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Christ, our healer

“The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him.”             Isaiah 61:1-3

God is in the business of healing and restoration.  Do you believe this?  It is often hard to believe this when we are in the middle of a trial, especially if it is ongoing and/or long term.  We can tend to become so used to living in turmoil and anxiety that coming back into a non-threatening situation can feel strange, and even uncomfortable. We can fall into the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” mentality. Unfortunately, this type of thinking, while understandable, can slow the healing process.

So, how do we get unstuck?  Sometimes just “getting over it” not only seems difficult, but completely out of the realm of possibilities!!!  Well-intentioned friends who try to help can end up seeming like heartless enemies – enjoying your misery, and rubbing in the fact that it should be easy to get over it.  Scriptural promises can sound trite in the face of overwhelming heartache or strife.

I was thinking about this today, while talking with a friend who has been dealing with this very thing.  I was reminded of the movie “What About Bob?”.  In this movie, the main character deals with a debilitating phobia of almost everything.  He goes to see a psychiatrist who doesn’t have much time for him, but hands him a copy of his new best-selling book “Baby Steps”.  Bob latches onto this book and the advice it contains, and through a hilarious series of events, “baby steps” his way into a confident life.  This movie is a comedy, but it illustrates a way to deal with struggles we may have in life.

I remember a period of time in my life when things were so overwhelming and painful that I would wake up in the morning and say – out loud- “just put one foot in front of the other.”  If I could manage even a low level of activity, I was doing well.  During that time, I had a small band of sisters in Christ who would call and check in with me daily to see how I was doing.  They would come see me at the first suggestion that I needed them.  They would spend as much time as they could afford listening to me and talking me through a particularly rough spot.  They would come pick me up and take me to their houses when I felt I couldn’t be alone.  They lifted me to Christ in prayer every single day.  Like Barnabas, they continually spoke encouragement and truth to me, even when I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) hear it.  It took a long time, and a lot of patience on their part (that I am convinced came from the LORD Himself), but I  gradually got stronger.  And, as I did, it became easier to hear the truth, and have come to a place of healing.

Here are some lessons I learned from that time:

  • Sometimes healing is gradual.  That’s OK.  Even though we may want everything healed all at once, that may not be the best thing for us.  Learning to see the small victories help us to realize that God is still at work.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always need to be  sought in order to be given.
    •  If we keep waiting for people to ask for forgiveness before we are willing to forgive, we set ourselves (and the other person) up for failure.  We subject ourselves to harboring bitterness, which can weigh on our hearts and emotions, and become an almost insurmountable mountain of pain.  We subject the other person to the seemingly impossible task of re-earning any amount of our love for them.  This becomes a vicious cycle of fear, doubt, rejection, anger, and insecurity on both sides.  Not the best way to promote healing.
    • If we are willing to forgive, it frees us to love again.  Sometimes we need to keep  safeguards in place, especially where there is a lack of repentance, but forgiveness releases us from bondage to pain, and also makes an allowance for repentance from the other person.
  • Addressing smaller issues first, and seeing healing in these things can make addressing larger issues a little easier.  Even in the case of an illness, a clean pair of pajamas can help to alleviate some of the discomfort of a fever.  So it is with emotional pain.  One burden relieved can give renewed strength to face the next thing.
  • Keeping things light is a good thing!  When things are so serious and so painful, sometimes we can forget how to have fun.  We need to learn to play and laugh, even when it is hard to do.  “a cheerful heart  is like a medicine”.  How true those words are!
  • Moving forward from the point we are at can be more healing than trying to “solve” every painful instance from the past.  Sometimes, continually looking back can keep us in the cycle of pain and discouragement, never allowing us to see hope ahead.  The enemy can win a great victory if he can keep us thinking “remember that time? or remember when?”, instead of listening to and standing on God’s promise to “give us a future and a hope”.
  • Perfection and healing don’t equate – that is why grace and mercy are needed!  Having a bad day or a setback in something doesn’t equate to hopelessness, either.  Jesus Himself says we will have trouble.  But in the same sentence, He tells us to take heart (have hope) in Him.
  • A friend loves at all times.  Not always in the way we think we want to be loved, and certainly not always perfectly.  They will say hurtful things sometimes, they may tell us things we don’t want to hear, and they may seem like our enemies sometimes.  But, the proverb comes to mind “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
  •  The thing I learned the most is that God is still faithful, and His mercies really are new each day.  He does heal, though we may not see healing in our preferred timing or our preferred way.  But, when we stand on His promises, and learn to rest in the arms of Jesus, He will give us the grace we need to face each day.

I pray that if you are struggling today, that the love of Jesus will minister to you even now, and that you will begin to see the light of hope that He brings.  May you, even if it’s one step at a time, keep abiding on.

 

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Times of Sorrow; Times of Joy – The Abiding Life of the Body of Christ

1Cor. 12:26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

I have been on vacation, visiting dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s been an amazing journey in many ways.  I have had time to thaw out from the very long winter that we have had, time to think, time for fellowship, time to pray.  I love these folks.  It is marvelous to me how people from across the globe can have so significant a connection as Christ.  The love of believers surpasses all boundaries – cultural, economic, racial, social.  I have met believers that use the material riches that God has given them to encourage those believers who don’t.  I have witnessed believers that have next to nothing minister powerfully to those that look like they don’t need a thing.  I have seen cultures that should clash come together as one in the name of Christ.  I have seen racial divides come crashing down because of the bridge that the blood of Christ provides.

But I’ve also seen the burdens that need to be borne.  My list of people to pray for keeps getting longer.  I have seen tears of sorrow on many faces as they face things that are just so hard.  Sometimes we might wonder “How can they do it?  How can they stay so strong?”  Other times we may wonder what we can do for someone who is falling apart.  “What can I do?  I don’t have the words to say.”  “I don’t have the resources they need.”  Sometimes, we just need to be a little resourceful, and meet needs where we can.  But sometimes, our best resource is the One Who owns it all.  I honestly believe that God answers prayer.  All.   The.  Time.  Sometimes we don’t see His answers, or don’t acknowledge them as coming from Him, or simply don’t like His answer, but He does answer.  Knowing that He answers us when  we call to Him should encourage us to come to Him often on behalf of one another.  It is such a privilege to lift another person to the throne room of grace.  Whether we are praying for saving grace to meet someone so they can know the Father for the first time, or praying for a saint that is struggling in illness, or praying a brother or sister in Christ through a time of crisis, God has given us the privilege of sharing together in the hope that Christ can bring.

Likewise, we can share in one another’s joys.  Weddings, baptisms, births, and blessings are all times to spend together, rejoicing and praising the Father.  In these times, there is no room for jealousy, because we are all one in Christ!  We can rejoice together, having seen evidence of the mercy and grace of God in these situations.  Every Sunday is a time to celebrate Christ together.  When we join together in the praise and worship of Jesus, the bonds of unity are strengthened.

To abide means “to remain with”.  We need to abide in Christ (to remain in Christ), and to abide with (remain with) each other.  So, today, go ahead and meet with a fellow believer.  Talk about your Savior; seek Him together.  Cry together over sorrows.  Laugh together in the joyous times.  Love each other through the difficult times.  Show grace and mercy when it’s needed.  Spur each other on when  necessary.  Pray for one another.  It will do your heart and your body good.

Keep abiding on.  Together.

Gal. 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.  It is a day of celebration of what God has called you to do.  This is a true blessing. Most people spend much of their time wondering what they will do with their lives, or what they plan to do next.  For a mother, that is easily answered.  “I’m a mother.”  But, as much of a blessing as those words are, somehow many mothers get them twisted around, and allow another word to be inserted where it doesn’t belong.  Instead of hearing “I’m a mother.”  as a blessing, they hear this:  “I’m just a mother.”  There is no such thing as being “just a mother”.  

When I was younger, there were some things that I wanted to do when I grew up, but I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a nurse or a paramedic, a teacher, a counselor, or a journalist.  I even thought about becoming a lawyer.  I simply couldn’t decide what it was that I wanted to do.  But over the years as a mother, I have realized that I have done every single one of those things!  I have sat by bedsides with sick children, bound up wounds (mostly without panicking!), sat with children when they are sad or scared, giving them comfort and counsel.  I have had the privilege of teaching them to read and write and (yikes!) learn Algebra (I think I finally understand it!)  :) I have investigated claims and counter-claims to find the truth and bring out the real story concerning what I was told.  And I have been an arbitrator between factions, meting out the appropriate decisions.

Most importantly, though, I have had the privilege of seeing each of them come to know Jesus, and to watch them grow in Him.  What a blessing!  Please don’t ever think that you are “just a mother”.  When you are overwhelmed by piles of laundry and lost shoes, haven’t slept well in weeks because your baby is keeping you up at night, remember that this time is short.  I really miss those days!  Snuggle in closer, smile more, and remember that as you abide in Christ each day, He will give you what you need.  God bless you Moms today.

I pray for you that the sweet times and the joys and the victories would outweigh any sorrows and pain. I pray that God will grant you His peace when things are hard, His joy when things are sad, His patience when you are at the end of your own, and His love when your own seems to not be enough.

For those about to become mothers, I pray that Christ will give you wisdom and strength and patience and joy as you embark on this new life.

For those who have lost children, but haven’t really lost them, because they are still in your heart, I pray that God will bring you special comfort today.

For those who have so earnestly desired children, and are still waiting, or feel that it is too late, I pray that God will grant you the desire of your heart, whether by filling your arms with a physical child, or filling your heart with spiritual children, born by relationships that are wrapped tightly in the love of Christ.

Keep abiding on.

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Abiding Rest

Rest in the LORDFor six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. Lev. 23:3 Then he [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.   Mark 2:27   Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people.   For the person who has entered His [Jesus'] rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His.  Heb. 4:9-10 Rest.  It sounds…well, restful, doesn’t it?  OK, Maybe not to everyone.  Little children fight it with all of their might until their bodies just gives up and knocks them out.  Older children and teens scoff at the idea – I can see eyes rolling now.  Young adults wonder why they need it – there is just too much to do!  Followed quickly by those that wonder what rest is because it’s been so long since they have been able to obtain it (because there is just so much to do!).

I have been in this last stage for a while now.  I’m just plain tired.  But, I haven’t been taking time to properly rest.  Until now.  I am on a vacation for the first time in a long time.  Just my daughter and me, visiting friends across the country.  (We have a BIG country, in case you were wondering.)  After six months of winter, I am finally warming up and thawing out.  I have actually gone for hours without shivering!  I have had time to simply be quiet, without going at a busy pace trying to keep on top of everything.

I got to play in the ocean yesterday for the first time.  I’ve never been close enough to be able to do that, as I’m land-locked in the frozen mid-west, although I’ve always thought that everyone should be able to have this opportunity at least once in their lives.  Now, I know everyone should do it at least once, if they can.  Standing in the tide, and being knocked over brought this to mind:

Job 38:8 “Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket, 10 when I determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, 11 when I declared: “You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here”?

It served as a reminder of God’s care and sovereignty in our lives.  If God can provide a boundary for the oceans (which have the power to capsize entire ships – not just knock me over), He can surely set a boundary for our lives.  We don’t have to fret and worry and “try harder” to overcome our pain, our sinful habits, or to earn God’s favor.  What we need is more of Him.  To seek His face continually – in hard times, and in good times.  To stand on the promises He has given us.  To ask Him for wisdom in what to do next.  The thing is, if we are not seeking His face and reading His promises in the good times, we will end up walking in our own strength, instead of learning the surety and joy of walking in His.  Then when hard times come, we will get knocked over by the waves of trial and sin and disappointment and defeat.  But, in truth, God has provided a rest that can only be found in Him.

God told the Israelites to set apart one day each week as a day of complete rest.  No cooking, no cleaning, no planting, no other work.  He did this to set His people apart for Himself, so other nations could see that something was different about them.  He also wanted to remind the Israelites, His Own Chosen People, that in the midst of all the things that they needed to do in order to survive,  that He alone is the One Who sustains them.

But now, in Jesus Christ, we can rest all of the time.  Our entire Christian life should be one of rest, because it’s a life of faith – of trust.  What the Sabbath intended to show the Israelites is now fulfilled in us through Christ.  Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit.  We can now truly live in His strength; not in our own strength.

If someone you truly trusted asked you to do a task that you thought was too difficult, wouldn’t you think that task was easier because of your trust in them, especially if they were right there with you?  For example, my Dad used to take us camping.  Sometimes we would go rock climbing.  Dad showed us how to find hand-holds and foot-holds, and to slowly make our way up the rock.  Whenever it got too hard, and I would panic, I would look to him, and he would show the next place to put a hand or foot until I got steady again; sometimes holding tight to me and helping me to reach the place he intended for me to be.  I could trust in his strength and in his wisdom to guide me, even when it was hard, because I didn’t doubt his love and care for me.  And when I finally made it to the top, he was right there to join me in celebrating the victory.

It is the same with God.  Things here on earth may seem too difficult, but as we trust and rest in the promises He gives us in His Word, we can move on in confidence, knowing that we can rest and trust in His never-failing love.  And we can know that He will celebrate with us in the Day of victory.  I pray that you will renew your faith in Christ today, and learn to rest.  God bless you.

Keep abiding on.

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