Friday, July 21, 2017

Forgetting...



We all have remembered pain. Sorrows from the humiliation of past sin, a painful physical ordeal, or loss of a loved one all provide fodder for the enemy’s strategies against us. He wants us bound by the grief of the past and fearful of what might happen in the future. If he can keep our eyes on memories and fears (neither of which actually exists in the present moment), he might distract us from the nail pierced hands and feet of the Savior who bore these sufferings for us. 

Memories of painful experiences from the past can continue to wield power over current behaviors. Here is deception-busting truth: Jesus, by taking our sins and sorrows upon Himself, severed bonds to the past that otherwise would have crippling power to influence us for the remainder of our lives. This is what it means to have our sins removed as far as the east is from the west.*


    Jesus has walked with us through every dark night and pain-filled moment. He never left us even during times of sin or seasons of suffering. When he didn’t remove the pain, He bore it with us, shortened its duration; and loved us through it. We may not understand the whys of difficult days but we need not be bound by past memories or fears for the future. We can choose to trust in our Savior’s love. We can cast our cares on Him. 



*Psalm 103:12

Today's post is from One Hundred Days to Freedom, day 14


Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Shortcomings...



My sweet and beautiful daughter, Melinda, is a busy homeschooling mom to three busy little boys. No one I know does more or works harder, but she runs in a near-constant state of overwhelm, and the enemy likes to bring whispers of "not good enough" against her.

Yesterday I prayed that the Lord would provide encouraging words, and then wrote an email to my daughter. When I reread what I'd written, I realized He had answered my prayer, as it was quite definitely not of me, but of the the Lord.

Here is that message to Melinda with a prayer that it will encourage weary caregivers as well:

Just walk the path before you.  It is the striving and reaching that increases one’s strength.  Don’t give way to discouragement, and don’t listen to the enemy’s tiresome “you’re no good” litany. Praise and thanksgiving sensitize the heart to those golden moments that are touches of Heaven on earth, and simultaneously silence the enemy’s nonsense.   
The Lord is with you. Your shortcomings, inadequacies, and failures in no way impact God's power, provision, and perfection. He is not only your God, He is your partner in your prayers, work, desires of your heart, and most of all in your love for your children. You are not enough, but God is.   
His power is made perfect in weakness.  Fall back into His arms not in that you stop trying, but in the sense that resting on His strength will imbue your strivings with Holy Spirit power.  Specifically, this looks more like trusting rather than additional Bible reading or study; it is an attitude of the heart. But do read/study/absorb God's Word. It is your strength-giving power for this season of your life. 

~~~ 

  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beyond Our Ability to Endure


When we are nearly paralyzed by grief or pain, when all our strivings and struggles have ground to a halt beneath the weight of simply surviving the challenges of each new day, we can be encouraged by Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8-11:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.

This account tells us that even the Apostle Paul struggled under the weight of suffering so severe that he thought he might die of it!  The encouragement comes when we recognize that the God who delivered Paul is the same God who loves and will deliver us; we can share Paul's faith when he says "He has delivered us...and He will deliver us again."  

From Day 31 in my devotional, One Hundred Days to Freedom:


God has saved us through our belief in what Christ has done, and He looks at our hearts ahead of our actions. It is belief that fuels our trust in God, and trust is the necessary foundation of obedience to Him. Through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, the God of all creation inhabits the past, present and future. It is safe to place our trust in Him. 

When we feel pressured beyond our ability to endure, it is time rely fully on the Lord.

~~~

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in Your hand...
--Psalm 31:14-15

Note:  This post also appears today at my devotion blog: 100 Days to Freedom  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Restore, Renew, Revive

I can't see the outcome of the changes that are happening in my mother's life
and my own, but the Lord is with us, and the results of this time of change are in His hands.

 I've feared that my mother and I are so connected through bonds not only of love but also of her powerful need of me, that her death might cause a life-threatening rending in my heart.  I've caught glimpses that the Lord has caused my mom to remain here so long in order to give me time to bring these ties that have bound me to her into His light.  Severing those connections is not a surgery I can do for myself.  

This is embarrassing. What if those tiresome, only-child jokes about apron strings and being Mommy's little girl turn out to hold truth? But of much greater concern to me at this point, what if the severing of those ties finishes me off?  I've had a mind picture of my mother and me in separate vehicles, traveling side-by-side.  I've escorted her on her journey to a boundary I can't cross, and it is time for me to make a U-turn and head back to finish my own journey.  How do I make that turn?  

A few mornings ago I awoke with the terms "restore, renew, revive," in my mind.  I think that the Lord is telling me that when Mom passes away that I can trust Him to restore what has been lost, renew my zest for life, and revive me, even physically.  But I can't see past that seemingly final blow of my mother's passing.  It's like that uneasy moment when one restarts a computer and the screen goes blank.  Will it spring to life once more?  

The one sure promise to which I cling is that the Lord is with us.  He's promised never to leave or forsake us. Whether healing and restoration occurs on this side of the Jordan or after our crossing, He is there.  This fact of His promised presence brings peace.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
--Julian of Norwich


I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
--Psalm 27:13-14

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Resilience

From the hymn I've Found a Joy in Sorrow by Mrs. T.D. (Jane)
Crewdson, Manchester, England, 1809-1836
Some genetic scientists have begun a new way of researching inherited diseases. Instead of attempting to repair the devastation wrought by disease, they are focusing on people who have a genetic predisposition to illness, but somehow remain well.  The scientists call these people resilient.*

The world's wisdom bombards us with a host of terrifying "if/then" statements.  If you have high cholesterol or don't eat vegetables, or fail to exercise enough, or have some sort of a genetic predisposition, then you are more likely to die of a host awful diseases.  For example, I recently read that people whose mothers have Alzheimer's have a higher risk of suffering the disease than if the illness comes through the paternal line (if that doesn't just make me feel warm and fuzzy inside...).  However, if we stop at the point of a sad prognosis that is based solely on human wisdom, we haven't gone far enough, because the Lord bids us to hope and not fear. It isn't that the wonderful volume of knowledge we human beings have managed to accrue is inaccurate, it's that the Lord speaks a better word based upon His complete understanding of...everything. 

Those resilient people sought by the scientific study I mentioned above somehow escape illness. When we think about resilience from a spiritual perspective we might come up with something like this:  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  

When we are broken physically or emotionally there is always a temptation to give way to despair. But lets remember those resilient folks who, based on their broken genetic health, ought to become sick but do not.  We serve a God whose trademark move is to bring life from death.  There is no greater, more unexpected outcome than that.

~~~

*The Resilience Project looks for hidden factors that cause people to be resistant to disease. Read more about it here--scroll to the bottom of their page to see links to news articles.  


Monday, May 15, 2017

You Haven't Lacked a Thing!

Over the past few months I've come to recognize more about the destructive powers of jealousy.  This is pertinent to those of us who are caregivers because we may feel that if others have avoided the heartbreaking ordeal of taking care of someone who has a terminal disease, then they are more blessed than we. When the disease is Alzheimer's, our caregiving journeys may have become expensive both in terms of our finances and our hearts.

My mom had been acting strangely for at least two years when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the spring of 2004.  It is with a sense of grief-tinged wonder that I realize our lives have been impacted by her Alzheimer's disease for 15 years.  It is too easy to begin to think in terms of what I've lost because of this enforced caregiving assignment when I ought to focus on the many ways our needs have been provided. Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert, I'm in danger of taking manna for granted.

When God is with us we have no business envying other people.  To complain at length about what I have lost is to ignore a balance sheet upon which truly amazing blessings have far outweighed any losses I've sustained.

When we forget that the body of Christ has different members with varying gifts and assignments, we become vulnerable to a sense that it is unfair that others have been given what we would very much like to have had. It is the enemy who whispers "They are better than you..." or, more damning for the unfortunate victims of our jealousy:  "They think they are better than you."  A sense of having been downtrodden then blinds us to our own unique blessings and creates a fertile ground for jealousy to take root.  We feel justified in ignoring suffering when it happens to someone the enemy has convinced us "deserves it."

The destructive and hurtful results of covetousness are a hard heart toward the suffering of others coupled with a sense of entitlement.  In its extreme form,  jealousy of what others have is at the root of many crimes. Sinful logic says that if you have what I have always wanted then it's only right for you to take a hard knock so I can feel better; you didn't deserve what you have, and I have never gotten what I deserve.

I have been praying to be protected from the envy of others and that my own heart stays clean of jealousy toward other people.  Since I've been thinking in this way it's as though my eyes have been opened to how behaviors ranging from petty to cruel have their roots in one person's envy of another.  Let's pray in this way:

Lord protect us from the hard-heartedness and lack of compassion of jealousy in our own hearts, and keep us from being harmed by the covetousness of others toward us. Keep us from being blind to the suffering of another person simply because we see that person as having been blessed in ways we are not, and make us aware of the many ways You have provided for us all along our life journeys.  In Jesus' Name we pray, amen.  

 You are not to plunder this nation because the Eternal your God, has blessed you in every way. He’s watched over you as you’ve journeyed through this vast wilderness. Throughout these 40 years, the Eternal your God has been with you, and you haven’t lacked a thing.
--Deuteronomy 2:7  The Voice--

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just One...

I have been discouraged.  Christians aren't supposed to be discouraged, so I have added guilt to my discouragement load.  Thus I've found myself struggling against depression, because guilt makes me want to hide from the Lord.

Yes, I know, this is, in a word, dumb.

But here's the thing: I am not very successful as a wage earner, or a teacher, or an author in terms of numbers of people reached, and sometimes this is discouraging. My way of ministering to others has always been one lost sheep at a time.  When I was teaching school I nearly always adopted one special child into my heart, carrying that little one in prayer and spending an unusual amount of time creating activities and interventions that might help just that one.  I felt the Lord provided me these individual children who needed a special prayer and ministry intervention; sometimes it was almost like a spotlight illuminated one little guy or gal; this is your one!

And then I was provided Reading Recovery training; an amazing, life-changing, child-saving intervention for struggling readers.  Reading Recovery teachers meet with their students one-on-one, and I consider the eleven years during which I implemented this intervention to have been the most effective and satisfying of my career.

And then I started writing books.  Books reach a whole bunch of people, right?  Well, not in my case. Almost always the Lord provides me one reader who reaches out, and a spotlight shines around them, and the Lord says, "Here is your one."

It is human nature to think in terms of numbers.  "How many people did you have in your Sunday School class today?"  or "How many copies did your books sell last week?" seem viable measures of success as a teacher or an author.  How often I've had to answer such questions with this reply:  "Just one."

My mom's Alzheimer's disease has been the most challenging, grievous, heart-rending journey of my life.  I've worked to comfort others with the comfort God has given me.  Today my current "one," a precious, Godly young woman whose mom is undergoing the grueling screening process for Alzheimer's, sent me this message:
 "Thank you for allowing the crushing of your own heart and dreams yield a fragrance that draws others to Christ!  I know it does not make up for your pain but perhaps in some small way softens it to know God is truly active, alive and at work through your words and your story!  I know it comforts me that some day (very far from today) I may be able to do the same."
I'm humbled and blessed.  I've asked forgiveness for my discouragement.  How precious is it that our Good Shepherd loves us individually, each of us uniquely, each one of us precious in His sight!  The Shepherd who left the 99 to seek one that was lost does not devalue a ministry that reaches just one.

I am grateful and blessed.