Friday, July 31, 2015

Working Through Anxiety: The Fallacy of Feelings

As I’ve been struggling with anxiety this summer, I discovered another important step toward overcoming it. Last post I shared about Fixing My Focus. But another step that’s helped is recognizing the fallacy of feelings.
I remember learning this truth with Peter. I no longer remember the exact issue that caused my stress. But I do remember exactly where I stood in my kitchen, hearing Casting Crown’s Voice of Truth on the radio, and realizing that the circumstances that seemed to scream at us that life was out of control were a lie. I remember saying to myself, this is not the true reality. This is a lie. God is in control. That is truth! And how many times over that next year did I have to remind myself that what I saw, what I felt, what seemed to be true, was not.
But somewhere along the way of life getting easier, I find I still revert back to honoring my feelings way too much. Like this summer. I have felt anxious, have felt ill, have felt stressed even though my mind knows and my heart knows that I am fine, my job is secure, I have time to learn, I will do well in my new position. But because my body felt differently, my mind struggled to walk in what was true.
Once I stopped fixating on my fears and focused on God, it was easier to choose the truth over my feelings. But I had to consciously make the decision to ignore how I felt. Instead, I had to keep functioning based on what I knew to be true, not what felt like it was true.
Proverbs 14:12 states There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
This is another reason why scripture is so important. Feelings change. But the Word of God is constant forever. God does not change. His Word and His promises do not either. Thus, we can trust the truth of His good intentions, His working on our behalf for our good, His control over our lives to use everything for our good. This is truth. Not how we feel.
We must choose faith, not feeling. Faith is walking not by what we see (or feel) but by what we know to be true – especially when we don’t see or feel it.

Let’s purpose to live our lives based on truth, not feelings. It’s a foundation we can stand on.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Working Through Anxiety: Fixing My Focus

So this summer has been a far cry from what I’d expected it to be.
I thought I’d have an empty summer.
I thought I’d do a lot of writing.
I thought I’d pick up a class I needed.
Well, I thought wrong.

Instead I’ve had an extremely busy and full summer getting ready for my new position. I’ve had lots of meetings and little writing. I had to drop the class I’d planned to take so I could attend two other needed trainings instead. But the big thing dominating my summer has been anxiety.

And that makes me sad.
And mad.

Because I know the truth about God, but still my stomach knotted so tightly I couldn’t eat or sleep. My mind raced with “unknowns” I couldn’t even articulate.

It was not who I wanted to be, not who I knew I should be. I felt so frustrated for letting God down as well as myself. I knew this job was a blessing, a gift for my growth, an opportunity for God to use me. So why couldn’t my body function from those truths instead of my fears?

That’s why I’ve been asking for prayer this summer. And that’s why I’ve been praying so much myself. I wanted to confidently move forward in obedience, not cower in fear while I waited for the job to begin.

So finally, I stopped getting mad at myself and said, well, this is where I am. That sounds so simple but it’s such a critical first step to change anything.  In my frustration I was only adding to my anxiety. By accepting that, for whatever reason (thinking patterns from my past, fears of the unknown that lay ahead, insecurities of my abilities) this was where I was at the moment, it freed me to shift my focus. Instead of focusing on how I felt, on why I felt this way, on why I shouldn’t feel this way – instead of focusing on the problem, I finally started focusing on the solution. God.

I literally prayed,

God, I don’t know why I am feeling this way. I know the truth. I know You have led me to this job. I know that I will grow here, that You will use me here, that You will support me here. I don’t know why I’m physically gripped with such fear. But I am. I admit it. It’s present. But So. Are. You. You are here in this dark place with me. You have not abandoned me because of the way my body is processing these changes. You have to get me through this because I don't know how to.

And I know God smiled.

Because finally I started to shift my focus. I stopped obsessing on how I was feeling, on all the unknowns, on all my perceived deficiencies, and instead I started focusing on Him. I recognized God’s presence with me, in the hard place… not waiting for me to come out of it.

I pressed into worship – celebrating His victory over death- life’s greatest enemy. I stopped word calling when reading scripture and really focused on what was being said. I started searching for God throughout my day. I listened for His whispers. I focused on the evidences of His hand and His control that I started to recognize. I think I finally made myself available to see Him and hear Him.

And guess what? The fears started to lose their grip.

I still felt stressed at times. I still had trouble sleeping. But I could finally eat again. So I praised Him for that. The less I focused on my fears, the smaller they became. The more I focused on God, the bigger He became. J

I have found the words of this song to be true.
God is a mighty fortress.
A sacred refuge.
His kingdom is unshakable.

A refuge is needed in the midst of trial. Not after we’ve won a battle, but in the battle. I found freedom when I recognized God was with me in my anxiety. I found freedom when I finally kept my eyes on Him.

I don’t know what anxiety might be weighing you down, but I pray as you listen to this song, that you will be encouraged. And I pray you will see God right there with you.

Make the choice to stop looking around you - at the problem, and look at the answer – at Him.

A Mighty Fortress by Christy Nockels

We know the end of the story my friend.
And we also know the tenderness of our God.

We can trust Him.
No matter where He leads, He is there. We are with Him together – in the dark, in the light, in the high and in the low.


Thank you for praying for me, my friends. And know I’m praying for you too.

Friday, July 24, 2015

So Simple!

This week the radio aired a quote by Andy Stanley, part of a piece that would run this weekend.

“We don’t need any more information about God. What we need is submission to God!”

Man is he so right!

I can spend hours and hours studying, learning about God, defining words and reading commentary. But if I don’t DO what I know, what difference does it make?

It’s like knowing zillions of facts about your boss but refusing to do what she/he says.

Right after I lost Andrew, I questioned God a lot. I struggled to understand who He was in my battle to trust Him. I needed to find the truth about Him to help me trust Him. Information does have a small role to play.

But it’s a small role. Because when it really gets real, what matters is your choice, not your knowledge. I had to learn about God’s good intentions for me, about the traits of His character. I had to correct the mis-information that had led me astray. But knowing even the right information about God means nothing if I don’t submit to God! The information made it easier for me to choose, but I still had to choose.

It seems so complicated but it’s really quite simple.
I Just. Have. To. Choose.

Simple, but sometimes so hard. Because I have to fight my nature to rule.

This is really what it comes down to in serving God.
Who will be boss? What will I choose?


Will you join me in making a conscious decision to stop gathering information and just choose to say yes instead? It’s the simplest thing you will ever do that will have such eternal, far-reaching affects.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still Weeding!

Speaking of Weeds…. Yes I’m still thinking about my garden. I noticed something else while getting my garden back in shape. Every summer there comes a point when the weeding gets a little more challenging. Not because of the weather, but because of the hunt.

See most of the summer to this point, in my weekly weeding, it’s not that hard to stay on top of the weeds. I pop from open area to open area, and find the occasional weed near the stem of a plant here and there. But now, by this point in summer, the perennials have grown substantially. They look great! But if you look more carefully, you are likely to see some weeds peeking through the plants. At this point in the summer, my weeding is not just around the plants but must also now be within the plants.

So as I was weeding within the flowers this week, I realized how often I need to let God weed within the “flowers” in my heart as well. See I know that I often have these good deeds in my life, aspects of ministry, good deeds for another, moments when God’s glorified, and then up pops a weed right in the middle! ~ a weed of pride, or a weed of jealousy, or a selfish motive weed. Can you relate?

It’s when those thoughts pop into my head that the weed seed drops. If I embrace the thought, the root grabs hold and starts to grow. Sometimes, I don’t even recognize it, so taller and taller it gets.  Then, suddenly, you have this glaring plant suddenly disrupting the beauty of the blooms. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I need God to remove.

Weeds glaring out in the open seem a little easier to deal with because they are so obvious. But are you willing to admit that weeds might be hiding within your good deeds too? Motives are so hard to face sometimes. It’s easy to say the right thing, but, if you are like me, there might be weeds lurking hidden within in the deeper recesses of your heart as well.


Father God, we thank you for the opportunities for ministry and growth that You have brought into our lives. But we have to be honest, as You already know Lord, that sometimes the wrong motives lurk hidden within. We invite You, I invite You into my heart to look for those hidden weeds. Help me to see those sins where I steal your glory, promote myself, and allow my focus to shift off of You and onto me. In invite you into the garden of my heart Lord. Please weed in every area, the open places, the hidden places, everywhere! In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tending the Soil

You know you have a great metaphor when it keeps teaching again and again.

That’s my garden for me.

This morning I was weeding after being gone for two weeks. Collected bucketfulls! But it wasn’t hard. We apparently had lots of rain while away, as evidenced by the abundant blooms and weeds alike. But we also had rain last night and I believe early this morning. The ground was saturated and soft.  Even the biggest weeds and the creepiest weeds – the large crabgrass that often has roots spread so far and deep you can only take off the tops – came up easily.

And somewhere between the Shasta daisies and the purple Coneflowers, the Spirit whispered… just like the weeds in your heart come out easier after being saturated with the Word.

And it got me thinking of all the ways God refreshes and nurtures the soil of my heart, prepping it for weeding. Washed by the Word. Bended knee in worship. His presence raining down. Reflection, listening, sharing, hearing during prayer. All of these help soften the soil of my heart, making it easier for me to let go of those weeds that crowd my life.

I challenge you today to diligently pursue these things. How much easier it is to have something smoothly slip away than to have it yanked out, tearing up all that’s left behind. Or even worse, the symptoms and appearance of the issue dealt with but the root left intact, only to regrow and re-infest.

It’s become my prayer this summer for God to diligently weed out those things in my heart that are interfering in our relationship. How gracious for Him to show me how to make this process easier, gentler…. Such a tender merciful God we serve.


Father, thank you for your tender wisdom and guidance. I commit to diligently pursue time with you, study in your word, drawing refreshment from worship, and basking in your presence. These are my steps as we partner together in this process of surrender and transformation. Thank you for making the way easier. Do your work within my heart this day, and every day. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Praying...

Last night I watched the movie The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.  What an excellent movie! If you haven’t watched it, grab some tissues and check it out. Not appropriate for littles, it is such a powerful portrayal of issues during WWII. I will try not to create a spoiler with this post.

As I tossed and turned in the wee hours this morning, I reflected back on the movie. It so aptly portrayed the propaganda that must have taken place for such atrocities to occur. When I read things of this era, it always makes me wonder at how such tragedies could transpire. But then, I look around the world today and realize how it could be.

For you see, the same atrocities that began with the Nazis against the Jews is taking place in today’s world by the hand of ISIS. We’ve seen the headlines. We’ve seen the videos. We’ve seen the beheadings. We’ve read the reports of the rape, the brutalization they inflict on their enemies, all in an attempt to shame and disgrace them. Yet, where is the uproar? Where is the condemnation their actions deserve? The human race certainly does not learn from its mistakes.

Why?

Because of our self love. It’s all about us. So aptly portrayed in the movie last night, the people accepted the claims, accepted the propaganda, accepted their assignments because of what they thought they would get out of it… a better, stronger nation and homeland. Dangle the carrot of self-gain in front of most any human and see what they will agree to.

This makes my heart sad. It hurts to see history, such known and condemned, repeat itself. It hurts to see us as a human race reject the love and direction of God, how we hurt His heart so, when all He’s ever done for us is love.

I don’t really know what my point is today. Forgive my ramblings. But I wanted to recommend this movie and I guess share the burden that weighs me down today. Pray with me that our selfishness will be overcome….

Father, forgive our selfishness. Help us who know You intimately and desire to walk in Your ways find the courage to speak, to stand, to fight, to protect. Use us to shine Your light on the injustices of this world… different and yet the same across the ages. And use us to be Your hands and feet to a hurting world. Thank you for the promises of Your Word, that the Light shines in the darkness and is not overcome! Continue to work deep in each of our hearts to rid us of our selfishness, drawing our hearts to You, helping us to surrender and be transformed from the inside out. Father God only You can do these things within us. Holy Spirit work deep, weeding, pruning, training, shaping. Jesus, may You be whom people see when they look at our lives, our actions, our words. God, save us from ourselves. In Jesus Name, Amen.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Vacation Days

Forgive my disruption of schedule.

Vacation got the best of me.

Posts will resume on Tuesday!

Thanks for the grace....
Juli