Living with Anxiety

As a child I was afraid of the dark. I was especially afraid of noises in the dark. I remember one particular dark night when there was an unfamiliar noise coming from outside. When my Dad said goodnight he noticed my distress.  I heard him go outside for a few minutes and then come to my bedroom. He asked me to follow him so he could show me how the tree branches were rubbing against the house. That was the offending unfamiliar noise. He tucked me back into bed, the noise explained, my anxiety subsided.

I was anxious. My Dad was there to ease my fears. He was with me, close at hand. He didn’t scold me for being afraid.

There is a verse in Philippians that talks about anxiety.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Too often this verse is used as a club to shame a fellow Christian who is struggling. The “club” is often wielded by someone who hasn’t walked through dark waters.

I think the verses in Philippians are meant to reassure us, not scold or shame us. It simply says if we go to our Father, His unexplainable peace will enfold us. He has promised to be with us. He can be trusted to keep His word.

But this is the hard bit.

He doesn’t promise to take us out of the trouble, but in verse 9 he promises something better.

“…and the God of peace will be with you.”

We need Him desperately. We don’t always know how desperately we need Him. When trouble comes we find out how valuable His presence is. Bit by bit we learn to depend on Him. The longer we are by His side the more we can relax in His presence. We don’t gain self-confidence we gain God-confidence.

Being with my dad on that dark night reassured me. My circumstance hadn’t changed. The night was still dark. The noise was still there, but my dad was there to be with me.

How much more can my heavenly Father reassure me. In my anxiety I can turn to the only one who can ease my fears.  Believe it. Cling to His promise.

“…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

The Fringes of His Ways

(Glacier National Park)

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

He stretches out the north over empty space, And hangs the earth on nothing. Job 26:7

He wraps up the waters in His clouds; And the cloud does not burst under them. He obscures the face of the full moon, And spreads His cloud over it. Job 26:8-9

By His breath the heavens are cleared; Job 26:13 (NASB)

Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. Psalm 147:8 (NASB)

Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord; Psalm 98:8-9a (NASB)

Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear of Him! Job 26:13 (NASB)

Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. Psalm 90:2(NASB)

Time has Flown

I looked around the room and wondered where the time had gone. I remember being a child with all  these people and now most of us are grandparents or great grandparents. Our outer shell has changed, but the same people are still inside.

My sisters and I were at a family reunion. My father was one of eleven children. Two of my dad’s youngest brothers were there to celebrate the day with us.  

It was a day of remembering, of catching up, of meeting new people, of laughing at old jokes and some new ones. We sang old and new songs. My cousin Cindy’s husband, Les Mau, gave a short message, since it was Sunday. As we sat and listened we heard him say.

“Don’t miss heaven.” If there is anything our grandparents or parents would say to us it is “Don’t miss heaven.” I can’t get it out of my mind.

We are so busy living our lives, finding our place, accumulating things that we forget to tell those we love…”Don’t miss heaven.” Nothing else matters. Nothing.

And so dear reader, if you have followed me for any length of time, I want to tell you. “Don’t miss heaven.” This life isn’t all there is. We were made for eternity. Don’t get distracted by the here and now and forget about what comes next.

I have been reading through some of my Dad’s old notes. There is a theme. There was an urgency to his life. Our time is short. With eternity in view 80 years is nothing. Here is what my Dad laid out again and again.

We should run to Christ. – “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

If we run to Christ He will accept us. – “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37b

All should repent. – “…not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

We have strong encouragement – “…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, “ Hebrews 6:18b – 19a

Gospel in a nutshell –  “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” Romans 10:9, 10, 13

The message is simple. There is nothing I can do to earn it.

No one is beyond His reach.

None of us know how long we have.

I am looking forward to someday leaving this earth and going to heaven. I hope to see you there.

“Don’t miss heaven.”

If you have any questions please contact me through my blog.

Help for the Helpless

“Please don’t kill it!” she sobbed. “It’s unfair.” … “Fern,” he said gently, “you will have to learn to control yourself.”

“Control myself?” yelled Fern. “This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself.”

Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father’s hand. …

“But it’s unfair,” cried Fern. “The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?” … “This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.”

And so begins one of the most beloved children’s stories, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.

I’ve felt like Fern this week. Another state, Illinois, is celebrating the fact that children are disposable. They live at the whim of their mother and her doctor. They aren’t considered precious. All of their protections have been removed up until the day of delivery. The picture of the governor gleefully signing it into law made me sick to my stomach. (See link to the article below.)

This is a very personal issue to me. All three of our children are adopted. I have two nephews that are also adopted. Four of those 5 children have 10 children between them. That is fifteen people who might be missing from my family if laws like this were enacted thirty years ago. I have a hard time with the “celebrations” going on.

A few months ago New York signed into law a similar bill and they lit up the capital to celebrate.

I have heard all the arguments. I have cried with and looked into the eyes of women who have had abortions and are now suffering greatly from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I can’t fathom what the agenda of the legislators is, but it isn’t the protection and care of women.

Killing babies isn’t a new idea. Pharaoh ordered all the male Israelite babies to be thrown into the Nile. Plain and simple, he was racist. He didn’t like that the Israelites were prospering. He thought there were too many of them in the land.

Herod was another tyrant who had all the boys two and under killed in Bethlehem because he was afraid of a usurper.

Throughout history civilizations have sacrificed their children to their gods in an attempt to earn favor.

The God of the Bible has a very different view of children. Israel was to treat their children differently than the pagan nations around them.

“You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” Deuteronomy 12:31 (NASB)

I believe each life has purpose and meaning. We are each made in the image of God. There is no less or more important. When we stop protecting the most vulnerable among us, our society has lost its foundation.

To quote Fern…”This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.”

I pray our country changes direction.

For further study:  Jeremiah 1:5; Mark 10:14-15; Romans 5:6

 

https://world.wng.org/content/illinois_governor_signs_extreme_abortion_law?fbclid=IwAR2PVOKpY5-4_-bvQlIQhQr0F-29TPtzzAnMbCNke3VwL3gu03oX-zka4tA#.XQFsBfv6TMM.facebook

Praying with Conviction

I was reminded recently of my cousin who attended the local university where I grew up. He lived in an all men’s dorm at the time. There was one fellow who really wanted to be married.  He started praying for a wife and as time passed felt impressed that a certain young woman was the one for him. He approached her and told her what he felt God had told him. Other men heard his story and followed suit. Each prayed a respectable amount of time and then approached the woman they felt certain God had given them. As word got around campus of what was happening the women started responding with…”Well, God hasn’t told me and until He does I have no interest in dating, let alone marrying, you.”

Praying is always a good idea. We need to pray more, but we shouldn’t use it as a tool to manipulate others who might not agree with us. Many people pray. Many people come up with different conclusions. Who is to be believed as having the word from God? I find that my prayers are colored by my desires. I am still human and my heart is deceitful. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have this heart issue. I can respect someone, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they come up with when they are in prayer.

I am reluctant to proclaim…”I have prayed about it and this is what God wants!” Often the reality is “…I have prayed about it and this is what I want.”

So how do we pray? How do we know when the conclusions we come up with are the right ones?

A good place to start is to be honest with God. Lay out your desires and your wants, but also lay out your desire to follow His lead. To be ready to take yes or no as the answer. To be uncertain enough in our own ability to know the truth that we won’t be disappointed when God takes us down another path. Maybe one that is unexpected.

I am the most at peace in prayer when I leave the end result up to God. To explore possibilities on my knees is better than pushing my agenda.

This makes me think of a verse in Psalms.

“He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:15

Am I so determined to get my way that God gives me my request?

God’s ways are not my ways. I long to be so close to Him that there is no doubt about each step I take, but until I step into glory that will not be the case. So in the mean time I pray. I pray for wisdom. I pray for grace as other brothers and sisters come up with different conclusions. I pray that God is at work in each of us to make us more like Him. And in the end that might be more of the point than all the grand plans we are determined to set in motion.

 

You Should Tell It!

Someone once told Amy Carmichael, “You should tell it!” They were referring to the growing number of children she was able to save from the temple service in India. Time and again they prayed, acted and saw God do amazing things.

As I think back on this year there are things I need to tell. When God works in those we love we need to tell it. And so I begin.

I have a nephew who was traveling in a foreign country with a friend. They were taking a tour on motorcycles. As his friend came around the corner on a mountain road she encountered someone in her lane going the wrong way. She laid her bike down to avoid hitting them and slid under the guard rail that keeps people from falling down the mountain. Miraculously, she barely fit under the railing and just as miraculously she didn’t go flying off the mountain to certain death. They had some tense days as they tried finding competent medical care for her broken bones, but eventually they made it home to America where surgery was done. She is expected to make a full recovery. The only explanation was that God protected her. God spared her for a reason.

I have another nephew who was on his way to work in the wee hours of the morning. Going 70 mph or better on the interstate he came up to an unmoving deer in his headlights. He swerved. His car spun, hit the guard rail on one side, spun again, and hit the other side of the road. When he came to a stop he was facing the right way with no other cars in sight. The only explanation was that God protected him. God spared him for a reason.

I have an uncle who is 89 who lives in a small town in North Dakota. Just before Christmas he was changing the tire on his truck. While putting his jack away in the back he fell while getting out of the truck bed hitting his head on the trailer hitch. They rushed him to the hospital, not knowing if he would make the trip. He suffered two brain bleeds. There was surgery to repair what they could and they patched him together with 45 staples. We all prayed as his brain swelled and it looked hopeless. After spending some weeks in the hospital he recently came home and is gradually improving. The only explanation is that God protected him.  God spared him for a reason.

In October of this year a girl named Jamie was kidnapped from her home after both of her parents were shot and killed. Many people around our state, Wisconsin, prayed. Most of us had given up hope. Then miracle of miracles she escaped and made her way down the country road to someone who could help her. She had been missing for almost 3 months. We continue to pray for the difficulties she has ahead of her, but are praising God that he delivered her from her captivity. God spared her for a reason.

While talking to a friend about the miracle of it all, I mentioned that her kidnapper had put her in a trunk and she could hear the police sirens as he drove her away from her family’s home.

My friend quietly said, “I was in a trunk”. All I could say was “I’m sorry”. I remembered her story includes being kidnapped when she was a teenager and held by an evil man. Miracle of miracles she survived while others didn’t.  I thank God that she survived and that I can call her my friend. God spared her for a reason.

There are other stories.

Today is a good day to remember what God has done and thank him for each breath.

Feel free to leave a comment below. What has God done in your life this past year? You should tell it!

 “… And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:39 (NASB)

To Be Like Enoch…

My Dad loved to talk about Enoch. If you recall, Enoch was one of two men mentioned in the Bible who went to heaven without dying. This intrigued my Dad.

Genesis 5:24 says “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

My Dad pursued God. Every morning and evening he would sit and read his Bible, pen in hand, leaning forward, eager to learn. He finished every day kneeling in prayer beside his bed.

He led us in family devotions every day. Often at the breakfast table, sometimes after supper. We would read verse by verse taking turns. Then we would pray together.

My Dad longed to be closer to his God. Time and time again he would talk about walking close enough to God so that he would be translated like Enoch. We just shook our heads and said…”Not likely to happen.” Still he pursued his God.

Hebrews 11:5-6 gives us a little more information about Enoch. We learn he was pleasing to God. That he had faith. His faith included believing God existed and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. (KJV)

The Phillips translation puts it this way.

“… he pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him. The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that it is worth a man’s while to try to find God.”

Enoch thought it was worth his while to find God. Enoch sought God. Enoch walked with God.  God cut his earthly life short to bring him home.

When I was almost 30 my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. A brain tumor was growing quickly despite the doctor’s best efforts to treat it. He lost his ability to write. His violin had to be set aside. He quit chopping wood. He could no longer drive. Every day something new was gone. Finally, he couldn’t walk and even his voice was taken away.

I prayed for healing. This God who my Dad had taught me about would certainly heal him. But God’s ways are not my ways and in less than a year my Dad was gone. Gone home to heaven. And I was devastated.

Why would God cut his life short? Didn’t God know we needed him?  Hadn’t he pursued God? Didn’t he deserve a good long life? I mourned…but I also knew that my dad was home with his God. He walked close enough to God to walk into eternity.

Looking back now, 30 years later, I see a man who pleased God. A man who pursued God. A man who walked with God.  A man who went to heaven earlier than expected. A man like Enoch.

For further study: Job 21:14; Psalm 73:28; Proverbs 8:17