Do Not Worry – No, Really, Do Not Worry

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?  

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27

I could be a professional worrier. I used to have an odd believe that crept up on me unawares, I believed that if I worried about something enough, it couldn’t happen.  Odd, I know. When my oldest daughter began driving, I worried about her getting in a wreck because of the roads being bad (Montana ice and snow roads) and I worried that she would drink and drive and I worried that someone else would drink and drive and an accident would occur and on and on. Seemed to be no shortage of things I could worry about regarding her driving. There was something addicting and oddly comforting about worrying. Surely those things couldn’t happen because I worried about them enough.

When her car became airborne and hit a power pole several feet up in the air, none of those reasons were the cause. A neighbor chose to check his mail by parking on the wrong side of the road and when my daughter came around the turn, she saw headlights in what she thought was the other lane. She drove to the right of them, right into a power pole.

My worrying had accomplished nothing. Even in my wildest worrying imaginings, I couldn’t have come up with this scenario. I’d like to say I learned my lesson about worrying, about what a waste of time it is, but alas, I didn’t.  My worrying had no power to prevent anything. Worry only stole from me. Worry stole my peace and my ability to enjoy the present moment. Worry gave me nothing in return.

“When God tells us in the Bible not to worry,

it isn’t a suggestion.  It’s a command.

Worry and/or anxiety is specifically mentioned twenty-five times in the New Testament alone as something we should avoid.”  

Joanna Weaver

Apparently God takes this “Do not worry” command seriously and understands our propensity we humans have towards worrying.

Maybe one antidote to worrying is found in this verse in the question – “are you not much more valuable than they?”

 The more I believe in God’s love for me, the more I can trust in His care for me.  

I am more valuable than the birds in the air and He feeds them. He will feed me.

He watches over them. He will watch over me.

 He created them and designed them to be unique.

 He created me and designed me to be unique.

He hasn’t turned his back on the birds. He won’t turn His back on me.

Heavenly Father, how gracious You are. You know me intimately. You know the minutes, OK the hours, I spend worrying when I could be talking to You. You have proven Your love to me over and over again. Please forgive me for the times I allow worry to preoccupy my mind and my time and my affections. Thank You that my life is in Your hands and You lovingly watch over me and mine.  You are truly  a good God.  Amen.

 

In The Presence Of My Enemies

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“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”.

Psalm 23: 5

I  wonder what good food would do for me in the presence of my enemies. Am I going to pelt my enemies with spaghetti and meatballs?  Do I poke their eyes out with bread sticks? This part of Psalm 23 didn’t really make sense to me and I would ordinarily skim right past.

But recently, I saw this verse differently. The table He has prepared is laden with everything I have inherited through Christ – every spiritual blessing, every physical blessing, every weapon I will ever need, every provision I will ever need. All there – laid out for me. When I am in the presence of my enemies there I will find my weapon. The God who spoke this world into existence and created the many species and ecosystems and gave each exactly what they needed not only for survival but also to work in relation to other ecosystems for mutual survival, prepared a table for us! An orderly, lavishly decorated table with everything we have need of in the face of enemies.

When the enemy of fear comes against me, all I have to do is look at the table prepared before me and find what God has provided to combat fear – peace, truth, the spirit of power and a sound mind.

When the enemy of pain or sickness comes against me, I can find on this table the healing Christ paid for on the cross.

When the enemy of worry comes against me,  there on the table lays the  peace that passes all understanding.

When the enemy of rejection comes against me, I browse the table until I find the adoption papers that assure me that I am His.

 

All these and more are piled to overflowing on this banquet prepared by the Lord. And all I have to do is believe and feast on His provision.

 

 

picture credit: weddingbuffet.net

 

The Story I Tell Myself

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When I am afraid, I will trust in You.

Psalm 56:3

… “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

This is from the book Wild, written by Cheryl Strayed. If you didn’t see the movie or read the book, it is the story of a woman who embarks on a journey of healing by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. I haven’t gotten to the end of the book, I hope it ends well, but this passage stood out to me.

Fear – we have all felt it at some time or another and, if truth be told, fear has doomed many a journey. Perhaps that is why we are encouraged in the Bible over 365 times to fear not. Our journey matters to God. If Cheryl is right and fear is born of a story we tell ourselves, then it behooves us to examine the story. What are the lies we have bought in to? What are the tapes that play through our mind that lead us to fear?

Recently, my life took several turns I did not anticipate. Turns that were not of my choosing or in my control. My response, among other things, was fear. Fear of the future, what it would like, how would I manage in the “new normal”? Oh, I know God will take care of me, I know He holds the future, but still the tapes played on in my head.

After many sleepless nights, I developed a new strategy; I told myself a different story. I played different tapes. I purposefully focused my thoughts on some aspect of God’s character, or repeated a Bible verse over and over again, or just told God of my fears and concerns. I wish I could say it was easy; it was not. The story I tell myself had developed a power of its own but I persisted. Nothing changed overnight, but as the nights became weeks, I found that I could switch channels easily and drift off to sleep knowing that my fears were groundless in the light of God’s unfailing love and character.

Nothing in my present circumstances has changed. My days are still uncertain but my nights are restful. My journey hasn’t changed anymore than Cheryl’s changed simply by overcoming fear, but I know now that it isn’t doomed.

What are the stories you tell yourself? Do they help you on your journey or do they cripple you?

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Lost at Sea!

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“Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!”

The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

Mark 4:39

Some of the kids I work with, I have worked with for over two years. Long enough, I would think, to prove my character about certain issues, to know whether I actually mean it when I say something, whether I will actually follow through with the consequences.  It usually plays out like this: I tell them to do something – clean up your area and come to group. That’s simple, right? And they hear that daily, sometimes twice a day.  But invariably, there are those who won’t do what I said.  I believe they question did I really mean what I said.  Not that they come up and say, “did you really mean that”. No, they are much more subtle than that; they just pretend they didn’t know I said it or that I meant them or that I meant now.   Then they are surprised when consequences are realized.  They simply failed to take me at my word to deliver the goods or the consequences that are promised.

I think that the disciples in the boat with Jesus had spent enough time around Him to know His character and whether or not He could back up His words, but when the storm came up, they freaked.  The storm is raging, Jesus is in the boat and they are freaking out. I would be too, I am pretty sure. I love this part – at His word, the wind ran out of breath (oh, that I could say words that immediately stop a child’s ranting!) and the sea became smooth as glass. Would that I could silence the storms around me with just my words.

Then came the stinging consequence of the disciples lack of faith. Jesus turns His words, His powerful, wind stopping, sea calming words on His beloved disciples.  “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”  If, in the middle of a storm, I could hear His voice, I feel certain He would be saying the same things to me, the same things I would say to the kids who fail to take me at my word. “What more can I do to prove to you that I am here for you? How many times can I say the same thing over and over and over again  before you actually start to believe me?”

I am not different than the kids I work with. I should be; I am older, more mature, wiser, been around the block more, had more opportunities to see God at work in my life, but in the final analysis, I am no more a believer than they.  When the storms come, all I know about Jesus seems to fly out into the wind to be caught up in the storm and carried away. When the calm comes and I see Jesus in my life again, I am ashamed of my lack of faith.  And I purpose to do better next time and hope that I will see Jesus in the midst of the storm.

How do you handle storms? I would love to hear from you.

pic credit: yokum1…

Siege Mounds

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Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it…

Jeremiah 32:24

Walls were built around the cities in ancient times. Walls that were designed to keep the people safe from enemy invaders. Walls that probably gave them a sense of security until the day they noticed that their enemy was building up mounds of dirt along the wall to enable them to get over it. Can you imagine sitting inside this wall and hearing the report that the enemy was advancing and preparing to cover over the wall?  Can you imagine the fear and dread that that would have produced in those people?

Siege mounds came up against our family. We were doing just fine, believing all was well and then a bucket of dirt landed outside of our wall, beginning the process of destroying our sense of security. The first dirt to land was a diagnosis of cancer, not just in my husband but my daughter as well. The biopsies were done on the same day.  The next bucket load of dirt was a water pump that went out on my van, then the brakes, then a delay in payment from disability insurance, then the company my husband works for informed he they would not pay his insurance premiums during his time off from cancer treatment, then bills started stacking up.  One bucket load of dirt after another. I saw the walls we had built for security becoming smaller and smaller while the dirt mounds became bigger and bigger.

As the Israelites watched the siege mounds grow bigger and bigger, Jeremiah the prophet, turns to God imploringly and do you know what God said?

He said, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too difficult for Me?”

I think He would say the same thing to me today.

Are the siege mounds stacking up against you?

Does it seem hopeless?

Are you watching all your plans and hopes go down the drain and feel helpless to stop any of it?

I think God would say the same thing to you to today –

“Is there anything too difficult for Me?”

The people in this story of the Bible go through difficult times, the wall is penetrated and the enemy does indeed take over the city. But through it all, God was faithful and the last thing He said to them at the close of this chapter was, “I will restore their fortunes”.

I used to believe healing meant not going through something, just being delivered from it. And sometimes, that is how God works, but sometimes, He allows the hardship to be something we go through. It doesn’t change His love for us or His compassion or His faithfulness to us when He allows these things to be a part of our lives. He hasn’t turned away, He hasn’t forgotten us, He isn’t punishing us, He ignoring our cries and in the end, He promises restoration.

That first bucket load of dirt was overwhelming and I felt so powerless. Like, Jeremiah, I have no where else to turn but to You, Lord. You are the God of all flesh and I believe nothing is too difficult for You. You know how much I would rather see You just remove the cancer from my loved ones, but I am grateful that Your path of healing for them leads them to restoration. I trust You to work that in their lives. I pray for them that as they see the dirt mounds growing higher, that they would lean closer into You and see Your power at work in their lives for their good and Your glory, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Detour Ahead

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For I believe God.

Acts 27:25

It should be easy: getting from point A to point B. It should be, but we all know it isn’t always so easy. Detours happen. Unannounced, undeserved, unplanned, unwarranted. It happened to Paul and the people on board the ship with him when they encountered a storm so terrible it “blotted out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone”. The crew had been so worried that they hadn’t eaten in two weeks.

Ever been there? Ever had something come against you that left you so shaken that even food lost its appeal? When your stomach was so twisted in knots that you couldn’t have eaten even if you wanted? I have. I experienced that recently when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Some days, it was easy to remember the promises of God and other days, well, not so easy. But always, I had that choice – believe God or believe the doctor’s reports. We all have that choice to make when, in our travels, we encounter a detour. It could be a storm, or cancer, or a horrible diagnosis, or the hurting words of a spouse or a parent, or the evidence of addiction, or the dwindling bank account. It could be undefined, unmanageable fear. Whatever the storm, God has your life in His hands. He didn’t orchestrate the storm for you, or because of you, but He is in control and brings His promises to our hearts in the right time, if we are listening.

Paul was listening and chose to believe God and he was able to encourage the others to believe as well. And God delivered them safely. As He will you and me and our loved ones. Can you believe that?

Father, I am ashamed at how much fear that word cancer could strike in my heart. If the word wasn’t enough there were the reports of the specialists, each one getting rougher and rougher to listen to. Each one making the detour longer and longer,   but I believe You. You have promised to be our Healer, our Helper, our Hope and I am hanging on to You and Your word through this detour. Help me to believe, help me to continually make the choice to hang on to You and Your word, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Casting My Cares

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Casting the whole of your care

all your anxieties,

all your worries,

all your concerns,

once and for all on Him,

for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

I Peter 5:7

My husband and son are planning to go casting today at a local pond. They both have new fly rods and have been waiting anxiously to try them out. They don’t have fishing licenses so they can only work on casting. I decided that in their absence, I would practice casting as well. I don’t need to leave home to do this, nor do I need a fly rod or a body of water; I just need a few moments of quiet with my Savior.

I am good at hanging on to cares and worries and concerns but right now I purpose to cast them off, to give them to Jesus and let Him take care of them. I made a list of concerns and cares and rated them from worst to not so worse. Then I separated them into likely to happen and not so likely to happen, and ones I can do something about and ones I can’t do a thing about.

As I write this, it seems odd that I would invest the time in that, but I found it strangely helpful. Almost like how a To-Do list helps me be more organized, providing I remember where I left the list. I gave some serious thought to this, working though what would happen should the worst case scenario happen. I decided that should it happen, I have done all I can to prepare for that and God will take care of the rest. I crossed some things off the list; when written in black and white they lost some of their power.

I’m not sure this is what Peter meant when he said to cast our cares, odd are, he didn’t make a list and check it twice, but I found it freeing. There isn’t a care on my list that is too big for God to be able to handle nor too small for Him to care about.  He is watching over me and cares for me more than I can ever imagine. What would be on your list? Anything too big or too small for God?

Father, how tightly I have held onto my list of cares and worries. So much so, that my stomach has been in knots lately and I have lost sleep. I pray You will forgive me. I know better, I know You have my life in Your hands and under Your watchful eye, but still the anxieties and cares got to me. I purpose today to cast those cares onto You and allow You to bring peace and comfort and victory on my behalf. If I try to pick them up, will You whisper in my ear that You are watching over me and that You care? I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Solid Rock

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My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

We have been singing this old hymn at church lately and it’s a good thing for me that we have. With these reports from the doctors coming in about the possible cancer in my husband’s body, I found myself getting into despair when the report was bad and feeling relief and optimistic when the report was less than bad. Singing this song made me realize the error there. My hope, my faith needs to be built on what Jesus did for me, what He did for my husband and for you. He took ALL our diseases. Can I say that again?  He took ALL our diseases, even cancer.

When I look too much to the doctors’ reports I can be up one minute and down another. That’s not faith. Faith is standing; standing on the promises of God. The God who will never leave or forsake me or you, the God who sent His son so we could be free of all the shame and guilt associated with our failings, the God who made His will known by having Jesus heal all who came to Him. His report is the report I place my faith on, His report is what I lean on and His finished work in Jesus Christ is what I gaze upon. All other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus, thank You, for being my solid rock, my strong tower, my safe place in a world that sometimes seems anything but safe. Regardless of the doctors’ reports, Your word prevails in Bruce’s life and I am so grateful for that. Thank You for being the first word and the last word and all the words in between. Have Your way in our lives, I ask in Your mighty name, Amen.

picture credit: creativecommunications.com

Catch and Release

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Many years ago, I had the opportunity to go deep sea fishing in the Sea of Cortez.  We were about five miles out when something unseen grabbed the line and began pulling us farther away from the shore. The two guys on the boat began speculating about what could be doing this.  At that time (and maybe now for all I know) catch and release was the gentleman’s way of fishing in Baja. Catch a good one, let it go. So the discussion was about how they would let it go. They were gentlemen, right? This went on for well over an hour without even knowing what was on the line. But they had agreed – catch and release. Gentlemen.

Then the fish jumped out of the water and we were able to see for the first time what was dragging us along – a huge blue marlin. It seemed to hand suspended in the air just over the horizon while we all stared, open-mouthed, but speechless. It was incredible!

Immediately, the talk changed. All the discussion about catch and release disappeared as quickly as the marlin disappeared back into the sea.

The first thing out of the mouth of one of the men was, “how much freezer space do you think you have?”

So much for catch and release.

Another hour or so later, the marlin lay on it side by the boat and they were able to determine that it was about 17′ long. Magnificent and tired, it lay there, awaiting its fate.

While the guys were discussing what to do next to keep it, the marlin caught its breath, broke free and swam away.

It’s so easy to think that we hold things lightly, that we are willing to let go, if need-be, that we truly get that what we hold dear in our hearts and in our hands was given to us by God and He rightfully owns it all. It is easy to think that, until we are faced with letting go.

I am facing letting go of reasonable expectations and hopes about our future. I am facing letting go of my plans, my dreams, my ambitions even though none of them were ungodly. I am facing letting go because cancer has invaded our family and put dreams and expectations and plans on hold indefinitely.

I am choosing to release but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t like change, especially when it is imposed on my by something out of my control. That marlin was magnificent in its release; my hopes and dreams will be magnificent in release also. And only God knows when and how and if they will be caught again. Until then, they are in His hands.

There is something freeing and frightening at the same time about letting go. About laying aside carefully thought out plans and dreams and learning to take things one day at a time. Be my peace, Jesus, be my comfort while I open my hand and let go of all that I have held onto so tightly. Help me, as I purpose to take one day at a time, to enjoy the simple moments: the sunshine, the flowers, the smile from a stranger, preparing the dinner we all love and the family and friends You have blessed me with. I trust You with my hopes and dream. Amen.

picture credit: tropicalfishing.com

Tattletale

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Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
    answer me, for I need your help.
Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
    Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
    You are my God.
Be merciful to me, O Lord,
    for I am calling on you constantly.
 Give me happiness, O Lord,
    for I give myself to you.
 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
    hear my urgent cry.
I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

Psalm 86: 1-7

Kids tend to tattletale.  He said, she said, he did this, she didn’t do that and on and on.  Often times the telling of the event gets bigger the more times the story is told and too many times the story is told to other kids before it ever makes its way to a teacher who might be able to help.  Kids being kids.

Adults do the same thing.  Often times when we are going through a difficult time, we share the story with others.  This is a good thing; the Bible says we are to share each other’s burdens.  But there are times when the best thing we can do is limit what we say to others who can’t really help up and pour out our heart to the God who can.  I have been with people who would rather talk the problem than take it to prayer.  I have had moments like that, have you?

What if we purposed to spend at least equal time discussing the problem with others as we are willing to spend talking to God about the problem?  What might that change about our situation?

We are waiting on answers from doctors; answers that haven’t been all that easy to obtain. Talking the problem, speculating about the problem and googling the problem have all taken up a good deal of our time, and still we have no answers. I suggested to my husband last night, that we stop speculating and wait for the answers and pray and leave it in God’s hands. I have had to stop myself several times today from googling the symptoms and remind myself to pray.

It is so good to have people to talk to and be able to listen when others share their trials and I am very grateful for these relationships. My problem is, I tend to neglect prayer and seeking God and tend to talk with others more than I talk to Him. I purpose to give Him equal time, if not more. How about you?

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer, You alone know the answers we are waiting on, You alone know what’s going on in Bruce’s body and You are  his Great Physician. I will call on You constantly, I hope, please help me to remember to do that. Please help me to remember when I am tempted to find answers on google that You are my source of our wisdom and healing. And when I just want to talk the problem, will You nudge me back to the solutions – Your word, Your faithfulness, Your love, Your compassion, Your power, Your wisdom and Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

pic credit: iteachkinderkids.blogspot.com