breathing

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed today I read post after post that mentioned being overwhelmed, having prayer concerns, needing/seeking direction or a hunger for peace in the midst of turmoil. With each post I felt my spirit grow more and more heavy.  I prayed for them, as well asking God to touch each dear ones’ heart with His perfect peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

This feeling of being overwhelmed makes it hard to breathe.  The weight of the concern seems to push out the ability to release the worry.  It reminded me of getting a tattoo.  When I had my last tattoo done, the tattoo artist reminded me to breathe.  I hadn’t noticed that I was holding my breath, but I was.  He reminded me that by holding my breath I was not allowing my body to release the toxins that were building up in my blood system.  For every regular breath I took and exhaled, I found myself more and more able to relax.

We as believers, are called to release the trouble to God.  We have even made it into a catch-phrase, “Let go, let God.” While it may seem like a trite answer to someone who is struggling, it is the truth.  We need to let go.  We need to release the fear, doubt, worry, shame, concern, and anger to God.  He is waiting to work in our lives, but we need to let Him have the things that are weighing us down.

Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983) once said, “You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.”  When we release the troubles we face into the hands of God, we can breathe more easily.  God is a faithful God, He will be there for us as we go forward in life.  We may face surgery, job loss, loss of loved ones, struggles and trials.  But He is there.

All we have to do is breathe in His presence and breathe out our troubles.

“My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
 The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job 33:3-4

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To God be the Glory

The cross country team finished its season tonight, complete with the fall banquet to celebrate the runners. It was a wonderful time cheering for the runners, encouraging them to continue to live by the principles their coach instilled in them during the season.

I joined the other friends and family in applauding the accomplishments. I started thinking though, of Heaven. One day we will stand before God who will show us a PowerPoint of eternal proportion– showing the highlights of the time we ran for the Lord.

The cross country coach described it as, “Using God-given talents to the fullest.” I realized that is how I want to live my life– using my God-given talents to the fullest.

Whether I am fulfilling my role as a wife, or a mother, at the office or even writing, I want to make sure that my actions are pleasing to God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24). This is my prayer for my life and for my sons as they continue to run the race that is set before them– to God be the Glory.

May it be so with you as well.

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New paths and old trails

“There comes a time in everyone’s life when you just have to get out.” (Under the Tuscan Sun (c) 2003 Buena Vista Pictures).

I love this movie, not just for the evolution of Diane Lane’s character, Frances, but for the house. At this pivotal moment, Frances realized what she had been doing was no longer enough; it wasn’t fulfilling her and she needed to change her scenery and to get another perspective.

This is how I feel with my quiet time, lately. I cannot seem to “get into” the devotionals I have used for years. I still want time with God; where we are alone together, but the path I have used is too familiar. I know what I will see before I turn the corner, I know what the words say well enough to skim them over instead of letting them sink into my skin.

So what to do? What do you do when you find yourself too familiar to be set ablaze by the Holy Spirit anymore? I take a page from Diane Lane’s character, I change my perspective. I put a new CD in the player, one I may be familiar with, but haven’t listened to in a while. I find a new book to read, an author I have heard of, but have never read. Or I change where and when I have my quiet time.

Why the change? Complacency is a dangerous tool of the enemy. The more complacent we become the more likely we are to stop engaging with the Holy Spirit. “I’ve always done it this way/that way” becomes our mantra, instead of “Holy Spirit take control, take my body, mind and soul- put a finger on anything that doesn’t please you, anything I do that grieves you, Holy Spirit take control…

If I am seeking God, Who is truly seeking me, then I need to find new pathways to Him if the old ones don’t work anymore.

I don’t want to grow cold, I want to burn. With the Light of Heaven, the Light of the World, blazing a trail all the way.

Don’t let my love grow cold
I’m calling out, ‘light the fire again.’
Don’t let my vision die
I’m calling out, ‘light the fire again.’

You know my heart, my deeds
I’m calling out, ‘light the fire again.’
I need Your discipline
I’m calling out, ‘light the fire again.’

I am here to buy gold
Refined in the fire
Naked and poor
Wretched and blind, I come
Clothe me in white
So I won’t be ashamed
Lord, light the fire again!

(C) 1994 Mercy /Vineyard Publishing
Lyrics by Brian Doerksen

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Not perfect

When Adam and Eve chose to not trust God in the Garden of Eden, God could have dusted His hands of the situation and left them to their own devices.

But He didn’t.

Even in their sin, even in their broken relationship, God offered a way for them (and us) to be redeemed. He told Eve that through her a child would be born that would crush the serpent’s head. (Genesis 3:15).

God’s love for Adam and Eve was greater than His disappointment them. It is the same thing for us. God loves us more. (John 15:13).

But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). I love the truth and promise in this verse. I didn’t have to be perfect before God would love me.

Before accepting God’s amazing grace I was a broken, lonely girl who had bought the lie that I only deserved the destructive treatment of others. I believed that I was never going to be treated as a precious, prized, valued and loved treasure by anyone.

Then someone explained the Truth of God and how God knew I would never measure up to His holiness–and I wasn’t supposed to measure up. Jesus had to fill the gap. And He did.

Jesus gave His life to cover my sins, my shame, my brokenness to make me whole. I didn’t ask Him to do that for me, He loved me so much He volunteered to do it.

Every time I take Communion: eating the bread, drinking the wine (grape juice), I think of this love God/Jesus had for me.

Recently it was pointed out that the Passover Lamb was not served at the table at the Last Supper because He was sitting at the table. Jesus would give His life as the ultimate Passover Lamb. That’s why He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30).

I don’t have to do more, get better, be perfect, grovel, do penance… My sins have been covered by His sacrifice.

And so I sing….

“Oh praise the One who paid my debt,
And raised this life up from the dead,
Oh praise the One who paid my debt,
And raised this life up from the dead…”

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Lord Have Mercy

I don’t watch the news very often.  I find it hard to hear about celebrities talked about like they are Nobel Prize winners or hear about the destruction caused by humanity on itself in the name of “I’m better than you” or brokenness deep within.

Two major events have occurred that make my heart hurt again because of the brokenness in mankind. The attack at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, Canada and now a school shooting in Seattle, Washington.  Broken people crying out in ways that cause hurt and harm and loss of life.

Now, I am not going to jump on the “gun control or else” bandwagon.  Cain didn’t need a gun to kill his brother, Abel.  The brokenness in Cain brought on jealousy and envy, it went unchecked and unconfessed.  It festered more and more until it broke through in an eruption and Abel was killed.

Until we, as human beings, find the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Until we find healing, wholeness, and restoration at the foot of the Cross it will continue.  I don’t say it to be preachy or to make a sound bite.  I say it to remind us to hit our knees.  To pray.  Only the Light of the World will chase away this kind of darkness.

Kyrie Eleison is an ancient prayer that translates to “Lord have mercy.”  It is a prayer we need to be praying now.  Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Lord have mercy.

Indeed.

 

 

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from yuck to yay

The past few days I have felt cranky, irritable, and ready for a fight.  I cannot pinpoint the reason, but I know that I don’t like it.  I have spent time closing my eyes, taking deep breathes, and saying silent prayers to help me settle down.  It isn’t anyone’s fault, nothing bad happened, but it has taken a bit of time to re-adjust my attitude.

As I sat down at my computer I saw a note that read, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Corinthians15:10).  Whew.  God’s grace left it’s mark on me, I don’t have to be cranky or ready to start a fight.  I just need to breathe in and breathe out and remember God’s grace is sufficient.

Sufficient means enough.  God is enough.  He is enough for my worries, my fears, my anger, my joy, my day-to-day life.  He is enough, especially when I am failing.

Second Corinthians 12:9 says it best, ” 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

That truth is enough to cheer about.  Christ is enough.  Yay!

 

 

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Struggle, strain, and surrender

Have you ever watched a game of tug-of-war?  Both teams pull and pull with all their weight, might, and strength to pull the other team across the line in the center of the field.  For a while it looks like it might be a tie and that either team could win.  Then the first person starts to lose his or her grip, shoes slip on the grass, and like dominoes, one person after the other falls down or is pulled across the line.

It is the same with our troubles.

When we try to force something into the way we want it, we struggle and strain.  We push, fight, and don’t want to give in, but eventually we may relent.  We may let go, we may even fall down.  If we are smart, we may actually release the very thing we are trying to force.

We surrender.

The moment we surrender our struggle and fight to God is the moment we can find peace.  We can relax, rest, and allow God’s perfect peace to cover us. Think of the baby who is trying to fight sleep. He fusses, fidgets, whines, even cries as he fights the very thing he needs most. Rest.  It is the same with us.

Do not fight what you need most.  It may be rest, it may be a new adventure on your Faith journey.  Whatever it may be, do not doubt the perfect plan God has for you.  Jeremiah 29:11 promises, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Surrender to it.  Your life will never be the same.

 

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check-ups and check-ins

I had my annual physical today.  Nothing earth-shattering, I’m getting older, my body is changing, new experiences are coming.  I am grateful for the good health I have and realize it is a gift.  On average, my family only goes to the doctor’s office once a year, we just don’t get sick.  This made me think as I sat down to read my devotional this morning.

How often do we ask God to give our spirit and soul a check-up?  Do we only go to Him when we are feeling “sick” or “unwell” or do we go to God for check-ups, to make sure that we are on the right track, doing what needs to be done to remain healthy?

Scripture reminds us that we need to be careful to stay in constant relationship with Jesus or we will not grow (John 15, Colossians 1:6, 2 Peter 3:18) and that we run the risk of withering and shriveling up without the Living Water described in John 7:38.

A wise pastor once said at the end of the day he wanted his praise list to be long and his regrets list to be short.  If we keep in touch with Jesus throughout the day we will be able to accomplish this as well.

In my family we call it “checking in.”  My brother and I  will call our folks and say, “Hi, I was just checking in.  Hope all is well.”  The conversation isn’t about heavy topics or concerns, it’s just a way to make sure the communication line is open and clear.  It is the same way with my walk with God.

I will talk with Him throughout the day.  Comment on the beauty of the sky, the deep colors of the changing trees.  The sweetness carried on the breeze, maybe the variation of the songs the birds sing.  I definitely offer up prayers and concerns, but often I just want God to know I was thinking about Him and His creation.

So the question comes– how often do you come to God for spiritual check ups?  How often do you check in with Him?  I don’t ask to guilt you, but instead to encourage you.  He isn’t standing in a gilded throne room tapping His toe at you for bothering Him.  He delights to connect to you and with you– you are His treasure, His precious child.  Why wouldn’t He want to hear from you?

Check-up and  check-in.

 

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Three minutes

Today our pastor spoke on Ephesians 3:1-3, but it was the surrounding message of the service that struck me even more than our message. Today we spent time praying for the Persecuted Church around the world. It was sobering to realize that every three minutes a life is ended–often brutally– just because the person believed in Jesus.

To drive that point home when the service began there were thirty lit candles on stage and throughout the worship and message a man silently walked to each candle and snuffed it out–every three minutes, until there were no more lit candles.

In over sixty countries around the world it is illegal to be a Christian. In some countries the punishment is persecution, in others it is death–without question. Voice of the Martyrs categorizes the nations into two categories: Restricted and Hostile, a nation’s category can change from year to year, depending on the laws passed in that country.

It is sobering, even disturbing, that here in America, a country founded on Biblical principles, we think we are being persecuted because someone tells us we shouldn’t display the Ten Commandments. Our brothers and sisters are in prisons, under house arrest, are literally running for their lives- just for professing Christ.

Hebrews 13:3 says, Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering... It’s actually the verse that Voice of the Martyrs used as the basis of their ministry.

Brothers and sisters, we need to stand up for those who have no voice and we need to kneel down and pray for them to have the strength to stand up under their persecution.

If you aren’t sure where to start contact Voice of the Martyrs and request a Prayer Map. It will give you a chance to see the countries experiencing persecution and suggest ways to help them and pray for them.

We are not to live this life alone in a bubble waiting for Jesus to return. We are to encourage one another, support one another, and lift up one another in prayer.

(In the time it took me to work on this post over ten of my brothers and sisters stepped into Glory because of their faith.)

Every three minutes.

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Training

I live with two teenage boys. I look at them when they are sleeping sometimes and think, “where did all the time go?” When the boys were little random people would tell my husband and me, “Enjoy them now, while you can.”

I remember thinking, “What do you mean ‘while I can’. They will be my babies forever.” Haha. Foolish thinking from a sleep deprived mom. Fast forward fifteen years. My “babies” are now in their final years in the “nest.”

My mind wanders… Did I teach them enough? Will they be ready when they go off to college? Have l taught them enough skills to survive on their own? Will they remember how much I love them? Will they remember it’s important to keep Christ as a priority, not just a “get-around-to-it” item on their to-do list?

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). It is my prayer for my kids to know Who God is, how God can move in their lives, that God’s plan is always the best plan. There is so much I pray for them, especially now when I feel the time clock winding down.

Scripture says that the Word of God will never come back void. I cling to this truth when my teenager gives me that look that says, “Oh Mom, did you really just ask that?” and somehow I think that I have blown it.

There are some great books for praying for your kids, the most popular one is Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. I have used this book again and again over the years for my boys. My prayer is that when my boys are husbands and fathers they will continue to train up their own children the same way I have tried to train up mine.

There is a chorus from my childhood that often comes to mind when I think of my boys, it was written by the Gaithers.

“Dear Jesus, please make us more patient and kind, and help us to be more like you. And make room for all other children of yours for they are still growing up too.” .

This is my prayer as a parent and for my children.

Kids Under Construction by Bill and Gloria Gaither

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