Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Musing

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Matthew 16:24-27

What does it mean to "take up my cross?" What does it mean to lose our life for His sake?

It means to embrace whatever comes into our lives and bear it through the grace He gives.

Embracing a cross is painful. There are all those splinters and things, you know? But since He did that for me, how can I do less for Him?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Scripture

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Ephesians 4:1-3

Thursday, August 25, 2011

LIF--Lyrics I'm Feeling

I know the traditional is "Lyrics I'm Feeling Friday"...but this is my Thursday edition! :o)

One of "Those" Days

Would really appreciate your prayers today, bloggy friends. Today is a struggle.

"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
II Corinthians 12:9

I can't say I feel much like boasting today. I really do need His strength, though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Road We Each Travel

I have been experiencing some real "poor little me" days lately. In addition to dealing with the anxiety issues, there was the humbling "head in the toilet" day on Sunday (I do hate having a stomach bug!) and the resulting days of recuperation. Nothing can take my mood down like being sick. (I often feel guilty, but that's for another post.)

Then, as often happens, I received a phone call. Someone I have known for many years recently lost one of their parents. But there was more to the story. I won't go into the details here, to protect privacy, but it's just a really sad situation.

And I'm dealing with what? Anxiety?

I have another friend who is dealing with the loss of a child. About 1 1/2 years ago, one of her children committed suicide. She is trying to return to a "normal" life...which will never be normal again.

And I'm worried about "what??""

Another friend is experiencing complete helplessness as they watch a relative die of a cancer found in the late stages. This friend is a healthcare professional and knows many doctors who could have helped, if the cancer had been found earlier.

And I'm in a panic over some insignificant little daily life issue?

The truth is, we all have a different road to walk. The even greater truth is that God gives us each what we need to walk our road. Grace for each step, and each breath really is available for every single one of us. The key is accessing that grace.

Romans 5:1-5 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Those words give me such hope! I especially take note that we can "glory in tribulations" because of what they produce in us: some amazing spiritual fruit (perseverance, character, hope).

No matter what road you are walking today...God is walking there with you.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment or prayer request. The beauty of this life is walking alongside each other and encouraging each other on the journey.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grace for the Next Breath

You ever have one of those days when it seems you need grace for each and every breath? A new infusion of the Holy Spirit for the next millisecond?

It seems as if, from the moment I decided to bare my soul on this blog, Satan has been working overtime to make me regret it. The roller coaster has gone from fear, to guilt, to embarrassment, to discouragement, to rare moments of rejoicing... Truth be told, though, the down times have been winning against the up times.

I know that the "weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds". I know that God is greater and bigger than all of the shame--yes, shame--I feel for what I suffer. (I am a Christian, right? Not supposed to worry, fear, or doubt?!) But sometimes the knowing doesn't get from my head to my heart. There's a disconnect somewhere between having the Scriptures revolving through my mind and actually walking it out.

If you read my previous post, you may think I'm repeating myself. But this is really a different matter. This isn't about struggling one day and relying on my feelings to gauge where I am with the Lord. This is about beating myself up (not physically--mentally) for not being the overcoming, victorious, conquering Christian I have been taught to be.

And to be honest, even though I know we've been made more than conquerors (and that we have the victory through Christ), I also understand a deeper truth: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10, 11) It is a true statement that our suffering is a means to redemption. What I mean is that through our sufferings, we draw closer to our Lord, as we identify with Him in that way. And, of course, suffering can serve as a flame does to gold: a purifying, refining process.

It's just that sometimes, I wish those flames weren't quite so HOT...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One Step Forward...Two Steps Back

This is often how my emotional and spiritual journeys feel. For instance, I'll have a really good day. Not worrying. No nagging, heart-pounding, adrenaline-rush, mind-spinning moments. And I'll think: "Wow! I'm doing so well. Maybe I'm past all this anxiety and panic attack nonsense." Then, I'll have one or two nights of less-than-refreshing sleep (read: insomnia or just waking up way too early in the morning), and the nagging, heart-pounding, adrenaline-rush, mind-spinning cycle floods in like a tidal wave. Rats.

Or, on the spiritual side of it, I will have a day of feeling so deeply intimate with the Lord and sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit in an almost physical sense, He's so close. And I'll think: "Wow! This is awesome! I feel so close to the Lord. I feel like I could move mountains today!" Then, the next day will be a day filled with feeling like God is trillions of miles away and doesn't hear a word I pray.

This is why we can't rely on our feelings. Because no matter what I am experiencing, God is still God. He hasn't relinquished His throne, power, or authority to anyone. He is still the same God who gave His only Son to die for me. He is still the same God who promised to never leave or forsake me. He is still love.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
I Jn. 4: 7-11

So, even though I feel quite a bit like Chicken Little today...I have to admit the sky is not really falling. And God is still in control.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The King Will Greatly Desire Your Beauty

Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him.
Psalm 45:10, 11, NKJV

This afternoon, I read an article titled, "A Reflection on Beauty: God's Chosen Gift to Women", by Jennnifer Hartline. You can read the full article at the link above. The summary is this: women desire to be thought of as beautiful. Any woman who disagrees with that statement needs to look at the reality of our world. The millions (billions?) of dollars spent each year on clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, facelifts, botox, etc. etc. etc. are a clear picture of what women are looking for. They want to be viewed as beautiful.

I am very aware of the fact that the most beautiful part of a woman is supposed to be her heart. Her spirit, beaming through her face and actions. (I Timothy 2:8-10 and I Samuel 16:7) The outward appearance is not what is most important. A truly beautiful woman is one who reflects the love of Christ to all around her.

And the two are connected. I know some women at whom the "world" would look at as plain, homely, unattractive, overweight, etc. Yet they are the most beautiful women I have ever met. Why? Because they are true to who God made them, they rejoice in who He is, and they allow Him to live through them.

In the article, Mrs. Hartline said she asked her husband what he thinks a woman most wants her husband to think of her: that she is intelligent, or that she is beautiful?

It is true that I would not have married my husband if he thought I was an imbecile. True enough. But what I most long to hear (with love in his eyes) is when he looks intently at me and says, "You are the most beautiful woman I know." THAT is what I want to hear! THAT is what makes me feel secure in my relationship with him.

So, even more than that, I want to hear my Lord say that I am beautiful in His sight.

This passage in Psalm 45 gives us clues about the "how to" of it all: "forget your people and your father's house; and the king will desire your beauty." (RSV) When our eyes are focused on nothing more or less than our Lord, that is when we become like Him, and the more we become like Him, the more beautiful we will be.

Maybe I'm not conveying this too well. But I can guarantee that the majority of women will relate to what I'm saying. And as much as we want our husband (boyfriend, etc.) to think we're beautiful, even more do we desire God to think of us as beautiful.

How do I get there?

As I allow Him to begin breaking each link of the chains that hold me captive, He will make me more beautiful...

In response: "because He is your Lord, worship Him." (Or, as the RSV says, "Since he is your lord, bow to him.")

It comes full circle: I submit to Him, He makes me more like Him, I am seen as beautiful in His eyes, and I worship Him...which makes me more like Him!

So the question I must ask this evening is, "Lord, do you think I'm beautiful?"

**Additional note: the book cover seen above is a book I read several years ago. Well worth your time. You can purchase it from CBD at this link.

Monday, August 08, 2011

When the Waves Roll In

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:25-33

This is one of those amazing stories in the Bible. A storm. Jesus walking on the water. Peter walking out to Him. Peter seeing the storm and calling out to Jesus for help. Jesus rescuing Peter from the waves. And the declaration by the disciples: You are the Son of God.

It's so easy to shake our heads at Peter and think, "You were a fisherman! Why would you be afraid of the storm? You must have gone through dozens of storms during your career. Why were you afraid of this one?"

I think it's a matter of perspective. True, Peter was used to storms. But he was used to weathering them in a boat! There was certainly a sense of security about that small wooden vessel. Directing the sails and working to guide his boat to safety would have allowed him some control, albeit very miniscule in comparison to the fury of a storm.

I often wonder how it is that the storms of life distract me so easily. I've been through many storms. Why do certain ones cause me such anxiety? And after I have passed through them, look back and think about the circumstances, I see that this particular storm was often small when compared to others I have experienced. I'm not sure why that is?

I do know that one constant has not changed: Jesus is in the storm with me. He has already "walked out onto the water" ahead of me. When my eyes begin to see the waves and wind instead of the One who walks with me, He still reaches out His hand to pull me into the safety of the boat.

One step at a time. One storm at a time. I hope to learn true trust. And to be able to recognize that He truly is the Son of God...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Casting Crowns - Praise You In This Storm

For those who suffer from anxiety, depression, the loss of a loved one...whatever storm you are walking through today...praise Him in the storm.

"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tim Hawkins- Old Rock Star Songs

I love Tim Hawkins, and wanted to share this with all of you! Humor is often an amazing healing agent.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Whole Point

The reason I began this blog so very long ago was to journal our family's faith journey. Then it became a bit more devotional in nature, as I shared Scripture and occasional insights into things I was learning from God.

With yesterday's post, I have opened a whole new can of worms, as it were. Baring my soul like that did not come easy. I truly sensed that I am not the only one with these struggles, and there are others out there who may need to read this. If I can help someone else along the way, then the purpose of this blog will be realized.

God bless, friends. God is good...all the time!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Chains of My Own Making

I'm about to get very real in this post.

I battle with panic attacks. I'm not sure when they began. I know I had moments of "foreshadowing" when I was a kid. I had a pretty secure life, so those times were few and far between.

One of the worst episodes was when I was a small child. We had gone camping in the Rockies. At one point, we planned to leave our camper/trailer behind for a day and drive to a different area. For some reason, that trailer was my security--home away from home, if you will. Leaving it there scared me. I curled up in the floor of the car (days before seatbelt laws) and refused to look out. My sisters tried everything they could think of, but I was not to be swayed. I wasn't okay again until we got back to the trailer that evening.

That's probably one of the most extreme examples from my childhood. I didn't really have major battles with this until I was an adult. Faced with the uncertainties of new jobs (especially after being fired for the first time) were especially daunting. As I've grown older, the "list" of things that set me off are numerous. And embarrassing.

After all, I've been a Christian most of my life. I should be at a place of peace and trust in God that allows nothing to penetrate it. Trials and even simple events of daily life should simply bounce off me, as I bask in the truths of God's provision. Right? Wrong.

It is a prison I long to escape. For someone who has never experienced the anxiety, sensation of not being able to breathe, heart-pounding, mind-racing, feeling-like-I'm-going-crazy world of panic attacks...well, it's hard to comprehend, I'm sure. To try to explain it is really difficult, and almost impossible. And the older I get, the harder it seems to battle.

But it cannot be oversimplified. "Just pray more, Joni." I have never prayed more than when I'm experiencing the overwhelming fears of a panic attack. "Read your Bible more." Okay. True. But that alone will not drive the anxiety away.

And the list goes on and on. Very well-meaning people who love me and only want to see me set free from this prison. But who really don't understand.

Is this simply a cross I must bear? I honestly don't know the answer. I do know that I serve a big God. I do know that I will not stop praying for Him to heal me. I do know that some day, whether here or in heaven, I will be set free from the chains that bind me in such gripping fear.

I don't know what chains you have to deal with, friend. Pray for me. And I'll pray for you.