Posted in Faith

Ask, Seek, Knock

I’ve been looking at my phone more than ever lately.  Times of upheaval and change call for desperate measures.  Like reading news stories, compulsively searching job ads, grasping at deals on local used items, and researching government programs.

I’m kidding, of course.  But those are precisely the things I’ve found myself doing.  I feel a course adjustment in the works but I don’t know which direction to take, or where it will lead us.  And I’m afraid.

And the words ring through my mind: “ask, seek, knock.” Ask…Google?  Seek…the guidance of website, after website, after website.  Knock on the screen of my phone.  Tink, tink, tink.

But nobody’s listening.  There’s no one there.  There are no answers, no solutions.  (I guess Google just doesn’t get me.)

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“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:10 NIV

In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus is teaching about prayer.  He describes two vignettes.  One is of a person knocking on his friend’s door late at night, asking for food to help feed an unexpected house guest.  His friend, at first, declines to help.  But because the person keeps knocking, he gives in and helps the poor guy out.

The second example is of a father with his child.  Jesus explains that even earthly fathers will normally feed their children when they are hungry.  A good father will not give his child something damaging, like a snake, or pointless, like a rock, when what the child needs is good, wholesome food.

In the past when I have read the first scenario, the message seemed to be: if you’re really annoying and keep begging God for what you want, eventually, He’ll give in.  At least, that is the impression given by the New International Version:

“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
Luke 11:5‭-‬8 NIV

I do believe that persistent prayer is of value for the purposes of developing and nurturing a relationship with God, and allowing Him to shape me and my requests.  Maybe sometimes, there are even forces at play in the spiritual realm, that I need to persist in praying through.  But…really?  Does He give in out of annoyance?  Is He waiting for me to impress Him?  To beg, or show off, or ask a certain number of times?  There must be more to the picture than that.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

So let’s imagine Jesus with us.  Let’s put ourselves in that little circle of disciples, hungry for His guidance on prayer.  And let us listen to how He begins His sentence.  First, the King James version:

“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?”
Luke 11:5‭-‬6 KJV

And then, the English Standard Version:

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?”
Luke 11:5‭-‬7 ESV

Do you see the question mark at the end of the passage, that was removed in the NIV version?  Notice, that Jesus is phrasing the scenario as a question.  He says, “Which of you?” Or in other words, who has this ever happened to?  Who has a friend like this, who wouldn’t even get out of bed to help?  If even he will finally help if you keep asking, imagine how your Father in Heaven will respond!  Will He give you snakes and stones to eat?  No, no…He’s better than all of that.

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Photo by Patricia McCarty from Pexels

This is where I had a little help from an online commentary on the passage.  Elisabeth Johnson of workingpreacher.org writes:

“Hearers today might empathize with the woken-up friend and think that the midnight caller is pushing the limits of friendship.  But in the culture of the biblical world, it is the woken-up friend who is behaving badly.  The ability of his friend to provide hospitality, and thus his honor, is at stake.”

She goes on to say:

“Jesus’ parable implies that if it is so among friends with their mixed motives and self-interest, how much more so with God who wants to give us what is good and life-giving, and who is invested in keeping God’s name holy.”

How much more so.  How much more so!  With God, than with human friends, who may be unreliable.  Or even than with a human father, who may disappoint, ignore, or hurt his children.  How much more so, will our loving God hear, and answer, and fill our prayers.  The first time.  The second time.  The third, the fourth, the fifth, AND the sixth.

Every.  Single.  Time.  He’s not waiting until we get to 100 repetitions in order to listen.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13 ESV

I don’t know about you.  But I can’t spend hours praying about each item on my list.  (Sometimes, I do.)  But other times, it’s just a quick sentence under my breath.  Or even, a thought.  What my pastor calls “dart prayers”:  “Lord, I give this to you.”  “I put this in your hands.”  “Lord, please bring resolution.”  “Oh God…HELP!” 

“Dart prayers” such as these may not cultivate a rich, fulfilling prayer life.  But I don’t think that God listens to them any less.

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Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

In summation, I believe that the thrust of Jesus’ teaching in this passage from Luke is:

Rest assured.

When you hear no answers, rest assured.  You are heard.  The Lord is better than a sleepy friend or an imperfect parent.  If you ask, seek, and knock…you will receive, find, and walk through.  Maybe it will take longer than you like.  Maybe what you’re asking for is no better for you than a rock or a snake, and one day you’ll be glad the answer was no.  Maybe, there’s an angle to your story that He sees, that you cannot.  Maybe, He’s helping you get down to the heart of your needs, and it’s different than what you are aware of on the surface.  But whatever the case, you can trust Him.

And maybe, I’ll still ask Google.  But I know who can really help me.  In fact, He’s the only One who can.

What are your thoughts on this passage from Luke?  How do you understand it?  As always, I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

Those Prevailing Gates (Thoughts on the Pandemic and the Church)

Trigger warning: this post contains mention of suicide.

Recently, an old friend from high school contacted me.  We hadn’t been in touch for a number of years.  I’m still shuddering in disbelief and shock at the news she delivered: 3 suicides in the past 7 months – all people we went to school with.

I wasn’t particularly close to these people, but I have specific memories of two of them.  The first, I will refer to as T.

He was popular, and athletic; I was quiet, and book-smart.  We never spoke unless it was out of necessity.  Except that one time, at his graduation.  He was drunk.  (Which probably explains why he approached me.)  We were talking about his girlfriend.

“You’ve been together a long time,” I said.  “Do you think you’ll get married?”

“I hope so,” he replied.

I remembered this conversation, a day or two before I heard about his suicide.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  Except that, otherwise, I would have no reason to think of them.  A woman walked by me at a campground who reminded me of his girlfriend.

Wonder if they ever got married?  I thought to myself, smiling inwardly.  They were together for such a long time.  Popular in school; and confident and smart enough to probably land good jobs and have a few kids, by now.

As I know now, he never married her, but married another woman and had 3 boys.  Apparently, his father had committed suicide when he was young, also leaving 3 young boys – he and his brothers.  Man, the things you don’t know about a person.

The second guy – C – had left school for a while, and then came back to attend Grade 12 the same year I was.  He wore cowboy boots, and a stern expression, and you could always hear the steady beat of his feet as he walked staunchly up and down the halls.  I was afraid of him.  Until, he joined our class and I realized his temperament wasn’t as harsh as his appearance.  He chose our graduation motto – “Well Worth the Wait,” from the song “Long Time Running” by The Tragically Hip.  He was quoted in the local paper, talking about how great it felt to finish high school and how glad he was that he had come back.

 

However, a couple of months before grad, just as the winter was lifting, there had been a tragedy in our town.  Three local guys were involved in a car crash that took their lives.  Two of them were supposed to have graduated with us.

To my surprise, the principal of our school asked me to read a few verses of scripture at the funeral.  I accepted, feeling as though I had been handed something sacred.  As I stood behind the podium of that small Catholic church, overlooking two coffins, I read the weighty words of apostle Paul, and struggled to comprehend them:

“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:53‭-‬57 NIV

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I wasn’t sure what those verses would mean to anyone until one day, after the funeral, C approached me outside the gymnasium at school.  He cried.  He thanked me for reading at the funeral, and hugged me, and talked about how the words had encouraged him.  He said something about death and how the reading had made him realize how little power it had.

Honestly, I didn’t quite get it yet, myself.  But I was glad that he did.

And all in all, I thought that, probably, he’d be ok.

I struggle to reconcile, in my mind, my recollection of C those years ago – hope-filled, and somewhat at peace – with the knowledge that he has now taken his life.  Or how T – who from outward appearances, checked the boxes we use to predict a successful life – would find himself in such a pit that he would leave his sons in the same way his father left him.  Though I barely knew these men, it brings tears to my eyes.  Was there something I could have done?  Something I could have said?  I feel an urge to go back to my hometown, and do something about this epidemic of despair.  But what could I do?

And I think about the church.  I think about how a pandemic has closed its doors.  I think about the congregation, the individual people.  Those of us whose faith has, perhaps, cooled off…being lulled away down a nonchalant path of apathy, self-service, and disconnect.

I see the normalization of substance use and abuse.  The churches must shut down.  But liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries remain open, because people rely on them to cope.  May I remind you: 3 suicides in 7 months, in a tiny, alcohol and drug-saturated town.  How well are we coping?

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Picture taken from https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2018/10/17/health/canada-legalizes-recreational-marijuana/index.html

A culture that also normalizes, or even glorifies, killing and dying, while diminishing the sacrilege of human life.  Where defenseless, unborn children, unhesitatingly and unblinkingly, have their lives taken away.  (And no, the pandemic hasn’t slowed that down, either.)  Where resources that could have gone to improving palliative care are diverted to legalize assisted dying, and the aged or ill can choose to end their lives rather than live out the remainder of their allotted days with friends and families.

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Picture taken from https://www.babycentre.co.uk/8-weeks-pregnant

Where children are regularly fed images of death and darkness: skulls, zombies, vampires, ghosts, demons, and themes of being possessed by evil.  (Just watch the cartoons.)

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I don’t want to point fingers, or shame anyone.  I write this to myself as much as anyone.  But please, let’s awake to the fact that evil has not slowed down.  Let’s not become so enclosed in our self-isolating bubbles that we forget the role of the church in offering hope to the people who may be grappling for it.  Could we, perhaps, seek them out?  Could we find them?

No, I don’t quite know how to, either.  But what is the church, besides a body of people who love the Lord and love other people?  Is the church a building, whose doors are nailed shut?  A system, vulnerable to breakdown and financial collapse?

Or is it individuals, banded together in hope and love?  If you love the Lord, He has undoubtedly saved, healed, or dragged you through something.  Was it despair, that He delivered you from?  Depression?  Illness?  Abuse?  Death?  Addiction?  Suicide?  Divorce?  Tell someone.  They may be scrambling to find the hope that you now have.

Who reached out to you?  Which member or members of the church body held out their hands, their Bibles, their homes, their hearts?  Remember them.  Do not despise or diminish the power of the church.

The church is an essential service.  Undoubtedly so, more than ever.  You can close the building.  But you can’t shut down the church.

Let us not forget, to be the church.

 

“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:18‭-‬19 NIV

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Revelation 1:18 NIV

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18:21 NIV

How do you think the church’s role has changed because of the world wide pandemic?  What are our responsibilities, as Christians, in light of the present situation?  How may we reach out to others?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

You’re His Favorite

Sometimes, tears come quickly, while words come slowly.  That’s what it has been like for me, the first part of this summer.  I’m not sure why.  I’ve been enjoying the glorious weather, warm waters to swim in, camping, and being with friends and family.

But in addition to these pleasantries, it was like some kind of switch flipped in my brain, and I was suddenly swamped with memories.  Both good and bad.  Forget memory lane – this was a vast network – hundreds of winding, meandering paths.

I realized a few things.  They came together, began to make sense, and were shed with new light.

I speak often of God, the Holy Spirit; His comfort, and His healing.  I honestly didn’t intend for this blog to be so full of spiritual themes.  But I can’t help it.

He has been with me in a special way, lately.  I sense His love, and His kindness.  He loves me in a way that no one else has ever been able to match.  He knows what I need, at every moment.

He gently prods away at my past, helping me to understand it.  I feel His compassion.  He cares too much about my hurts, to let them lie buried forever.  He reminds me of them and is showing me how to heal.

And perhaps most importantly, He tells me that I am enough.  He sees my innermost thoughts and feelings as worthy of respect and love.  He reminds me to be careful, who I allow in.

I know that opinions are divided on the book/movie “The Shack,” even among Christians.  However, there is one thing that I think the story got right.  In several instances, God is quoted as saying: “I’m particularly fond of him,” “I’m particularly fond of her,” etc., until the main character comes to realize that this God is “particularly fond” of every person.

Lately, this truth has gotten down into my heart.  I feel like I am His favorite.  Like His entire attention is on me.  And if there is one message I would like you to take from this post, let it be:

God is particularly fond of you.  You are His favorite.  His entire attention, is on you.

His way of relating to you may be different from what I have described here, just as I relate in different ways to each of my two sons.  One is an energetic chatterbox who tells me everything that is on his mind at every moment.  He wants me to listen to his stories and loves it when I do activities of all kinds with him.  My other son talks less, but has a sly sense of humor, and has been cracking me up ever since he could string two words together.  He likes it when I tickle him, and he’ll often just come and lean up against me, or climb onto my lap and lounge there.  They are so different, and I delight in them both.

So it is, I believe, with God.  All of His children are so very different.  And He delights in each one.

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If you’re hurting, He wants to bring you healing and freedom.  If you have been abused, or are being abused, He can show you how to get free.  If you hate yourself, He can reveal the goodness inside you that He created and knows so well.  If you are stricken by fear, He can become your safe place – the one place where you can rest.

I will leave you with a song that has become my summer anthem.  I feel as though it is the cry of my own heart, through the mouths and instruments of other people…as if I could have written it myself.

It’s hard to believe in the goodness of God, until you have experienced it yourself, or, until you hear the stories of people who have encountered Him.  People who have tasted, and seen, and invite you to do the same.  This is the strength of our stories.  Our testimonies.  Share yours.  Listen to those of others.  It’s all just too good to miss.  

And remember: you’re His favorite.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Psalms 34:8 NIV

 

Posted in Faith, Mental health

5 Small Ways to Stand (On Your Own Two Feet)

Feeling bullied?  Beaten up?  Beaten down?  All of the above?

Sometimes it’s the world that does it to us.  Sometimes it’s specific people.  Sometimes, we have ourselves to blame.

Whatever the case, it’s never too late to get back up again.  Because when it comes to your personhood – your God-given value as a human being – the very nature of you – nobody is able to take that away.

Every human being is created with purpose, and intent, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; Jeremiah 29:11; Psalms 57:2; Psalms 139:13-16).  This does not give us free reign to do whatever we want (Romans 7:15-25; Romans 6).  However, there is a clear biblical basis for the protection of one’s personhood.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

I find it interesting that even though Jesus willingly and sacrificially laid down His life, He never compromised on who He truly was: the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71), the King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11), and a friend to sinners (Luke 23:39-43).  Although people surrounded Him, spat on Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and even killed Him, they could not remove this core truth of His innermost being.  He had come to save the world.  And, save the world is what He did.

With a similar boldness, there are some simple ways that we may stand on our own two feet, assert our confidence, and say: I am who I am, and who I am is good.  Not because I say so, but because my Creator does.

To certain individuals, the following list will seem odd or unimpressive.  And to others, it will make sense, because they too have become inhibited or shamed in some of these areas.  Keep in mind that what is commonplace to some, may feel nearly impossible to others.

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5 Small Ways to Assert Your Confidence in Who You Are

  1. Try a new hairstyle.  You know that short cut you’ve been wanting to try?  Maybe now is the time.  Whether it looks good or not, you will still be you, and you will have some fun experimenting with your appearance.  I did this – read about it by clicking here.
  2. Learn a new skill.  This can even be something small.  Sometimes, we have never done a task simply because others have always done it for us.  After a while, we can begin to feel dependent on that help, even though we aren’t.  It can be very empowering to take the step of doing it for ourselves.  For example, I recently set up our tent trailer on my own.  Usually, this is something I would have relied upon my husband to do.  But I found it gratifying to know I could do it myself if I had to or wanted to.
  3. Refuse to be mocked.  Being open to feedback or constructive criticism that is delivered in a kind and thoughtful way, is one thing.  Intentional mocking, however, with the explicit intent of hurting your feelings, tears down your personhood and is not something that you should be subjected to on a regular basis.  Is there someone in your life who repeatedly mocks you?  Perhaps it is time to calmly set a boundary with them.  For example, you could say, “If you speak that way to me again, I will end the conversation until you are willing to treat me with respect.” Remember to also be kind and respectful towards your offender.  Don’t join them in the destructive game.
  4. Don’t berate yourself.  Perhaps, you are your own mocker.  If so, it’s time to have a little talk with yourself!  No person is perfect.  Ask for forgiveness if you have let someone down.  Then move on, treat mistakes as opportunities to learn, and be the best you that you can be.
  5. Set and work towards a goal.  Giving up says, “I’m not important and will never achieve my goals.” Standing up says, “Even if my dreams don’t fully come true, they may, and I’m allowed to have them. What is one small way I can work towards them today?” It feels hopeless to never permit yourself to dream.  Hold your dreams with an open hand, and be willing to be flexible, because…life happens.  However, so does growth, and achievement – and it will happen to you as well, if you allow it.

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It seems to me that there is very little separating those who stand up from those who lie down, beyond their inner attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs.  The mind, will, and emotions are powerful tools that can be harnessed for the good of ourselves and others.

Do you feel like parts of you have been beaten down?  What are your best ways to get back up and reclaim your personhood?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

And if this post resonated with you, check out some of my other posts related to self-awareness, self concept, boundaries, and generally living in your own skin:

Hey Young Mom, Your Feelings Matter Too!

Mom Fail Number 99

Moms are People Too!

This Shame Problem

Forced to Look

Coming to Terms with Social Anxiety

Warm wishes,

Lisa

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalms 139:13‭-‬16 NIV

Posted in Faith

Praying the Psalms – Psalm 1: Thought Life

The Psalms is a book of prayers.  It covers a wide range of human emotions and can be a catalyst for when you don’t know what to say to God!  Join me as I pray through the Psalms.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

A prayer inspired by Psalm 1:

Lord, please focus my thoughts.  Direct my steps towards the ways that please you.  Please provide friendships for me that will bear good fruit and draw me nearer to you.  Help me to be open to those friendships.  Help me, Lord, to not dwell on negative things.  This can be such a struggle, some days!

Write your words on my heart, Lord.  Fill my head with your thoughts.  Please help the Bible to be meaningful to me; give me understanding and insight.

Help me, Lord, to thrive – could you be my water?  Help me to be healthy in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Help me to do good work that will be effective in the right ways.

I know that your ways are best.  May I not get sidetracked by the things of this world: selfish ambition, wealth – the things that pass away.

Have mercy on me, Lord.  I know that your eyes are always on me, and I thank you for that.

Posted in Faith, Mental health

Lessons Learned from Failure

It wasn’t the first time that I failed, but it was one of the first times that I thought it was time to give up.  I was old enough to be treated like an adult; past the age of being offered undue kindness or encouragement.  If musical abilities were to have been nurtured, it should have happened long ago, and by now, my prime had been reached.  Truly, there were many people ahead of me, more talented, more experienced, and clamoring to serve in the area of worship music.  It is, arguably, one of the most rewarding things to do in a church.  People will gladly do it for free, and not only that – they will consider it an honor and privilege to stand on that stage, and sing.  Dangerously, it fuels a person’s self-worth, to the point of what could become a consuming pride.

So perhaps, I should be thankful that the opportunity was ripped from my hands, along with the microphone – which I had taken up like a scared little girl, though I was in my early twenties at the time.  I would have been more comfortable on the piano bench, but that seat was also taken by someone with more talent.  (And ten more in behind to fill her place.)  This church was sure different from the ones I grew up in, where something as simple as being able to read music placed you in a distinguished category.

My musical training had been quality, but limited in scope.  I learned a rather narrow version of classical piano – nothing more, nothing less.  Music moved me deeply, but I lacked the ability to teach myself or learn other styles by ear, they way that some people can do.  There was no music in my school, and few opportunities to sing or play together with others.  What I was taught by my piano teacher, however, I learned well.  I gained the admiration of my family and peers, who just so happened to know less about music than I.

Anyway – back to that stage, and the microphone that was taken from my hands.  Really, it wasn’t his fault.  There are only so many mics, or plug-ins, or whatever.  I was the least valuable member of the band.  He didn’t know that I had spent the past 15 or so years of my life studying music, slaving for hours upon hours at a piano bench.  He didn’t see me practicing long into the night, striving to master Beethoven, or Bach, or Rachmaninoff.  He wasn’t aware of the dreams and longings I held in my heart – all to do with music – all, painfully, unfulfilled.  All he knew, was that I couldn’t sing pop harmony.  In fact, I could hardly sing at all.  So, I was out.

It’s been more than 10 years, and this memory still brings me to tears.  The man, though I have long forgotten his name, lives on in my mind, in an undeservedly villainous kind of way.  My dream died that day, and he was the one who held the bloody knife.

Since then, I have never again had the opportunity to serve in the area of church music.  I realize now that too much of my identity and value were wrapped up in talent.  The haves, and have-nots, the are’s, and the are-nots.  Had I been given the chance to serve, I’d like to think I would have done it for the right reasons.  But, who knows.

I have also come to understand, that when God “gifts” someone with amazing talent, He is giving it to the church, to bless and edify them – not to the person with the ability.  Sometimes I’ve misinterpreted this, possibly by hearing the following kinds of statements: “You are so gifted”; “You have a tremendous gifting”; “God has given you a gift,” etc.  Does God love the people with the “gifts,” more than the rest of us?  Or did He give them those gifts to serve US, whom He loves just as much?

To this day, I probably listen to music less than any music lover in history.  It’s just too painful.  It doesn’t seem fair, that others have the abilities to make those sounds, while I cannot, though the desire boils within me until I could quite possibly burst.  On the other hand, who will value and enjoy an excellent singer, musician, writer, artist, or whatever – more than a mediocre one, who has failed as many times as she has tried?

There was a prophetic word spoken to me recently – a single word: “Share.”  The woman who spoke it did not know me, nor does she likely realize the impact that this word has had on my psyche.  Share – it implies, having.  Having something, of value, that can be given away to others, for their benefit.

And if this word is true, God sees a value within me that I do not.  To Him, I’m a “have,” not a “have not.”  This, quite possibly, could give me the courage to step out, and reach out, in whatever small ways that I can.

What lessons have you learned from failure?  I would love to hear them.  Please comment below if anything comes to mind.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

Songs for Broken Believers

Well, it’s springtime in Manitoba – time for our characteristic April snow storm!  Here is the view from my back door today:

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The snow began early yesterday, and then just kept on comin’.  It’s petering out now.  Since we haven’t had as much snow as usual this year, this almost feels like more than we’ve had all winter.

In the midst of the snow storm yesterday, I found myself paying visits to the doctor’s office and then to the hospital for an x-ray.  No, I don’t have COVID-19, but a flu that was something very similar ran through our household earlier this month.  Now, several weeks later, I am experiencing some odd pains in my ribs and being checked for infection.  It was a little bit unsettling to expose myself to doctor’s offices and hospitals with COVID going around while I may already have a lung infection.  Here I am, in masked and sanitized glory, awaiting my x-ray:

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Later on I paid a trip to the grocery store.  One advantage for me in all of this is being able (even required) to shop alone, without my children tagging along.  I love being with them, but those trips are simpler when I don’t have to keep a handle on two energetic boys while gathering the groceries.  It’s an odd world out there, as we all know.  It’s quiet, and people keep their distance, but I’m finding that many who I encounter are welcoming of a friendly smile.  The staff at the grocery store seem a little stressed, but from what I’ve seen, their attitudes are admirable – joking with each other, laughing, and smiling to lighten the mood.  (In between their repetitive wiping of conveyer belts.)

In the midst of all of this, I’ve read more news than I probably have in two years.  But as one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa Howeler, reminded me in this post, we cannot find what we need in the news or in the media.  My devotions have been lacking in frequency for several weeks.  An excuse could be, “Well, my kids are home full time,” but it’s not a very good one.  If it’s possible for me to read news story after news story while they’re home, and then worry needlessly about all the possible implications of what is happening in the world, it should be possible for me to read a chapter of the Bible and scrawl a prayer in my journal to my ever-listening and caring Father.

A song was playing on the radio yesterday as I pulled up to the medical clinic, and its lyrics caught my ear:  “Hallelujah, I am broken, I’m broken wide open.  Hallelujah, I am emptied out.  Hallelujah, I am nothing, thank you, for being my everything.  I’m ready now, to lay it down.”  If there ever were a time for us to let go, it would be now.  To realize, we are not on the throne, even though we sometimes trick ourselves into believing that.  Hallelujah…there is blessing in being brought low before God.

I signed up for e-devotionals through my church.  This morning, the reading was John 13, the chapter where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  I found my heart softening as I read it.  When I am anxious or scared, I am tempted to care only for myself.  However, in the moments preceding what would be some of Jesus’ darkest hours, his demonstration was servanthood, and love, for others.  I have much to learn from this example.

I hope that you will have some time to spend today with the Spirit of this Man Jesus, who longs to minister to your soul.  Here are some of my favorite songs to help with that.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

This Shame Problem

I’ve recently begun to identify a problem on the fringes of my awareness.  Someone suggested it to me, a long time ago, saying they had received a little ‘nudge’ from God in their spirit while praying for me.  I didn’t believe them.  They had heard wrong, I thought.  My problem was anxiety, not shame.

But when I pray, and come face to face with God and show Him my pain, I am beginning to see that I do carry around a vast amount of shame.  It’s not even necessarily to do with things that I’ve done wrong, as we would normally define it.  It is so deeply rooted, that, as I mentioned, I didn’t believe it was there.  Woven into my fabric.  A part of myself.  Like a long, long thread that – if it were to be pulled out – perhaps I would fall completely apart.

It occurs to me that, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve suddenly developed the ability to feel shame, they did not only hide their sin.  They made garments, and covered their bodies.  What is sinful about the body?  Nothing.  The body itself is not sinful.  Yet, they were inclined to cover it.  They were inclined to hide from God when He came looking for them.

I don’t think they were only ashamed of their sins.  They were ashamed of their very selves.

Like me.  I’m not only ashamed of my sins.  I’m ashamed of my very self.

I pursue something in life, trying to do some good.  I lead a music therapy session, or write a blog post, and then look back on it and feel ashamed.  In doing these things, which are so near and dear to my heart, and, I believe, true to what God has designed me to do, I am exposed.  My voice, my words, my very best efforts, are on display for others to see.

And it is mortifying.

I fear that what I have done will not be enough.  I will be laughed at, frowned upon, or mocked.  My motives will be revealed as tainted.  (Be honest – how often are our motives 100% pure and unselfish?)

And if this deeply woven thread were to be pulled out, what would remain?  Would I fall apart, as I fear?  Why do I believe that feeling ashamed somehow qualifies me to continue working?  (Sure, I suck, but at least I feel bad about it.)  Why do I think that the shame holds me together, when in reality it only causes me to hide?

Today I re-read an article that said to not compare yourself to the faster runners, or the slower runners, but to just run your own race.  I’ve been taught by the wise teachers in my life to “leave the results up to God.”  I’m not sure why he would create, in me, such a flawed vessel.  But He did.

And after Adam and Eve sinned, He still went looking for them.

He said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”

He knew what He had made, before they felt it necessary to hide it.  And in fact, He had said that it was “good.”

He could have made me differently, or done away with me altogether, a long time ago.  He could prevent me from ever leading another session or writing another post.

But He doesn’t.

Maybe that, in itself, is saying something.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Am I making sense, or no?  I would love to hear your wisdom and ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

Groundhog Day

It was Groundhog Day, six years ago, when she died.  A woman of 35, the same age that I am right now.  As we drove the 14 hours that it was to her funeral, over wind-whipped plains, I thought about midwinter.  The white drifts that seemed to go on forever.  The hard, encrusted snow.  The bitter cold.

And in her life, the illness.  The grief.  Her trials and tragedies, and her past, which had never released her.

Through my tears, I remembered her husband: the man now left a widower.  And the irony of that movie, “Groundhog Day.”  Of all the days to relive endlessly, ruthlessly – is that what would now happen to him, in his mind?

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I don’t know this kind of grief.  But I have had winters.  Proverbs 13:12 says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  “Hope deferred?”  Oh yes.  “Heart sick?”  The weak, fluttery feeling in your chest; the weight in your stomach; the heaviness that follows you, slowing your every move and thought…yes.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10

Groundhog Day may seem like a silly tradition to some.  To me, it makes sense.  At this lowest, deepest point of cold on the calendar, we’ll cling to any shred of hope that winter will not last forever.  “Early spring,” “6 more weeks of winter” – either one is a blessed reminder:  Spring is coming!  Hallelujah!  Just hang on, a little longer!

And as for our emotional winters?  One scripture that has encouraged me is a prophetic word, given to an ancient people that lived in biblical times.  However, as prophetic words often go, its core truth is applicable across culture, time, and space:

“An oracle concerning Dumah: Someone calls to me from Seir, ‘Watchman, what is left of the night?  Watchman, what is left of the night?’

The watchman replies, ‘Morning is coming, but also the night.  If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again.'” Isaiah 21:11-12

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God created a world where suffering was possible, and He doesn’t stop all of it.  He brings all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and there is purpose in what He allows to happen.  But He made the night, as well as the day.  The winter, as well as the summer.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

Yet He reminds us, through the coldest days of winter, and the darkest hours of night: “Morning will come.  Inquire again later – don’t stop asking.”

In the meantime, we may need to fast – from having our hopes realized, or our pains taken away.  When we fast from food, each pain of hunger is a reminder to pray.  So it is when we suffer.  Let the pain incite you to pray.  In your weakness, press in to God, that He may strengthen you.  Do not forget, that He cares for you.  And the morning will come.  The snow will melt; spring will arrive.  It may take longer than we like, but the winter will not last forever.

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Jesus, have mercy on us in our seasons of suffering.  Be near, comfort us, limit our pains and times of trial.  Help us, Lord, to not lose hope.  You said the morning will come.  May we have the strength to wait patiently for it!

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18