can cause liquid grief to flow as the memories pull on your heartstrings.

Dad loved lemon drops, I thought as I held the bag in my hand. And the missing feelings overwhelmed me. Dad went home to be with the Lord a little over five years ago. I think about him nearly every day. He was full of fun and loved to joke around. He could always bring a smile to my face. My tears surprised me.

Pushing the painful away use to be the way I chose to live. I use to hate fragility, and neediness. I would do anything to avoid tears. I would even try to keep others from crying so I didn’t have to deal with their sadness, or feel my own. I still do sometimes. But I am finding that when I allow myself to be touched by the pain of loss, healing begins. It is okay to miss the ones we love and allow tender memories to move us.

Burying my feelings use to make me feel strong. It helped me believe the lie that nothing could hurt me. But believing lies and building walls left me alone in the pain I was afraid to feel. I locked others out.

Sometimes it feels like our pain and tears can annihilate us. They feel too big, too overwhelming. And it seems that if we allow the tears to start they will never stop. It feels like we will crumple under the heaviness of our deep feelings. But that too is a lie. When we can open up about our feelings, and be held in them, the load is lightened.

Slowly I learn these truths, and release the lies. More lessons on my path of recalibrating life. But actually these lessons are ones I have been struggling through for a long time.

My fear of allowing the pain to touch me is still a very real part of me. But on that drive, sucking on one of those lemon drops, I told my husband about the sadness I felt, the missing dad feelings and the need to hold him near in my memories. I shared my grief, and it was okay. When you are willing to share the tears and talk about the hurt, you often find community and compassion.

Satan wants us to remain in the bondage that his lies create. He wants us stuck in the fear, debilitated by the grief. He wants us to feel like we need to hide. He wants us alone and walled off. Because in our alone, he can destroy our faith, he can shred our hope, and he can leave us for dead.

But Psalm 56:8 reminds me that the Lord collects my tears in a bottle. My tears are precious to the Lord. And He meets us in the grief we feel. He comforts our hurting hearts with His love, and gives us the hope of seeing our believing loved ones again. He brings restoration and healing to our brokenness and grief.

Our souls are refreshed once again in knowing His loving-presence. And we truly are not alone. He knows our fragility, and when we are weak He is strong. His grace truly is sufficient (2 Corinthian’s 12:9) for whatever life brings, for whenever memories roll over us like a tsunami. He will collect our tears as if they are precious diamonds, because He loves us that much. He will strengthen and uphold us through it all.

The bag of lemon drops is still in my car. As I am driving, I often pull one out of the bag, and the bittersweetness of the candy reminds me of the tears and my lemon drop memories. Life is bittersweet like those lemon drops. We taste the bitter and the sweet in life. Sweet memories can bring tears. I am learning to realize the preciousness of both.

What about you? Have you had “lemon drop memory” experiences? How do you deal with your grief and pain? Do you wall it off so it doesn’t touch you? Have you found the Lord’s comfort in the midst of it all?

May the Lord refresh your soul today with His loving-presence no matter what life brings your way.

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Rest Stops on My Journey

My Recalibrate Life Read for July is Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down by Kim Thomas. This book centers around the themes of ceasing and feasting in the three areas of Emotional Rest, Physical Rest, and Spiritual Rest. There are suggestions, Rest Stops at the end each chapter to guide you in the process.

I have read this book slowly, a little at a time to let it soak in. I am left with a several takeaways but I will just share a few from each section of the book.

I am seeing as I move through this year that my four main priorities in recalibrating my life are to:

1. Learn to linger, savor, and slow down.

2. Learn to be present in the moments of life.

3. Learn to live in simplicity.

4. Learn to rest in the Lord’s love, abandoning outcomes to Him.

They all fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. They are interrelated, and as I grow in learning to live more like this, I am realizing that this growth in learning requires both ceasing and feasting.

Thomas says, “…we have neglected the pursuit of the eternal in pursuit of the temporary.” Looking back on my life I can see this as being true.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. The expectations and obligations send us running and in the hustle and bustle of it all, we miss much of what really matters. We are consumed by the stressors of life. And quite often we never really stop to look at what the causes of our stress are, we just keep pushing on.

Stress is the very first thing Thomas deals with in her book. She suggests that we look for the stress triggers in our lives and figure out ways to deal with them. I am learning to recognize where my stress level is at and what the triggers are. I think often in our busyness we may not even be aware of how we are living with overwhelming stress. One book I read said that stress can become like adrenaline to our bodies, pushing us on.

Stress changes how we act and interact. It causes us to react, often in ways that may be harsh. When I am stressed, I often react with frustration out of feeling overwhelmed. Thomas suggests that once we learn what our stress triggers are, that we try to anticipate what is coming rather than reacting. When we do this it is easier to respond in a softer way.

As I learn about my stress triggers I’m learning to respond rather than react. I recently realized how frustrated I was getting when my brother called. All I could think of is what I needed to be doing, and I was short and edgy with him. After thinking about it I recognized that he was always calling when I was in the middle of getting dinner ready, and that irritated me. So the next time it happened I responded by telling him of a better time to call, and since then it hasn’t been an issue. Such a silly little thing caused me so much frustration, and there was such a simple solution. But in my initial upset, I didn’t think about a solution, I only reacted.

Thomas says, “…an unbalanced woman has nothing to offer herself or those around her.” So it is helpful to begin to find some balance in the areas of stress that have kept me teetering.

Along with that Thomas reminds her readers to remember to “replenish your well.For me, replenishing my well means taking time to relax, to read, or journal, or on occasion, even take a nap. I am choosing to gift myself with those things in between tasks on my to-do list. Replenishing my well does a lot for my attitude.

Some other areas Thomas discussed ceasing from in the area of Emotional Rest, are noise, negativity, numbness, and anger. I find that often my negativity and anger arise out of stress. She asks three important questions in the areas of Ceasing from Anger, Feasting on Flexibility. Each of these are important, especially to me, because often I have trouble being flexible. Maybe you will find them helpful as well.

1. “Is it possible for us to become more flexible, to survive the conflicts around us by adapting more appropriately?”

2. “Can I find myself surrendering my need to control in favor of relaxing in God’s ultimate sovereignty in my life?”

3.”Can I put the small stuff in perspective and flexibly move through my day?”

Good questions to take into consideration when learning to choose Emotional Rest.

The next section is Physical Rest. And in this section we learn about ceasing from busyness, hurrying, over-consuming, and crowds. Busyness and hurry were the areas of most interest to me here. As we learn to cease from busyness we learn to feast on leisure, and as we learn to cease from hurry Thomas discusses feasting on slowing down.

In the section on Ceasing from Hurry, Thomas reminded me of something I am slowly learning. “God’s love and acceptance do not depend on what I do. His grace is not opposed to my efforts, but my efforts do not earn grace.” Oh, how I need to remind myself of this when I forget about walking with “slow feet” and begin rushing about.

I know I often have heard myself say, “there is never enough time for all I want or need to get done.” But using the Bible story of the feeding of the 5000, Thomas reminds us, “…if we give God what is in our lunchbox, he will make it be enough.” I need to give my moments to Him and let Him lead me in making the time I have to be enough.

Thomas suggested in this section to make a time pie relating to how you spend your days. She asks, “Which pieces should be smaller, which pieces should be bigger?” This is so helpful to really see how your time is being consumed and to see if you are doing what really matters. I know I seem to easily waste time on things that distract me during the course of a day.

Finally, in the area of Spiritual Rest, she writes about ceasing from fear, hard-heartedness, the need to know everything, and anxiety.

Here ceasing from fear and anxiety interested me most. When we cease from fear we need to learn to feast on trust. In the Spiritual Rest Stop here, Thomas gives a long list of scriptures to feast on. Thomas says, “Putting away fear and feasting on trust, we rest in the reliability of God.” How very true! That is what I am learning as I seek to know His love for me in a deeper way.

In the area of Ceasing from Anxiety, Thomas reminds us of these important truths:

1. “The first step to ceasing from anxiety and feasting on peace is recognizing our need to surrender control.” (Yes, I am slowly learning to abandon outcomes to the Lord.)

2. “We have to remember that even though we have relinquished control, we are not sent untethered into life’s anxious circumstances. God secures our tether and he is still in control.”

So, with these things in mind, knowing that God is in control, Thomas suggests that we can only do what we can do. Anxiety gets us nowhere. But in the Lord we can find peace and we can definitely trust in Him!

Thomas shares the story of the fiery furnace from the book of Daniel. She reminds us of the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they said “if their worst ‘what-ifs’ came to pass, ‘even-so’ they would praise God.” Oh, Lord help us to look at our “what-ifs” in this way, with a willingness to praise you!

This book was another great read on my journey of recalibrating life. I hope you found something helpful here for you as you journey with Jesus.

Rooting in God’s Love

The Lord is using His Word to speak to my heart and give me new and deeper understanding of His love for me. It is truly in His love that we find rest. And it is in that heart-rest that a life of simplicity grows out of.

My study of His love began with Ephesians 3:17-19:

“May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent Home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love. That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];

[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ,
which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence and become a body wholly filled an flooded with God Himself.]”

Paul writes these verses out of great excitement because he knows in his heart what knowing God’s love has really meant for him. Paul writes these words out of a place of heart experience. He knows the Lord and he knows His love in a deep way.

When I take in the depth of God’s love for me, I can begin to trust and rest in His control, I can start to learn of contentment and live out of that place. I know He will take care of me and give me what I need. It is then I can stop striving and people-pleasing to fill up the emptiness because God’s love fills me. Paul had that kind of knowledge.

Paul desired that we would be rooted and grounded or established in God’s love so that we could really know His love, the width, the length, the height, and the depth of it. We need to be constantly growing in the knowledge of His love for us.

Recently, when I was taking time to meditate on these verses, I found that drawing a silly picture helped me to better understand about His love. I drew a picture of a flower with roots in the soil on one of the pages in my prayer journal. The picture reminded me that my roots are to be growing in the soil of God’s love. And to a flower the soil is a life-giving place where the plant is nourished, it is surrounded by the soil and held stable, and the plant is given room for growth.

God’s love is that life-giving place for me, where my soul is nourished, His love surrounds me, it holds me stable, and He encourages my growth. I look at that picture there in my prayer journal often and it speaks to my heart the truth of God’s love in a very simple but meaningful way.

I feel like so often I get uprooted by pain, worry, frustration, expectations, and obligations; just by life itself, and I lose sight of God’s love. I end up feeling abandoned and needy. Apart from the protection of His love, I find that I go back striving and people-pleasing to get what I need.

My roots are tender and fragile and some are yet shallow in the depths of His love. Staying rooted means security, but I must grow deep to find all I need in His love. I must grow deep to really learn to fully trust. It is not a one-time-and-done process. This process of learning of His love and learning to trust is a lifetime process. He is teaching me how to cope with the fear and the neediness in ways that calm me and help me.

As I continue to delve into God’s Word learning of His love day-by-day and I will be sharing more about it’s impact on my heart and the healing process next month. Later this month I will be sharing my response to the book Even God Rested by Kim Thomas.

I hope that you, too, are feeling the comfort, security, and hope of God’s love in your heart and life as you grow your roots down deep. May you feel held and secure in it!

Photo on Unsplash Garden Room by Eddie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo on Unsplash Garden Room by Eddie

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is at the Heart of Simplicity?

Only as we allow the love of Christ to penetrate our wounds will we be able to love again as children love. Only as we open ourselves to the love of Christ and His people can we begin our journey toward being real.” Claire Cloninger

My Recalibrate Life Read this month is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord brings it all together. Somehow He shows us exactly what our hearts need in order to heal. And He teaches us what is necessary for our souls to be cultivated and grow in Christlikeness.

The words of the quote at the beginning of this post touch my heart deeply. The words really resonate with me because the Lord is making their truth real in my life. He has been leading me in learning about His love. My learning is taking place mostly through my practice of lingering and listening.

I am learning that His love truly satisfies every one of my needs. As I grow in willingness in being vulnerable, places deep within are opening. These are places that have been locked closed in self-protection and fear for years. I am finding the healing balm of His love is touching every wound within me. The broken pieces of my heart are being bound together, and I am feeling a new wholeness within.

There have been some very important verses that He has been using in this process. I will be sharing more about these verses in future posts.

Today I want to share generally about what is changing within me in that process. The healing that is taking place is changing my life.

First of all, the way I love others is not as often about striving and people-pleasing. But instead my love for others is coming out of the fullness of the love the Lord is filling me with. This is a big step of simplicity in my life, because I am realizing when I depend on Him and grow in His love I can rest.

Secondly, the way I look at life and plan my days is less about my unending to-do list and getting recognition or people-pleasimg. My new outlook leaves room for a slower pace. I don’t need to earn love. We don’t have to do anything to receive His love, in fact, nothing can make Him love us more.

Finally, I am learning strategies to bring myself back when I fall into the old patterns. I am learning of His love as a respite. Oh, I have known of His love for a long time. The problem is it hadn’t touched my heart fully because my heart was so calloused and walled off in fear and self-protection. But as the Lord’s love seeps into the crevices opened by growing trust.

I see how I can run to Him like a toddler looking for mommy during play. The way they look to see if she is still there, making sure nothing has changed, to know that they are still safe. So, in my moments of doubt and fear, I look to see if God is real, and if He is Who He says and I am finding that He is. I am finding also that He is always there, ready to meet me wherever I am.

Praying His Word has led me in knowing these truths in my life and in my heart. And as they become a part of me I am choosing differently. I am learning to live out of a heart that has found the secret to simplicity in living focused on and rooted in His love. I still stumble and people-please and strive at times, but the Lord is at work within my heart changing all of that.

I am learning that it is focusing on the Lord, learning of His love, and reaching for Him moment-by-moment in the midst of neediness or fear. It changes everything, because when we are not focused fully on Him, we are striving to fill the emptiness inside with things and with what we think people should give us, like love and acknowledgement. We reach for these things out of our fear, emptiness, and neediness in order to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. And, you know what, no matter how hard we work to fill it or keep it full, it will never happen, Only God and His love are meant to fill it.

I know, I am probably not telling you anything that you didn’t aready know. But I have to admit I always thought I knew God’s love, and I did know about it. I just didn’t allow it in fully, I guarded my heart out of fear. Now, after all these years, the reality of the healing effects of His love is pouring into my heart. His love is finally becoming more real to me. In a way that seems too hard to explain, I just know I feel the difference inside and I see a difference in my response to life.

I will be sharing more about my times of listening, lingering, and learning of His love as I spend time in His Word and in prayer in some of my future posts. I hope you will join me. I hope too, that you will find hope in His love in the midst of whatever life is bringing you.

The Luxury of Lingering

My goal of recalibrating life is leading me to desire simplicity in everything. Last month the sermon series at my church concentrated on the subject of prayer. Prayer can be a complicated part of life mostly because of our personal understanding and expectations of it.

Too often prayer becomes a time of laying out a laundry list before the Lord of the needs we know we and those we love have. At least that has been my experience. And, in time, that can become cumbersome. In fact, in reading off our long lists we can become bored, at least that has been my experience. It begins to get repetitious. Unfortunately, it seems that I circle back to this problem time and time again. I go for a while praying the Scriptures, and then one morning I will lazily pick up my list and read it off. It will be a disconnected task that I try to complete in a short amount of time, just to get it done.

When we concentrate on a list we can lose sight of the relationship we are suppose to be living with the Lord. Our requests get made and we are ready to move on with our days. Does that ever happen with you? Maybe it’s just me, because I do know people who do just fine with a prayer list. I just know that I want the intimacy of a deeper relationship with Him and the list method does not seem to take me there.

As a part of our church services during the month of January we have been breaking into small groups to pray. One Sunday as I was joining a few people to pray it occurred to me that prayer is meant to be so much simpler than I often make it out to be.

That Sunday the sermon had been about the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus turned to prayer often in His life, and it is obvious that His disciples had observed this and were interested in learning more.

Jesus saw the neediness of the people surrounding Him, He recognized the effects of sin on mankind, and although these were pressing issues He needed to share with His Father, I think that His time of prayer was more about abiding and finding restoration. Jesus simply wanted to linger with His Father. Sadly, that is not what prayer is for many of us.

But I am learning to linger with my Heavenly Father. And I am learning that in the lingering I receive luxuries of the Lord’s compassion. I am finding that I want to linger with Him more and more to know His heart in a deeper way. I think you too will feel a desire to abide with Him in that sweet spot, the place where He teaches you of His endless compassion for you. So please take time to use the following verses as places to linger. Before the verse is the topic they fall into and then before each verse I will share with you what it is that touches my heart about that verse, what makes me want to linger.

Love:

He loves me so much that he sings over me, he delights in me. I yearn for His song over me and His delight in me.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

His love is unfailing, no matter what. Unconditional and forever! I need that kind of love in my life.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”  Isaiah 54:10

His compassion never ends, His love is that great. He does not let us be consumed, (and some days it feels like the overwhelm could quite literally do just that.)

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumes, for his compassions never fail.”  Lamentation 3:22

Instruction

He promises to give us the instruction we need and to teach us the way. I know I need direction for my day, for my life. Life is complicated and confusing, but He sees it from beginning to end and knows the path He has for us. 

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

His Word lights the way, we need not stumble through the dark.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

The Holy Spirit gives us truth for the way and helps us to know about the future.

“But when he the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13

Nourishment

He meets our needs for all of life. Life, at times, can seem so empty and we can become so discontent. The Lord fills us and quenches our thirst.

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

Grace

He promises us grace and mercy in our neediness. He wants us to call upon Him.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

He promises us forgiveness and purification. I am realizing more and more the sin-sickness of my heart. But the Lord gives me hope in knowing He will forgive me and that I have righteousness through Jesus.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

He grants us eternal life through our faith in Jesus.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Encouragement

God is always available to us, He helps us in our times of trouble. I can always call on Him, I just need to choose to do so.

” God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

We can find peace as we take our worries and anxieties to Him. I get caught in the quicksand of worry and anxiety all too often instead of knowing the peace the Lord promises.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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

God is our salvation, our strength and defense. He is trustworthy. There is no need for fear. Fear ties me in knots and paralyzes me, I get stuck in it. But I have a Deliverer, He is showing me that, more and more, as I linger with Him.

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”  Isaiah 12:2

Rest

In our overwhelm, He promises rest. Rest is something that He has most recently shown me in Psalm 23, but the verses below are verses I visit time and time again.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

He promises His presence, as well as to give us rest. I am finding the reality of His presence more and more as I remember to call on Him through the use of breath prayers. These little prayers are bringing me into connection with Him throughout my days.

“The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

He is our Fortress, and Rock, our Resting Place of safety. This verse has been especially helpful just recently when I was struggling.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

In lingering, we are restored. As I continue on with recalibrating life, I am learning to linger with the Lord and receive from Him what He has for me. For me, it is much less about asking. It is more about learning to be with and take in His Word for me in those moments, receiving what I need to help me through the day. And daily I have been taking a breath prayer with me. Some of them have been:

“My Sweet Abba; Help me abide.”

“My Shepherd Guide, Restore my soul.”

“On Life’s rough terrain; Lord help me be surefooted.”

“Make my heart steadfast; Fully trusting in you.”

One day I just took the word “Fortress” with me because I felt shaken by what was ahead of me. So now it is in those times of fear or upset, I continue to call out to my Fortress. I need His help to trust and I need His protection (most recently in icy travel).

He has brought me to short passages or sections of Scripture that speak to my need and then have restored me as I linger there. It is from those portions of Scripture that I choose a word or find a breath prayer to take with me for the day.

Lingering with Him in the quiet or in His Word, He gives me just what I need for the day. Oftentimes the verse will remind me of requests I have and I will seek His help through deeper prayer. But the simplicity of lingering in these luxuries of His love has been a path to restoration. It is all a part of me recalibrating life.

Take time today to linger with Jesus and learn more of His love.

Standing Strong in Fearful Times

Living fearlessly means living with your eyes glued on the Lord, not on your circumstances. Focusing on who God is and what He is able to do changes everything.

In the book of Daniel, we read about the men who were thrown into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image and commanded that all should bow down and worship it and that whoever refused would be cast into a “burning fiery furnace.” The command was given by the King and three Jewish men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down. This sent the king into a rage, he asked that these men be brought to him. When they came before him he asked if what he had been told about them was true and they told him that it was. The king asked them who could deliver them from the punishment of the fiery furnace. The men answered him with these words, “If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” This response caused the King to become more furious and he commanded that the temperature of the furnace be raised to seven times hotter than normal. And when this had been done the three men were cast into the midst of the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose only to worship God no matter what. They did not compromise even in the face of such drastic punishment. (You can read this story in Daniel chapter 3.)

More and more in this world we see anger and rage threatening people’s safety. Persecution is real and threatens many who stand up for Christ. Many die for their faith. As I read and hear about these stories it always makes me question, what I would do?

I look at the threats and beatings endured by many of the disciples, apostles, and early believers with amazement. Paul and Silas sang as they sat in prison in stocks. And when given an opportunity to escape they stayed and influenced the other prisoners to stay as well. (Acts 16:16-40)

Peter and John held firm to their convictions when warned not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name. They responded to those opposing them with these words,  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. ” (Acts 4:19-20)

Peter and John were firm and immovable in their beliefs. They were confident in the truth of God’s Word and in His faithfulness. Their convictions made them stand firm even when faced with great consequences.

When our fear of man overrides our trust in who God is and what He can do we often choose the path of compromise. Too often it seems easier to ride the fence and not make a stand for Christ at all. We may not say anything in rebuke, or say as little as possible in order to not stir up trouble.

The truth is hard to take and generally many do not want to hear it. When choosing to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition. Holding firm to our convictions may mean losing the popularity vote because we make a choice that others disagree with or do not understand.

We have to choose whether to walk in obedience to God or not. And we will face consequences for our choices. Often fear gets in the way! Fear may keep us from sharing the Gospel or from showing love to one others think isn’t worth the time of day. Or maybe fear keeps us from saying we can’t meet on Sunday morning because that is when we worship. Our fear can also stop us from speaking the truth about holiness in many areas of life.

So how can we stand up to our fears and stand firm in our convictions?

Here are a few things we can do:

1. Know God’s Word.  When it comes to making a choice find out what the Bible says about the choice. If we are unable to find the answer on our own, we can ask a trusted pastor who has studied God’s Word.

2. Be in prayer. I am doing my third study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, each one of the titles of the studies have worked on begins with the words The Praying Life. Dean says that the praying life is turning every fear, concern, or worry into conversation with God. We need to seek God for wisdom and direction. We need to learn to “be still and know” that He is God.

3. Be committed to living for the Lord. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). His Word is our plumb-line.

4. Follow Paul’s advice to the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10-13. Put on the full armour of God. We can be empowered through our union with Him. We can draw our strength from Him. He will help us to stand firm in crisis situations.

We cannot allow our fears to open the door to compromise. We have the Lord and His Word to help us. Here a few verses that are helpful to me:

Psalm 50:15Call on Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall honor and glorify me

Psalm 56:3-4What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His Word, on God I will lean,  rely, and confidently put my trust. I will not fear, what can man who is flesh do to me? “

Psalm 18:3I will call upon the Lord, who is to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Those are only a few there are so many more that can encourage our hearts in times of fear. God’s Word really can help us to stand firm. We all need help to keep our confidence in the Lord and not allow our fears to cause us to compromise. Let’s pray for strength to stand strong in our convictions so we can bring God glory no matter what comes our way.

When Fear Blinds You

Numbers 13:27-28 “They reported to Moses and said,”We went in to the land where you sent us and it certainly does flow with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified (walled) and very large; moreover, we saw there the descendants of Anak [people of great stature and courage]… “

The Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land that the Lord had told them He would give them. We learn in Deuteronomy 1:22-27 that the Israelites, in their lack of trust, decided that they should check it out themselves. They did not take God at His Word believing His promise to be true, but wanted to see it with their own eyes and decide for themselves what would be best. So the verses you read above from the book of Numbers records what the spies saw when they scoped out the land.

They saw fortified cities and giants, and fear blinded them to the truth of God and His faithfulness. Have you been there? Have you been blinded to what God is able to do in your trials and difficult times? Have you lost sight of His faithfulness because of the impossibility of the situation? Has the reality of His strength and willingness to fight your battles, His ability to work on your behalf, has it all been lost to you in your trembling fear?

Caleb and Joshua were two of the men that had accompanied the spies and they came back to the Israelites with a different report. The spies saw defeat and felt that they did not have a chance. Caleb and Joshua said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it for we will conquer it” (Numbers 15:30). But the spies replied that they could not do it because the people of Canaan were too strong for them.

What giants are you facing in your life?

What is causing fear to engulf your heart?

The truth here is that God made the Israelites a promise. He promised to give them this land. They only had to step forward in faith. The spies focused on the impossibility of the situation, Caleb and Joshua saw what God could do. The spies were looking at the problem and it blinded them to God, while Joshua and Caleb looked at God and found hope.

Life can lead us into place where we may face looming giants.  Our hearts tremble in fear. Yet the Lord calls us to trust when we are faced with insurmountable giants.

Psalm 28 is a psalm of David, it is a plea of his for help. David calls on the Lord because enemies of God that he is facing cause him to feel fear and hopelessness. David is earnest in his prayer, he calls the Lord his “rock.” David is believing and trusting in God’s power. He is choosing to depend on God. He feels as if death is at his door and focuses on God, crying out and pleading with Him to answer his prayers, to not be silent. David prays for deliverance, he recognizes apart from God’s deliverance there is no hope.

Later in the Psalm, David goes on to speak of how the LORD heard the voice of his supplication. David prayed in faith and rejoices as he finds hope in God. David encourages himself to live in that hope,  trusting that God will perfect everything concerning him.

We see his dependence on God in verse 7, “The Lord is my strength and my [imperishable] shield, my heart trust [with unwavering confidence] in Him and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices. And with my son, I shall thank Him and praise Him”

David is trusting God to be his strength, to support him, and to carry him through the difficult times. He is trusting God as a shield to protect him from all that his enemies can throw at him. And in trusting, David finds God to be faithful. David trusted in God’s power and His promise and was not disappointed. David finishes this psalm by telling us he is standing firm in the Lord.

Fear is at the bottom of so many reactions and emotional responses. My desperate need to control has been fueled by fear. At the base of my anger and frustration I find fear. At the bottom of my people-pleasing behaviors I find fear. Where do you find fear in your heart today? Satan uses fear to cripple us. He uses fear to blind us to the truth of who God is and what He can do.

In Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s study,  Live a Praying Life Without Fear:Let Faith Tame Your Worries, the author states: “The situation causing you fear or anxiety right now is an opening for God to show Himself strong on your behalf and He delights to do so. ” She goes on to quote one of my favorite verses (written here from the Amplified version).

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His. ” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

God wants to support, help, and strengthen those who are fully committed to Him.

Dean goes on to say,  “He is not aloof from your struggle or inured to your pain. He is eagerly waiting for you to turn to Him so He can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. ”

The part that is most difficult is recognizing that I cannot do it myself and then for me to be willing to let Him do it His way. When we choose to acknowledge our need and relinquish our grasp on the outcome, then we allow Him to have His way with us. That is the surrender He calls us to.

We, then, are able to praise God with David, Joshua, and Caleb, with all those who have trusted in His way and found Him faithful. He is the One who gives us victory!

So today in the midst of your fear, seek Truth.

1 John 4:4b AMP “… He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind] .”

Isaiah 41:10 AMP “Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with my righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].”

Philippians 4:6-7 AMP “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which assures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. 

Allow His Truths to encourage your heart, and in your fear step out in faith. Rely on Him who is our loving, sovereign God!

Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace

The correlation between my fears and my need to be in control recently became apparent to me. But, I am happy to say that I am finding peace as I am learning to relinquish control. Actually, it comes down to learning to live out the truths of Proverbs 3:5-6.

This is what that Proverbs says in the Amplified version of the Bible. “Trust in and rely confidently in the Lord with all your heart. And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him and He will make your paths straight and smooth (removing obstacles that block your way.)”

Wow, what a beautiful promise! And, what a familiar promise. It is one we read often, and read over without thinking about because of its familiarity. I wonder how many truths of God’s Word I totally miss as I read my Bible. And in missing them I miss out on the amazing blessing He promises. But God is faithful and true to His Word!  He is showing me the magnitude of His love for me as He works in my life and shows me His personal presence as well as His omniscience regarding what I need. I stand in awe, thoroughly amazed at what He is doing!

Trust! Trust is very hard for many of us because of previous hurts, betrayals, or whatever is at the bottom of our fears. Yet, God is trustworthy and I am finding that as I reach for Him in trust He meets me with His faithfulness.

I knew something had to change because the stress in my life was too much. I needed to give it to God to take care of. I needed to let Him be in control. Oh, it’s not like I hadn’t prayed about it before, because I had given Him my frustration and overwhelm often, and I had told Him how to best work out the whole situation. But that is not what real prayer is, He wants me to rely on Him and let Him take control. So this time, out of complete desperation, I gave it to Him. I stopped meddling and trying to control the outcome. I told Him that I can’t deal with it anymore, You have to take care of it, and as I did I felt deep release within.

I shut my mouth, bit my tongue, stopped complaining,  arguing, ranting and raving. I completely stopped discussing the issue because the more I would think about it and share my frustration the more worked up I would become. Each time an opportunity arose that made me want to make a comment, I chose to abandon the outcome to God. I decided to let God do it His way. I know that is the way it is supposed to work, but I will be honest that is not what I had been doing.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to rely on own understanding or insight. That means I am not supposed to try to figure it all out and try to make it work my way. But my understanding of this particular situation said that there is a time limit and it needs to be done now. My insight says you can do it if you plan it all out. Just keep pushing and working at it. The problem was, it isn’t my stuff to control. I cannot physically make the other person act on it and forcing the issue has not worked. So the next best option, which is really the best option always, was to fully give it to the Lord to work out.

This verse is very clear, I am not only to “rely,” I am also to “acknowledge” His Lordship, and “recognize” His presence and power over the situation. He needs to be on the throne, not me. So, when I felt the urge to control, I had to tell my anxious heart that the Lord God of this universe had it in His control, He is present with me and has the power to bring the solution to pass. It all became a moment-by-moment prayer that I said. I needed to remind myself Who God is. I needed to develop greater trust in Him.

So, I lived out the trust part, even though it was a struggle for me, and then the blessing came. The blessing came and I have to admit that I did not even recognize it at first. Amazingly, I saw a heart-change in the other person. When I stopped pushing and controlling suddenly she moved into action. She recognized the things that needed to be done and responded positively when help was offered.

My path truly became straight and smooth. God removed the obstacles blocking the way, namely her refusal and constant disagreement. And my constant griping had stopped also. Now my path is one of loving support as I am given opportunity to do so, not stress-producing control.

The stress in the relationship has lessened a great deal.  I don’t have to take care of it all. And I am not trying to “people-please” or earn love. I am accepting the relationship for what it is and seeking to know God’s love for me in deeper ways.

Okay, so it is a start, and I know it is only one area that I have tried to control, there are others. But this one was one of the greater stress-producers in my life! So I am finding peace in my heart. It is in the relinquishing, in loosening my tight grip, in giving God space to work, this is where I see Him making changes. This is where I see Him giving me the answers necessary and in those answers I am growing in trusting Him and finding great peace.

Just now, as I was writing this post, the phone rang and I learned of another open door to the necessary solution. God is at work in this stressful situation. He is securing an outcome in a way that will be perfect no matter the timing, it will be available whenever we are ready. Wow, what an amazing God we serve! And how beautiful it is to see the truths of His promises at work in my life!

We can trust Him and believe Him at His Word!  His love is real. I know I knew these things intellectually, but now once again I know them experientially. He is drawing me back from my path of independence to full dependence on Him and this is where I want to live.  I hope you will join me here, there is such great peace.

Thank you Lord that You know the way and are patiently gracious with control-freaks like me. Thank you Lord for teaching me more of how to trust You and for showing me Your amazing faithfulness! You are an amazing God and I give You all of the praise! Amen!

 

 

Letting Go: Trusting God and His Love

Letting go is difficult, we clutch on with fear in our hearts. Last week I shared biblical truths that are helping me toward abandoning outcomes to God.  I am focusing on repeating one of the truths as I find my neck and shoulder muscles tightening as I strive to gain control or get it done my way. Sometimes I just tell myself two words, “abandon outcomes.”

It seems so easy to recognize our need toreally know God and to acknowledge our need to be growing in trusting Him. But, I am finding what I think I know and how much I trust is different from the way I live it out in reality.  I am realizing I do not know Him the way I need to, I already knew that, but I did not realize to what degree. I guess we can deceive ourselves into thinking our faith is stronger, and our trust is deeper than what it really is.

The Lord wants us in a deep trusting relationship with Him and as Christians we all have trusted Him for our salvation and we trust Him to varying degrees beyond that. He is at work within each one of our lives to draw us nearer to Him, to lead us to know and trust Him more and more, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Yet, humankind has been striving for independence ever since the fall of man. Unfortunately, independence never gets us to where God wants us. Stillness not striving is what God wants of us.

I am studying “Living a Praying Life Without Fear: Let Faith Tame Your Worries” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It is a study that was given to me, and initially I considered passing it on, it didn’t seem relevant to where I was at. But now, months later, I am learning some very important things about fear. I am realizing how very blind I have been and am to how my own emotions are related to my fears. And I am realizing how my fears are really about my lack of understanding of God’s love for me and my trust in Him.

One of the questions Dean asks her readers is to consider about how we would complete this thought,  “if only…  than I’d be happy and secure.  She asks us to fill in the blank with whatever it is we think would bring happiness and security. At first I didn’t know what to write, but as I thought about my fears, especially the ones that keep me striving. to have control, I wrote, “If only my heart weren’t a sieve, then love would stay and I would feel happy and secure.” If that were true I wouldn’t need to strive to people-please to earn love and satisfaction.

Writing that made me wonder what my heart does with God’s love.  I don’t know the answer to that question but in my prayer journal I paraphrased part of Paul’s prayer from Ephesian’s 3:17-19 AMP. I wrote this:

Lord, help me to be deeply rooted and securely grounded in Your love. Help me to be capable of comprehending the width and length and height and depth of Your love, fully experiencing your amazing, endless love. Help me to come to know, practically through personal experience, Your love, and help me to be filled up with all of Your fullness so that I may have the richest experience of Your presence in my life. I want to be completely filled and flooded with You, Lord. ”

God is love. The Amplified Bible explains that He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature (1 John 4:8 AMP).

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am love.

When we really know His love with every fiber of our being we can be still, we can stop striving. We can stop striving because we will be fully satisfied in Him.

It always amazes me how the Lord keeps bringing me back to this place, repeatedly, as if to ask me: Do you know My love for you? Do you trust me? Why do you keep striving and trying to control outcomes?

So here I am AGAIN, holding my heart up to Him, like a dripping sieve, my heart needs to have all of the holes filled with His love, so no love can seep out. And I ask Him to hold me in His love and help me feel secure in Him, I realize that it is the only place where I will learn to grow to trust Him. It is the only place that I can be still knowing that He is God; knowing that He is love makes all the difference.

I need to bask in His love in order to stop the fear and stop the striving. I need to bask in His love in order to feel safe enough to abandon outcomes to Him.

After all that the Lord has done for us, how can we question His love? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, He continually has to help me see my need for Him, my desperate state. He continually has to help me know His love for me. He has to continually help me be willing to release my clenched fists and stop holding onto control. It is not a one-time-and-done lesson, at least not for me.

When I am striving I miss out on His presence and His love because my focus is not on Him. I miss knowing all the blessing He has for me because I am holding tightly to getting what I want.

What about you, do you need to know His love more?

How will learning more about His love help you to stop fearing and stop striving?

What He asking you to release to Him?

Oh Lord help us! We are a desperate people and so blind to our desperation.  Help us to stop striving and learn to abandon outcomes to You. Help us to trust You, for Your love is all we need. Amen!

Christian Platitudes and Spiritual Band-Aids

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

  • When your neighbor’s husband dies from a heart attack at 32 leaving his wife with four young children.
  • When the retired couple at church have all of their financial savings taken in a scam and are left with nothing.
  • When the cancer comes back for the third time and the hospital bills continue to pile up at our friends house.
  • When the young college grad with a successful job opportunity ahead is unexpectedly killed in a car accident.

What do you say? We want to say something. We want to sound like good Christians and be encouraging. Yet so often our words end up coming out leaving the grieving one feeling hollow and empty.

We hear the grief, the despair, the hopelessness, and pain, and in our anxiety we search our minds for the right words. Then out comes a verse out of context or a platitude that drops like a bomb.

The Bible shares how initially Job’s friends really were helpful in bearing his burden. They came to him and they sat with him. For the first three days they were silent.

Those who are hurting don’t need us to explain away why God allowed this.

  • They need someone there with them in the pain– someone to just be fully present.
  • They need someone to give them hug, to cry with them, or to just listen without judgment.
  • They need someone who will allow them to be wherever they are in the process of pain or grief.

Grief and emotional-pain takes months and sometimes years to work through. Our losses, whatever they maybe, hit each one of us differently. Each step of the process takes a varying amount of time depending on the individual. That is why the spiritual band-aids and Christian platitudes can be so damaging and so hurtful. The things we say may very well be true, but the hearts and minds receiving them may not be at all ready to hear those things.

Sometimes the person enveloped in pain wants to share about what they are going through, whether it be fear or sorrow or even anger. Other times they cannot even form the words, they can’t even begin to think because of their depth of grief. We need to be aware of where they are at, and when we don’t know, just ask. A simple, “Do you want to talk or shall I just sit here with you?”

There just are no easy one-size-fits-all answers. All of our responses need to depend on the individual’s needs.

Our fear of not knowing what to say or do can even make us want to avoid the situation. But that can be hurtful too.

The bottom line is remembering to show love. Isn’t that what we all need all of the time? And we especially need love when we are going through the rough stuff of life.

Next time you are faced with someone near-and-dear to you struggling with what life brings, consider how you can show love and meet them right where they are.

  • Maybe that will mean going and sitting with them.
  • Possibly sending a caring card will be the right thing to do.
  • Maybe sending a note and flowers will show you care.
  • It might be that bringing a simple meal will be just what is needed.
  • Or maybe the Lord will lead you in a totally different way according to His perfect wisdom.

Whatever path of compassion you choose remember you definitely can help them to feel held in your love and presence by reaching out and being there.