Are You Unraveling?

A single piece of thread dangles from my scarf. I tuck the lonely strand back into place. Try to hide it.

For I know if I yank the thread too hard, the scarf will bunch up. Keep pulling it and the scarf might unravel.

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Ever feel that way?

Like you’re composed of multiple strings of yarn and everyone is tugging on you? 

And each time those strings are pulled, you feel as though you’re unraveling. Bit by bit.

Until there’s nothing left of you, but a heap of yarn on the floor.

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Unless, of course, you’ve learned to hide the loose, frayed strands from other folks.

Maybe—instead of a frayed scarf—you feel more like a string puppet. Just going through the motions with each tug. Nod, smile, wave, bend, move….

Too much jerking and we lose the elasticity of our stringy nerves. Or they get tangled from hurrying in too many directions.

So how do we avoid unraveling? Untie the knots?

How do we REST in the middle of wrestling life?

Return to the Lord and let your soul find rest (Psalm 116:7).

Exalt the Lord. Praise His name and thank Him for Who He is and the great things He has done in your life (Psalm 69:30).

Submit to the circumstances in your life in which you have no control. If we can’t change our circumstances, we can change our attitude.  (Philippians 4:8)

Trust God’s promises. Knowing He use the events and people in our life for His purposes which includes molding us into the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)

Even when King David’s personal sin crushed him, he returned to the Lord. For he knew his redemption and delivery had nothing to do with his own character or actions.

It had everything to do with God’s lovingkindness and compassion.

Maybe you’re on the endangered list as your inner being unravels. Desperate for God’s compassion.

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Turn off the news; the cell phone.

Go to your hiding place and show your Abba Father the knarled knots and loose strings.

Then R.E.S.T.

And like a child who waits while a parent untangles his shoestrings…

Allow the Lord to clip and mend your frayed, loose strings until you’re new again and ready to rumble.

 

Photos by Jennifer Wrede Photography

Why the Hesitation?

How’s your heart? Are you overwhelmed? Dismayed?

That’s how King David described himself in Psalm 143.  And that’s how I felt when I woke up.

Though the winter sky was baby blue, and the sun’s rays shimmied between the bare tree limbs.

I blamed my mood on a head cold. And yet, sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason I’m anxious or depressed.

Thankfully, God knows the human propensity to allow circumstances and emotions to overwhelm us. That’s why He used King David to pen Psalm 143.

Words written centuries ago, but relevant today—in this exact moment—because God’s Word is able to clear the negative voices in a congested head. And point us to a better way of living.

My feral cat was also in a mood.

Stuck outside overnight, she sat on our front porch rail, waiting. Watching me through the kitchen window while I brewed a cup of tea.

When our eyes met, my cat arched her back and meowed. I opened the door, stumbled towards my desk as she weaved in and out between my feet.

Unlike most mornings, my feral cat wanted more than warmth and food. She paced back and forth, rolled on the wood floor. Then she sat by my desk chair, staring at my lap. It’s rare for this independent feline to cuddle, but I saw the debate within her eyes.

Meanwhile, I just “happened” to open my Bible to Psalm 143. It’s the same passage I underlined fourteen years ago when I dealt with anxiety and winter blues. Only this time, I paused at verse 5.

“I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

Remember. Meditate. Muse.

On what?

  • My circumstances?
  • My emotions?
  • My thoughts?

No, we’re told to…

Remember God’s Work.  Meditate on the great things the Lord has done. Not only for mankind, but in people’s lives…in my life.

“Dwell much on what I did, as well as what I said. Remember, ‘I touched her hand, and the fever left her.’ Not many words, just a moment’s contact, and all fever left her.” (God Calling)

Lord, please touch my heart so my mood melts into nothingness.

I glanced down at my cat who watched me with the same hesitation that I came before the God. Afraid to ask, as if I was unworthy, or He had greater things to tend to than “my mood.”

I tapped my robe. “Come here.”

Cat ears flinched.

“What? You don’t trust me after all these years?”

My audible words convicted me. Wasn’t this God’s attitude towards me when I hesitate to come to Him? Hesitate to ask?

What keeps folks from wanting more of God, or receiving all He wants to give?

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Before I could answer my question, the cat jumped on the desk and settled beside my Bible. Soon, she curled on my lap, purring.

Content; unafraid.

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Not unlike her mistress, now resting in God’s capable Hands.

Let me hear Thy loving kindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee...” (vs.8)

Are You Still There?

Words poured from the woman’s heart like a broken water main. I waited for her to catch her breath so I could interject my thoughts over the phone.

Finally, a pregnant pause followed by her whimper. “Are you still there?”

“I’m here,” I assured her. “I’m just listening.”

Lately, I feel like that woman. I’m venting to the Lord, but He’s not saying anything. Lord, are you still there?

I imagine the Lord would speak more often if I’d be still and listen. And yet, there are times when I hold my tongue.

Desperate for wisdom or direction, I wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to me through scripture. Or I long for the joy and satisfaction of His fellowship.

Only, sometimes God appears silent.

The longer He’s silent, the more I feel estranged from the One I’ve come to love and depend upon.

I plead like David, “Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation….” (Psalm 51:11-12)

More silence.

So I remind myself to believe God and trust He is with me even in the deafening silence.

“Faith is especially required in times of silence as we wait for the intimacy of God.”

That’s what my mentor and friend, Loretta, told me years ago when she felt “God was silent and in the wings.”

Which is why Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks….But to do this, you will need the—

ü  Strong belt of truth

ü  Breastplate of righteousness

ü  Shoes able to speed you on as you preach the Gospel.

ü  Shield of Faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

ü  Helmet of salvation

ü  Sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.

Putting on the armor of God is a daily task like brushing our teeth because the enemy doesn’t retreat. He knows my Achilles heel, the weakest spot to attack my faith.

When God appears silent or like He’s “watching from a distance,” Satan shoots flaming arrows aimed at my limited understanding to make me doubt—

God’s love. God’s mercy. God’s presence.

The SHIELD OF FAITH is my best defense.

Faith STOPS the fiery arrows from hitting their mark because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith enables me to believe God is present even when He Appears Silent.

Just now, my cell phone rings, interrupting the silence as I finish this blog. The voice coming through the receiver is a sister in Christ who lives in South Dakota. We haven’t spoken with each other in a year.

My skin tingles. This is a Divine Appointment. God’s perfect timing.

He knows I need a word of encouragement, so He sends a friend I’m least expecting to talk with me.

And while we’re on the phone, the Lord enters our midst and makes Himself known.

Faith extinguishes the doubts as we pray to the Glorious One who always listens—even when He appears silent. 

How do you respond when God appears silent?

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.

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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.

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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,

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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?

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)

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?

 

 

 

Truth Be Known

243Woke up depressed, but I have to go to jail, share the “hope that lies within me” with women inmates.

Can’t give what you don’t have?” Satan taunts me.

I get on my knees where the battle is won, and pray God’s Word aloud. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

Then I go out of obedience, not because I feel like it.

The jail tank is empty. Most of the women are asleep in their cells. I sit at the metal table and pray until a young woman joins me.

I confess my foul mood; explain I had to pray for the desire to come to jail. But I’m confident that as we read God’s Word and fix our minds on Him, our moods will change even if troubles remain.

Tears trickle down her cheeks. Woman admits she woke up thinking she should read her Bible, but didn’t “feel like it” which made her feel guilty. Knowing I struggle helps her know she’s not alone.

I assure her that Jesus struggled with mental anguish just before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had to pray and focus on God’s will rather than his own feelings.

So we open our Bibles to Luke 22: 66-71 and read about the trial.

The Council of elders confronts Jesus, ““If you are the Christ, tell us.”

Just like Satan tempted Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Just like Satan taunts me. “If you’re a jail chaplain, where’s your hope?”

Just like Satan accuses the inmate: “If you don’t read the Bible, you’re bad.”

How does Jesus respond to Ifs.

Sometimes He quotes scripture.

Sometimes He asks questions.

During the trial, He states facts. “If I tell you, you will not believe.”

Again, they ask Him, “Are you the Son of God?”

“Yes, I am.”

Jesus condemns himself with his own words,

Because they feel that anyone who claims to be the “Son of God” is a liar or a lunatic.

They don’t believe Jesus is telling the truth when He claims to be Christ the Lord.

But disbelief doesn’t change the facts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Believe it, or not.