Matthew 6:25 - 27

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creativity in the margin

A friend got me thinking this morning. She said "if we don't have room in our lives for the space, it can stifle spontaneity".  I thought of all the times that I am just too busy and too stressed to do anything fun or to be creative.  I love to fiddle with decorating and scrap-booking and many other creative endeavors, but the less "margin" that I have, the less I have time to do those things and the more annoyed I get at others' ability to play, enjoy life, or even rest.  After all, I have so much work to do ... they should be working as hard as me (poor me!); right?? Then, my load begins to feel very heavy and I feel very alone.

And then I realized that our God is creative. Everything He does is creative.  And everything He does, He does from a place of rest ... a place of peace. And He tells us that if we keep our focus on Him, trusting in Him, He will keep us in Perfect Peace!  (Isaiah 26:3) God doesn't "work" or "perform" or even "create" from a place of pressure and stress, and we can't either. 

Stress truly does immobilize us. Rest releases us to move forward. Anxiety comes when we are looking at and trusting in the circumstances.  Rest comes when we look up and trust in the Lord.  Have you ever heard anyone say, "I'm doing o.k. under the circumstances"?  The next time you do, be sure to ask them what they are doing "under" there? I know that's old and you've probably heard it many times, but it bears a (long) second thought!  God tells us to "look up" ... to where our help comes from ... to Him!

Maybe that's why my husband, having had his busy life "interrupted" by the Lord, is able to move from optimism to joy.  His focus and his trust is totally on the Lord.  He is not able to do anything other than rest.  In fact, after being up several times and many hours during the night receiving much insight and revelation from the Lord (and waking me up too much), he's now snoozing in bed beside me!

So that's my goal for today.  To focus on Him, trust in Him, and rest in Him!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Falling Off the Edge

Life on the edge.  It sounds exciting, doesn't it?  It can be ... or it can be one step away from disaster. I'm always trying to pack "one more thing" into my life. Whether it is one more thing to do in an already overloaded time schedule, or putting one more thing into the overcrowded space we call "home", I'm always living on that edge of disaster.  It's really not a problem, as long as there's always "tomorrow" in which to attend to the overflow.  It's really not a problem as long as I live under the illusion that I'm the one in control of my life.  Of course, there is the constant tension of "frustration" that comes from the "little" interruptions of life (kids, traffic, messes that have to be cleaned up, hurt feelings to deal with, etc.), but after a while you just learn to live in that state.

It's not healthy, really.  That's what it is when the doctors tell you that your constant headache or backache is a result of "stress".  I remember once reading part of a book that someone wrote about having "margin" in your life. I feel guilty when I try to create "margin" in my life.  Like I should be doing something, and if I'm not, I'm being lazy or negligent or selfish.  So I continued to fill every available minute and every available space, and to put off until tomorrow what I couldn't get done today ...

Until the day that we were told that my husband, Tom, had a brain tumor.  That's when I fell off the edge that I'd been living on. That was three weeks ago. Everything stopped and began to spin around while I stood still in the middle of the whirlwind.  At least that is how it feels to me now.  Tom is doing great!  He's started his radiation and chemo therapies and continues to keep himself busy doing whatever he is able to. Even more so, his usual optomistic nature seems to be blooming into full-grown joy!  For me, however, my usual nature is a bit more  ... well ... pessimistic?

For the past week, I've been falling apart.  Crying often, so irritable that it doesn't take anything to set me into a full-blown raging melt-down. At a time when everyone around me needs me to meet their needs more than ever, I'm more of the problem than the solution.  When I go out "in public" (grocery store, or church), I feel like I'm in a "reality bubble" and the rest of the world is living in some kind of fantasy movie.  The real world doesn't feel "real" to me at all.  The correct term is probably "surreal".   Do you suppose that this is a "normal" reaction to being told that your husband has an inoperable, incurable, deadly brain tumor?  I don't know.  It seems that, for everyone else, including my husband, life goes on; while for me, it seems that life has stopped.  

So, where is faith in all of this?  To be honest, right now, I don't know.  I'm sure it's there somewhere and eventually, I'll find it again.  But, right now, it, too seems "suspended".  I have been considering getting some medical intervention for myself.  Having a family history (and a personal history) of depression and anxiety, and of seeing others rely heavily on medications to get through it, I've always adamantly avoided doing so myself.  But, I really need to "be there" for my husband, and children now, and I find I'm not able to.  

Tomorrow, I have an appointment to see a doctor to see if I can get some anti-anxiety, anti-depression medication.  The "side-effect" of feeling like I've "failed" will have to wait until later.   

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who Am I?

We all go through times in our lives when we ask the question "Who am I?". Most of us focus heavily on that question when we are teenagers and then don't think about it much after that. Until we meet someone new and we hear "So, tell me about yourself..." Or we join a social networking site, or start a blog and we try to complete a profile telling the world something "about me".

Think about it. How do you "define" who you
are? Do you, like me, define yourself in terms of your "relationships" (i.e. mother, wife, sister, etc.)? Or your career or occupation (teacher, technician, office worker, etc.)? Maybe you see yourself in terms of your accomplishments (I created ..., I'm the owner of ..., I helped to ..., etc.). This past week I decided that I would look again at how I define "me".

I started by dropping all of the above types of definitions. Once gone, the next step was "now, who am I?" I started with things like, I am a Child of God. Sounds good, huh? Suddenly I started to think about how the Apostle Paul identified himself... as a servant of Jesus Christ, as one "dead" but alive in Christ. Finally I "got it"! There is NO "I"!

I am ... DEAD! It is not "I" who live! It is CHRIST who lives IN ME! The life you see in me, in this body, I live only by faith in Jesus. I am a member of God's household. I am being built up into a holy dwelling for Him to live in! I am a TEMPLE of the Holy Spirit. That's who I am.

I realized that my highest calling was to agree with the apostle Paul ... I resolved to know nothing among you other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

If you see "me" walking around, please remind me that I am dead. I only want you to see Jesus!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Has Happened to My Heart?

It's a beautiful Minnesota day! The last several inches of new snow still sits on top of everything and glitters in the bright February sun. This morning I heard the birds singing their "summer" songs - a sure sign that Spring is coming soon! There is a warm fire going in our woodstove, and I'm still in my p.j.'s at almost 1:30 p.m.! I should be moving forward into this day with the anticipation of getting the house cleaned, the school week wrapped up and getting ready for all the weekend holds. I should be "engaged" with my home schooled son, involved with the activities of my high-schooled son, looking forward to church and ministry opportunities coming up ... my heart and thoughts "should be" in the present ... here ... in MN ... in my family ... in my life, but it's not.

Since January 12th, my heart has become connected to Haiti, it's people and issues, and those whose hearts and lives were already there before the earthquake. I've come to know several individuals, couples, families, ministries and groups whose lives have been forever affected by Haiti and by this earthquake. And I've become "consumed" with reading about Haiti, following the lives of the precious people that I've come to know, and discovering many more every day. I've never been where they've been and didn't experience what they did. Yet my every thought, day and night, is "with" them! How can I be so full of their pain, their questions, their struggle to understand and go on? It's not my life. I've never been there. I am not connected to anyone in Haiti. I haven't adopted children from there (or anywhere else). It's really "not my problem". So, why do I care so much? Is it "wrong" for me to be so involved? Should I just quit reading all the blogs, news, discussions, etc. and just "get on" with my life?

Maybe I care so much because God cares so much. His word says that "we love because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). If I remain in Him, close to His heart, I can't help but love those He loves.

I have to pray. And then, I need to pray some more. But when I find myself stuck "in the mire", I need to walk away and go sit in the sunshine for awhile and let the Son shine down on me. I need to get His perspective again. I need to rest in His peace again. If I continue to just look at "the storm", all I will see is the wind, the rain, the mess, the struggle, the vastness of it all. I have to lift my eyes to the One from whom my help (and the help of those whose burden I bear) comes from.

I have to come back to the only thing that is true and the only thing that matters. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. His love is greater than anything we can think or imagine. He is all we need. His word is true. I will "cast all my cares on Him (and the cares/needs of those I pray for) because He cares for (us)".

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Higher Perspective

Most days, my perspective is so small! In my daily world, my routine is much the same day after day. I am a "stay-at-home mom", home schooling my son, and launching my other son out into the world of high school and beyond. My days are consumed with trying to maintain my suburban "country" home and keeping everyone's schedule and needs "on track". It seems like my house will never be clean enough, my children will never become mature, responsible citizens and committed Christians, the daily struggle to do enough, have enough, etc. will never end.

I look at the bigger world around me and I am overwhelmed at the pain, the suffering, the destitution, the corruption, and on and on. It's huge, and I feel so small. I want so much to be part of an answer to alleviate the suffering of others, but how do I do that? My resources are very limited - we "get by" - but that's all; I don't have much to give or share. I don't have the education or skills or professional experience to make a difference in anyone's life. I can't even "go" and work elsewhere - I have children at home and I need to be here. The needs in the world are huge! How can any of us ever "make it better"?? How can the pain and suffering ever be ended?

And then, I look at the birds. How huge the world must look to them when they are in a nest, or feeding on the ground! How little they can see from there! But when they take to flight and they rise up and soar on the wind, they are not only free from the restrictions of being "grounded", but their perspective is so much bigger! Imagine how little everything looks from up there! All the activity on the ground must look "silly" to them - like ants scurrying around trying to carry huge loads and plug them into tiny holes.

When the world seems overwhelming, I need to "look to the birds of the air". I need to get God's perspective. He is so aware of the pain and the suffering, He hears every cry and every whisper for help ... every need ... every one ... everywhere ... all at once and He is not overwhelmed. He is not restricted or limited in His desire or ability to care for all of His creation! He is not so far removed that He doesn't know what's going on, or how much people are suffering. He is not "above" experiencing the pain of our human existence - Jesus suffered every imaginable pain in His human experience. He knows! He cares! And only He is big enough to be the answer!

Does that mean that we shouldn't be doing anything to help others? No. What it means is that we need to give up thinking that any one person, group, or government is the answer, or has the answer. We need to realize the limitations of our perspective and understanding. We need to ask God to give us His perspective! We need to have confidence that He is in control. We need to know where we fit into the larger picture. We need to have the humility that comes from knowing that we are only a "piece" and we must fit into the larger picture by accepting and working with all the other "pieces" that touch our life and experience. We need to find joy in just being a "piece" and not having to be the whole picture - or even see/understand the whole picture. We need to rest in Him.

Are you overwhelmed today? I pray that He will lift you up and let you "soar" on wings of eagles - far above everything - until you can see as He sees!

~ Jan

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear...

"He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:

'Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand."
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
"You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."

This is my daily prayer: "Lord, give me ears to hear, and a heart that understands." I believe, if we are listening, He is constantly speaking to us. He is asking us to "turn" from our own ways, from our own understanding so that He can heal us ... comfort and restore us ... guide us through the confusing twists and turns of life ... give us hope ... and lead us on the path of life.

The more I hear His voice, the more I want to listen! Jesus once said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." After that many turned away from Him. When He asked Peter if he would leave too, Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Indeed! Where else are we to go? His words are eternal life! Not just life after death, but LIFE now in this world! Life without Him is like living in black and white and on just one plain. LIFE is in full-color and multi-dimensional!

These days, I "hear" many things spoken to my spirit. I'd like to share some of them with you from time to time. In Matthew 10:27, Jesus tells us that what He tells us in the dark, we are to speak in the daylight, and what is whispered in our ears, we are to proclaim from the roofs. It's time to "let our light shine"! It's time to hear "what the Spirit is saying to the Church"! God Bless your ears to hear!

~ Jan