Archive for the ‘following Jesus’ Category

Everything I Need To Know

So, in the 24 + years since I consciously accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, I have heard, seen, read and attended a myriad of sermons, messages, bible studies, small community groups, conferences, workshops, church services and gatherings. I still experience some of these, as I feel it is important not to be stagnant in education. Plus, there is an allure to search out and find the next great thing or nugget of truth–that one piece of information that will make all that conflicts me, snap into place. The “a-HA!” moment. We ask God for a sign and to tell us what to do and we get frustrated when God replies, “You can’t DO anything.” Wha-? But. But. He says, “Be still.”  And we very reverently respond with, “WTH?”

Last December I got into a habit of daily meditation during the Advent season. Click here to listen to the 10/23/2011 and 11/27/2011 messages that inspired me. At some point it dawned on me that I just might already have enough information to follow Christ. How do I access that 24 year accumulation? I certainly didn’t have it archived. I got quiet. I didn’t stop all my other practices of gathering with my church community, prayer, etc. (although some did get the axe). But there is something amazingly valuable about sitting still, shutting up and listening. In the quiet, our senses stir. The mundane and ordinary that were once eclipsed by noise and activity, become exceptional. We start to see God’s presence where it has always been. Everywhere. We can hear the still, small whisper. We can hear the Holy Spirit leading us into truth we have been learning for years but have not slowed enough to embrace.

I love Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten–especially that particular essay. It reminds us there are basic principles that we forget over time. Things like playing fair, saying you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, cleaning up your own mess, not taking things that aren’t yours. These principles still apply in our adult lives. We’ve just made them complicated and sometimes near impossible to live out.

So, after hearing two or three thousand messages–some duplicates–I’m pretty sure I have enough to go on in following Jesus. Accessing stillness makes us realize that the “a-HA” moments are more plentiful than we originally thought.

 

Morning by morning new mercies I see

Bedtime prayers can be a fun time or a nervous time for our family–depending on our family’s behavior that day. I think the kids think its some sort of time of reckoning where we have to confess how horrible we’ve all been that day then feel awful and try to get to sleep. Well, part of that is right.

Tonight, obedience and kindness were optional in the minds of the children which resulted in stressful bedtime prep. On these kinds of nights, if I’m leading the prayers I really try not to make the prayer a sermon. “Dear God, forgive us for the awful way we treated each other. We know you want us to love each other and obey our parents…” And then I think how much I suck because I disobey God just like they disobey me. Drat. So its one massive confession for everyone. However on these bad days, I also like to throw in a bit about getting to start over tomorrow and thank God that every morning we start fresh. From the book of Lamentations, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lam 3:22-23. I can almost feel a little relief and attitude adjustment come over the kids(and me too). Their hearts seem lighter on the way to bed than when they came to prayer time, and we get a chance to slow down and restore some broken relationships.

A principle I want to sear into their hearts is that they are not to carry their shame. Sin done. Sin confessed. Sin forgiven. Move on. This is one of the things I get right as a mom. Lots of mess ups elsewhere but I never want them to wallow in their sin. Feel it? Yes. Mourn over it? Yes. But to wallow when Jesus suffered so much for our freedom is just insulting. It only took me about 39 years to get that figured out. I’d like them to use their time more wisely than I did.

Is Somewhere Down The Road Good Enough?

I used to be better at accepting bad news that begs the question why or how. Why is this happening to such good people? How can this possibly be of any benefit or for the greater good? My stock answer has usually been, “we may never know this side of heaven” and “who are we to ask why? God will never leave us in this hard time.” But the last year has really attacked my uber-spiritual attitude and I am in the thick of “why, why, why”–more so for others because Doug & I have been amazingly blessed and safe. It is difficult to accept with grace, that even though we prayed and prayed and prayed in many situations, our will was not done.

Below are lyrics to one of my favorite songs about this very subject. Amy Grant performed it live at the memorial service for the victims of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.

Lyrics to Somewhere Down The Road(Behind The Eyes 1997) :
(Amy Grant & Wayne Kirkpatrick)

So much pain and no good reason why
You’ve cried until the tears run dry
And nothing here can make you understand
The one thing that you held so dear
Is slipping from your hands
And you say

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say is

[Chorus:]
Somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

Yesterday I thought I’d seen it all
I thought I’d climbed the highest wall
Now I see the learning never ends
And all I know to do is keep on walking
Walking ’round the bend, saying

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say is

Somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say is
All I know to say now

Somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

A new discipline?

Great gathering at The Orchard tonight. Loved hearing from our guest speaker Mark Miller tonight.

I’ve learned when listening to speakers that if something catches your ear, eye, or heart, run with it and don’t worry about getting all the other points written down. Went there tonight. Mark was talking about how we can make “God deposits” into our heart otherwise its going to be very difficult to make wise choices. He mentioned we could receive deposits by coming to a church gathering, reading God’s word, praying, loving…  And then I didn’t hear the rest. I recognize those things as disciplines or practices that can help our spiritual growth but I’d never heard “loving” listed among them.

As a new believer in Jesus 20 years ago, I met one on one with a friend who led me through a “Discipleship 101” book. It listed all the things to do to become a more mature believer: Pray, Read the Bible, Memorize Scripture, Give, Share the Gospel. And then it gave lessons and exercises on how to do these things. No one ever told me until MUCH later on my spiritual journey to love other people without agenda as a way to grow in Christ. My heart expanded quickly and exponentially when I began looking out for others more than myself.

So to help new Christ followers along their journey, what if we communicated simply that one of the richest things you can do to become closer to Jesus, is to treat people the way he did? To see others as intentionally made by God, with a purpose, and as recipients of His grace. How would that change your journey if the spiritual practice of loving one another was given just as much attention as reading, praying or memorizing?

What do you mean let it go? But I was offended!

Read this today in Eph 4:1-3(NASB):

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (emphasis mine)

So Paul is talking to believers in Christ. Here is a commentary I thought interesting:

“Nothing is pressed more earnestly in the Scriptures, than to walk as becomes those called to Christ’s kingdom and glory. By lowliness, understand humility, which is opposed to pride. By meekness, that excellent disposition of soul, which makes men unwilling to provoke, and not easily to be provoked or offended. We find much in ourselves for which we can hardly forgive ourselves; therefore we must not be surprised if we find in others that which we think it hard to forgive.”  (Source: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible; emphasis mine)

So apparently a life that is appropriate for one who follows Jesus, isn’t about doing all the right things. Its about being gentle, humble, peaceful, unprovoked, able to let things go. Just maybe?

I’m so mad I could…2

This is the conclusion of my gigantic post started yesterday regarding my depression and what happened once I was diagnosed and treated by a professional…

Within a week, I began to feel more self controlled. Not euphoric, not pollyanna. Just less rage. Therapy helped give me tools to use for those trigger moments that can send you off your rocker. Medication gave me the ability to remember I actually had tools to use. Since then, there have been ups and downs, stressors great and small, and constant monitoring of this condition.

I have been running into a wall the last couple months. A medication shift didn’t work so well and threw me into a bit of a tailspin. I am yelling at my children again. Not because I want to hurt them. But because I want control in my current chaotic family season. Sound familiar? My doctors and friends are encouraging me to invest in myself — more sleep, more exercise, back to therapy — during this extraordinary time when our family schedule is overwhelming. The other night, I was reminded of the principle that I cannot lead anyone else well, in this case, my children and home, if I am not well myself. What’s the saying, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 

The scripture verse from 1 Sam 30:6 says, “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” I have been railing against my children in an effort to gain control and train them in the way they should go. What I heard from this verse and in its context was that my reactions to my kids’ behavior was about me, not them. No amount of teaching them will affect how I respond. And so I will spend my time in the coming months caring for myself and strengthening myself in the Lord, my God. I will start physically by going to the health club and letting the kids enjoy their own gym and play time. That will give me natural time alone and quiet–especially in the steam room, sauna or whirlpool. (Did I mention my arthritis?)

If any of this is familiar or touches a nerve for  you–do not ignore it. GET HELP. If you are a Christ follower, GET HELP. Yes, we can all do a better job of being quiet and reading our bibles and praying, ya, ya, ya. GET HELP ANYWAY especially if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Tell a trusted friend, family member or pastor. Leave me a comment and I’ll reply. Read a book. A good one on mom anger is Julie Ann Barnhill’s She’s Gonna Blow . Bonnie Keen’s Blessed Are The Desperate For They Will Find Hope is especially good if you work or volunteer in ministry and are depressed and/or find yourself in overwhelming or unexpected circumstances. Go here to see some recommendations for other books.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sums it up – “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

I’m so mad I could…

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, you know that I am depressed. I see an internist and a psychiatrist regularly while we are dialing in some medication and monitoring Type 2 Diabetes. I am one of many women/moms in the same or similar boat. Comforting or disturbing? You pick.

About 5 years ago, I had a 2 1/2 yr old, a 1 yr old, a baby on the way and gestational diabetes. I was absolutely exhausted. My 2 yr old was a behavioral nightmare. I often found myself at the end of my rope and would scream at her at the top of my lungs, pounding my fists into pillows, mattresses, countertops and tables. I did a lot of teeth clenching. I never had thoughts of deliberately harming my children. One day I lifted my daughter up onto the changing table, angry as usual and as I laid her down, I actually had a vision of me body slamming her onto the hard surface. And it scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want to hurt her. I wanted control. Its an insane person who thinks they can gain control by losing self control. I was afraid I would show up on an Oprah show describing how a split second action changed my life forever. At the same time, I was afraid if someone found out how volatile I was, they would take away my children. I called my pastor, told him what I was feeling and could the church recommend a therapist. 

At my first therapy visit, I was diagnosed with Depression. Ugh. With my family history, I knew it was an accurate assessment but hated the fact that medication was recommended. For years I figured if I could just maintain a consistent quiet time and read the bible regularly, I could get a handle on my emotional roller coaster. No meds. I didn’t want to walk around like a zombie. I didn’t want to become someone else through drugs or endanger my pregnancy. I did agree to try working with natural remedies which helped quite a bit. After a while though, my rage broke through the therapy and natural remedies. My OB/GYN started me on an antidepressant that was safe in pregnancy. It was nothing short of a miracle.

To be continued…