Completing a Holy Circuit

One by one we reluctantly set down our stuff, our marked up Bibles, scribbled notes, half filled cups. And one by one, we laid down our capes and our crowns. We don’t need them here. Not with this group. With this group we are no longer Super Woman. We are not Queen of this domain. No. We come as servants. We come eager for the Word. We come ready for change, for healing, for grace.

One by one, we sit down at the table, weary from the world.

One by one, we experience the prompting of the King.

One by one, the walls fall and the truth springs forth from our hearts through our lips.

One by one, in this group, we confess the hard things. The things we’ve been stuffing down. The things that haven’t yet been uttered even to our Heavenly Father.

One by one, the Father leads, the Spirit guides, and we, the servants, surrender, completing the Holy Circuit.

The power and might of the Spirit hovers and fills, covers and forgives.

One by one, we are finally able to breathe. Just in the confessing, the speaking aloud, we are finally able to breathe.

IMG_0967One by one, the scales blocking the truth fall away.

One by one, the chains break.

One by one, darkness is claimed and light takes its place.

One by one, we are released.

The confession, the true confession each of us speaks allows the Father’s plan to unfold in our hearts.

Thank you, God, for the power in confession. Thank you, God, for this Holy Circuit from You, through the Spirit, to your servants.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Welcoming Pain as a Friend

I have always been polite. I learned the importance of manners from a young age. But, honestly (sorry mom and dad), I was just memorizing a set of rules. “Remember to say thank you when your friend’s mom drops you off”, “Don’t forget to say please and thank you at your grandparent’s house”, and “Did you finish your thank you notes, yet?” I was acting polite but not actually feeling thankful.

But, recently a heart change has begun.

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It began when a friend at church gave me this challenge, “Just say the words, ‘Thank you’, right in the face of the challenge.”

“Oh, okay, yeah, I can do that. My daughter and I have talked about how we can say thank you for every trial because it leads us closer to God.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” my friend replied, “but there’s more. You know everything, EVERYTHING,” she repeated a little firmer, ” comes to us through the Father. So, everything, EVERYTHING is allowed in our life by God. It’s been filtered through God. So, I can say thank you for everything, EVERYTHING.”

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Mathew 26:50 says, Jesus replied, “friend do what you came for”. He was referring to his betrayer, Judas, as friend. Jesus being God knew what was coming. He knew that he was about to be severely abused, spit upon, slapped, and ultimately killed. Yet, he knew everything that happened to him, everything he experienced, everything he encountered was Father Filtered. The Father agreed and allowed this. The Father allowed Judas to betray Jesus. So he could welcome his betrayer as friend. Jesus trusted his Father’s plan.

This kind of understanding goes so far beyond just a set of memorized words to express thanks. To actually refer to your betrayer as friend, to welcome pain, to walk into the fire,  this takes an understanding of the Father.

You see when I told my friend’s mom thank you for the ride, I was just glad I had a way home. I didn’t stop and think about the heart of the woman who drove me home. The sacrifice and care she took in arranging to drive me home.

But, to be thankful for the pain of my parent’s divorce, the disease that has wreaked havoc on my body, the challenges my daughters face, my husband’s health trials? That takes having an understanding of the Father.

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To be thankful for the pain requires getting to know the Father’s heart. It requires surrender. You must trust. And, you must remember what He has done for you in the past.

So I can say thank you. I can say thank you for the trials. Thank you for the disagreements. Thank you for the testing.

Thank you Father. What is in my life right now was filtered through you, My Father. Thank you.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

Letter to my Child’s Sunday School Teacher

Dear Sunday School Teacher,

You know my child, the one who sits when you ask her to stand.
The one who laughs whenever you say the word, “bottom”.
The one who is loud when instructed to be quiet.
The one who never remembers the Bible verse.
The one who turns her head every time someone moves a muscle.
The one who becomes frustrated when asked to read aloud or write in a small space.
The one who still brings a stuffed animal with her for comfort.
The one who says, “I don’t know,” when asked what she learned that day.

You know my child, the one who knows your heart.
The one who prays for you when you are sick.
The one who knows your cat’s name.
The one who remembers your kindness towards her.
The one who tries your patience.
The one who can tell what kind of day you are having.
The one who melts with your praise.

Oh, dearest Sunday school teacher. Your job may feel fruitless when my daughter never completes your projects. Your job may seem futile when she doesn’t mememorize the Bible verse. You may feel as though your time is wasted when she isn’t on the right page during the Bible reading time.

But, oh, dear Sunday school teacher, it’s your heart she seeks. Will you accept her as she is? Will you love her as Christ loves you? Will you show compassion so the kids in class will know the compassion God has for them?

Dearest Sunday school teacher, my daughter may never remember the lesson from the day, but she will always remember your love.

Sincerely,

A Mother Who Loves Fiercely
Continue reading “Letter to my Child’s Sunday School Teacher”

Go and Be With My People

My health status is in a day-to-day flux. Yesterday was good. I woke up with energy to make my family breakfast. I felt well enough to go out to lunch with my husband. Throw in a couple of loads of laundry, and it was a good day.

Today? Today is different. My alarm went off in time to get ready for church. “I am teaching Sunday school tomorrow morning,” I declared to my family the night before. “Let’s set our alarms so we make sure we are there early so I can get ready for my class.” Laying my plans out there without doubt of the day to come.

Sunday morning came, my alarm sounded. My energy low. Fatigue high. The battle in my mind began. Do I stay home? Do I go and not teach Sunday school? Do I go and try to teach? The kids are 4 and 5 years old and full of energy. The lesson will include games and projects requiring a fully engaged and healthy leader. God…is that me today? Can I really do this today?

I feel the pull….Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am so tired…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, they are preschoolers…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am having difficulty standing up today.

Go and be with my people.

But, God…

Go and be with my people.

Walking into church, I am greeted by a warm, familiar face who knows my physical and emotional battle. She knows because just days prior she was in the women’s group at church where each woman courageously shared a current struggle they are facing. Not the usual, “Hi, I am Lisa, I have gone to church here for 11 years. I have a husband, 2 kids and 2 cats…” No, none of that surface level stuff. No, more like, “I am Lisa. I have struggled with anxiety, am currently struggling with depression and am in the process of testing for a kidney transplant.” How’s that for real? Woman after woman shared hard things. Woman after woman cried. Woman after woman opened up their hearts. And, woman after woman loved on the one next to them. Go and be with my people.

After the hug and encouragement from the saint who greeted me, I headed up the stairs to my classroom. My 13-year-old daughter, also my teaching assistant, rushed up the stairs to see what she could do to help in the classroom. Scanning the lesson, she determined which parts of the lesson she would lead. Choosing the parts which require action and preparation, she relieved my concerns. Go and be with my people.

Then come the kids. One by one, they entered the classroom, each flashing me a smile, some offering a hug as well. The delightful energy and happy chatter spread to my soul. One by one they took off their shoes and became comfortable in our little classroom. I watched the kids build with blocks. I laughed at the funny greetings they gave each other. I marveled at how tall they were becoming. Go and be with my people.

Time to sit down in our circle for prayer and the Bible lesson. “First of all, I need to tell you guys, I am just not feeling well this morning,” I share with the 4 and 5 year olds. A couple sets of concerned eyes met mine.

One little one in particular looked up at me in a very solemn way, “Teacher, can I pray for you?” Others joined in, “Yes, I want to pray for my teacher, too.”

One by one, they offer their prayers of thanksgiving and their requests. I hear, “Thank you, God for my teacher. Please help her feel better today. Please heal her, God. Thank you for healing my teacher, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

My eyes are dripping now. My heart is bursting out of my chest. These humble, faith-filled prayers are the culmination of what my heart needed this morning. Go and be with my people. 

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I am aware that some of you reading this have not had this experience at church with God’s people. I share this to encourage you to keep searching. There are so many churches. But, also, you will not find this type of fellowship unless you take the risk yourself to open up and allow God’s people in…to know you, to encourage you, to love you. Go and be with God’s people.

 

When Your Burden is a Boulder

A few years back I was one week away from having a scheduled kidney transplant. Leading up to the surgery, there were times when I would tremble with fear. I worried about the pain in recovery. I worried about the medication I would be on for life after the transplant. I worried about my body rejecting the kidney. But, what caused me to break out into an all out panic attack was thinking about how would I ever manage all of my responsibilities during recovery.

In Galatians, Paul talks about carrying our own load but also sharing in one another’s burdens.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.

I don’t know about you, but it’s the whole part about allowing someone else to help bear my burden, carry my load, and share in my pain, that causes fear to set in.

But, as I lean into Jesus and experience more and more of His grace and compassion I see that He is to be trusted. Ultimately it is He who carries my burden. It is He who sees just how big my burden is even when I try to minimize it. It is Jesus who holds the burden and the solution in His all-powerful hands.

My burden…my failiing kidneys, my children’s unique needs, my husband’s health, the lies the enemy feeds me…it all compounds into a boulder too large for my shoulders.

When I find myself thinking I am something, I think I can and should bear it all. I should be able to pick up all the wounded pieces, place them neatly in my pack, and hoist them onto my back. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that I am alone and that I should be able to hold my heavy load myself.

Oh, Satan loves that lie. If he can get me to fall for it, he’s got me. He’s got me in an impossible situation trying in vain to hold up my pack, setting myself up for failure and a heavier burden.

But, Jesus….Jesus who knows pain. Jesus who knows betrayal. Jesus who knows loneliness. Jesus who knows love. Jesus who knows me. He knows the boulder I am facing. He knows what I am capable of carrying. He knows my needs.

But, Jesus…

the Boulder Taker

the Boulder Lifter

the Boulder Mover.

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What a peace it brings to my burdened soul, coming back to the reality that I am nothing. I am unable to bear this boulder. The Lord has not even asked me to bear it alone.

Thank you, Jesus. Those words seem insufficient. I have been known to utter the words, “Thank you, Jesus” about finding a good parking spot on a rainy day. But, to say “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying a boulder I am too weak and ill-equipped to carry myself” seems trite. So, I will spend my life uttering the words, “Thank you, Jesus. You are so good to me.”

 

 

 

Big Feelings and the Truth that Will Set You Free

Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.

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Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.

In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?

I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”.   I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.

During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.

Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.

Here’s what I found:

  • Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
  • Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
  • Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
  • Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
  • Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.

In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame.  I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.

I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.

Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.

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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Passing Up True Blessing

It’s an outlandish story. Two brothers, the eldest holding the birthright. A special honor given to the first-born son. A double portion of the family’s inheritance along with the honor of one day becoming the family’s leader.

Esau held this honor given to him simply because of when he was born and who he was born to.

But in Genesis 25 we read about a pressing need for Esau. This need became more important to him than his birthright.

Esau was hungry. The Bible describes him as being famished. He was so hungry that when his brother offered him a meal that sprawled out right there before him, he was willing to sell his birthright in order to satisfy his hunger.

Oh, funny Esau. So impulsive, so hungry. So foolish.
Funny until I recognize myself in him. The thought came to me, how often do I toss away God’s beautiful blessing for some immediate satisfaction?
The list flowed…

Each time I want the last word.

Each time I spend money impulsively.

Each time I attempt to prove myself right.

Each time I look to my needs before another.

Each time I turn my head away from a neighbor’s need.

Each time I allow my mind to wander during a time devoted to God.

Each time I attack rather than affirm.

 

Each of these times, I have made the impulsive decision to forgo a blessing from God in order to meet my immediate need.

What if I just paused? What if I just held off? What if I asked for the Lord’s strength and power rather than forging ahead with my own plan?

What blessings have I missed with my impulsive pressing “needs”? 

Reading about Esau made me chuckle. But, somehow when I see the same behavior in myself, there is no laugh. Rather than a laugh, it’s time to take it to the Father.

Father, forgive me for bypassing your blessing for my immediate satisfaction. Help me to love you and love your way above all else. You are good and your way is right. I seek you.  Amen.

 

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