Moods

But now thus says the Lord,

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name,

you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not

overwhelm you;

when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

~Isa. 43:1-3 (NRSV)

 

It is so easy to let my moods hold power over me. Sometimes it just sneaks up behind me and grabs on tightly. I struggle for patience. Soon I am snapping at those closest to me.

“Are we condemned to be passive victims of our moods?  Must we simply say:  ‘I feel great today’ or ‘I feel awful today,’ and require others to live with our moods?

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by living a well-disciplined spiritual life.  This can prevent us from acting out of our moods.  We might not “feel” like getting up in the morning because we “feel” that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work is boring.  But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over  us.” ~Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen.

Reading God’s Word reminds me who walks through the storms with me. He will not let me be overwhelmed. When I am in the midst of fire, He will not let me be burned. God knows my name. He formed me and created me. My moods have no true power. They do not have to define my day. “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isa, 41:13)

Heavenly Father, I thank You for this new day you have given me. I thank You for the house I live in, the food I have in my cabinets, and the love of family and friends. I thank You for Your Word from which I can draw strength to face the day. I thank You also for the reminder that my mood does not have to hold power over me. Amen.

Not who I am

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

~Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

One hard lesson that has been a long time coming is that I am not who I feel I am. If I felt bad then I must be bad. That the panic I feel inside must mean that something is wrong. The hard lesson learned is that you can’t always trust how you feel.

A dear friend of mine is moving. She expressed how overwhelming packing feels. It feels that it is more than she can do. When talking about packing up her stuff she said that even though she felt like running to bed and pulling up the covers she knew that she had to do something even a little bit. Once she got started she found it got easier. If she listened to how she felt and believed her feelings were reality, she wouldn’t have gotten anything done.

I like the way Henri Nouwen talks about feelings not defining who we are in his book, Bread for the Journey, “Our emotional lives move up and down constantly.  Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos.  A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings.  Mostly we have little control over these changes.  It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life.  Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us.  As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are.  We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.”

Another good friend of mind says we are taught to trust our feelings but some days it isn’t so simple because we don’t seem to be thinking clearly, too much is coming at us or depression has set in. What do we do in these times we can’t trust what we feel? In Philippians 4:18 it says “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

On days I can’t think clearly, I try to set my mind on things that I do know to be true. I know that God loves me and that I am a beloved child of God. Not everyone knows this and I count myself lucky to know this truth. I think on good, lovely admirable things that I know; those things I have stored in my heart for such a moment as this and I keep moving one step at a time. Like my friend who is overwhelmed with packing, each step I continue to take I seem to move away from the confusion.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the good moments in life that are stored in my heart like a picture album. I thank You for the truth that I am Your child and that I am so loved by You. I thank You that Your Word is planted in me so that when I need words of comfort they surface. I thank You for the Holy Spirit that lives in me, prodding me towards the things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Amen.

Time to move on

At Horeb, the LORD our God told us: You’ve been at this mountain long enough. Get going! Enter the hills of the Amorites and the surrounding areas in the desert, the highlands, the lowlands, the arid southern region, and the seacoast—the land of the Canaanites—and the Lebanon range, all the way to the great Euphrates River.  Look, I have laid the land before you. Go and possess the land that I promised to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as to their descendants after them. ~Duet. 1:6-8 (CEB)

There are some things I just never seem to get over. Oh, yes, time does ease the pain of it but some scars will always be with us. I used to get mad at myself when “anniversaries” came around and I found myself siting in old pain. I have come to a point that I don’t get upset and instead allow myself some extra space to deal with what I know is coming. I have learned to accept that the pain is real (even if illogical) and sometimes I might need to sit with it.

One day when I was reading about Elijah, his story gave much insight. After doing a mighty deed with God in calling down rain when the false gods remained silent (1 Kings 18), when he should have been feeling on top of the world, Elijah let fear slip in when Jezebel swore to have him killed. Elijah ran away to Mount Horeb. Elijah sunk into such a deep depression that he couldn’t function. God didn’t berate Elijah but instead sent a messenger to tend him. God allowed Elijah some time to his feelings but after a little while God’s Word comes to Elijah. There is work to be done. It’s time to get back to living, back to the work you have been called (1 Kings 19).

The scripture from Deuteronomy 1:6-8 is telling the Israelites the same thing. You have been wandering around in the desert building up your strength long enough. It is time to move into the promise I have for you. Sometimes it is important to be still. In our stillness we are reminded who God is (Psalm 46:10). In our stillness we are reminded that God has a plan for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). But if we remain still for too long fear will begin to take hold.

When I get nervous about moving on, I recall verse 8 from Deuteronomy 31, “But the LORD is the one who is marching before you! He is the one who will be with you! He won’t let you down. He won’t abandon you. So don’t be afraid or scared!” Living hurts, but we are not meant to stay in the sad moments. God has promised great joy. (John 15:11)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your promise of joy and of hope. I thank You for the people You placed in my life to walk with me on this journey.

A shield

All God’s words are tried and true; a shield for those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

 

In reading what I scheduled to be posted for the day after my father in laws funeral, I have thought more about walking through life acting like we have it all together even when we don’t.

In my post for this day I had talked about knowing a truth with your head but not feeling it in your heart yet. God knows we need places to hide. Not the masks of “I have it all together” but a shield of “I know I don’t have it all together but I know the One who does”. It seems the psalms are riddled with poetic lines that sing of safe place of rest, shields from the troubles that surround at all sides.

But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. ~Psalm 3:3

God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. ~Psalm 7:10

The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety. ~Psalm 18:2

God! His way is perfect; the Lord’s word is tried and true. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:30

You’ve given me the shield of your salvation; your strong hand has supported me; your help has made me great. ~Psalm 18:35

The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. ~Psalm 84:11

God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. ~Psalm 91:4

God is my loyal one, my fortress, my place of safety, my rescuer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, and the one who subdues people before me. ~Psalm 144:2

This Shield protects us while we figure out how to move on in our journey. It protects us as we try to move on in our lives. Life happens, someone dies, tragedy strikes, illness occurs, a court decision doesn’t go the way we think it should, a spouse falls back into addiction, a child has been arrested. God wants to provide us with a safe place while we struggle with questions of why and how to continue on. God gives us a resting place in him while we struggle with learning the Truths and until we are able to embrace them

How do you continue forward when your heart is breaking? I have asked this a lot… Maybe it is in the little things: a smile at my son when I feel like crying, a walk with my husband though I want to be alone, a laugh with my daughter when there is so much to do, a cup of coffee with a friend despite a busy schedule, reading my Bible even though I am mad at God… Maybe it is in the daily tasks: of doing laundry when I’d rather stay in bed, fixing my hair when I’d rather put it in a ponytail, cooking a meal when I’d rather not eat, dusting when I’d rather just read… It amazes me how much better I feel after doing these simple acts of life.

God shields my heart wile I go through the act of living until it feels right again, one smile at a time, one task at a time, a gift of normalcy not meant to be a burden but a way for us to carry on. We are supposed to ever move on. It is the nature of living.

Heavenly Father, shield my heart this day as I take this day one step at a time. I thank you for Your love and peace that passes my present understand. Be with me in all I do and say this day, may it ever be a reflection of Your love to those I meet. Amen.

A love of my own

But you know all about it— the contempt, the abuse. I dare to believe that the luckless will get lucky someday in you. You won’t let them down: orphans won’t be orphans forever. ~Psalm 10:14 (MSG) 

 

Every Fourth of July since I was very small, I have traveled to Huntington Indiana for a family reunion. My dad has three brothers and four sisters all who had large families too and most of them came every year for a celebration. At noon we would gather for a big meal. Much talk and lots of fun was had by all. The visiting would continue throughout the day into the evening. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, swimming in the lake, capture the flag in the dark… all memories I look back on with fondness. I could paint this picture with all the skill of a fine master painter leaving out things like mosquito bites and sunburns. I could also easily leave out of this picture that I paint that this family is not really mine.

After my parents had been married for a year, my dad adopted me. My birth father never contested it. Even though God sent me a wonderful man to be my father I still felt the sting of the rejection. The man never had a significant role in my life after he and my mother divorced but the simple act of not caring shadowed me. I have always felt that it was probably best that he was not part of my life and I have no real memories of him, but I always wondered why I was so unlovable.

I still travel to the family reunions, bringing my husband and children along. Although I have been adopted into this family for forty years now, I still feel like I am just pretending- that I don’t really belong. My head tells me that I am part of this family but my heart still remembers that once there was someone who didn’t want me. In college I went through a difficult time and was really struggling to figure out just who I was compared to what I had been told. In my own way I rebelled and hid, but one thing I just couldn’t hide from was my Bible. That semester I read Romans through and through and it brought some balm to my tender soul. I read again and again Romans chapters 8 and 9. I learned that even though there was an earthly family that didn’t love me, through Jesus Christ I was adopted into, grafted into a family that was true. In the Bible I could find a heritage that was mine to claim. Romans told me that the love God had for me would never fluctuate or die

God never leaves us were we are,   John 14:18 says, “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. (CEB)” Romans 9:8 says it “isn’t the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children from the promise who are counted as descendants. (MSG)” Jesus said in Matthew 12:50, “Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother.” John 1:13 says I am a child of God, “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (NIV)” The Bible assures me that I am loved and wanted as part of a family. Just because those who are supposed to love us can’t doesn’t mean that God won’t send others so that He can love us through them. We can’t reject the love He sends just because someone else couldn’t or didn’t. He sends us mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in Christ to walk with us on this journey.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for loving me. I thank You for family You send my way to ease the travels of this life. May I always be quick to show Your love to others that I meet along the way. Amen

Surface wound

When I kept quiet, my bones wore out; I was groaning all day long— every day, every night!—  because your hand was heavy upon me. My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. So I admitted my sin to you; I didn’t conceal my guilt. “I’ll confess my sins to the LORD, ” is what I said. Then you removed the guilt of my sin.  That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times, so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.~ Psalm 32:3-6 (CEB)

I fell. It was storming and wet and I had to get gas. While I was pumping gas, and because I can’t just stand there waiting for my car to fill up with gas, I thought I would move my bag from the trunk to the front passenger seat while I was under some protection. That way when I got home I could just dash in the door with everything. As I stepped over the hose, somehow my foot got tangled and with the lack of traction due to oil and water, I fell with all my weight landing on my knee. To stand and walk did not cause great pain but bending my knee hurt. Taking ibuprofen seemed to reduce the swelling and I seemed to just be black and blue with no major injury.

Because it is just a big ugly bruise, I think it is funny. It makes a good story. One minute I am walking, the next moment, I find myself looking at the underneath side of my car. I kind of enjoyed showing the bruise off to my family as it went through a rainbow of colors. There is no real damage done. The damage is only on the surface and over time it will fade away.

8 months ago I injured myself running. It wasn’t so funny. I was embarrassed to have allowed the injury to happen. I should have known better. I should not have let it happen. So I felt. I was afraid that I would never run again. I hated to talk about it. If you looked at my leg you couldn’t see that there was anything wrong. It just hurt. Bad. After a few days I realized that I was not getting better and went to see a physical therapist that sees people at a local running shop. He told me to continue with heat, ice, stretching and ibuprofen. After a week of doing this he said I could try a 3 mile run on flat ground.

One week later, after doing exactly what I had been told I went off for a light run. It was a little sore but no major pain so I finished running the three miles. As the day went on my leg began to hurt more and more. Two day later my leg and ankle began to swell. I couldn’t hide the fact any longer that something serious was going on. This situation had become bigger than me.

It took four months for my leg to heal enough to no longer limp when I walked. I began to run again but the fear of injuring my leg again was constantly in my thoughts. Still I feel twinges in the tendon that I pulled below me knee and I remember the hobbling pain I lived with day and night. The memory of this injury will always be with me. Re-injuring the tendon again will always be a possibility. My leg will never be the same.

When life injures me, I find myself in a similar situation. The surface wounds though painful are easy to share, talk about and even get a good laugh. But the deep really painful hurts that no one sees are harder to talk about. Often it is frightening. Many times it is embarrassing and I think I should have known better than to let myself get into that situation. Sometimes it hurts too much to move to go get the help that I need. Even after I begin to heal the fear of re-injury is ever present. Some hurts are life changing.

There comes a moment when you know this injury has become bigger than you. God has put us in community for our healing. James 5:14-16 says “If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”

Turning to God in our pain will help direct us to a community for our healing. When we talk with others about what is wrong in our life we find that we are not alone in our pain; we find that there are sympathetic people to our plight and we find that we are not the only ones in this situation. We find that there are people who have been through what we have been through and they survived. In sharing our stories we give each other hope. Hope for the journey.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for community. I thank you for fellow sojourners on this journey called life. I thank You for those whom You have sent to walk with me along the way providing hope. May I always be willing to shine a light for others so that their travels can continue always toward You. Amen.

What is the point of it all?

What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.~Ecc3:9-15 (CEB)

 

What is the point of it all? I have been reading Ecclesiastes so I know that I am not the only person to ponder this question. Earlier in Chapter 3 the author talks about how there is a time for every season in life. A time to be born… a time to die… There are times in my life that everything seems to be going well. God gives me these times so that I can show the world how to live a life of blessings while still fully in tune with God. Other times I find life miserable and full of difficulties. God has allowed these hard times so that I can show the world how great our God is and that being His child brings great peace and joy despite hardship.

It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of life compared to others’. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.… Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16–17) When I come into God’s presence He gives me peace and joy that surpasses it all. When I read the Bible it helps me to keep my focus on Him and not my current situation.

So what is the point of life here on earth, whatever moment I find myself in? The point of my life is to bring Him Glory. From the coffee break I take on my porch swing, to the words I say to a friend, to the boundaries I set for my kids and the walks I take with my husband, it should all point to Him. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for Gods glory. “ ~1Cor 10:31 (CEB)

May my life this day Lord, point to Your glory. From the words I speak to the actions I take may it all be done to reflect Your love and grace in my life. Amen.

The air I breathe

The LORD God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. ~ Ezekiel37:5 (CEB)

There was a time in my life that I struggled just to breathe. I carried such burdens inside of me I felt that there was no more space left for my lungs to fill with air. My breathing actually felt shallow. Breathing is essential but unless there is something wrong we never pay attention to the act of breathing. The Bible speaks about the Holy Spirit being the breath of God, breathing in us. The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma, which means “breath.”

There is a song by Mercy Me, “Breathe”. At times when I was almost gasping for air I would say in my heart, “You are the air I breathe; You are the air I breathe”. This was my prayer when no other words would form. Ezekiel 37:9 says, “Breathe into these dead bodies and let them live.” I feel that God has done that in my life. Every time I reached out to Him, He breathed life back into this dead heart bit by bit.

When I don’t have words to pray, Romans 8:36 assures me “In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.” It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy. Lamentations 3:25 tells me “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the person who seeks Him”, so I hope in God with my whole heart. Psalm 130:5 says, “I hope, LORD. My whole being hopes, and I wait for God’s promise.” What is God’s promise to me? “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1Co 3:16) As long as I let Him live in me I can have life because it is His breath that breathes through me. When it is God’s breath flowing through my lungs it is not a struggle to breathe.

Lord, You are the air I breathe. I thank You for your Holy Presence that lives in me. I thank You that You give me words every day to tuck deep in my heart. I would be lost without You. May I always be desperate for Your love. Amen.

Betrayed by a friend

 

 

It’s not an enemy that is insulting me— I could handle that. It’s not someone who hates me who is exalted over me— I could hide from them. No. It’s you, my equal, my close companion, my good friend! ~Psalm 55:12-13 (CEB)

 

There is nothing worse in the world than to be betrayed by a friend. A friend, a close friend is someone you trust, someone you expect to be there for you in good times and bad. No one can hurt you more than a dear friend. When you have been betrayed by a friend the hurt goes so deep that you feel like you could never trust anyone ever again. You feel so alone with your feelings of hurt and betrayal. No one could ever know what you are going through.

But you are not alone. Jesus was sold out by a kiss. His betrayal led him to the cross. Peter, one of his closest friends, denied him not just once but three times. All the disciples fled in fear. Jesus was left alone. In the moment he needed a friend the most he found himself without even the dearest friends. They were all gone.

I don’t think I have ever been in a place where I have felt such complete abandonment. I have felt the sting of losing a friend that I thought I could trust but once the pain subsided some I realize that I was not as alone as I thought. But for Jesus there was no one. The hardest thing for me about this story of betrayal and abandonment is that Jesus foreknew what was to come. He did not walk into this situation blindly. He chose to die on the cross to save me even when those dearest to him had left him to fend for himself. If I had been in his shoes I imagine I would have said well if even my closest friends can’t appreciate what I am about to do for the world then why bother! But thankfully I am not the Messiah.

It brings great comfort to me when I realize that there is nothing in the world that Jesus hasn’t been through. If I need an understanding ear he is the best choice. Jesus will never abandon me. Romans 8: 38-39 says, “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” There is NOTHING that can separate me from the love of God. Even though I might find myself alone, Jesus will always be with me. The Bible tells me so.

I am thankful that I have a friend in You Jesus. There is nothing that I go through that You have not also been through as well. I know I can trust You and turn to You for guidance in all I do this day. Amen

A dead life

Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” John 11:40 (NIV)

Have you ever felt that part of your life was dead? I know I have, stuck in my troubles forgetting that God has power that I do not have to turn things around. I, like Martha have cried out, Lord, if  You had been with me I would not be sitting here in pain now! There have been times that I have felt that Jesus seemed to be taking his sweet time getting around to my problem. That He would come too late.

In John 11:21-24 we find Martha in a state of despair. She had sent a message to Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was gravely ill. Now here Jesus finally arrives and from Martha’s viewpoint He is too late. “Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother shall rise again.’ Martha replied, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day'” (vv. 23-24). I don’t think she really understood what Jesus was saying. She was looking toward a future possibility, not a present reality. She didn’t really expect things to change. Martha was seeing things from her viewpoint, not from God’s viewpoint.

I may be presently hurting, but I need to hold on to the hope that God can  bring a new beginning out of the pain. Create a Lazarus moment in my life. There is more here than just the part I can see. He can show me glory in my present circumstances and he can use my pain for something great.

Lord, Help me to find the glory in my circumstances. I need to hold onto the fact that I may not be seeing the possibilities that exist from my vantage point. Help me have faith in you, the one who lives above life’s storms. Help me to trust your viewpoint on my present circumstances and that all will come together for my good. Amen.

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