Thursday, October 5, 2017

Help In the Darkest Days

How are you doing today?" A simple question that can unleash struggles and trials and traumas beneath the surface.

I ask this question often, as there are those in my home who struggle with anxiety and depression. Sometimes the answer is, "Fine", when I know in my heart they are not fine- and I struggle, and pray, and wait until they are ready to share. Sometimes the answer is honest and heart wrenching all at once. And sometimes, the answer leads to an intense season of intervention, with support from those who are trained to help.

It is heart wrenching to see one you love more than life struggle to stay present in it. 

I can work off some of my own anxiety with the necessary medical response. Once an emergency doctor appointment has been scheduled, a counselor who is a good fit is found, and insurance approval has finally been given (after hours and days on the phone), there is a necessary stillness. A time to wait, and pray, and deal with my own feelings and emotions.

It takes courage to approach the fear. To confront it, rather than ignore it, or slap trite sayings over the top of it. It can be hard and heavy work to go to battle for your own wellness. 

Sometimes the hardest part is letting go. I can control (somewhat) when we see the doctor and who we see. I can work around the necessary insurance requirements, and oh, have I learned to jump through hoops! But what I cannot control is how one I love feels about themselves, their life, or their traumas.

Psalm 77:6 speaks of the struggle:

I call to remembrance my song in the night, I commune with my own heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. 

Sleepless nights, and anxious days can cause me to commune with my own heart, rather than diligently seek the One whose heart is for us. The first verses of this very same Psalm express where we can find sustenance for the hardest journeys:

"I cry up to heaven, 'My God, True God, and He hears. 
In my darkest days, I seek the Lord. 
Through the night my hands are raised up, 
stretched out, waiting...
my soul is uneasy."
(Psalm 77:1-2, The NKJV)

The NIV puts it this way: "at night I stretched out...[my] hands and I would not be comforted."

We have walked through dark seasons before, and I have prayed for rescue. When darkness strikes again, I feel so helpless. I cannot fix the one I love. I can only hold him while he falls apart and get him trained help-- once he is willing. The choice comes:

Will I hold myself apart from my Healer, or will I be comforted by the Eternal? 

When I finally release I can do healthy work:
Praying and grieving-- releasing pent up stress through tears, 
Aproaching the altar to surrender what I cannot control,
and
Working through each and every fear, holding tight to God's promises!


"Jesus will never leave you or forsake you."~ A. Marie Mitchell


 I do not have to be alone in this. Yes, there are seasons of struggle, and yes, there is heartache, but my own Healer stands ready to hold me and carry me through. I might be able to survive this season in my own strength, but I will never know peace until I lay down my pain and grab hold of the One whose heart is for my wholeness. 


Psalm 23 tells us,

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
He provides for every need, nourishing my body and my soul. 
He soothes my fears and restores my soul. 
Even in the unending shadows of death's darkness, 
I do not have to be afraid, for He is with me. 

Because You are with me, O Eternal, 
Near with Your guidance and protection,
I am comforted. 

(The Voice and NIV Translations)

Prayer:
God, you are my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer (Ps. 18:2)
I choose to cling to you.
I pray you will deliver the ones I love from the lies of the enemy.
Train my own heart to KNOW your Truth.
Hold me close and comfort me in the dark days.
Be my Source, my strength, and my Hope.

Give us Life and not death, and wellness in spirit, soul, and body,
Both now, and forever more.

~Just Me












Monday, August 21, 2017

Truth, Love, and Listening

Last weekend, events in Charlottesville, Virginia proved that hate and prejudice have devastating consequences. We are making strides, but there is more work to do. Yesterday, our guest speaker at church, Travis Burdett, encouraged us to:

Stand against hate and stand for love. 

To look within and identify our own prejudices- and let God change them. 

He challenged us to spend some time with someone very different from us. Someone we would not normally speak to. Someone we might judge harshly if we did not take a moment to truly see and understand. He challenged us to have a conversation and Listen. Really listen. With an open mind and loving heart. He said,

"Listening is Revolutionary in a world where everyone is yelling at one another." 


Jesus himself was an avid listener- and all who encountered him were challenged. Many were transformed simply by encountering Living Grace. What would Jesus do in light of recent events? Well, take a look at what Jesus actually did.


Jesus taught: 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength and all your mind- and love your neighbor as yourself." 


Then, Jesus defined "your neighbor" as a people that his own race saw as enemies. And Jesus did not just tell stories about showing kindness to your enemies. He went into enemy territory himself and lived out love.  

Jesus taught his shocked and surprised followers to put aside prejudices and hatred that went back generations, and get to know the Samaritans. To minister to them and show love. 


Jesus bridged the gap of hatred, prejudice, fear, and racism.  



Jesus also stood against evil.  He called evil out and named it. (Matthew 3:7 and Matthew 23:27 )


So what would Jesus have to say about last weekend's events? I think he'd speak against the evil that ran rampant and offer hope to those devastated and victimized. (Check out  Matthew 21:12-13 and notice how Jesus responded when salesmen were victimizing the poor, in God's house, no less.)


So in the spirit of what Jesus would do, let's get this clear:  Carrying a flag associated with hatred and prejudice is evil.

Spreading messages of racism, prejudice, oppression, or hatred is evil.

The Nazi Flag is a symbol of an evil man who brutally and horrifically slaughtered millions. His regime was demonic, as were his prejudiced beliefs.

Jesus opposed such evil. He taught his followers to "love their enemies". He set the example of lavish love. 


1 John 4:7-8 urges, 

Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God. 


God is the embodiment of love. Anyone who seeks to connect God to a message of hate does not have the truth of God in them. Prejudice is from the enemy of our souls and not of God


So, in light of recent events, what can we do?

We can examine ourselves before God and resist falling for the subtler temptation of judging others by what they wear, how they live, or even, how they present themselves.

We can recognize that God loves diversity,  and take the opportunity to learn from those who, from outer appearances, seem different from us.

We can throw out prejudices and be enriched by our differences.



In Psalm 27: 5 David, God's chosen King says, 

The Eternal is my light against my darkness
So whom shall I fear? 


Oh, how we need God's light!! Especially in the face of darkness.

There are legitimate fears we must battle. It's natural to be afraid for loved ones and friends who may be persecuted.  Yet we overcome that hatred if we stand for truth. We, too, can be a light against darkness, if God's love is the spark that fuels. 


It's important to remember that our very saving comes through Jesus,whose race was among the labelled and targeted last weekend. 


Jesus--whose human heritage was Jewish. Jesus, who was raised in a Jewish home and a Jewish culture. Jesus, who studied the Torah diligently, and lived and taught its principals. Jesus, whose goal was not to stamp out Judaism, but complete it.

Jesus who was Jewish, in and out, through and through. The Savior of a broken world was, and is Jewish. We must remember what Jesus taught his disciples: 



All races, all heritages, all peoples 
are precious in God's sight. 


 The antidote to hatred is the all covering Love of Jesus. He is our saving, day by day. From the darkness within and the darkness without. Let's work to spread awareness. Let's make a point to stand against hatred, while standing FOR love. 


Will you stand with me? 




Monday, April 10, 2017

Why Jesus Would Shop at Target

I personally am of the opinion that Jesus would shop at Target. 

He'd be there encouraging Mamas with full hands, speaking words of kindness as they try to grab milk and eggs while wrestling fussy youngsters who are throwing fits because she did not buy them candy, or allow them to run amok in the toy aisle. He'd offer words to fill hearts, and a genuine understanding of the truth that parenting is hard and while Mamas may not "enjoy every moment" we do purpose to find moments to connect with the hearts of our children and enjoy who they are, and who they are becoming--even if they exhaust our ever lovin' patience at times (like when we are in Target).

Jesus would be taking time out for the older, lonely folks- He would help them reach the products they have a hard time getting to, and then he would walk WITH them for a good long while, tarrying. Knowing that He could be the only one all week to treat them with respect and truly listen to them, un-rushed, for as long as needed. 

Jesus would spend some of his time at Target talking to the young man that asks for handouts outside the location near the highway, seeking to heal his heart, save him from addictions, and probably giving him something to eat as well. He'd be loving on those who are different, and building relationships with the hurting, the marginalized, the depressed, and the overlooked. He'd make eye contact with those others don't tend to truly "see". He'd seek out the very people His followers often avoid. 

Jesus would also be mingling with the owners, whether or not He supported their every belief. He would understand that we human beings grow by learning from those who are very, very different from us, and He'd invite them into relationship- because rules don't heal hearts, but relationship with our Healer truly does.

My Jesus would be showing kindness to the store service clerks, who often get treated poorly--even by "christian" customers. He'd be patient if the cashier was slow to ring up the items He was buying (for the homeless teen outside) and He would make eye contact with that person, showing them with loving kindness that He really, really sees them- and not just as someone to wait on Him. 

My Jesus would comfort the cashier who just got reemed by an angry, impatient customer.  He'd help her unwind from the verbal attack, but he would not stop there. He'd invite her to embrace a life altering love and find meaning in knowing His love daily- and showing it to others. Even the ones who are hardest to love.

Jesus would give grace to the angry customer who just mistreated the poor clerk-- but he would most certainly invite him to understand the God sees temper flares the same way as He sees murder- only crushing the soul, rather than the body.  (It is man who rates sin, not God.)


Now, my Jesus would not just stay at Target, mind you. He'd make his way over to the bridge and chat with the homeless people (treating them with respect, and as real, flesh and blood people). He'd camp with them for the night, and then head over to the Women's Shelter and love on all the children torn from their homes in the middle of the night. He'd comfort the women fleeing violence, showing them REAL love that does not harm, but heals. 

Jesus would also head to the mall and chill with the teens. He'd listen to their hearts- he'd seek out the kids whose parents brush them off or don't get them, or even don't  truly like them. My Jesus would lavish teenagers with time-- and Jesus would offer understanding to even the most misunderstood.   

Jesus would make his way to the churches and give some lessons like he gave the Pharisees, and the many others who followed Him carrying secret agendas and needs.
Lessons like: 
Love people more than laws (or power). 
Get to quiet places and talk to God.
Let God's healing into the deep, dark places in your lives (not just the "white washed" exteriors)
Love unselfishly and remember you are not perfect either. 

Most of all, Jesus would love people who struggle with identity and don't seem to fit in. Whether from being told, "You can't do that, you're a girl." or "Why can't you be more like 'xyz'..." Jesus would have tender compassion on the confused, the hurting, and on those who don't fit the proposed mold. 

Jesus gets it. He, himself was not what His tribe expected.  

So if you are confused or hurting, or struggling for acceptance just the way you are, you have a friend in Jesus. 

He loves you as you are, 
Accepts you UNCONDITIONALLY 
And, with time and through those trained to help,
Jesus WILL heal every wound you allow him access to. 
 
In the midst of all the complicated, confusing, and confounding issues in this world, I have found one thing to be certain, and that is the complete and unconditional love of Jesus. 

I am so glad we do not have to be perfect, because Jesus covers ALL.

~Just Me