How blessed we are to have friends who lift us up, who speak truth to us, who listen, give advice, encouragement and their constant prayers. This is richness; this is true treasure to have such wonderful women in your life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Trust in the Lord and Do Good

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires on your heart. 

Commit your way to to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:  He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, and the justice of your cause like the noon day."  Psalm 37: 3-6

I was into some pretty heavy-duty "hand-wringing" at one time in my life.  I was fretting a lot because, honestly, at the time, there were some situations worthy of least I thought so.  And like I have mentioned before, I come from a LOOONNNNGGGG line of professional and well-practiced fretters:)  It's what we do best and all we have known.  But then one September, real, deep and soul-searching Bible studies came into my life and this worry, anxiety and fretting did not fit at all.  Now what to do?

At first I thought the way out of the fret cycle was through choice, positive thinking, and sheer determination.  Can I be honest enough with you to say this was exhausting for me?  I was continually trying to "think  good thoughts" when difficulties came my way.   I was so often unsuccessful at fighting the tide of worry and fear enveloping my mind, I constantly felt defeated. 

Then one wonderful day the Holy Spirit, my counselor, brought "Trust in the LORD and do good" into my life.  I can't remember now who found that verse, my sister, Joni, or I as we were fighting off fretting, but it changed our lives.  We found out it was not enough to just "think good thoughts;" you had to let go of the worry and then "DO good."  That was the missing ingredient...the doing of good.  We could let the worry go for a moment, but it was the doing something good that made the letting go stick.  If you just sit there, guaranteed you will "let go" over and over until you give up or do something good!

Years ago when I was a junior higher, my best friend's mom was going through some depression because her husband, my friend's father, had left the family.  I will never forget the moment we were driving into the parking lot of our church. My friend's mom let out a long line of cursing because she had forgotten her Bible at home.  I was stunned.  I had never heard this kind of language from an adult who I respected.  She must have seen the look of "I think your mom just went crazy" fear on my face because she explained the reason for her outburst:  Her therapist told her to "let all her inner turmoil out...If she wanted to cuss and curse, to go ahead and do it."  This was supposedly going to help her out of her indulge the worst part of herself.  This poor woman was sad and bitter until the day she died.

Today, even secular therapists and counselors are advising their patients to "look outward, away from themselves to the needs of others" as a way to help them out of depression, worry and anxiety.  The Bible has always had the remedy for this common malady of humankind right there in black and in the LORD and do good. 

My sweet sister gave me permission to tell her story of the healing impact of even baby steps toward a life of doing good, in hope that it might help someone else. It is a great honor to be allowed to give to you my sister's humble offering...

When Joni was in her twenties, she suffered with eating disorders: anorexia that eventually morphed into bulimia...and I mean suffered.  There were a myriad of situations and experiences in her life that compelled her to try and control this one area.  Her fear, worry and anxiety drove her to eat and then purge meal after meal.  It is hard for some of us to understand how debilitating bulimia is for the victim.  Day after day, she would cry out to God and ask for forgiveness and then return to vomit the next meal in the nearest toilet.  As a Christian she knew this behavior was wrong, physically impairing her health and sin, but she could not find a way out of this miserable cycle.  She read Bible verses that told her "not to worry," and she would give "not worrying" her best mental shot, but her mind would wander, and, sooner far more often than later, she found herself right back in the same place: looking into the bowl of a toilet.  

One day as she was throwing up her latest meal, she cried out to her Savior in desperation.  She hated herself for this weakness hidden from everyone save her Lord.  Then in a moment that would forever change her life, she "saw" her Savior kneeling next her and lovingly putting His hand on her forehead as she vomited, and these simple words softly drifted into her mind;  "I love you right here, on this bathroom floor, in this moment.  I am right here with you always, and I will guide you out."  

That morning she rose from the floor with a little bit of hope that maybe...just maybe, bulimia would not destroy her after all.  Joni tells of sitting down at the table after this experience and the first thought that came to her mind was of some friends and acquaintances who had recently been through some difficult times.  And then she remembered a box of cards secreted away in her desk, and for the next hour she penned notes of encouragement.  Joni made a life-altering discovery that day:  while thinking of others and how to encourage them, she had not one thought about herself.  Without knowing it, her Savior had guided her to this truth:  You can trust a Lord who loves you even in the midst of your sin, and He will guide you to the good works He has planned for you if you can still your heart for a moment and listen.

This was not an instantaneous healing from her bulimia, but is was definitely the first step out, and it wasn't long before Jesus gave her complete victory over bulimia!  

Joy and healing of our tortured minds are so intricately entwined with that first step of trust and the continuing work of good our Savior has for us to do.  What I love is that Jesus started out with something Joni could do right then at that moment.  He can do that for us all.  There is a joy-filled ninety-six year old woman at a local church who bakes a loaf of bread for all new members.  She hands out water bottles to those who are working on projects around the church.  Jesus gives her good to do even at ninety-six!  And you can bet if this dear saint cannot knead another lump of dough with her weakening hands, He will in His goodness to her, give her something else to do that fits perfectly.

Trust in the LORD and do good!  What a glorious prescription for spiritual, emotional and mental health!  And the really cool part is that in doing good for others, you are doing what is best for you as well!  Our God is into that kind of good, be a joy-giver, show sensitivity and compassion and the goodness, the joy, the sensitivity and compassion of our Savior rebounds back and fills those empty spaces in our minds where unhealthy thoughts hang-out and healing comes to deep wounds we never, ever thought we'd see healed.

Seven powerful words that can change our lives and the lives of everyone near us...Trust in the Lord and do good!

Love and a clear realization of Lord's good works He has for you!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We've Got Some Choices To Make

Every parent has watched this scene play out over and over.  A toddler walks over to a beautiful blank wall, a crayon in their chubby little hand.  What to do?  The wall beckons like a readied canvas.  A choice has to be the art or not?   It might not be might be two large containers of baby powder, as it was for me one evening when my daughter, Aimee, and her friend, Allena,  decided my bedroom need a winter landscape makeover.  With my granddaughter it was a "rose" crayon ( her FAVORITE color:) and the wall at the top of the stairs where she wrote "P R E H":).  If you sound that one out phonetically, you will know what that little one needed to do when her mom and dad saw her artwork.:)

As we grow older,  so do our choices in their importance and impact on our lives.  Where we go to college.  Should we go to college.  Who we marry.  Where we work, live, and worship.  How many children do we welcome into our family.  Life-altering decisions.  But these are not the choices I want to talk about today.  Our lives certainly have those peak moments when choices such as these are foremost in our minds.  One author said we might have 20-40 of these momentous decisions to make throughout our lifetimes.  As important as these are, the truth is our everyday lives are made up of hundreds of lesser choices that truly define who we are and significantly influence the joy we experience.  It is crazy to think that many times we undermine joy in our lives simply by making the same poor choices day after day.  Let me give you a little example from my own life.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).   I hated this diagnosis, so I sought out other answers.  I found my way to a world renowned "gut" specialist at Cedar's Sinai Hospital and after many tests, he gave me good news and bad news.  The bad news was that I did, indeed, have IBS, but the good news was that my IBS had some obvious triggers I could avoid:  sugar, anything with gluten in it, and foods that had high carbohydrate content.  What?!?  These were my FAVORITE foods!   I LOVED all those particular "forbiddens" the most.  I loved bread, always had,  but bread deep fried into an apple fritter, dipped in a sugar glaze...well, let's just say it gets me salivating simply writing these words:)  For as long as I can remember, I have craved sweets.  One teenage summer, my sister and I and a cousin literally ate our way through Rapid City, South Dakota going from one bakery to another.  True story.  But as a very sick adult,  I was desperate, so I followed his recommendations and within months I was feeling better than I had in years.  I made choice after choice to keep those foods that were, quite literally poison to my body, out of my mouth.  But after feeling well for so long, all those foods that had caused me so much pain in the past,  beckoned once again.  I stood like a toddler with a crayon in her hand.  I knew what they would do to me, but through a whole bunch of internal crazy dialogue such as,  "Maybe I'm not REALLY gluten intolerant,"  along with other equally self-deceptive thoughts, I began to make some pretty poor choices.  Even to this day, I will think when faced with some food I really want, but know will cause me pain, "This will be worth it."  It never is.  I make stupid, stupid choices, and they have never been worth it...not once.  I undermine my own joy every time I make a poor choice about what I put in my mouth.

One verse Kay mentions in her chapter "Getting Back To Basics," comes from I Corinthians 6:19:  "Or don't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?  Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?"  (The Message)

Reading this caused real conviction in my spirit, and I had to come to grips with a hard truth.  Eating foods I KNOW cause problems to my system is really disobedience.  It is choosing NOT to do what I know to be right and good for my particular body, a body that is a "sacred place of the Holy Spirit," a body ransomed at a high price.  God has been good enough to show me how my body works most effectively so I can be strong and healthy.  This has helped me to feel better and to be more available to serve the Lord and others.  The truth is each time I disobey what I know to be true, I squander this great gift of love and grace. I am certainly NOT saying eating sugar or sweets is sin.  It probably isn't a problem for you, but it most certainly is for me, and God has made that very clear.

Recently, while in North Carolina visiting my kids and grandkids, I went with my daughter-in-law to Zumba class.  The instructor, Jess, is a wonderful Zumba teacher, so you better believe when the music begins, all eyes are on her.  Mine sure were.  I kept focused on what she was doing, trying my darndest to follow her.  I wasn't perfect at it...not by a long shot, but I improved as I watched and followed her every move.  One thing I noticed in Zumba  class is no one is looking around to see how others are doing.  No watching for others' mistakes.  No comparisons, because everyone is so intent on following the leader.

When thinking and praying about this blog post, I was reminded of my Zumba class.  If we are followers of Christ, He is the focus of our lives.  We should be so intent on following where He leads that we don't notice if others are messing up their "dance."  I wasn't comparing my "mad skills" of zumbaing to anyone else.  I did not notice the mistakes others made as we zumbaed together through the songs.  I was WAY too busy with my own dance.  When we begin to focus on the sin of others around us, or, we think what God has spoken to us us truth for EVERYONE, we stop our own "dance," or at the very least, slow it down and get off track.

Everyday we are faced with choices.  Choices that have the power to bring joy or grief into our lives and into the lives of others as well.  We can choose not to get upset when a car scoots into the parking space we have been waiting for.  We can choose to think the best instead of the worst in situations and especially of people.  We can choose not to be easily offended.  We can choose to give instead of take, bless instead of curse.  We can choose to smile at a stranger.  We can choose not to give into worry, fear and anxiety and instead "cast all our anxiety upon Him"  remembering how dearly "He cares for us."  We can choose to pray through difficulties instead of fret through them.

Think about it for just for a minute.  Aren't many for those things that "pop-up" in our daily lives simply distracting stuff we can just let go?  Like the stolen parking space?  Kay said in her book we get "over involved" in things that won't matter five years from now.  Very true.  But I can tell you that in my life, I have made choices to get worked up over things that don't matter FIVE HOURS FROM NOW and are completely forgotten (or at least should have been) by the next day.  I can be faced with the choice of eating a piece of wedding cake (because after all it is a special occasion) and suffer for the next three days as my system reacts, or I can choose to just say "No" and within minutes it is not an issue anymore.  It doesn't take a scholar to figure out the better choice.  Those defining seconds before we make our everyday decisions make or break the joy we experience each day.

Remember during those frozen in time moments when we are clutching a rose crayon and the desire to do what comes natural to all humanity rises up in us, that we have a choice to make.  Take a deep breath and some advice from my granddaughter, Rebekah, and...

Love and days of joy-filled choices to you, my friends!