Are You Overwhelmed?

Are you overwhelmed by the news or personal issues in your life? My friend, Susan, has written a thought-provoking blog that I’d like to share. I pray her words encourage your heart. You can find more of her posts on http://Susansage.com

I have been over the last week

Overwhelmed

Discouraged

Sad

Angry at times

Never wanting my husband to put on a uniform again

But, right above my desk hangs a sign a friend painted for me. 

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Question is—do I?

Do I trust Him when pain rips through my body?

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Do I trust He’s got this when another friend succumbs to illness?

Do I really believe He’s in control when an ambush occurs on those who were trying to protect others?

Do rely on Him fully when politics just doesn’t make sense?

Do I hold fast to faith in Him when things and people I thought were unwavering, are not?

What could you add to this list?

Truth is, pain did rip through my body under the stress of all the violence last week. Honestly, I don’t ever want my husband to put his uniform on again and go defend others. And, discouragement began to send tentacles of fear into my heart over the violence and craziness around us.

But, as God often does, He used a small phrase in a big account in the Bible. Remember in the book of Daniel when he asked not to be fed the choice foods but rather the vegetables and water. In the passage in Daniel 1:8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), it says (depending on your translation) Daniel “resolved” or “made up his mind.”

I was teaching a class at church and that phrase hit me.

Daniel resolved . . .

Have I?

Have you?

If God is really sovereign, then He is trustworthy.

I must resolve each day to trust, just as the sign says. It’s a day by day decision, sometimes it’s moment by moment.

Either I believe He’s sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

What does it look like if I don’t? I’ll worry, toil over it, succumb to fear and panic, and keep allowing my thoughts to remain on the issues.

What will it look like if I do? I’ll take God’s advice. There are so many verses in the Bible that remind me what to do when I’m fearful and overwhelmed like Psalm 56:3, or Philippians 4:8, or Colossians 3:2 among many more.

Every day we have to make the decision whether we will allow the crises surrounding us to keep our focus or whether we’ll live as we, as believers, say we believe-trusting God.

By the way, just because we believe that God is sovereign and so in control, doesn’t mean difficult issues will not touch us. But, if He is sovereign, and I believe He is, then often throughout the day I must resolve to stay in that reality, not allowing the difficulties, whatever they are, to keep me weighted in fear.

As my eyes are on Him, I also need to make up my mind how I will react to these troubles. Will I act out in frustration by showing hate and negativity to others or will I allow God’s love and light to work in and through me towards others?

If you want another perspective on dealing with fear and worry, jump over to my friend, Kris Lindsey’s blog. You’ll find her http://krislindsey.com

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Either I believe God is sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

Sign painted by Allie Billat at Mad Hatter Salvage Creations

What is Fear, but a lack of trust?

It was dusk when I walked the narrow path made of white butcher paper, marked with a male’s naked, red footprints.

High school students had transformed the school gymnasium to recreate a Journey to the Cross. It was an outreach to turn people’s hearts toward Jesus.

By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, these hearts would be convicted and healed.

Instead of praying: Fix my problems. Show me the way.  

I asked God, Show me my SIN.

Show me what action or attitude within me, is offensive, or contrary to Your will.   

The very sin Christ bore as He died on the cross to set me free.

April 2014..Journey 118  

As I entered the gymnasium, somber music played from The Passion soundtrack. Black and burgundy cloth, hung from wires, subdivided the gym to create smaller rooms depicting Jesus’ betrayal, trial, scourging, death, and resurrection.

In one area, there was a sign: Take a black scrap of cloth and a piece of chalk. Write a sin, something you wrestle with….then nail it to the cross.

Of my many vices, FEAR surfaced. For what is fear, but a lack of trusting God?  

We can’t trust someone we don’t know.”

That’s what my friend, Loretta, told me years ago.

Since then, I’ve gone from head knowledge, knowing about God, to KNOWING HIM in a more intimate way that satisfies my heart.

And yet, FEAR remains my Achilles heel.

So I scribbled: FEAR; lack of trusting God.

Prior to writing those words, I had glanced inside a small nearby area designated “Prayer Room.” Since it was evening, the room was devoid of people, but I hesitated to enter. After God revealed my sin, this weakness that cripples my faith, I stepped inside.

Pillows and blankets lined the floor, tea lights in mason jars flickered, and white icicle lights hung overhead. I sat down to pray, but my jaw dropped. For next to my ankle was an index card with the word TRUST.

April 2014..Journey 121

I picked up the card, turned it over. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:4, 5

A few other cards were scattered on the floor. Different words, different verses. But TRUST was the word next to me, the first card that caught my attention.

Coincidence? That a student felt led to write TRUST, two days earlier?

Coincidence? That beckoned me into that prayer room, caused me to sit down in that exact spot?

Tears of joy, not condemnation, filled my eyes. How can I not love my Lord who reveals my sin, but then gently reminds me to TRUST.

  • Trust…the Lord with my life, and circumstances beyond my control.
  • Trust…the Lord loves me and died for me too.
  • Trust…the Lord that I’m forgiven and a new creature in Christ Jesus.

I nailed that scrap of black cloth to a large wooden cross. A cross blackened with the sins of teachers, students, and parents who had gone on this Journey before me.

And like the others, I wrote on a wall near the empty tomb,

April 2014..Journey 123

One of the many benefits that come when we’re Born Again, and our sins are forgiven: Peace, joy, gratitude, hope, love, victory, freedom, a new identity…..

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Have you trusted in Christ?

If so, have you told Him how much you love Him?

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…..

Walking in Fear

20131109_112324I arrived at Sisters of Mercy for a day of solitude to embrace God’s presence. There was no agenda. I was there to meditate on His Word, listen for His voice.

My mind was expectant, at bliss, as I ventured down a path towards the Ten Stations of the Cross.

I didn’t expect to meet FEAR.

Crossing a small wooden bridge, I walked down a narrow path surrounded by wild vegetation, covered by a canopy of trees. Intermittently, there were small white statues depicting Jesus’ journey to the cross.

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I prayed God would manifest His presence; give me a sign.

Eyes wide-open, I saw a downy feather clinging to a branch….Abide in Me.

Ears alert, I listened to squirrels playing tag among the trees…Rejoice.

Then a brown tiger-striped cat walked by me like a returning conqueror. The words “Sweet Kitty” stuck in my throat, my stomach lurched. A deflated mouse with a tail limp as a spaghetti noodle dangled from the feline’s lips.

My eyes scanned the sun-dappled path for scurrying mice.

Instead, I encountered a large, black dog. He stood at attention on the other side of the dry creek bed, watched me with steel eyes. There was a field fence dividing the retreat property from nearby homes, but with the thick vegetation, I wasn’t sure which side of the fence he stood.

I hurried pass Christ being nailed to a cross, and glanced back to see if “danger” followed.

When the gravel path curved, I came face to face with Jesus hanging on a cross.

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But my eyes were diverted by the same dog standing a few feet away. He was behind the fence, but when the dog barked, I left.

Retracing my steps to the bridge, the cool, green sanctuary took on a Gothic appearance. Branches rustled, dead limbs pointed knobby fingers at me. Winged creatures stared at me.

As I emerged from the trees, the sun’s warmth washed away my goose bumps.

And that still small voice of God spoke:  This is a metaphor of your life.

 Do you realize you spent more time looking at the things that scare you than the images of Christ?

 It’s time you let go of  fear, and learned to walk with your eyes on Me.

How could I argue after that surreal experience?

The rest of the day, I asked God to vanquish fear and show me how to trust Him more.

Even when scary, awful, bad things happen.

 “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Rest in the Lord is a “Bear” Necessity

Autumn is here, and my mind travels back in time to another October in the year, B.C. (before children), when my husband and I first moved to California. One weekend, we visited Yosemite National Park.

Being young and spontaneous, we didn’t make campsite reservations. So we had to pitch our two-man pup tent outside the park in the National Forest.

There was nothing around us, but trees, dirt, and critters that went BOO in the night.

Bears rule in Yosemite. And there was no lack of signs warnings us: DON’T FEED THE BEARS. DON’T LEAVE FOOD IN YOUR TENT. DON’T LEAVE BACKPACKS UNATTENDED.

Imagine my fright when I’m lying in my sleeping bag, and I hear noise: something rustling in the bushes, footsteps that sounded like Tyrannosaurus Rex, and heavy breathing that wasn’t coming from my husband who was sound asleep.

The only thing between me and the noise was a tent wall…a thin piece of nylon material held up by plastic, collapsible poles. Trust me, if a bear wanted to harm us, he didn’t have to claw his way through the zippered door panel. He could have sat on our tent and smothered us to death.

 Frantic, I woke my husband. “There’s a bear outside the tent.”

“He won’t bother us,” he groaned. “We don’t have food in the tent.”

“Maybe he can smell food on our clothes.”

“Don’t worry. I have an ax.”

“What if it’s someone with a gun who wants to steal our car?”

“Car thieves don’t normally roam the National Forest at midnight.” Husband yawned. “Go back to sleep.”

Maybe trusting my husband was a false sense of security, but I took my husband at his word. I closed my eyes and slept like a baby all night long.

When I woke up the next morning I was rested.

But my unshaven husband had dark bags beneath his eyes. He hadn’t slept a wink. Listening to the night noises, he’d kept a death grip on the ax, ready to defend me.

Now Husband isn’t all powerful like the Lord, but He loves me. And that night gave me a glimpse of what it means to “rest in the Lord.”

When the dark closes in on me, and fear troubles my soul, I cast my burdens onto the Lord, and rest.

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

When Fear is the Driver

“Watch out for deer.”

My palms were sweaty pools while my 17-year-old son drove along the curved, rural highway. There were no guard rails, only pine trees growing on the edge of the foothills.

As we came to a hair-pin turn, my right foot pushed against the car mat.

“Speed limit is 25 M.P.H.”

 I tried not to be a backseat driver. I tried to relax, enjoy the journey. But no amount of caution on my son’s part could loosen my death grip on personal safety.

As the foothills became mountainous, and we arrived to Lake Tahoe, I was exhausted—anticipating danger that never came.

I was born with a fearful nature.

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Growing up, no one told me twice to avoid hazards. Life came with a warning label, and I complied. Being a safety patrol leader and Girl Scout taught me to be safe, and prepared for emergencies.

When I got married and had children, fear deepened. What if” something horrible happens to them? I have to keep them safe.    

Converting fear into faith is a continuous, nail-biting lesson.

When the world news fans my fear, I remember…..

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1, 2)

When my mind entertains what ifs, I remember….

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

When I’m faced with the unknown, I remember…

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

 I remember, but I need to BELIEVE.

God knows the human tendency to be afraid.

Throughout the Bible, when God called people to action, He assured them, “Fear not. I am with you.”  

Even so, people often succumbed to fear rather than BELIEVE GOD.

When I gave the car keys to my son, it was a vote of confidence. My anxious behavior suggested otherwise.

When I was “born again,” I gave God authority over my life…trusting Him to guide me and be present even in the storms.

But when fear detours me from following God, or resting in His promises, I’m saying,

I don’t trust you. I want to be in the driver’s seat.

And that attitude gets me nowhere, except a path of misery.    

What is your first response when you’re afraid?

 

 

 

The C Word

Heard the C word again; the one that fills the human heart with dread.

The C word that forces me to “lean not on my own understanding”

But rest in a sovereign God.

He tells me surgery is scheduled, but the doctor’s optimistic prognosis doesn’t slay the inner demons swimming in the back of the mind:

What if ?

Dwelling on the problem instead of the Lord,

Feeds FEAR and makes it grow into a gIANT   that only faith can slay.

“For the Lord your God will hold your right hand saying to you, ‘Fear not. I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

  • Fear not, even if it’s cancer.
  • Fear not, I will hold your right hand.
  • Fear not, I will help you.

I cling to that promise like a blanket and fall asleep, one ear listening for the phone to ring.

And it does ring, waking me up just as dawn appears on my horizon and bird song fills the air.

A weary monotone voice greets me from a thousand miles away where skies are blue, but not for him.

I feel the weight of the world on his shoulders as he waits for his wife’s operation to be over, and the lab results to show good news.

Words stick in my throat as I search for the right thing to say.

“May I pray with you?”

Instead of holding warm-blooded hands, I grip the cold metal of my cell phone and …

  •  Plead to the heavens on his behalf.
  • Pray to the Lord who is an ever present help in times of trouble.
  • Claim God’s promises that are true.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

If only I could crawl through the phone, and sit beside him. Show that I care beyond words. But I can’t.

So I hang up and do what I can.

  • Bow my head and pray some more.
  • Sound the trumpet so my fellow saints will pray too.
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit who dwells within my friend to do what I can’t.

Be his strength in weakness;

          give him grace that is enough,

                 guard his mind with the peace that surpasses human understanding.

Even in this ……