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Fear of Loneliness: Part 1

2 Jan

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5b

The holiday season can be a difficult time for us.  We miss friends and family from whom we are parted–either by distance or death.  We can be lonely, even in the midst of much activity.  I’ve been struggling with loneliness during this time and so I grabbed Elizabeth Elliot’s book about loneliness from my “to be read” pile of books.  Speaking of a man who wrote of his loneliness, she writes:

I wonder if, for a moment or two, he might have felt as I sometimes do:  I will not relinquish this misery, not right now.  God has taken away what I most wanted.  I have a right to feel sorry for myself.  I have been wronged.  I will refuse, for a while at least, any offer of comfort and healing.  don’t speak to me of joy.  You pour salt in my wounds.  Let me lick them for a while.

I’ve been there the last few days.  Wallowing in self-pity like a hog in the mud.  But the power of the cross is not freedom from suffering, it is the transformation of suffering.  Yes, I miss my parents, brothers and sisters, children, and grand-children, but Jesus has called me to a place of transformation:  the cross.  That place where I set aside my own will and choose His will as my own.  Sometimes that is not an easy thing to do.  It means looking up from my own loneliness and taking Christ’s hand that is offered to me.

I looked up the word “leave” in the dictionary and it set my heart to pounding.  It is raphah in the Hebrew and it means that He will never become feeble, will never fail, will never weaken, will never go, will never forsake us, will never relax or let us drop OR become disheartened.  I wrote about this word  in its opposite sense just the other day:  “Be still and know that I am God.”  We can relax because we know HE NEVER WILL.

Forsake, or azab, means leave, abandon, or neglect.  I’ve felt neglected lately and it’s my own fault.  I’ve been looking at my own self and not to Him who is forever there.  I can just hear my mother saying, “Stop navel gazing, Susie.”  She’s right.

Lessons in Prayer

27 Dec

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

We spent last week at the beach.  Yes, the week before Christmas.  Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, our church related duties (for lack of a better word) were completed early and so five days at the beach was our Christmas present to each other.

It was the best pre-Christmas week ever.  I spent most of my time reading in the hammock under the gazebo.  We walked the beach, prayed, listened to messages, and watched some movies.

The most important lesson that I got was a lesson in prayer.  From a bird.  A flock of green parakeets of some sort came often to the clumps of beach roses surrounding our cottage.  I watched them while relaxing in the hammock, alternating between prayer and frustration due to how easily distracted I am when I pray when one of the parakeets left the group to perch near me and sang and sang and sang.  Her song wasn’t beautiful, and although distracted occasionally by the appearance of a hawk or a friend, she returned to her perch at various times throughout the day and sang some more.  I love object lessons and that’s what this was for me.  An object lesson in prayer and praise.  Prayer is a choice that we make as we go through our days.  It does not have to be perfect to “count”.  On the way home from the beach on Christmas Eve, I read this quote which is the grace message on prayer in a nutshell:

A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms.  As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep.  Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms.  Our prayer is much like that.  We settle down in our Father’s arms, in his loving hands.  Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will.  It is very simple prayer.  It is very childlike prayer.  It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom. — M. Basil Pennington

The Anxiety-Producing List

5 Dec

I was reading a book for upper elementary students last night called Becoming Naomi León by one of my favorite authors, Pam Muños Ryan, when I came across this quote which made me laugh out loud because it sounds so much like me:

Chewing on the end of my pencil, I got back to my list, which Gram said was one of the things I did best.  I had all kinds of lists in my notebook, the shortest being “Things I Am Good At” which consisted of 1) Soap carving, 2) Worrying, and 3) Making lists.

There was my “Regular and Everyday Worries” list, which included 1) Gram was going to die because she was old, 2) Owen would never be right, 3) I will forget something if I don’t make a list, 4) I will lose my lists, and 5) Abominations.

I am the kind of person who takes the Scripture about redeeming the time so seriously that my to-do lists tend to have tyrannical rule over my life.  I have always taken the Scripture to mean that I should use each minute well.  I haven’t been so careful to distinguish what “using well” actually means.  I make my lists and categorize them, either under area (church, school, family, personal) or importance (imperative & important; not imperative, but important; imperative & not important; or not imperative & not important). 

I tend to put everything I can think of on lists and so I am overburdened before I even begin.  My lists can not be completed in any reasonable amount of time.  I’ve done two things to ease the pressure.  1) I started using to keep my lists.  Not only can I access it at any computer (which, of course, makes me want a Smartphone) but when I don’t complete a task the computer automatically rolls it over to the next day.  Thus, I no longer look at my list through the eyes of failing, but with a brand new start each day.  2) I pray each day for God to set my priorities within me.  Thus when I finish the day, I figure I’ve done just what God wants me to.  I HAVE redeemed the time. 

To redeem the time is to to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are as it were the purchase money by which we make the time our own. –Online Bible Greek Lexicon 

Wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good means that I’m going downstairs to watch football with Mike rather than cross more items off my list.  What does redeeming the time mean to you today?

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 3 — Faith in God

1 Dec

I love mystery books.  I say mystery books and not mysteries, because I like to know that the mystery will be solved.  I don’t like loose ends.  I hate it when I see part of a drama on the streets and don’t know what happened afterwards.  Although God is a mysterious God who works in mysterious ways, he has tied up the mystery.  The mystery is Christ.  Christ is “the mystery of God,” but no longer hidden, but manifested and meant for us to know to the fullness of our capacity.

I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.” Col. 2:2-4 The Message

As we pass through stage 2 faith, where our faith in faith system is dismantled by a loving God, we have the privilege to enter stage 3:  A mature faith in God no matter what happens.  Job reached that point.  He repented for his conditional faith, for his bartering,  and recognized God’s immensity.  (Job 42:1-6)

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 1 Cor. 13:12  Amplified

Christ is the fulfilment of the mystery and as we gaze at Him, we become more and more trusting and content and rested and fearless because of His amazing love, grace, mercy, and holiness.  He is in us.  We are in Him.  He is under us, above us, and around us.  We are important to Him.  Not as a group, but as individuals.  He wants us to grow in Him and have a mature relationship with Him.

Mike Erre says,

“We don’t like mystery because mystery forces us to trust and wait and be patient.  Mystery is painful.  Mystery and patience are certainly not the American way.

Faith in God is the kind of faith that says, ‘It doesn’t matter if God answers my questions or removes my pain.  I am content with him.” — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 132, 130

If Jesus is the mystery, look for the clues.  The clues that He loves you.  Today.  And.  Tomorrow.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 2 — Faith in Faith Dismantled

29 Nov

The problem with what I call bartering faith or conditional faith and what the author of The Jesus of Suburbia, Mike Erre, calls “faith in faith” is that it is an immature faith.  For our faith to become mature, we need to stop relying on a bartering system with God and begin to rely on God himself in order to enter into true faith-rest.

In order to achieve a mature faith–in which we walk fearlessly KNOWING that God always knows what’s best for us–we need to have our works righteousness system dismantled.  And God so lovingly does that for us so we can grow.  We need to follow in Job’s footsteps and say, Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15a)

God purposely introduces paradox, mystery, tension, and suffering into Job’s life in order to dismantle the religious system Job had set up.  Everything Job had hoped to gain through his religious performance (what we are calling “faith in faith”) was lost.

God sometimes, it seems, lets our systems crash, not because we’ve done something wrong but because he has something better for us.  — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 127-128

I know many people who are casualties at this stage of faith development.  People who think they do not deserve suffering because they are good Christians and go to church  and perhaps even tithe.  People who turn away from growth because they like the simple bartering system.  (i.e. I give God something; He gives me something.)  God does not want to barter with us, He wants us to trust Him for who He is not what He gives.  He is not Santa Claus leaving coal or gifts in the stocking hung by the mantlepiece.  When our “faith in faith” systems crash, it gives us the opportunity to seek Him, to gaze at Him, to grow in Him.  To trust, not fear.

Reality vs. Fantasy

24 Nov

Pansies or Little Friends?? Reality or Fantasy??

When I teach storytelling seminars, I always remind the storytellers to separate out reality and fantasy for the little guys.  When we create a fantasy world for them, they can easily believe that monsters are real!

Speaking of confusing reality and fantasy, last night I was partially awakened by Mike thrashing around in bed while dreaming and then thoroughly awakened when he grabbed my stomach in his fist and squeezed as hard as he could.  He snapped awake when I screamed and explained, “Nicholas Cage was going to kill me!” and then apologized profusely for hurting me.

We often get reality and fantasy mixed up when we believe Satan’s lies instead of God’s Truth. In John 8:44 we see Jesus speaking to the Pharisees giving a description of just how Satan operates:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

What lies does Satan whisper in your ear?  You’re not good enough??  Things will never change??  You’re not thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough??  You’re a terrible mother, wife, daughter??  Turn to Christ and believe what He says about you:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31, 32

When we believe what God’s Word says about us–we are free, from many things–but in this context we are free from believing the fantasy  lies that the devil tells us.  The reality is we are (according to Ephesians 1: 3-11) blessed, holy, blameless, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and chosen.  Rest in that!

Photo from

Thankful: To Be Part of God’s Family

23 Nov

We must be born again! (My newest granddaughter--Georgia)

When we ask people here in Ecuador if they are part of God’s family, they invariably answer yes.  When asked, they explain that all people are part of God’s family. 

They’re correct in that God did create us:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13

They’re correct in that God does love us:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

But we do not become part of His family until we are born again.  What a powerful metaphor!

Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God. John 3:3 Amplified

EVERYONE WHO believes (adheres to, trusts, and relies on the fact) that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah) is a bornagain child of God; and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him (His offspring).  1 John 5:1 (Amplified)

Reborn into the family of God: “by grace are ye saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8)  I don’t think there is a day when I’m not thankful to be a daughter—more than that–a beloved daughter of my heavenly Father.  He cares for me, He wants to spend time with me, He teaches me, He loves me.  All. The. Time.