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Archive for the ‘Worry’ Category

Two and a half years ago I posted, “Nan-Sense: It Makes Sense to Me.”  I’ve collected a bit more Nan-sense since then! Here are a few examples from this month. Perhaps in reviewing these truths with you, they will become more firmly planted in me.

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  1. I’ve been studying Hebrews, chapters 10-13, using Chuck Swindoll’s study book, Hebrews, Volume II (1983). One question invites readers to consider their personal  vision.  From the dictionary I chose the definition, “a mental image created by the imagination.”

My vision for my character includes these qualities: a) a quiet and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4), b) contentment whatever the circumstance (Philippians 4:12), c) consideration of others before myself (Philippians 2:3), d) rejoicing always (Philippians 4:4), and e) practicing God’s presence (John 15:5).

Slowly but surely, that vision is taking shape, by the power of the Spirit. (Although I still have a way to go!)

What is your personal vision?

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  1. One morning I glanced out the kitchen window to see a young squirrel perched at the very end of a dead tree branch. I could observe him quite closely because our house is built into a hill. The kitchen/family room, along the back of the house, is at the height of a second story.

Although I was looking almost straight ahead at him, he was about fifteen feet off the ground. His tail curled up gracefully over his back, and he appeared to be resting comfortably—no nervous glances, no shivers of fear.

God reminded me: He has equipped squirrels with claws that grip so tightly, they have no fear of heights. He has equipped me also with his shield of faith and sword of the Spirit. I have no need to fear either.  This, the morning after the horrific tragedy in Paris.

God, help me to be faithful to use that sword and shield!

What small moment experience has made an impression upon you recently?

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  1. Not long ago, I finished reading The Boys in the Boat (2013), by Daniel James Brown—the story of the eight-oar crew that won Olympic gold in 1936, in Berlin. Reviewers have used such adjectives as “suspenseful,” “riveting,” and “inspiring.” All accurate.

Now most readers would not expect to find statements of spiritual significance in a secular book. But often times I do, and this selection was no exception. From p. 53:

“It is hard to make the boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water…but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them” (George Yeoman Pocock, shell-builder*).

Sounds like George knew James 1:2-4.

What have you read lately from a secular source that had spiritual significance?

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  1. Last, I heard this quote on the radio, though I doubt this is a word-for-word rendering:

“Don’t worry that you don’t have strength before you start. God gives strength as we journey.”

Sound truth, right? Yet often I’d like to see my life-path at least a few miles ahead, and feel strong enough now to handle anything on that life-path.

God doesn’t work that way.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” Jesus taught (Matthew 6:34). Why? Because knowledge and provision ahead of time would cancel out the need for faith. And faith is one of the most precious treasures a person can possess.

What have you heard recently that spoke to your heart?

Join the conversation below with your observations!

 

*The long, narrow boats used by crews are called shells.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.movation.wordpress.com; http://www.nighthawkpublications.com; http://www.goodreads.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.)

 

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“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of our area in south Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23: 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

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Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel confident and in charge this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time. And just what is so wise and loving about keeping us in the dark?  So as to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression, and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes (Matthew 6:34).

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

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Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us, as needed.

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I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for each trial, you have prepared for us great mercies like endurance, strength, and wisdom. I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile. You are not just a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

(Photo credits:  www.mgonline.com; http://www.coffee4thesoul.com; http://www.myhero.com.)

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“What traits should you look for when determining if someone is trustworthy?” asked the subtitle of a magazine article.

That question piqued my interest, and I read further.

According to the researcher, integrity is a crucial component, but there’s another trait that’s equally important: competence. The author gave the following scenario as an example: His best friend, Charlie, had proven himself completely reliable, but he wouldn’t want that friend performing an operation on him.  Charlie is not a surgeon.

So a trustworthy person is not only honest and fair, he is also competent for what you need him to do.

Those of us who know God have just such a friend.  Think of all we know from scripture about the character of our virtuous, competent God.  He is:

  • just, faithful, and upright (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • righteous (Psalm 119:142) and holy (Leviticus 19:2).
  • wise (Daniel 2:20) and good (Psalm 106:1).
  • truthful (Psalm 31:5).

An  enlightened understanding of our trustworthy God should calm our fears and doubts, right?

But perhaps you’re like me—struggling a bit from time to time, asking questions like:

  • Lord, I know you have a plan, but when are you going to reveal it to me?
  • Why hasn’t Bill been healed? We’ve prayed so hard and for so long!
  • Dealing with Meredith day after day is sapping my strength, God.  When will the frustration end?

According to Philip Yancey, faith boils down to the matter of trust in the relationship. Do I have confidence in God or not? If I do stand on a bedrock of trust, the worst of circumstances will not destroy the relationship (Grace Notes, p. 198).

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So how can I develop that strong bedrock of trust? Saturating myself in scriptures about the character of God, such as those listed above, is a good place to start. Another worthy study-pursuit: the promises of God, because…

…“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill” (Numbers 23:19)?  No, of course not.

To truly impact my trust quotient, a change of habit is necessary–a habit such as: T-squared. Any time I find doubt or fear creeping at the edges of my thoughts, I want to Turn, Trust, and Thank. T x 3 includes:

  1. Turn away from thinking about the what-ifs, the negative, the hurtful.
  1. Express trust in God through song, prayer, and scripture. “Doubts are dismantled by declarations,” says my good blogger-friend, Jody Collins.*
  1. Thank God for his attributes that he’s bringing to bear on any negative situation.  Thank him also for every scripture-promise that applies.

I think I’ll try it right now.

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Oh, Father, I praise you that you are strong, and protect like a shield.   My heart leaps for joy knowing you care for me and will help me. I praise you for surrounding me with your love, because I trust in you. All my life you have proved yourself trustworthy; why would I want to stop trusting you now? Oh, how I praise you that, as I keep my mind steadfast upon you, you will fill me with your peace. You are my trustworthy Rock—reliable and unchanging.      

(Psalm 28:7; 32:10b; 71:5-6; Isaiah 26:3-4)

 *Visit Jody’s blog at http://www.threewaylight.blogspot.com.

 

(Photo credits:  www.pixgood.com., http://www.katherinepasour.net., http://www.tyndalerewards.com.)

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“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…
  • …The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

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Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. Now if our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks.  But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 12-3-12.)

 

When I was a little girl, my parents kept a large garden in the backyard. They grew corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and more.

Among all that produce grew something else: garter snakes. I was petrified of those snakes, in spite of assurances from Mom and Dad that they could do me no harm.

 

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So what was my reaction if, while playing in the yard, I noticed the slightest bit of slithering? I RAN while emitting eardrum-splitting shrieks. No doubt those snakes took off just as rapidly in the opposite direction, but I never looked back to find out.

Those experiences make a good word-picture of what my response should be when snakes of negativity, worry, or hurt feelings invade my mind. RUN!

James recommended exactly that: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7b).

But where should I run to? As a child, when seeking escape from the garter snakes, I often ran into the house, a safe and secure refuge. (Although I did have the occasional nightmare about smart snakes, who knew how to slither under doors and up stairs, so even the house wasn’t safe!)

As an adult, facing “snakes” of a different nature, where should I run?

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

That means, when my thoughts begin to turn to the negative, I need to run to God, my refuge of hope and help (Psalm 119:114).

When people speak or act unkindly and my emotions are bruised, I need to run to God, my refuge of comfort (Psalm 31:19-20).

When worry overtakes me, I need to run to God, my refuge of peace (Psalm 9:9).

Once my attention is focused on him, I must:

  • Look into his eyes and see the great everlasting love he has for me (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • Sense his strong arms around me, holding me close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).
  • Hear him reminding me of all his promises and all the times he has blessed me in the past (Psalm 77:11-12).
  • Taste his goodness (Psalm 34:8) in all the flavors of his attributes: power, wisdom, holiness, loving-kindness, grace, and more.

And what will be the end result? “Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy” (Psalm 5:11a). That sure beats cowering, fretting, and flustering, doesn’t it?

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Thank you, Father, for availing yourself to us as a refuge, a person-place we can run to for help, protection, and peace. We love you, O Lord, our strength, because you are our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer (Psalm 18:1).

Thank you for caring for us, those who seek to trust in you (Nahum 1:7). May we avail ourselves of your gladness and joy rather than let the snakes of negativity, worry, or emotional hurt get the best of us!

(Photo credit:  www.wikimedia.org.)

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I am a person of roots and routine. Are you?

Do you grieve when it’s time to leave one community for another, because emotional attachments have grown deep?

Do you take comfort in familiar routine, because you can move forward with confidence?

Then you’ll understand this statement: I am a person who struggles with change.

So this post is for me, to review what I know about accepting–even celebrating–change. You’re welcome to read over my shoulder.

First and foremost: I need to be selective of vocabulary, even in my thoughts. Thoughts impact attitudes; attitudes impact soul and spirit. For example:

  • Instead of change, I need to speak of the circumstances as an adventure.
  • Instead of problem, I should say possibility.
  • Instead of challenge, I can call the situation an opportunity.

Such a small commitment, really. But retooling my word-choices could have a profound impact on my spirit.

First, the change I don’t want to embrace takes on a glowing, new aura when I rename it adventure—the adventure of participating with God to bring about his good purpose (Romans 8:28). Such thinking would surely foster excitement!

Second, the problem I see is nothing compared to the possibilities God is capable of. “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams” (Ephesians 3:20, The Message)! As I consider the possibilities, hope and anticipation will flourish.

Third, the challenge I find so uncomfortable will undoubtedly provide opportunity to see God’s power and provision at work. Perhaps I’ll witness a whole string of God-engineered events. Or, the power and provision may occur in me, as he molds my personality and spirit into a more Christ-like version. (That is even more miraculous!) And who would turn aside from seeing—even participating in—a miracle?

It begins with my words.

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This might sound strange to some, but thank you, Father, for the uncomfortable changes, challenges, and disappointments you’ve brought into my life. Not one of them was without purpose. Forgive me for the times I have fretted about how circumstances would turn out. How easy it is for me to forget that you hold all things in your hands.

May I anticipate the adventure, the possibilities, and the opportunities of each day, NO MATTER WHAT, because you are by my side–my all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God. Thank you for the promise that you WILL fill me completely with joy and peace as I trust in you.  Then I can overflow with hope (Romans 15:13).

(Photo credit:  www.desiremercy.wordpress.com.)

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“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

M-m-m.  Interesting.  John doesn’t say perfect courage drives out fear.  Not even perfect faith.  Why does he say perfect love will drive out fear?

First of all, this verse is not talking about fears of financial ruin or life-threatening events.  Verse eighteen gives us the context.  John is talking about Judgment Day.  He’s reminding us that, if we know Jesus, there is nothing to fear when we leave this earth for eternity.  Jesus gave his life to save us from the consequences of our sin.  Our place in heaven is secure, if our faith is in him.

And once that matter has been settled, other fear-producing questions can be put in proper perspective. We have to remind ourselves that earthly life fades quickly like the leaves (Isaiah 64:6).  These questions will cease to matter–questions like:

  • Will my job survive the cutbacks?
  • Will I be able to keep my health insurance?
  • Will my kids make it through their personal crisis?

But such questions can cause torment to the point of ulcers and high blood pressure.  If we allow fear to control us, we’re saying that the troubles we face are more powerful than our God.

So here are a few ways to fight against fear:

  • Rename your difficulties as possibilities—possibilities for God to do something glorious.  Without a problem, there’s no opportunity for a miracle.
  • Picture God Almighty accompanying you all day long.  He’s standing right behind you at the sink.  He’s sitting beside you in the car.  His ever-watchful eye is upon you,  his infinite strength is available to you, and his perfect wisdom will guide you.
  • Don’t feed your fear with worry; feed your faith with the truth of God’s Word.  Psalm 23 is a perfect place to begin.  Remember verse four?  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  •  Listen to what he says:  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:13).  Visualize God holding you by the hand as you walk through each day.

Years ago, when a I was a young teenager, my family visited Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.  Dad and I were hiking over the mountain paths when we came to a deep, narrow ravine.  He easily jumped across, turned, and held out his hand for me.

“I can do it myself,” I announced confidently.  Then I looked down into that deep ravine.  What if I fall? I thought.  Grinning sheepishly at Dad, I said, “’Guess you’d better help me after all!”  I had great confidence in my father.  I knew he loved me and would never let me fall.

God is ready to walk hand-in-hand with me along the mountain paths of life.  Problems arise, though, when I repeat that moment on Lookout Mountain and focus on the ravine, the what-ifs.  The  result?  I’m frozen with fear.

How downright foolish of me, when my loving, trustworthy Heavenly Father has assured me:

“Don’t panic.  I’m with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10, The Message).

 You see, perfect love drives out fear because we can trust the perfect love of our perfect God.

(art & photo credits:  www.gracevine.com; http://www.visualphotos.com)

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