Am I Looking at Me?

IMG_4640Two years ago, I wrote about the murder of my Japanese maple.

Murder sounds melodramatic, but that’s how I felt when someone chopped down my tree. “Too close to the house; gets in the way of the footpath.”

Foul words spewed from my lips. I stomped away from the scene of the crime. No one dared follow me. Friends assured me, “I don’t blame you. I’d be mad too.”

Self-justification didn’t make me feel better. I was broken afterwards, knowing if someone pushes the right button—I’ll turn into Gollum.

I only bring this up because I’m resting in the cool shade of my yard while two squirrels cavort among the trees. Birds swoop down to drink from the bird bath. All’s well with my world and my soul.

BUT, push the right button with a critical thought, a fearful what if, a broken sprinkler head, a chopped down Japanese maple—and my happy world evaporates like a desert mirage.

Circumstances pushed my buttons last week. I was stretched like taffy beyond my comfort zone. God’s grace enabled me to control my behavior, but I was mentally having a nuclear meltdown.

And yet, I want to reflect an inward peace that doesn’t vacillate with my circumstances.

So if God’s Word tells me to trust Him even in this—then I need to believe Him. For my life experience has proven over and over and over again, that God is faithful. There is no circumstance where He is not present.

As a believer in Christ, His Spirit dwells within me. When I seek God’s face, He is kind enough to show me the reality of His manifested presence.

Only, too often I’m preoccupied—thinking about me and my circumstance instead of Him.

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!” (Isaiah 26:3 TLB)

Do I believe it? If so, I’ll trust the Lord and think of Him often. That’s the key to perfect peace, resting in the cool shade of God’s protective hand when life heats up. Or buttons are pushed.

I mentioned my murdered Japanese maple that led to a broken spirit. Would you believe that same tree has been resurrected? It’s sprouting from the small stump that was left in the ground.

20140705_165912

I laughed, and praised the Lord. He doesn’t hold my mistakes and meltdowns over my head. He uses them to teach me and change me.

Unlike Jack’s magical beanstalk, there is no hallelujah pill that will make me grow godly overnight. The only Miracle Grow is the Holy Spirit working within me, to mold me into the likeness of God’s Son. 

If removing a Japanese maple helps me grow, then chop away, Lord!

What circumstance in your life, is God using to make you grow?

Show Me a Sign

Rain all through the night,” announced the man on the radio.

I welcomed the winter rain. We need the water. But most folks across the country are ready for Spring. They’re sick of snow. And who can blame them?

Sometimes we need a change.

Perhaps it’s not the weather. Financial hardship, marital problems, rebellious teens, ill health, or a tedious job will stretch our patience thin.

We pray, but nothing changes.

So we hunker down and wait for the season, or storm, to pass.

When I’m overwhelmed by duties or sorrows, searching for answers, I’m prone to act like Gideon (Judges 6-9). I want assurance that God is present and has a plan.

Show me a sign, Lord.    

That was my exact prayer when a three-day rainstorm paused, and the sun broke through the clouds like a welcomed guest. Enjoying the calm before another storm, I walked to my mailbox and found a package. Inside the package was a slim metal bracelet that I had ordered eight weeks earlier.

A package long overdue, but not really because ….

God’s timing is perfect.

A smile spread across my face as I read the tiny, engraved words on my bracelet.

Abide in Me

Not exactly the answer I was looking for that blustery day, but I knew it was a sign from above. Circumstances change, but God’s response remains the same.

Abide in Me

Abiding is that sweet union which allows believers to experience uninterrupted fellowship with Jesus. When we abide in Him, not only can we rest and experience peace, Jesus says we will bear much fruit and have joy (John 15).

When we abide in Christ, our eyes are fixed on Him and not our circumstances. We lean on Christ, and not ourselves.

As storm clouds gathered on the horizon that day, I ran my fingers over the bracelet. Three words once spoken by Jesus were now etched upon my heart, wrapped around my wrist.

Abide in Me

Today and every day…..even in this storm.

Photo of Bird: Molly Smith Detweiler 

Thunderstorm: Karen Foster

Not What but WHO

The house is robed in darkness when I slip away from the warmth of my bed and my slumbering husband. I’d rather brew a cup of tea and pray than toss and turn.

I weave my way through the dark and around the furniture until I find the kitchen light. While tea leaves steep, I notice my hungry cat waiting at the back door.

Open a can of food for her, open the Bible for me.

I’m not a morning person, but I love the silence where God is able to speak without interruptions.

If only I can keep my mind from distractions. My year that began slow has picked up speed. The winds are changing.

I tell myself “rejoice in the Lord” because my joy is not based on What is happening in my life, but WHO is ever present.  

El Roi, the God who sees me, even in the dark while I sip tea.

How odd…or is it…that I open my Bible to Psalm 143 where my words were once scrawled in the margin: February 2001: anxiety attack and winter depression.

What happened long ago that caused me to underline emotions that King David experienced: “persecuted, crushed, overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember why those emotions held me hostage, but the solution remains underlined.

“I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul longs for Thee as a parched land.” (verses 5,6)

On that winter morning, I lived in dark places. (vs.3)

But I knew then…as I know now…the ONE True God who could and would …

·        Revive me.

·        Teach me.

·        Deliver me.

And bring my soul out of trouble.

Even now, as I write these words, night has slipped away. Daylight is here. And on my window sill, a cross with the words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”    

20140122_095030

If anxious thoughts woke me, they are gone.  Not because my circumstances changed, or God fixed my problems overnight.

My soul is at rest because the Lord is my hope and refuge.

And He never changes…not even in this.

How to Face the Unknown

New Year’s Day

House guests are gone, house is a mess, and … much too quiet.

I flip through the familiar dog-eared pages of 2013. Each week is marked with hand-written appointments and events that defined and filled twelve months of my life.

As I hang up the 2014 calendar, the days are numbered, but unspoken for…filled with possibility.  

Not knowing what tomorrow brings is like traveling uncharted waters. I can be excited, make plans, hope for the best, but who knows?

 

So many prayer requests come to mind; people waiting, hoping the New Year includes a …

·        Baby

·        Job

·        Promotion

·        Home

·        Restored health

·        Marriage

·        Grandchildren’s welfare

 

For some, not knowing … if these things will come to pass … invokes anxiety.

Others know change is on the horizon, and that stirs fear.  

So how can I face a calendar of unknowns, or the thought of current difficulties never ending?  

By remembering the people in the Christmas story who experienced fear, and how God responded.

 

 

Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”  (Luke 1:30)

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)

“And the angel said to them (shepherds), Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

       

What seemed like scary circumstances was the means for something good to happen.

 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

 

This same Jesus, knowing He’d die on a cross to save people from their sins, and that His disciples would undergo horrid circumstances, assured them, 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

 

Peace depends on my relationship with Christ, not my circumstances.

Can I wrap my mind around this FACT instead of getting tangled in my FEELINGS?

I can face the unknown because I know Christ. 

And He says, “Do Not be afraid.”     

Even in this…..

Ants and Application

Ants love sugar water, but they hate chalk.

For years, I fought an army of ants crawling down the chain that holds my hummingbird feeder. Drowned ants floated in the sweet liquid, clogged up the tiny drinking holes.

When I read that ants won’t walk over chalk, I decided to draw a line of chalk around the nail that holds my hummingbird feeder.

Sure enough, the chalk acts like a barricade. I also outline the area around my cat bowl with chalk….no more ants crawling in the leftover food.

Here’s my point.

Last weekend, I allowed disappointing circumstances to put me in a melancholy mood. My emotions took precedent over rational thoughts.

I cried. I vented. I wallowed in self-pity.

And when I’d had enough of ME, I applied what always works for me.

I rejoiced in the Lord, and asked Him to use my circumstances to teach me.

And because God draws near to those who seek Him, the Holy Spirit showed me 2 Samuel 18 & 19.

King David’s son Absalom leads a revolt against his father in order to seize the throne for himself. As civil war breaks out, David and his family must flee Jerusalem. In the ensuing battle, King David’s men win and Absalom is killed.

Despite Absalom’s treasonous act, David is overcome with grief. He mourns the death of his son instead of rejoicing in victory. But Joab, David’s military commander, holds him accountable. He tells David to “snap out of it” and recognize the people who fought for him.

 These events happened centuries ago, but “scripture is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12)

Rather than read the Bible for content….I search for personal application.

One brings head knowledge.

The latter brings heart change.

In this case, I had two options.

Allow my emotions to become a stronghold which leaves me like King David …. in a funk which robs me of joy.

Apply Biblical knowledge to my circumstances and achieve victory over self.

Like drawing a chalk line, I chose to apply what the Bible says.

I took “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Because thoughts precede emotions which determine my mood.

And in the process, I was changed for the better.

Like it or Not, Can I Rejoice?

Who knew when I wrote this blog back in February that I’d be speaking at a women’s conference this month on the topic “Finding Rest in the Middle of Wrestling Life.”

Isn’t it just like the Lord to remind me of this blog considering for the past three weeks I’ve had poor health, AND fractured my big toe so I’m limping along in life.

So like it or not, here is the message on rest that speaks to my current circumstances the same way it did earlier this year…

For almost three weeks, I’ve been home bound with ill health, and I’m still not up to par.

I miss the days I woke up ready to rumble. And went to bed feeling as though I’d been productive.

I tell myself: “It’s okay. Use this time to rest. Read the Bible. Pray.

But my mental energy is sapped; lethargy takes over. Spiritual disciplines are minimal, I’m just going through the motions.

Are you there Lord? How much longer?

I’m weary of resting; waiting for good health and LIFE to resume.

An inner voice whispers, “This IS life.”

So like it or not,

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

God knows my circumstances. He allowed it.

Can I rejoice and be glad in it?

Not happy about ill health, but rejoicing that God is with me even in this season of ill health and lethargy?

Can I rejoice without whining?

Knowing that Nothing is Wasted.

Because when I come before God, fully submitted and willing to learn…He teaches me.”

So what has He taught me?

That when I’m healthy, I am more prone to live independent of God and be self sufficient. But when I’m unable to do anything in my own strength: Not housework, not ministering to others, not even meditating on God’s Word … I’m forced to REST in God’s strength and grace.

At the end of myself, I’m forced to let go of expectations …. those things I think will make me happy such as good health and productivity.

And REST in the knowledge that every circumstance is an opportunity to be made in the image of Christ and bring Him praise.

By keeping my eyes on Jesus, the lifter of my head,

I’m able to REST and REJOICE even in this……

Like it or Not, Can I Rejoice?

Who knew when I wrote this blog back in February that I’d be speaking at a women’s conference this month on the topic “Finding Rest in the Middle of Wrestling Life.”

Isn’t it just like the Lord to remind me of this blog considering, for the past three weeks I’ve had health problems, AND fractured my big toe so I’m limping along in life.

The message then, is the same for me now. REST, not just physically, but rest knowing God is in control. And HIS strength equips me to do the things He calls me to…..

For almost three weeks, I’ve been home bound with ill health, and I’m still not up to par.

I miss the days I woke up ready to rumble. And went to bed feeling as though I’d been productive.

I tell myself: “It’s okay. Use this time to rest. Read the Bible. Pray.

But my mental energy is sapped; lethargy takes over. Spiritual disciplines are minimal, I’m just going through the motions.

Are you there Lord? How much longer?

I’m weary of resting; waiting for good health and LIFE to resume.

An inner voice whispers, “This IS life.”

So like it or not,

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

God knows my circumstances. He allowed it.

Can I rejoice and be glad in it?

Not happy about ill health, but rejoicing that God is with me even in this season of ill health and lethargy?

Can I rejoice without whining?

Knowing that Nothing is Wasted.

Because as my friend Loretta says, “When I come before God, fully submitted and willing to learn…He teaches me.”

So what has He taught me?

That when I’m healthy, I am more prone to live independent of God and be self sufficient. But when I’m unable to do anything in my own strength: Not housework, not ministering to others, not even meditating on God’s Word … I’m forced to REST in God’s strength and grace.

At the end of myself, I’m forced to let go of expectations …. those things I think will make me happy such as good health and productivity.

And REST in the knowledge that every circumstance is an opportunity to be made in the image of Christ and bring Him praise.

By keeping my eyes on Jesus, the lifter of my head,

I’m able to REST and REJOICE in this day the Lord has made, and be glad even in this……