Like a Yo-yo by Beth Smith Part 1: The Don’ts

Once a few years ago I found a bag of yo-yos on sale for a remarkably low price. Why? Because they didn’t work at all.  I bought them anyway and gave them to some of my friends as a reminder that a “Yo-yo Life” doesn’t work either.

Because we’re human, we all suffer from the yo-yo syndrome. We feel

  • good, then bad;
  • happy, then depressed;
  • fearless, then afraid;
  • loving, then hateful;
  • confident, then anxious.

What do we do about these ups and downs? Sadly, we often do something like the old song says, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”. We turn to alcohol or drugs or food or screen binging or shopping or…anything that will satisfy our senses and numb our feelings. We need to get that yo-yo up! But none of our strategies last, so down we go again.

The ups and downs of life are a part of reality. We can’t run away from life anymore than we can jump out of our own skin. So, what are we to do? God is the only lasting answer. We must trust him with everything, and turn to him for help when the yo-yo is dropping instead of turning to short-term solutions.   

When we’re down, we tend to say, “Well, I guess I just need to try harder.” Ah, but here’s some great news. It’s not the trying, but the trusting that does the trick. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths.” The God who saves us by his grace is also the God who is powerful enough to sustain us and to keep us steady, to stop the yo-yoing up and down.

(To be continued…)

Photo by Geometric Photography on Unsplash

Shut Up and Dance!

I’m a Straight No Chaser fan. Last week, I was listening to their music (thank, you, Alexa) and heard their rendition of “Shut Up and Dance.” It made finishing up my household chores way more fun. Last night, I played it for Steve, and we danced to it right there in the kitchen. Today, we both had it stuck in our heads.

The words of that song are a surprising reminder of how we are to live as followers of Christ.

Don’t you dare look back. Yesterday is passed. Our sins are forgiven. We are to forgive the past hurts others have inflicted on us. While these are obvious truths God intends for us to live by, we all need to be reminded: Don’t look back.

Keep your eyes on Me. Me, meaning our loving lord. When our focus is on the Lord, we become aware of his all powerful presence, affecting our attitude and our actions.

You’re holding back. What are we to hold back from the Lord? Nothing! Confess all. Submit all. Give all. Obey all. Enjoy all.

Shut up. Okay, we don’t think of God as saying “Shut up.” But that’s just another, albiet slightly rude, way of saying “Be still.” Or, “Stop babbling on about your fears, worries, and hesitations. Start trusting our Almighty God instead.”

Dance with me. I used to talk about God giving me marching orders, but that phrase—cold and unfeeling—was never the right one. He does ask us to dance with him. Make no mistake, our Lord is to be the one leading—always. Are we often uncertain, wondering what the next step will be? Sure. Nevertheless, our lives with him are to be intricate and beautiful as we seek to follow his ways.

Here’s a link to that popular song, part of which has become a hymn of instruction and praise for me. I hope you’ll never hear it the same way again!

Straight No Chaser – Shut Up And Dance [Official Audio] – Bing video

And if you want a little more. Read on:

Phil. 3:13 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Oh turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace


Helen Howarth Lemmel, 1918

Emancipation

Hannah Smith taught me about trust, writing:

“We have trusted the Lord in a few things, and he hasn’t failed us. We can trust him now in all things, and see if he doesn’t do far above all we could ever ask or even think, not by our own ability, but by his own mighty power. It isn’t difficult for us to trust the management of the universe and of all creation to the Lord. Can the particular needs of our lives be so much more complex?”

When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, making slaves legally free, true freedom lagged behind. No slaves experienced that freedom until they heard about it, came to believe it, and acted on it. The fact alone of freedom was not enough.

We’ve been given emancipation from fear. But that fact is not enough. We must come to believe it, to act on it. It’s time to put our total confidence in the Lord who loves us, to start living moment by moment with total and childlike trust in him.

Trust is a choice. When we make faith an active effort, a willful determination, eventually it becomes a natural habit. Each act of trusting makes the next one easier.

Matthew 17:20 quotes Christ as saying, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” As believers, we have at least as much faith as a tiny grain of mustard. And so, let each of us say, “I can trust my Lord, and I will trust him!”

When we trust God completely, we give him glory and we receive peace. Even in times of hardship, we can rest on the incontrovertible fact that our Lord is in control. When those times come, be patient, wait, trust, and remain free.  

photo credit: mengmengniu via Unsplash.com

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?

Continue reading

One More Look at Elijah

Last week, when I shared thoughts from Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I left out one of the most powerful quotes in the book, particularly appropriate for those of you who read last year’s essays about the miracles of Elijah and Elisha.

“My favorite verse is quite possibly James 5:17, which reads, ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently.’ Don’t keep yourself from praying desperately and courageously for the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah. As this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently.”

Have you ever said, “There’s nothing I can do but pray?” That only feels like a helpless position when we forget that prayer is powerful, that everything else we do to help in any situation is actually secondary to our prayers.

Of course, powerful prayers don’t promise us a yes from God every time. As Francis Chan said, “There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true…Do you trust God that when He says no or “not in this way” to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?”

Now in my grandparenting years, I’m often put in the position of having to say no—to climbing on the furniture or eating too much ice cream or going out in the cold without a sweater. I marvel at how toddlers can insist that they know better—until I realize that sometimes I do that to God.

The possibility of a “no” answer should never keep us from praying big prayers. Why wouldn’t we ask? My grandchildren will ask me for anything they want, even though they know by now that I won’t always grant their request. We can trust God to give us the right answer every time. Friends, let’s make this the year of asking and accepting, of looking for miraculous answers and praising God in everything he does. Elijah had nothing on us. Rather, just like us, he had God.

Giving Up the Table

Paul Harvey was famous for telling “the rest of the story.” I posted a blog called “Secret Shopper” back in March of 2018. That story challenged all of us to offer compassion to those with unseen needs.  You can reread it (and see a photo of it in use) here. I described the hard time I had giving up a well-worn and much loved kitchen table. Here, though is the rest of the story.

I mourned the loss of that table until I realized it had served me well, but had to go. The memories it evoked were still with me after all. Steve and I replaced it with a table that was nearly the same except for one important difference—the new one has two additional leaves, one for each end. Little did we know at the time how much we’d need those extra slabs of wood. Since the day my old table was hauled away, my tribe of immediate Austinite family members has grown from six to thirteen. Almost weekly, I set up my expanded kitchen table for some sort of celebration. That old table was perfect in its former time and place. It wouldn’t fit us now.

So, yet again, I’ve learned the lesson of relinquishment, of letting go of what we love so that God can replace it with what we need.

I am not alone in needing that lesson. Neither are you.

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, wrote, “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full – there’s simply no place for Him to put it.” 

Catherine Marshall, after being stuck in bed for six months with a lung infection, finally prayed, “I’m beaten God. You decide what you want for me.

When we hold on to our own ways, our own stuff, our own plans, we may miss something God has planned for us. Christ’s words, “Not my will, but yours,” need to be a part of our daily prayers. Relinquishment allows us to surrender our lives with an open hand, ready to receive what God has in store.