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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Suppose you could live the life you were called to live?




It is blessedly quiet here this morning. All the puppies are sleeping, including the one who sneaks into our bedroom when I get up and hides herself in Prissy’s bed, making what I call a Puppy Burrito of herself. Whatever. If it makes her happy, it makes me happy.


I decide to take advantage of this gift of peace and quiet and see if I can turn some thoughts rolling around in my mind into a blog. Assessing the situation and the probability of success, I tiptoe to the couch and slowly pull my iPad to myself. I turn and very s-l-o-w-l-y sit back down on Ted’s Lazyboy, where any sleeping dogs can awaken to see me and know that I have NOT abandoned them, nor do I need them to secure the area and protect me. Lord, have mercy.


Success! 


So my question for the day is, How are you at trusting in God? 


If you’re like me you’ll quickly reply, Doing great thank you! 


Perfect! Now show me what that looks like!


And this, friends, is where the rubber hits the road...visible actions that show what we really believe, whether it’s an honest, complete, trust and reliance in God, or a well-held-onto sense of self-reliance that ebbs and flows with our emotional state. 


As the Good Book says, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. For all the world to see...


I heard a sermon last week, the gist of it being, ‘What one thing do you need to change in order to live the life you were called to live?’


At the end of it, my husband and I looked at each other and he said, Stop working! which I completely understand as who doesn’t want to be free of all burdens to live a carefree and flexible lifestyle?  Well, unfortunately that’s not going to happen, I replied, doing everything I could not to roll my eyes. He had a point but I’m thinking that’s not what the Priest was asking...he was looking for something obtainable. Sure my husband could stop working, but I don’t think it would end well for us...


So when my husband turned and asked me what my one thing was, I was hard pressed to identify it. I told him I need to think about it. 


So I did. For all of one day.


You see, I had a decision to make...a time sensitive decision, meaning I couldn’t ignore it or put it off indefinitely: Should I or should I not go with my sister to Nevada/Utah for a week in October? My nephew, Zachary, who with his dance partner does this amazing thing on ice skates, would be competing in Las Vegas. This trip would be an opportunity for me to see him, and then from there to head to Zion and Bryce National Parks for a week with my sister. Knowing how much I love her and him and the Southwest, it really shouldn’t have been that hard of a decision, right? 


Well, it was. As I looked at all the pros and cons of this opportunity, the What-Ifs began their endless chanting...clamoring for my attention...reminding me of all the things that could go wrong while I was away. And not only to me, but to my husband, my dogs, my home, and on and on until I had pretty much established plane crashes, traffic accidents, sickness, starvation, and everything short of a nuclear Holocaust or Yellowstone erupting occuring while I was away.


I became tense and snappish, with depression trying to squeeze its way in to join the party.


It was then that I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the one thing I need to get rid of is Fear. If I ever want to live a life of peace and trust and joy, it had to go.


Well, it just so happens (read: Divine Providence) that I am leading a Zoom study now on the book Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen and the current chapter is...ready? Unafraid. I do believe that there are no coincidences that are not Divinely inspired. This one chapter had a destiny to be read by me for such a time as this. 


The premise of the chapter was simple. When you feel the weight of Fear settling on you…and your mind begins to spiral… Stop. Look. And Listen. 


Stop.  Whatever you’re doing, take the time to acknowledge the Fear. Don’t let it skulk around the edges of your mind, shredding your peace.


Look.  What lie is Fear telling you? It’s so important to identify the lie so that you can…


Listen.  And ask the Holy Spirit what God has to say about that lie. And then go to battle against the one who only comes to seek and kill and destroy...your life, your peace, your hope. 


It’s that easy! The enemy knows it but sure doesn’t want us to know it also. 


For me, it was believing the lie that I was in control of my life, and only by being in control was I safe...and not only me, but everyone and everything I loved. It was up to me to keep it all together.


The truth?


That God is Lord over all and that all things...everything...are in His control. All He asks of me is to trust and rest in Him and His faithfulness and love for me, no matter what comes my way. 


Wow. 


With tears running down my face, I humbly confessed this revelation to my husband, emphasizing how sick and tired I was of being held captive to Fear...afraid to try new things...to take chances. I desperately wanted to come out of hiding and live again. 


Being the godly man he is, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Now you have to go. Just to show you are no longer fearful!”


You gotta love this man!


So yes, I did decide to go on the trip with my sister. All my fears and insecurities melted away before the trust I placed in God. I chose to rest in the truth that even if the worst happens, God will still be in the midst of it. And if the best happens? We’ll be 2 crazy almost-old ladies singing off key as we drive, stopping at every unique coffee cafe, eating Southwest food for every meal, and standing side by side in awe of the incredible, heart-gripping beauty around us.


And to think I almost said, No.


Sitting here today, encouraged that the puppies slept the whole time I wrote, this was what I opened to in my Bible. It was like a hug from God. A hug saying, Welcome Home, my Beloved. I’m so glad you’re here...


You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not stray, 

or else you may fall. 

You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost. 

You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.  

Consider the generations of old and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed? 

Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken? 

Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected? 

For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.


Ben Sira 2:7-11

In a chapter entitled Trust in God.





Friday, September 17, 2021

Help! I'm being held captive.



Help. I’m being held captive.

I’m on my couch and I’m being watched. Every move I make, every breath I take is noticed.


It’s been hours since I’ve eaten. My coffee is almost gone and what there is, is cold.


I’ve been deprived the use of my Bible…it’s too far away for me to reach. I’ve heard about tactics like this. Ditto for my study books. And if I get up to get them, I will be seen. And then it will not end well.


Like the movie Monsters Inc says, “I’m always watching you Wyzowski, always watching.” I will never watch that movie again.


Note to self: never sit down again without food and sustenance nearby. Like they tell elderly people…put bags of food on the floor around the house so if you fall, you won’t starve. All I have are jars of dog biscuits next to me. If I’m forced to eat them, I will. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.


I decide that they can control my body but they cannot control my mind. 


Wait. My captors are sleeping. Snoring even. Now’s my chance! Slowly moving forward so the seat doesn’t creak, I push myself up. Yes! They are unaware of my escape! Keeping an eye on them, I move stealthily towards the kitchen…it is the promised land and I must go. 


Slowly I go, step by step, inch by inch…


Casting one more glance behind me, I round the corner…I am out of their range of sight…in view of the coffee pot and the pantry. Angels are singing and the Hallelujah Chorus is playing! Glory!


Almost there…the smell of the coffee makes me want to run, but I know that would be my final mistake. Slow and steady wins the race…I mean, escape…


Oh no! A rodent from outside has fallen onto our window feeder! Thump! I watch in horror as my captors jump up, screaming what I’m sure are threats to the invader. 


They look at me as if to say, This thing could kill you! Never leave our sight again or we will be forced to cause you anguish.


Oh no! Not anguish!


I’ve heard rumors from those who have lived to tell about similar experiences… that my captors intentions are for good, not evil. They want to protect me…keep me safe. For this reason they will never abandon their post. 


I question this.


With head hung low, I scuffle back to my seat. My escape has failed. 


With imploring eyes I beg them, Before I sit down again, please, please may I be allowed to use the potty?


Only if we accompany you. Which they do, surrounding me...pressing against me…watching me. Is nothing sacred? 


How much longer, Lord?


Not willing that I should escape again, they nudge me back to my chair. They sit down beside me. I am surrounded.


Wait, I think one of them is trying to suffocate me! She’s on my chest…she’s burying herself in my neck. The other one looks on in envy. If only she had thought of that first!


This is the end. I know it. With one last glance around my beautiful home, filled with a lifetime of memories, I whisper a quiet goodbye to this blessed world I had once known.


I have no regrets. 


Not even losing my freedom to two, tyrannical, ever-devoted, Chihuahuas. 


❤️ I die a happy woman. ❤️


The End. ☺️









Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Looking for bread in all the wrong places

 


There are days that I have meltdowns...when I find it more comforting to sit and bewail my circumstances, weeping and moaning and becoming as useful as a dishwasher with no water.

Sunday was one of those days.

I woke up feeling edgy, which is never a promising thing. Well, it is promising, but not for smooth sailing, but more for high winds and choppy seas. My little boat was rocking and I knew a storm was coming.

Why would you have a meltdown, you ask?

Food. It was all about food.

You see, I have this thing about weekend breakfasts...that they should be special and a time of sitting down together and sharing not only good food, but companionship. It's an expectation I wake up with every Saturday and Sunday morning. In the past it was an expectation that I could easily fulfill, no problem.

This past Sunday morning, however, I felt overwhelmed even before I dragged my tired body out of bed, I knew it wasn't going to end well. Plunking myself down on the couch with a steaming cup of coffee, I thought, Not again. I just can't do it. I can't think of anything I want to eat. I'm sick of cooking. I hate having diabetes and on and on and on. By then the meltdown was secured.

All I wanted was the good ol' days...when brunches looked like pancakes and bagels and muffins. For that matter, anything that had carbs and sugar in it. I was sick and tired of veggies and eggs and meats. Let me tell you, people who say they are not addicted to food are delusional. Eating is not only physical but emotional, and it does not like to be changed. I am a living testimony to that.

So I sat on that couch for an hour, sobbing my heart out. When Ted had the courage to sit down with me, I told him, I would rather be able to eat what I want and die early, than to have to do this for the rest of my life. Yeah, pretty pathetic. Ted went on to remind me of people we know who have not listened and obeyed what they needed to do, and the consequences of those choices. Like kidney failure, amputation, losing their eyesight, and death. You would have thought that that 2x4 being whacked against my head would wake me up, but no, I kept on wailing.

I don't know, maybe sometimes we just need a pity party. God gives us that grace. But only for so long. Lord, if it was my kid doing this, I would have sent him to his room and let him know that he could come out when he calmed down, and then he would still have to eat what I told him.  

Anyway, we had thought we would actually go to church that morning but I was no mood whatsoever. So we stayed home and turned on our favorite service who has our most favorite Priest, Father Mike. Week after week after week his messages have been spot-on. As the service began, somewhere in my weary spirit I whispered, Lord, I can't do this anymore. I need your help. I desperately need to hear from you today. Please. I beg you. Don't abandon the work of your hands.

I don't know if Ted heard what I heard during the message. For all I know, he could have heard something completely different...something he needed to hear...something like, how not to murder your wife when she's driving you crazy. Lord have mercy.

With great humility I say that God was faithful to my heart cry...just the Gospel reading told me that. 

"My Father gives you the true Bread from Heaven. I am the Bread of Life- he who comes to Me will never hunger, he who believes in Me will never thirst."

Father Mike went on to talk about the Israelites in the desert...how they grumbled and complained over the food they were given and how they stomped their feet and held up their fists because they wanted to go back to Egypt. They moaned and groaned and drove Moses crazy because they missed the food there.

They forgot the slavery part of the deal.

So God sent them to their room for 40 years and told them for 40 years you will learn to trust Me. I will train you to live in freedom. 

Ouch. Ouch.

Freedom. How much do I really want it is the question. It sounds so enticing. But it comes with a cost. Freedom to do the right thing means saying No to the wrong thing. It means letting go of feelings and emotions and centering on what God has shown me is the right thing for me...not looking around me and wishing I could be like others...not looking backwards, but up to Him.

It involves trust.

Trusting that what God asks me to do is the best thing for me. Trusting that His love and joy over me and my obedience is of greater value than food. Trusting that He knows my deepest desire is to not die from diabetes, but have a life-long testimony of God's goodness and faithfulness to me...one day at a time. Sometimes even one meal at a time.

The flesh is powerful. But never has the flesh been known to want what is good for us. It wants what it wants no matter the cost to us. Even death.

I see now that Jesus needs to be the Bread I desire. When I hunger and thirst for that which would only kill me, I need to see that as a sign of remembrance that I need Him...that I can't do this without Him...that I can trust Him, especially when I can't trust myself.

How about you, my friend? Is there an area in your life that enslaves you? It may not be food, there are hundreds of other options to choose from.

Christ came to set us free. Because He desperately, passionately loves us and desires good for us.

And anything He deems good is worth fighting for. 

May each of us taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Amen. And Amen.

***************

And now for your listening pleasure...one of my favorite artists singing about my blog! 😅






 


 



 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Broken doesn't mean Useless


We live in a disposable society. If it's broken our first thought isn't to fix it, but throw it away and get a new whatever. Being married to a handyman has prevented my doing this many a time, but I can sympathize with those who have no idea how to fix something and in frustration move on to a new product.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I don't have the mentality of someone who survived the Great Depression, but it still bothers me to throw away things that can be reused or repurposed. 

Like myself.

Several weeks ago, after a year of self-medicating with food, I knew my body was sending up gasps for help. I was losing weight at a great pace, which should not have been so as my eating habits definitely did not promote weight loss. I had been at this point 5 years ago and I knew what was happening...my body was no longer allowing glucose into my cells and my insulin was doing everything it could to try and make that happen. I was literally starving myself to death without the energy and life-giving support that glucose gives. 

I knew I had to pay attention. When my blood sugar level came back at over 400 it shocked me (normal is 80-100). I had had no symptoms except weight loss and had hoped (read: deceived myself) to not have to face this again. I had worked so hard to get healthy over the previous years, but COVID and depression and a sense of apathy threw it all to the wind, and now I was right back where I started 5 years ago.

My first thought was to eat something to numb the pain. My second thought was, I desperately need help. I can't do this alone.

I felt like a failure. 

So upon a friend's reference, I met with a Wholistic/Naturopath, who was also a "regular doctor". We spent 2 hours together, her going over my bloodwork and explaining things I already knew but evidently had not learned. A lot of things had to change, both physically and mentally, if I was going to overcome this deadly disease and live a longer and healthier life. She and a Life Coach were committed to coming along side me and giving me the tools and knowledge and encouragement I needed to succeed and beat this.

I still felt like a failure.

I began to beat myself up. I knew better. I could have, should have, would have. And facing the financial cost of the treatment was humbling. Ted had been so willing to support me in the past. Was this over the line? But what was my option? 

As soon as I got home from the appointment I joined a couple of FB websites on overcoming and reversing Diabetes. What I read blew my mind. But the one thing that stuck with me that first day was the post that said, "Yes, it is hard. But losing a leg, or your eyesight, or dying of a heart attack or stroke is much harder. I'm not just doing this for myself, but for my husband and my kids and grandkids. That's what motivates me. It is possible to reverse Diabetes and I'm going for it."

Wow. Talk about an eye-opener! In the past I had centered on what I had to give up, not what I had to gain. I wept on the couch...both from fear and hope...and resolved at that moment to take Diabetes seriously.

One of the biggest changes for me is changing my eating habits: no sugar, giving up carbohydrates in the form of breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. Each one of those yummy things converts to sugar in my body and raises my blood sugar level. I had to start seeing foods like this as poison to me, not comfort. Instead, there are a wealth of foods I can eat that would strengthen me...meats and veggies, eggs and cheese, and some fruits. There is a plethora of recipe sites online to draw from, and the ones I have tried have been so yummy!

I am thankful that God has allowed me another wake-up call. I could have ended up in a diabetic coma, in the hospital. I am not going to stretch His mercy a third time.

I see now that I have literally been throwing my life away. I had always believed that I needed to get it right or I wasn't acceptable or good enough...to God and others. But no matter how hard I tried, I never could get it right...I was always falling short. And so I felt unworthy and defeated time after time after time. It was an endless cycle of defeat. That stops now.

At this point I'm feeling hopeful, albeit fragile, and cracked, and weak. Which isn't a bad place to be. I've had to confess that I can't do this by myself. I have tried before but I did it begrudgingly, there were always excuses and compromises. The temporary satisfaction overcame the eternal good and the battle was exhausting. It is time to talk truth and sense to myself and God. Not that He was surprised by any of this. His patience and long-suffering know no end. Thankfully.

The other day I saw a picture of Kintsugi, the art of filling in the cracks of broken pottery with powdered gold or some other precious metal. The pottery, in all its uselessness and brokenness was not thrown away, but redeemed for further use. And it was made even more beautiful than before. It was breathtaking! It was then I realized that God doesn't have to take away the broken to make beauty...the beauty was IN the cracks! 

My strength is made perfect (beautiful) in your weakness. What a glorious verse!

None of us is perfect. Life has broken and cracked all of us in some way or another. But walking around trying to deny or cover up the cracks doesn't allow God the ability to redeem them...to make something beautiful out of them. Without Him and His work in us, we end up occupying a shelf at the Goodwill rather than in the King's palace.

The world needs hope, now more than ever. Definitely eternal hope, which comes through Christ, but also daily hope...hope that we can go on even in our brokenness. That our life still has great value and usefulness because God, as our Redeemer, wants to pour His love and grace into the cracks in our lives, making us more beautiful than before. We are not failures, but glorious works in progress!

Today my blood sugar was 170 points less than 2 weeks ago, which is a great encouragement to me. But I have a long way to go, not just in dropping that number, but in understanding how to take care of myself, physically and emotionally. It must be God and me working together for as long as I breathe. 

Knowing that God wants to use my weakness for His glory empowers me to share all of this with you...to allow you to see my cracks. You are fearfully and wonderfully made my friend, and you have great value. Not because of how well you are doing or how you are managing to keep it all together. No, it's because you have a story to tell others, a story of redemption from brokenness...a story of hope. 

There's no nobler calling for any of us.

You are dearly loved...by God and me! Shine on!




 

 



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Want to know what Everyday Courage looks like?



So it's Tuesday, the day I have assigned to be 'Write a Blog Day'. 

Last week I came up with this crazy, and probably totally impossible, idea of assigning a task to each day of the week- partly because I need to be more disciplined in accomplishing things, but mostly because I need things to do every day to keep me from drifting into the shadows... 

Monday is 'For Heaven's Sake, Clean the House Day'

Tuesday is 'Sit down and Write a Blog Whether or Not You Feel Like It Day'

Wednesday is 'Take the Puppy to the Greenway and Then Out to Lunch Day' (my favorite day!)

Thursday is 'Gardening and Weeding and Picking Up Sticks Day'

And on Friday I try to find a willing friend to do something with...my 'Be Blessed By a Friend Day'

Of course 'Making Paper and Doing Collage' falls in any open spot of the week!

And finally there's the weekend, which Ted manages to fill up quite well. So far, it's a plan that's working!

Let it be known that I had completely forgotten about it being Blog Day until this morning when I inquired of the Lord, What shalt Thou hast me to do today? And because He has mercy on all those whose brains are mashed potatoes, He reminded me what day it is...Tuesday...and what I had pledged to do on said day...Blog. 

I heard someone say the other day that we are defined by what we do...if you are a painter, you paint, if you are a writer, you write...you get the idea. And though my identity is not totally based on being a writer, writing brings me joy and it is a gift that God has given to me. Someday I will have to answer to God for the use and/or misuse of this gift, so Tuesdays are the day I hope to work this answer out. 

So let me ask you, after reading last week's blog on Everyday Courage, how is that going for you? Has it spurred you on to take an extra step of courage? Boldness? Faith? Have you felt more empowered knowing that you are not alone? I hope so. I know I am!

Just to encourage you, I'm going to share an episode of what Everyday Courage looked like in my life this week. I walked into it, not expecting it at all...

It began with an online post from a local group that popped up on my email, sharing a link to a company to write to if we were concerned about their support of an issue. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyway, I briefly responded that I had recently noticed that another local institution had advertised the same stand. Shortly after, when one of the members responded with some statistics, I asked from where he had obtained that information. And that was it...what I thought was a civil discourse with a group of people that I live and move and have my being amongst.

Until I got a private email in response to my statement/inquiry. I didn't expect the sarcasm and the accusation that I was being judgmental and hate-filled and hey, that's what Jesus called us to, right? I read it. And re-read it, trying to make sense of it. I wrote back and said that posting information and asking questions is not judgmental nor hate-filled...it's a right we have and I'm sorry this person felt that way.

A response came back immediately, basically condemning me to the innermost circle of Hell and accusing me of attitudes and actions that have never, ever entered my thoughts. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. I've had heard of things like this going on, but up until then I had never experienced it. I had assumed that this exchange was amongst fellow Believers...but really, who can know? Maybe my assumption was wrong...

And that's when my blood pressure began creeping up. What the? I knew I was upset when an unloving thought flit through my mind: So I studied Truth for a year with Chuck Colson, what's your claim to being allowed to speak? Thankfully I did not say that. By then it was time to leave for a Doctor's appointment and I knew that this was not going to fare well...which it didn't. No matter how I tried to explain it, my Doctor was not impressed with why my blood pressure was 20 points higher this time than the last time.

Anyway, it was at a long stoplight on the way to the Doctors that her next email came in. It was volatile and full of vitriol and at that moment I decided that no matter what I said, I would not get anywhere with her. So I wrote a quick message back saying, 'I am sorry but I do not agree with you and I will not respond to any future communication from you in that spirit. And I will pray for you.' 

It took Everyday Courage to let go and back away and not say something I would regret. There was a time I would have rushed in where fools fear to tread...having to be right, having to make a point, having to win the battle. 

It's taken me years to realize that the battle is God's not mine...that there are spirits out there that can only be defeated through prayer. And fasting, but thankfully I haven't met any of those yet! Sometimes the wisest thing I can do is to close my mouth, back away, and pray. Yes, I probably will be misunderstood for doing this. And sure enough, when another message came in later in the day and I saw the first few words....You are a coward...I knew that I had made the right choice.

Yes, I'm human enough to wish that everyone loved me...and agreed with me...and were impressed by me. Conflict is not my forte. Just the opposite...my empathy and desire to see others happy often overrides my need to say/make a healthy choice. The fact that I even responded to her first message was a baby step of courage for me. Like the spiritual song says, 'You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.'  When my blood pressure finally came down, I uttered a sigh of relief that I, by the grace of God, had done just this.

Am I concerned for her? I am. I don't know what is going on her life that would cause such anger to fester. But I had to make the choice to turn from her and run to God Who is a shield around me, my glory, and the lifter of my head...Who has all wisdom and understanding and insight...the One I can trust to lead me in the way I should...or should not...go.

I'm not sure if I will ever be in contact with this person again. Since she's part of the group, I very well may. I can't say what will happen then...God could write an entirely different outcome. I would welcome the opportunity to communicate in a healthy way. But no matter what, I have to trust that throughout every day, no matter what comes my way, Everyday Courage will always be available. And for this I am very, very thankful.

And that, friends, is my story.

How about you? Do you have an example of how God empowered you with Everyday Courage this week? I would love to hear it! It's in these small battle that the wars are won, dear friends. Know that I continue to cheer you on and pray for you!

You are dearly loved!







Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Everyday Courage...or the ability to keep-on-keeping-on



What does courage look like to you?

I think most of us have this idea that it's this BIG BRAVE THING that only a few attain...like diving into a frozen river to save someone...pulling someone out of a burning car...climbing that mile-high mountain...any good thing we normally don't do on a regular basis. Something bigger than ourselves.

Now I agree, all  those things do take a superhuman effort to accomplish. I like to think I could do a BIG BRAVE THING if necessary. So far I haven't been called to one, unless it was giving birth. I loved the end result but I sure hated the process. But hey, I wasn't given a choice to NOT do it, so I'm not sure that counts.

You see, the hard part for me isn't the big things...true confession...it's the courage to keep-on-keeping-on...one day at a time...sometimes one hour at a time...in the little things...when life seems so hard and I want to quit. 

I shall call that an act of Everyday Courage.

And to me, that's a much bigger challenge. 

You see, I struggle with depression. I come from a long line of people with anxiety disorders who found it easier to live life through self-medicating in one form or another. The thing about self-medicating? It may appear to make life more bearable for the person doing it, but it's definitely not beneficial to the others around them. They don't get the benefit of numbing or dulling the pain...all they get is fear and the need to somehow try and make it all better. 

I cannot remember living without fear...my elementary school teachers called me a 'worry wart". I have no idea how this spirit entered my life...perhaps it is genetic or hereditary or learned. All I knew was that there was so much wrong and so much evil to worry about...hiding under a desk during the Cuban Missile Crisis...Kennedy's assassination...the Vietnam War...Silent Spring. Or how to keep a cat from being run over or a dog from being hit on the highway. Could I have done anything about any of those things as a child? No. But neither did anyone tell me HOW to deal with all those fears. So, I taught myself to be in control of all I could to keep myself safe. 

So here I am, 50 years later, still struggling to feel safe. God knows that now there are infinitely more things to be afraid of, courtesy of the world-wide-web and social media. The world has not become safer or less scary. 

This past week I really had to fight to keep on going. Picture a rolling, roiling dark storm cloud coming towards you...surrounding you, smothering you, enveloping you. That's what depression is like to me. My senses are alert to its coming and all I want to do is hide. I have begged and pleaded with God for years to take this away...to show me the way through it and out of it. And maybe He will or maybe He won't. Depression may be the thorn in my flesh that He may never deliver me from. There may only be grace. And that will have to be enough.

Do I think about checking out? Sometimes...when I am ever so tired and the journey seems too long. Until I remember the suicide of someone I dearly loved and the crushing pain it brought on. And the hardest part was never knowing why she couldn't go on. But I realize now that she may have saved my life...for she taught me that though the pain would end for me, it would never end for those I love. So no, checking out is not an option.

The question is, what does it take to keep-on-keeping-on during times of darkness? When something bigger than you makes it hard to breathe and you've lost your direction and the light forward is dimming? 

Everyday Courage. Plain old Everyday Courage. To me it looks like...

   * The grace to just wake up and get out of bed. Maybe open the curtains. Or not.

   * Being willing to be fragile, real, and honest...open to someone safe, someone who will enter your brokenness and not ask nor expect anything from you. 

   *  Doing the next thing. Brush your teeth? Feed the dog? Put dishes in the sink? Baby steps. Don't let fear paralyze you. 

    * Asking for help. Wearing a mask only makes the journey lonelier and longer.  

    * Knowing what you need. And doing it. Self-care is not selfish.  

How are you living out Everyday Courage? What does it look like to you? 

We all have fears. We all struggle with something. We all need help. You may not struggle with depression like me. Perhaps you've been afraid or hurt or living life on the edges because it's safer that way. Perhaps Everyday Courage looks to you like...

    * Speaking the truth in love. Yes, you may be rejected but that's not the point. Stepping in to something difficult takes courage and though the outcome can't be controlled, you will have taken the first step to freedom.

    * Writing a letter, making a phone call, reaching out...finally...doing something long overdue because it's the right thing to do. And God always honors the right thing.

    * Making a good choice...letting go of something harmful...embracing a new beginning. Walking in a new, healthy direction is an amazingly good and brave thing!

Everyday we are given opportunities over and over again to be courageous...to choose the right thing...do the right thing. Trumpets may not sound and banners may not wave, but our souls need it. And they are of greater value than any trumpet or banner.

I love that life is a journey...that there are so many truths to learn, and ways to apply them along the way. Have you ever gone on a perfect journey? I haven't! With every trip I have taken there are necessary stops and what seem like unnecessary breakdowns, detours and changes of plans, conflict and times of bliss. To expect it to go perfectly is to be delusional. The same with life...day after day after day, for however long God gives us, there are of thousands of opportunities to grow in Everyday Courage.

I pray this post is an encouragement to you. Being this open and transparent is scary to me. I could be fearful and expect rejection, mockery, or dismissal. Or, I can believe that  I will be accepted, loved, and understood. I choose to believe the second option. I choose Everyday Courage. 

'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Joshua 1:9

We can do it!  


 











Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The dawning of mercy on a frozen heart



I remember the first time I heard the difference between Grace and Mercy explained: 

Grace is getting what you Don't deserve. Example-Christ's substitutionary death on the cross for our sin. We deserved punishment and Hell but instead we received forgiveness and hope.

Mercy is not giving us what we DO deserve. God could have blasted the Israelites for turning their backs on Him and worshipping idols, but when they cried out for forgiveness, He showed them compassion and mercy. 

Huh. 

Many years ago, when we were in a more legalistic environment, we spent a whole year studying Grace. And Grace became our key to healing. Unfortunately, I have not yet done the same with Mercy. My only goal has been not to confuse the two when using them in sentences. I never want to look too stupid.

So all to say, I believe in them both and am very thankful for each of them in my life. God knows how many times they have been extended to me for my stupidity, sin, and overall unwillingness to turn to Him and do what I should, not what I want. 

However, to my chagrin, I am beginning to see that I am very good at receiving them, but not so good at extending them. Especially Mercy.

I don't know what's happened, but sometime in the last year I have become short of temper and patience. Mostly with people...i.e. all of humanity...basically anything that lives and breathes and that I come into contact with, excepting my dog and my chickens. They are safe.

No, it's the i----s that drive with no care or consideration for others...the s----d stuff that I read that shows that the writer has no filter for decency, much less Truth...the lack of care shown to Creation and its inhabitants...a world that seems to be spiraling downward at an extremely fast pace. And there's so little I feel I can do about it. So I get angry and scream out Justice! along with a few other not-so-nice things. Let's just say I have found myself saying and thinking and doing things that would shock my mother, God rest her soul. 

Granted, after doing this, I temporarily feel better but I haven't solved a thing. I fear I am becoming an animal of different stripes who is unknowable and reactive. 

I am not proud of this. I feel like something external is pushing me into this mold, but I keep popping out at the edges, not sure I want to conform to this new creation. I am literally homesick for who I used to be. Once in a while I catch glimpses of her and I catch my breath and tears well up in my eyes. Yeah, sick for home and the way things used to be.

Anyway, yesterday I was "talking" to God about this. What is wrong with me? Why can't I be more patient? Understanding? Kind? Being reactive is not helping me or anyone else, and I'm pretty sure it's playing havoc with my health as I've been self-medicating with food and not sleeping well.

Now I'm not going to say He actually helped me, at least not in the physical sense, but He did give me something to think about. Kind of reminded me of my parents when they had become completely frustrated with my attitude and "gave me something to think about." Just like that.

And that something had a name: Rudolf Höss, an SS officer, the man in charge of Auschwitz and the grizzly deaths of almost 2 million people. A man who surely deserved Hell and damnation for all the atrocities he had committed. A man who lived with his wife and 5 children in the yard near the crematorium. A man who deserved judgment, but instead received Mercy.

It’s the Priest’s fault I learned of all this. Because yesterday, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Priest shared about him in his homily. As he duly noted all the atrocities that Höss had committed, I felt my indignation rise up along with my blood pressure. Where was this going? Surely, if you are trying to prove the point that Mercy does not extend this far, I agree. Thanks for validating what I have been thinking: Mercy is limited and people get what they deserve.

Ugh. Did I really say that??

Then the Priest went on to tell the story of the end of Höss's life...how he had come to see the great crime he had committed against humanity, and the remorse and grief he felt over what he had done. He went on to ask the Priest for Confession and though it took hours for him to recount all the sins he had committed, he received absolution and Communion the following day. He died by hanging at Aushwitz...a forgiven man.

Whoa! Are you serious??? On a scale of badness he was off the scale!

Mercy that big? For someone that evil?

And then it fell on me, a truth that I had been missing for ever so long...through all my days of self-righteousness and judgment and critical thinking...

I was greatly lacking in the Mercy department.

The problem with Mercy is that it runs counterintuitive to our reasoning. And in my mind there are levels of sin, similar to Dante's rings of Hell...from stealing gum at the convenience store to taking the life of another. But the lives of almost 2 million people? That tipped my scale on how much could be forgiven...how big Mercy was. I sat there for quite a while, rolling it over and over in my mind and this was my new-born conclusion...

God is real. Mercy is real. It's His to do with as He likes. And the bottom line is, God has made Mercy boundless and available to whosoever should ask for it...no matter what they have done. Repent and receive Mercy. Me, you, Hoss.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in Mercy.

Think about Jonah, who received the Mercy of God many times over, but in his heart judged Nineveh unworthy of the same. He took more care of the plant that provided shade on his behalf than he did of the lives of those God loved.

But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?" Jonah answered, "I have a right to be angry- angry enough to die." Then the Lord said, "You are concerned over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand  persons who cannot know their right hand from their  left, not to mention all the animals?" (Jonah 4:9-11)

I may be wrong but I think God could be saying that the Ninevites were not too swift, not knowing their right hand from their left. Which means intelligence is not a requirement for Mercy. 

And I love that God was also concerned about the animals! 

So where does this leave me? 

It leaves me humbled and very aware that I do not live in the same sphere of Mercy that God does. I am deeply aware that I need to do a study on Mercy, so that the Word of God can do a work on me...so my heart and soul can be softened. So ultimately, I can become like Jesus. Which is the goal of God for all of His children.

"We can learn from Jonah's mistakes. We are not to view ourselves as better than those who are different from us- instead, we are to see others as God sees them: sinners in need of a Savior, just like us. We should be eager to share his Gospel with others, they they, too, may understand God's power and mercy.”

Jacki and I were talking yesterday and we came up with this...something practical that we can aspire to on our journey to becoming Merciful...

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious- the best not the worst: the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse...Do this and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies." (Philippians 4:6-9)

And that, my friends, is my challenge. And my hope. I need to make a U-turn on this Mercy thing, or become someone that, in time, no one will want to be around. Heaven knows I want to be a kind, gentle old lady, not one lashing out, with no filter, with a hard and embittered heart. I know it could happen as I've seen it. But God, please, not to me.

Be merciful to me, Lord, a sinner. Be my guide, my example, my enabler on this journey to becoming more like you...a blessing, not a curse, a mini-Christ in a world that desperately needs Grace and Mercy. Remove the fence from around my heart and let Mercy dawn in my heart. 

To your Honor and Glory, and the good of all those you dearly love. Which, is everyone. 

Amen and Amen.