speechless.

Not much renders me without words. I can normally formulate an opinion, draw a conclusion, put my heart into words. But this weekend, words escaped me.

My younger sister defines “faithful.” She radiates love and deep care. She faces adversity with strength that only comes from knowing an all powerful and loving God and Savior, Jesus Christ. She always puts others first, even if it is heart breaking. She is a woman who inspires and encourages me. Her faith steadies her weary feet.  I’ve witnessed this over the last years as she faced difficulties and sadnesses I couldn’t sometimes imagine. She never gives up. She always hoped. She always hopes.

Did you catch that? Yes, I can’t decide on tense.

She always hoped her beloved husband would be able to beat his addiction. She always hoped they would find redemption and restoration this side of heaven. But Friday brought the heart wrenching, devastating news that this hope would be deferred. He lost his fight. Lura lost her husband, her friend, the one her soul loves. Her children lost their father. Chris was a son. A brother. An uncle. He was a hard worker. A talented chef. His sudden death has broken many hearts.

But Lura still hopes. The Bible tells us in Romans 5: 8   that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was a day when Chris understood his sin before his Holy God. He repented and believed. And we cling to the truth of that often claimed, often recited verse in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Yesterday, as I sat and wept my way through worship, I felt the weight of this particular sin and the harm it has done. And then I wept more. For my own sin. Every one of us, when we take our last breath, will be caught up in some sort of sin. Perhaps it will be a gripping, destructive sin like drug addiction, or maybe it will be the less flashy sins like lust and bitterness. But we will all breathe our last breath sinners. But those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord will open their eyes FREE. REDEEMED. WHOLE. LOVED.

That thought…..of Chris free from addiction, of the pain and hurts of this world…..gives me joy. But tearful, heavy joy. There remains a loving, young family that needs to heal from the wounds of this pain. I praise my God that Lura CLINGS to Him. I am so thankful for the gift of faith. In John 16:33 we are given words straight from Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is greater than all our sin. Jesus is greater than all our pain and suffering.

Take heart. Have peace. Repent and Believe.

If you are struggling with something that causes you or your loved ones pain, please….I beg you…..open your heart to the Lord. Find a friend, family member, pastor, counselor….get the help you need to walk through this life. We are all broken, but we get to carry each other.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.               -2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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If you would like to help Lura during this time, a Go Fund Me has been set up. You can donate here17643192_1485178672-8449

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lent.

I am really looking forward to lent. This preparation for Easter is something I have toyed with, but never sunk into. But since going to our church, one service that I have typically looked forward to is the Good Friday service. That looking straight at the cross. Seeing what happened and why. And who for. Remembering. Repenting. And ultimately rejoicing. Tomorrow I will begin a Bible study online. I have never done this, either. I will join ladies around the world at #shereadstruth as we come near the cross. If you would like to join in, it is free at the website, or available through a free app, as well.

I need it. I feel a bit fragmented, distracted, forgetful. How can I pray, read the Bible, get “ready” for the day only to find myself in anger or frustration an hour later? I am needy. I am weak. Thankfully, that’s nothing new to God.

Romans 5:1-11{emphasis mine}

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

geekiness.

Today, I am doing something I do well. Reveling in my geekiness. I could try to blame the lack of sleep caused by sitting bedside to a barfing Jude, or my recent work with Eli on memorizing prepositions, but truth is…it’s just me.

As you all know, I’m trying to get better at memorizing scripture. I can’t just read to memorize. I need to write it out. Over and over. Plus, I like lists and blue bic pens. So, as I am struggling through 1 Peter 1:3-9, I was caught up in all those prepositional phrases! They work as anchors to help me get it straight. And to see what is really being said. I decided to sit with Stella as she did her school work and try out one of her class’s ways of learning: doodle notes. Here is where that took me… Kinda fun. I am not an artist, but I am solid on this much of my memorizing! I think I will keep adding to it as the verses go on. We shall see…
image

flesh.

How does one Word become flesh and change us?

Words fly by so quickly. Speaking, listening, reading. They are a blur. I feel the urge, need even, to slow down and live life frame by frame in order to simply connect. But life doesn’t often allow for that, so I find myself fighting for it. Listen deeper to those I love, to the words I read, to my own heart.

When I slow down I can Remember and Consider. Remember the Truth of the Gospel (for God so loved the world…) and Consider my Reasons to Trust (I am with you, I will never, no never, forsake you!) These are the ingredients of growing in God. And believe it or not, this combination can transform your, my, Anxiety into Joy and Love.

How, you ask?

Anxiety remade becomes your friend–your door to actually knowing God. It becomes an informative signal, a door to faith. Much like the oil light on your dashboard flashing the need for attention, anxiety remade expresses honest need and distress of faith. When need is expressed as outcry, we are met with joy. When we Remember and Consider, we intercept our anxiety and begin to switch modes, and begin working towards joy. Instead lying on my bed and crying Woe is me, I cry out to the Lord. Anxiety becomes the signal to remind me, drive me, to the psalms, somewhere constructive.

Anxiety transformed makes me a friend to others. It becomes an expression of love and wisdom. Jesus knew anxiety transformed. He spoke the words of Psalms 31 and 22. He is the faithful High Priest who deals gently with the hurting. And we get to become that! Just as Timothy in Philippians 2 who was genuinely concerned, genuinely anxious for the welfare of the church at Philippi, we get to see anxiety transformed into care and service towards others. Anxiety remade lets us know there is a way forward, giving you the ability to help others with compassion and clarity. Actual, real help.

This journey of remaking our anxieties into something constructive is slow, hard and not mechanical. It is both personal and interpersonal. We, I, must face ourselves and open ourselves up to a loving and living relationship with God and others.

It begins with an Honest Conversation. Ask and really ask for help. Live a life of small obediences. Wear a path to the pool of grace. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. His power (divine kindness) is made perfect in weakness.

{all taken once again directly from my notes from CCEFs Anxiety conference}

steps.

{continuing to work through my notes from the conference}

There is a command in the Bible that I know well, and hold dear. It was my grandmother’s favorite verse, if I remember correctly, and became an oft quoted one in our family.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I have liked tis verse, but I will admit that it has at times stressed me out. DO NOT BE ANXIOUS….oh, good grief. I can’t do that! But walking through the verse with the Speaker in mind changes that.

First of all, do not be anxious, fear not, don’t be afraid….these are the most common phrases found in the Bible. God is trying to communicate something, don’t ya think? He is reassuring us.

And back it up. What words come right before that command? The Lord is near Ah, sweet comfort of our God who is with us!

Now, say that together… the Lord is near; do not be anxious… Much better!

No one chooses to be anxious or afraid. It happens. It falls upon you like a cartoon-style grand piano. This is not an active violation of Love, like pride, manipulation, immorality. This is a violation of Trust. A response to feeling or being alone in a dangerous world where everything truly could go wrong. It is hard to trust anything in this broken world.

But God is very concerned in giving us reasons to trust him. He says the same thing (fear not) so many times, in many different ways, all so we will be able to gather up reasons to trust.

Phil. 1:6 he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

This verse anchors your, my, life as a journey of hope.

Phil. 2:1-11 Jesus came near. He wore and faced what we wear and face. And is Alive.
Phil. 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
God works it out. The growing and changing.
Phil. 4:7 the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:3…whose names are in the book of life.
Phil. 4:19 and my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

We have better reasons not to be afraid.
Jesus cares too much to be serene. He is not detached. He is engaged.

So, what do we do with this? David Powlison offers 6 steps:
1. Identify your form of anxiety.what are the cues? How will you know you are anxious?
2. Consider your reasons for trust. Make it personal. These are promises! (consider the lilies…)
3. Name your real troubles and anxieties. You will find it is a finite list. Anxiety makes you feel like it is infinite.
4. Identify what hijacks your heart. Functional unbelief. No, you didn’t stop believing, but you did forget…
5. Have the honest conversation. By prayer and supplication. Pray. Ask and really ask for help.
6. Do what needs doing today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

{all of this is lifted straight from my notes from CCEF’s Anxiety conference. You can purchase the audio here}

a person.

Whenever I struggle with fear, worry, anxiety, panic…….. I fall into a trap of believing I am:
Abnormal
Alone
Isolated
Powerless
Punished

When the truth is, if we were really honest, fear and anxiety is a common trait among human beings as much as the air we breathe. These experiences, or responses to experiences, are very Normal. Now the other descriptors up there are up for grabs, but I offer that they, too, are lies.

All fears and anxieties are saying something. It is sometimes hard to listen to them honestly, because I find they so often are screaming and ranting incessantly. However, if we can give them a chance we will hear them saying that something we want, love, trust or treasure is feeling threatened. Now, it may actually be true, so this is not always a wacked-out feeling! However, quite often, fears and anxieties take things a bit too far.

In the midst of our woes we begin looking for a person. Someone to bring relief, alleviate the problem, fix it. Or someone to blame, take responsibility for it all. But if we could slow this down and really look at it, we would see that we are all really hoping for the Right Person. The only Person who promises us truth. His name is God is with Us!

Exodus 33:16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

He is the only one who brings peace and offers hope. There is nothing I find more comforting, grounding and clarity-inducing.

John 20:19b Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Psalm 46, Matthew 8 remind us that he is mighty, able, and willing. He calms the storms both figurative and real. He holds together the very molecules of my being!

It is when I begin to walk in faith during my fears and anxieties that I begin to see the spiritual reality of my life. I begin believing the truth. Fears tell me I am alone. Faith tells me He is with me! I often imagine the chariots of fire surrounding me just as the young man with Elisha saw with his own eyes.

This shift in focus, this slowing down and listening that allows me to see that there is a destination. Hope. God points us to the future and let’s us know he is writing it and it is good. Our heavenly home will be utterly free of this struggle. And in the mean time, I will grab the opportunities fear and anxiety present me with and take part of this Redemption story. My redemption story.

hope.

Well, dear Readers, be prepared to camp out here for awhile with me as I sort through my pages of notes and wandering thoughts I accumulated in the past 24 hours. How do I describe such a time?

Rich.
Hope-filled.
Grace-drenched.
Love-inducing.
Reminded.
Worshipful.
Grounded.

I could go on and on there. So I need to dip my toe in. I need to start with what is coming to the surface now. My thoughts will not be linear.

My biggest take-away from my time at CCEFs Anxiety Conference is that I want to know more scripture. Why is this something I say constantly and take minimal steps towards? I know that God’s word is the only thing I can cling to I my darkest times. I remember one day where I was stuck in bed, quite content to pull the covers over my head. I had just had a miscarriage and my dad was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. So, yes, just reasons for fear and anxiety. But I was on my bed crying…going nowhere. A dear friend called me up and didn’t ask how to help. Didn’t try to fix it. She stayed on the phone with me for over an hour reading scripture to me. Reminding me of God’s promises until one jumped out for me that I could cling to and rise up. She prayed, emailed the verses to me and continued to fortify me with the only thing that helps: God’s words.

Ed Welch closed the conference with a time of reflection and Where Do We Go From Here kind of thoughts. He spoke of the psalms. Some of them draw a response of Yes, That’s Me! Others draw aspiration.Hope to one day Be There. He closed by reading a “psalm” that has very close relevance to my life, my story, and the lives and stories of my family. He read 1 Peter 1:3-9. At the mention of 1 Peter 1, there were tears flowing. This passage was the only passage highlighted in my Dad’s Bible when he passed away. It was highlighted because he helped my Mom memorize it for her Bible study. There are now a team of women who have this written on their hearts, with a special Ruth Ann Tag attached. So, as I post it here, I commit to joining my Mom and memorizing it. But not just saying the words. I will sit and think on them. Do you memorize scripture? Do you want to? Join me….I am in need.

Praise God for a Living Hope
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.