Category: Uncategorized

Our Trustworthy God Brought Peace

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

PeaceMy former pastor  once said, “Worry is a future without God.” God must be present for there to be peace. That’s why God sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to reconcile us, who were once enemies, to God (Romans 5:10). We must always remember that true peace comes from being reconciled to God’s presence through Jesus, not in the absence of fearful things. Remembering this helps us not to create safe and comfortable lives to avoid fear and gain superficial peace. But I have also found that in order for his presence to bring peace, I must also believe the right things about God. Isaiah 26:3 says God keeps a mind at peace that is stayed on Him “because he trusts” in God. Peace requires a mind stayed on God, and trusting God requires right belief about God.

One of the best explanations I’ve found of what it means to believe rightly about God is in the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. In this book you will find Bridges unpacks how the bible teaches God is Sovereign, Loving and Wise. These are the core beliefs about God that help you know he is trustworthy. Another book I read referred to this as the “Trusting God Triangle.” To process through my anxiety, I often ask myself this question: Where am I struggling to believe God is Sovereign, God is Wise, and God is Loving? If you battle with belief in any of these areas, you will find yourself anxious or lacking peace. When I work through my anxiety, it always leads back to the fact that I struggle with God’s wise and loving plan. If God is not loving or wise, then I am just waiting for the pin to drop and things to go horribly wrong. In my anxiety, I am just certain that his provision for me will be the worst thing my mind can imagine. So I begin to take control, forgetting that he is sovereign. I try to usurp his authority and become the God of my own life. When I get like this, I think I must keep myself safe because God is not to be trusted. But it is exhausting and anxiety producing to try to play God because I am not God. I am not all-knowing, all-present, or all-powerful. I’m limited. And so I’m trying to be things I never was meant to be.

It’s when I work through these things and ask God to help me with my unbelief that I am able to let God take control, lay down my anxiety, and rest in the good and loving promises of God found in Christ. I then have peace and stop that civil war with God and remember who the enemy truly is. God’s loving, wise and sovereign plan is never your enemy. The distortion of who God is and what He has said is your enemy. This distortion has always been one of Satan’s tactics (see the garden temptation and the temptations of Jesus). You will never have peace until you stay your mind on who God TRULY is, not an inaccurate view of who he is. So to add some to what my pastor said: Anxiety is a past, present, or future without a Sovereign, Loving and Wise God. Peace is the presence of a God who is Trustworthy.

The thing that gives me greatest peace in my moments of inner civil war is believing that a Trustworthy God has set his love upon me. Think about what God has done to set a redemptive plan in motion. Look around and see him saving sinners. His plan is wise even though sometimes it doesn’t seem such. There has not yet been one thing that has come into my life that I cannot look back on and say- wow, the way he connected the dots were for my good and his glory. He did it in a way that only he could, not just for my comfort but bringing about true redemption and restoration. And his love…well he sent his beloved son, his prince of peace, into this world. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” It was at Christmas time that Immanuel, God with us, came. His presence brought with it a plan for true peace. Believing in this good and wise redemptive plan is not just a thing for the past. It’s for the present and it’s for the future. This God who is the same yesterday, today and always is coming again, bringing final peace and restoration. Keeping our eyes stayed on these promises of our trustworthy God, helps us live in the goodness of the peace he brought and bought.

Robbed of Hope & Waiting for Help

hopeLast year my pastor preached a sermon about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). For most of my life, I have looked to the example of the Good Samaritan in the story, seeing him as an illustration of how I should live. But last year, after having gone through a season of suffering, I began to identify with another person in the story- the man who was robbed and beaten. Maybe you feel robbed of health or a dream or hope. Maybe you were robbed of a relationship. You feel beat down and you feel like someone came and stole all of your joy, and there you are, laying on the side of the road- waiting, hoping, praying someone or something will show up. You might not even know what you need, but you know you need something.

It’s hard in the midst of feeling defeated to know what to do. And the enemy tries in all ways for you to think you are alone and that all is taken from you, after all, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, ESV). From my experience, can I encourage you with two thoughts, that I hope you find helpful?

1) Pray for courage to ask for specific help, both practical and spiritual. Many times people want to help; they just don’t know how (or, if you haven’t told them you are suffering, they might not even know you need help). This is especially true if your suffering isn’t something others have experienced, or, if in your suffering you are like me, and you put walls up that can make it very hard for people to know how to help you. It takes a very bold and fearless person to not let the walls we can intentionally or unintentionally create in suffering deter them from being a Good Samaritan, so we must try to give others grace. And this requires courage on our part to speak up and say, “I need more help than I am getting.” For me, looking back, I know I should have asked for meals and more companionship during my season of suffering. I was not eating and losing weight quickly and having people bring me meals would have been a huge help, especially during the day when Chris was at work. But, many times when people asked me generally if I needed anything, I said no. I didn’t want to inconvenience people, or I thought they should just “know” what I specifically needed, or I was scared that I would contaminate them if they entered my house. So, I suffered more alone (and hungrier) than I needed to if I would have had the courage to say, “Yes, I do need help.” Once I had a friend help me realize this, I did get more practical help and that is when I started to get better.

2) You are not alone; pray for God to help you believe this. Although you may feel robbed of all else, you are never robbed from the presence of God. There is nothing that can separate you from His Love (Romans 8). When you are suffering, there will be arrows coming at you saying things like “God is not faithful” and “He is not near.” It can feel, at times, He has abandoned you. But this is a complete lie. There is nowhere or no one else you can go to receive the help, deliverance, and comfort to meet the deepest longings of your soul that are there for you by God through Jesus Christ (John 6:68; Ps 40). If you believe in Jesus, it is a promise of God that he will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:10). Yes, one of the main instruments God uses to show the love of Christ to us is the church, and that is why we need the body of believers. But sometimes, when it feels like there aren’t any Good Samaritans around, we are tempted to feel completely abandoned. However, when I look back, I see that those times of feeling alone are what God used to bring me to a greater belief that He is truly walking with me every step by his Spirit (John 14:16-17). This is why we need the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It is in Him that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). So pray that God would help you believe and hold on to His promises. Sometimes I pray when I’m anxious, “Lord your Word says that you promise [insert any promises revealed in His Word]; I’m going to trust that you will prove that to be true. Help me believe.” I prayed the words found in Mark 9 a lot during my suffering – “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

In this season of Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, God with us. The beauty and power of that reality is never so amazing as it is in a season of suffering. It’s the message that we truly need more than anything. Jesus entered into the pain and suffering of our world and experienced the deepest of suffering himself, all so that we could be in relationship with the Father through Him. What it cost and what was purchased through this process was complete and final and this helps me believe that he isn’t just going to stop being there for me. He knows. He really does know all about suffering and pain because He entered into it freely, willingly, with joy, and in complete obedience.What a comfort that is as we seek to be boldly honest about our true needs and courageously seek to enter into the suffering of others ourselves.

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In our suffering, we are moving toward restored Hope. So let’s enter into each other’s suffering, let’s let other people enter into ours, and let’s give God all the glory for what He accomplished for us and the work He is doing in and through us, as we walk this life with Him, Immanuel.

Fighting for Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love this Season

Meet Mis Faux- my fake cheapo Christmas tree I’ve had such a joy putting together for the past two years. I’m ready to take on the next 20 some days in all their potential crazy!

missfaux.2015

You know I used to loathe Christmas time. I was so overcome with expectations of myself and fear of man that all joy was sucked out of it just trying to keep up. Two years ago in the midst of suffering, I couldn’t even bring myself to fake it and cancelled Christmas in our home. Battling OCD helped start to free me from a lot of things, including my tendency to moralize personal preferences– Like the real vs. fake tree debate.  Why can’t you have joy getting your real tree with homemade ornaments & I have joy putting up my fake tree with matchy, glittery ornaments, and we all just be amazed by grace that in both of those instances there was joy. We CAN be that way. Joy > judgment of self and others. And this Christmas, I’m fighting for joy. Wanna fight with me?

This year, I’m fully intending to celebrate the incarnation of my Savior, remembering that when He came He lived the life I could not live- perfectly embodying Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. I’m asking The Lord to help me to lay down my ideas of holiday perfection and expectations and every day remember that Immanuel means God with us. He really is WITH US, helping us to walk in newness of life and live in Hope, Joy, Peace and Love. I needed Immanuel and He showed up and He gave me the precious gift of Himself. Let’s live this month in a supernatural way that could only be possible by the glory and power of His presence.

Mental Illness or Mental Skillness…

So maybe, you know, there’s no such thing as crazy, and being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re crazy. But maybe it just means you’re more sensitive to what most people can’t see or feel.

Some of what is said in the beginning of this Ted Talk is a little much for my taste, but the conclusion is something to think about- from the Joshua Walters Ted Talk.

The Gospel and Instagram

A few years ago when I was a career counselor, I went to a national conference in career development and heard one of the expert panelists (I don’t recall which one, I just wrote it down) say something to the effect of “theory without practice is meaningless and practice without theory is blind.” This little statement has stuck with me since then and I think it is relevant to many aspects of life, especially for followers of Christ. I think about this a lot in regard to studying theology, since application/the practical is more my natural bent: Theology without application is meaningless and application without theology is blind.

In the past few months, I have realized the blind path I have followed in a lot of things. One of those things is how I engage with social media. I exited Facebook almost two years ago because I was having too many triggers with my OCD. With the frequent posting of fear-mongering articles about things- I was almost always extremely anxious after getting on Facebook. So, I decided to sign out for a while. After leaving, I found, I didn’t miss it.

This summer I took a couple of week break from Instagram. To my shame, I frequently find myself tempted by things that others post. OCD also plays into this temptation in that I can sometimes become unconscientiously compulsive about checking Instagram and waste a lot of time. This is why I often delete the app of my phone and add it back only to post something. Since I don’t want that to be the main way I fill my free time, I decided to take a break from it for a while. During that Instabreak, at first refraining was hard, but after a little while, I didn’t miss it. Upon returning after a two-week hiatus, I found that it took me zero time to fall into my old patterns. I looked at a bunch of old posts from people and I found myself getting jealous about a party I wasn’t at, which happened four days earlier, in a town I no longer live in. Why do I care? I also found I was holding feelings of unforgiveness toward some people and little pictures of friends of friends of friends triggered these feelings. It was because of these things that I began to realize that my practice of using Instagram was blind. I was just doing my thing, influenced by others and my own whims. The blind leading the blind, so to speak.

The past Sunday my husband preached a sermon called “The Irony of Religion.” In it, he went on a little former English teacher rant about the misuse of the word Irony. But he used the example of Instagram as a modern day example of the word ironic- how on Instagram things often seem different than they really are. On Instagram you can edit the junk out of your pictures and make yourself or your surroundings look different with a filter (or photo editing app/software). He referenced this humorous blog post about how mothers can use certain filters to hide their parenting tears, as well as the recent story of a young woman from Australia who was “Instagram famous,” exited Instagram, and revealed some of the irony of her own posts.

In an effort to avoid blind irony, I decided to think through and brainstorm a bunch of questions to ask myself about my use of Instagram- to figure out the “why and how” and if I should consider giving it up entirely. To ask myself, does the gospel have anything to do with my use of this platform? I’m working through these questions now, and I’m sharing the questions with you, should you want to develop a personal philosophy for using Instagram or if you have any important questions to add to the mix.

Some may ask if it is actually necessary to go through all of this. To which I say: yes, it is for someone like me. I must have a personal philosophy for almost every activity I engage it. That’s just the blessing and curse of having OCD. From the way I cook dinner to the way I brush my teeth, it all has to be done intentionally and with faith, otherwise it’s ruled by fear. But, you don’t have to have OCD to be controlled by Instagram. Google “best time to post on Instagram for likes” and you will actually find articles to read. It’s a business after-all and you are both the product and the customer. We are raising a generation of kids that are obviously obsessed with likes, and yet, we participate in it all without thinking about it.

With ALL of that said, here are 20 sets of questions to consider…

  1. Why am I using this social media platform?
  2. How does being a Christian affect the way that I use this?
  3. What are my images and/or captions depicting?
  4. What is the overarching tone of my images/ captions? Step back and look at the big picture-are my posts all positive, all negative, hopeful, funny…what is the theme?
  5. If someone were to describe my interests, personality, friends solely from viewing me from this platform posts, what would they say?
  6. What sort of emotions do I feel when using this platform? Do these emotions ever become sinful?
  7. If I experience sinful emotions frequently while using this platform, what particular images or captions tempt me? What sinful emotions to a need to work through?
  8. How am I interpreting the images and captions I read about others? Am I making them about me or are they about them?
  9. How do I want others to interpret the images and captions I display? Do I think about this when you post?
  10. If I think about others when I post, am I trying to justify myself, make myself appear different, or validate myself? Do I post for likes?
  11. Could I intentionally (or unintentionally) be causing others to stumble with my images or captions? Does that matter?
  12. Do my in-person relationships know as much or more about my life as my on-line followers?
  13. Do I have friends and relationships that are 3-D, not solely online?
  14. Am I using openness and/or connectivity on-line as a substitute for in-person connection and/or vulnerability?
  15. Do I ever present myself different from reality? If so, why? If not, is my reality always presented positively or negatively and is that okay?
  16. Could I fast this platform or give it up completely? (Sidenote: fasting for a while may help you answer some of these questions).
  17. Do I look/search but not post? Why? What am I seeking?
  18. How much time do I spend using this platform? Is it getting in the way of my other priorities?
  19. How can I use this platform to show/display the work God has done in my life? (ie can I use this missionally or for God’s glory?)
  20. Finally, How could/should the gospel impact the answers to these questions?

Beginning to answer these questions has revealed a lot about my heart- how I present my life and how I view others. True, the world will urge you to use Instagram in an ironic way (just like religion), but it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why question 20 is important. By the power of the Spirit, you can engage in the activities of our current culture through the filter of the Gospel. It’s the most powerful, life-giving filter you could use.

The filter of the Gospel gives us freedom to: display reality in a hopeful way, be okay with the process and journey, see a photo filter as a means of seeking and highlighting beauty and not a way of making myself or surroundings look better than they are, look at others joys knowing that a moment in a picture isn’t all of their life but praise God it’s some of it, be patient with others messes, and finally, remember that other people’s pictures are not about me because I am not the center of the universe, God is. Yes, the motives for all it of it will be both good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, but God is in the process of redeeming and using it all for His purposes and glory. We can trust that He writes stories for all of us that are somehow intertwined, often illustrated in the pictures that we take. So here’s to a medium that can be a means to display that ordinary life with gospel intentionality.

Give Me Grace…To Hope In You

I was running late as usual. And I forgot. I forgot that they were doing baby dedications this Sunday, so I didn’t prepare myself. I am grateful I go to a church that has baby dedications- praying for the children, parents and affirming them as a part of God’s Covenantal community. As a member of that community, I knew I needed to stay, to pray, and to affirm. But, if I were honest, these are the days and moments that I feel the least a part of that community. The days and moments when I feel I don’t fit, when I am tempted to forget God’s Covenant love to me. As I walked in and started to listen, my soul began to grow dark. Tears filled my eyes, and I just began to repeat this prayer:

Give me grace, give me grace, give me grace.

Give me grace to not leave, to stay in this tension and pain that I feel. To stay to affirm and bless and thank God that He gives good gifts to His Children. Even though He hasn’t given those gifts to me.

I’ve heard many preachers and other speakers talk about barren women in the bible, like Hannah and Sarah. They say, during biblical times, if a woman didn’t have children she wasn’t a person. Of course, I know it was worse then, but I feel like that sometimes now. I especially feel that in the church, where the common restated belief is that in our current culture, children are often not considered a blessing. And so to counterbalance this we talk (a lot) about the blessings of motherhood. But yet, sometimes we see the world IS okay with children, as long as they can dress them up as dolls and accomplish their goals through them. And to counteract the belief that one must be perfect or that children are solely for our own pleasure, we talk (a lot) about the challenges of motherhood and parenting from a biblical perspective.

This is all good and necessary talk. I talk about it myself, too. But can we also acknowledge that we talk about this (and marriage) corporately and privately more than most things. And sometimes when you talk about good things a lot, they can grow closer to crossing the line of becoming idols in the counter-cultures you are creating or at least in some of the hearers hearts. For me, as someone who struggles in my heart to trust God with having children, I find my biggest temptation in regard to this is in the church. It’s extremely difficult to not elevate something, to lay something down, when it is continually being talked about. Granted, this is from my limited experience, but I find that Christian women who are mothers, tend to mainly (sometimes solely) talk about children when they gather. It would be completely wrong to assume that everyone who talks about children a lot, idolizes children. But it would also be wrong to assume that a culture of talking a lot about children wouldn’t create or feed unintended idols in hearts about having children or parenting children. I know it feeds it in my own heart.

In church after the dedication of those little ones to the Lord, we sang the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy. I was distracted at first, but then a line in the song struck me. “All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.” And I saw my heart as it was. Here I am, a creation (a work) of God, not choosing joy (ie. not choosing to praise God), simply because He has not given me another of His creation. Through that line, my smallness was put in perspective, and I was reminded that God is the author of every life, including mine and any children He would give me. All these works at every moment, everywhere should bow down to praise His name because He is Worthy. And it wasn’t like my pain or longing or desire went away. It was just that I remembered the greatness of God, and thereby let the comfort of God attend to my soul. The greater God is to me, the greater comforter He is to me.

So Lord, Give me grace, give me grace, give me grace.

People ask us a lot about our story with kids. And they ask me how I am with dealing with waiting on God for children. For the most part, I handle it pretty well mainly because I have a different story than many other women who struggle with this. That story is for a different time, but as usual, it deals with fear. But trust me when I say this, if God does not give you His grace to deal with infertility (or singleness) while a member of a local church that consistently promotes the blessings of motherhood (or marriage), your soul would suffocate. I typically find the days that He gives me the most grace are when I ask for it, especially on the days that I know it will be hard because it will be talked about a lot. Many times he gives me grace through keeping my focus on others like on baby dedication days or prayers I pray on mother’s day or filling shoeboxes of gifts for little kiddos in need.

Later on Baby Dedication Sunday our Pastor prayed. He asked we join him in these prayers. He prayed for parents and he prayed for those of us who want to be parents who aren’t. He prayed, “Would you give them the grace to hope in you?”

And so I join him in this prayer to my Father….

Yes, Father. Give me grace. Would you give me grace to hope in you? Because I know that whatever gifts and challenges this life brings, they pale in comparison to knowing you and being loved by you. I’ve heard so many say that they didn’t understand the depths of your love until they had a child. That leaves me wondering, can I know your love? Are you withholding something from me? Do you only give good gifts to some of your children?

Yet, these questions seem so untrue of what I know about You. Maybe that’s not the current plot twist of how you plan to display the knowledge of your love to me? Maybe that is someone else’s story right now. Because Savior, if you don’t pour your love upon me, my soul dies. I need your love. I need to know your love. It must be, then, that I can know it, too. Maybe I most know You today through this waiting. Through this suffering.

You say in Romans 5 that suffering leads to perseverance which leads to character, and character leads to hope. So would you give me grace to persevere in the midst of being constantly tempted with this desire?  Would you give me grace to have the character to continue to thank you for the gifts you have given to others and praise you even when it hurts? Because in these things, I know you are giving me the grace to Hope in you. And I know that “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Thank you for pouring your love on me. Thank you for allowing me to know the depths of that love in a way that only you could.

We are not…

we are not what we out to be, not what we could be, and not what we hope to be, but still we are not what we once were.

Tony Reinke from his book “Newton on the Christian Life”

Happy Fall!

fall

Happy First Day of Fall! I took this picture a few weeks ago at the first signs of the coming fall. I’ve had a few weeks to settle into the idea of things changing. In the next few weeks I will be having my fair share of pumpkin everything and chai tea. I hope you enjoy your fall traditions.

Gratitude and Adoration…

Isn’t it amazing how sunflowers follow the sun! It’s like they know…

sunflowers

 

I have tried since…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different…Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun…”

CS Lewis as quoted in John Piper’s “When I Don’t Desire God” pg. 18.

 

A thorn in the flesh…

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV reads:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

You know, I’m no Paul and haven’t been given special revelation or anything. But there are days when I feel like I have something to say, when I want to be a loud witness to the truth revealed to me about the “Holy and Righteous one” the “Author of Life” (Acts 3). But there are also days when the struggle is real, I just want it gone and I feel like the torment silences me and keeps me immobile. This thorn in the flesh, so to speak, is real for me- that my mind isn’t always whole.

For the sake of Christ, let me tell you a little bit about it. Let me tell you that it’s in this very weakness of mine, he has proven himself so very strong.

May Your power rest on me.

You are strong, when I am weak.

From one of my favorite Sojourn Music songs: May Your Power Rest On Me.