So, What’s the Secret?

For years, every time I heard a siren, I wondered if someone I loved had just died. “Wondered” doesn’t really cover it, either. Often, regardless of what was right in front of me—a laughing child, perhaps, or a beautiful view, or a friend who needed my attention—I dove unwittingly into an imaginary tragedy, my consciousness hijacked and sent on a wild mental goose chase. What if my husband was injured or dead? How would I ever be happy without him? Could our children cope with such a loss?

A new spot on my face distracted me for long moments as I pictured battling the same cancer that nearly took my father’s life. What if I had to face radiation, or chemo, or a surgery that left me disfigured? And as for things that go bump in the night, I couldn’t climb into bed alone without wondering if an intruder might creep into my room.

What if? What if? Those questions dropped into my mind and planted themselves there, growing into long, sad stories. They pulled me into a false world filled with heartache and trouble. Fear of the unknown and the unreal robbed me of joy in the present moment. I began to pray that God would make me fearless—and now, for the most part, I am.

What happened?

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Eeyore

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We’re living in a weird world, aren’t we? Most days, I’ve become accustomed to morning news that sounds like a science fiction movie, and days that run along a different pattern than this time last year. I manage to remember that God is still on his throne. But I’m a little down today. ‘No real reason that I can identify.  Steve (unintentionally) woke me up in the middle of the night, but that’s not particularly unusual, and I did go back to sleep. It’s cloudy, but clouds are a welcome gift in Austin’s summer heat. I could point to a few “first world problems” needling me, but even those usually fade into the background of my blessings.

So what’s wrong?

I think, as I type and analyze, that what’s most wrong is that I want to figure it all out. Why do we do that? Life would be smoother if, when it comes to short-term blues, we would tell ourselves, “Hey, this too will pass. Praise the Lord anyway and wait it out.”

Now, I’m not talking about grief or true depression or times in our lives when we have to face real trouble head-on. Those time call for introspection and, more often than not, the help of others. But, for today, I think I need to lean into Hannah Whitall Smith’s teaching about faith, facts, and feelings. While you can read a longer version here, I’ll give you the “CliffsNotes” version now:

I have faith in the Lord God Almighty.

It’s a fact that he loves me, is in charge, and provides all sorts of advice in the Bible about how to handle sadness.

My feelings are unreliable, and can fluctuate for any number of reasons, some of which I’ll never figure out.

So, today I’ll cut myself some slack. I won’t keep trying to “fix” this Eeyore day. I’ll praise God without the emotion I’d like to be experiencing. And, hopefully, I’ll manage to stay nice to those around me. (Whatever is the opposite of rose-tinting, that’s the sort of glasses I might be seeing the world through today. Thus, it’s probably best to keep my mouth shut if I see something or someone out of order.)

And tomorrow, odds are, I’ll be me again, and particularly thankful that the sun has come back out within me.

Have you been there? Are you there now? Join Hannah and me in taking a deep breath and remembering the truth. You will get through this, probably sooner than you think.

(And, for those dear friends who are about to pick up the phone and check on me, while I’d love to hear from you, please bear in mind that I rarely write on the same day that I post. When you call, hopefully I will have all sorts of cheery things to say!)

Psalm 43:5 is perfect for this issue: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Photo by tatianaDm via pixabay.

 

 

 

 

Judgement Free Zone

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I joined a group of women for coffee this morning. We were there to share our lives, our needs, our gifts and our prayers. The woman who brought us together had posted a sign on the wall that read “Judgement Free Zone.” (And one that said, “’Fix-It’ Free Zone” too, but that will have to wait for another day.)

Do you ever feel like the Lord is poking on you? Well, that sign was one more way he used to tell me I need to work on my awful tendency toward judgement. All of life should be a judgement free zone! Still, I struggle to ignore those nitpicky little notions that pop into my head when I see someone doing life wrong (aka not MY way). I’d like to share a few quotes that help me steer clear of judgmental muck and mire. Actually, the first should be enough for us all.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2).

“Give people room to be human.” (Joel Osteen)

“Carry a shield. And treat others as if they don’t.” (Rachelle Gardner)

Carry a shield? Yes, indeed! Since, sadly, we don’t live in a judgement free world, we’ve all got to be wary of allowing the judgment of others to wound us or, worse yet, to dissuade us from following the path we believe the Lord has laid out for us. While we are surely called to serve one another, we aren’t necessarily called to please one another.

Truth be told, though, the person on whom I often exact the toughest judgement is myself. I read these wise words a few nights ago:

“Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone you love.”

And how do we handle our fiery self-judgement when we’ve absolutely made a wrong choice? Here’s what my pastor says:

“Religion says, ‘I messed up. My dad is gonna kill me.’ The Gospel says, ‘I messed up. I need to call my dad.’”  (Ky Faciane)

Anytime we make the mistake of judging ourselves harshly, the best and only answer is to go back to our Lord, confident that he still loves us and can cover all our misdeeds. ‘Same goes for the misdeeds we see going on in other people’s lives. We can and ought to pray. Sometimes we may be called to counsel. But I’m ready to start building more judgement free zones. Join me, won’t you?!?

Bother to Obey?

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Why, when it can be so hard, do we bother to obey the Lord? This (with a good bit of editing and updating) is the answer Hannah Whitall Smith gave over 100 years ago:

“When we choose obedience, we bring joy to our Lord as well. Our deep love for him is perfectly reasonable, but the fact that he loves us so deeply is truly amazing! What does ‘loving him back’ look like? For one thing, it looks like obedience. Jesus told his disciples that the first and greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). That commandment leads us to ask ourselves:

  • Will we make him our greatest love?
  • Will we follow him, even when there’s no apparent reward, even if following him leads to a life of separateness or suffering?
  • Will we let him have complete control of all we are and all we have?
  • And what if our Christian friends don’t agree with our level of devotion?

“Say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes!’ to each of these questions. Pour out all your devotion on our Lord. Give him your enthusiastic surrender, even if it upsets some of the more moderate Christians around you. Why should you care if some don’t understand your choice? An intimate friendship with Christ is both your duty and your joy. When Christ makes his ways known to us, we have the great privilege of walking in them.

“Your whole-hearted devotion is precious to the Lord. Perhaps others don’t approve, but he does, and that’s enough. Don’t hold back. Lay your whole life open to him and say each morning, ‘Lord, help me to live this day in a way that pleases you. Give me spiritual insight to discover your will. Guide my every step.’ Don’t let a day, or even an hour, go by in which you aren’t consciously following him.”

I’ve loved Hannah’s words for years. They challenge and console me. How do they strike you today?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash.com