“I Will Not Be Hindered By Lies”

Galatians

January. This month has been haunting me for quite a while. It was January of last year that my panic attacks hit me hard, completely debilitating me. I never really figured out why but I keep thinking to myself, “If I can make it through January (and then February) I will be okay”. So far, I am trying to simply be more optimistic and smile even when I don’t feel like it, laugh when I’m not sure it’s in me and force myself to do something positive even when it’s hard. And as I go, I find myself feeling better. But this morning I realized that isn’t enough. God made it known to me that in the fear I was facing and associating with this month, I still wasn’t trusting in Him as I should be.

I will be honest, there are a lot of times when I know He wants to walk side by side with me but I act like a toddler with a temper tantrum, wanting things my own way and screaming, “Not right now…I don’t wanna!” No, I don’t really do that but you get the picture.

Then there are the moments I do stroll alongside Him but I’m like a sixteen year-old with an iPhone. Head down, only looking up occasionally to say “Huh? What did you say?” Not fully involved in the conversation or appreciating the friend who is willing to “hang out” with me.

So I prayed about these things this morning and God led me to Ephesians 6: 10-12 (Amplified Bible):

10” In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere”

From this I understand that the enemy wants nothing more than to remind me that January was bad for me last year. He wants me to believe that this month is cursed and that I will not make it through. But with these words from God I know that I can continue on the journey that He has me on. That I will fulfill whatever He has in store for me through the struggles I overcome on a daily basis. I will not be hindered by lies, deceit and strongholds, whose only purpose is to distort or confuse my thinking. Any lie, with our permission, will gain control of our emotions and change our behavior. These things do not come from God.

But these things do:

22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. – Galatians 5: 22-23

What are you facing today? Whatever it is, please let these powerful verses speak to you. Personally I am writing them down and carrying them with me this month : )

“Hakuna Matata!”

NYE Sunrise

Beautiful sunrise this New Year’s Eve morning

So here we are…December 31st. I’m sure most of you, like me, are reflecting on 2012 and looking forward to what 2013 holds in store.

Obviously, the past twelve months of my life are no secret. I have shared the good, the bad and the ugly through the words on my blog. I have also shared God’s word, which ultimately is the reason I am able to sit here and write about the journey I have been on this year.

Yesterday I received an email from WordPress documenting the yearly stats of my blog since it began in February. I can see the stats on a daily basis but it was fun to have it all laid out for me and see how it shaped up at the end of the year. My blog had nearly 2,800 views this year. My words were read by people in 29 different countries. The U.S. having the most visitors to my site, with Canada in second and oddly India was a close third. I had visitors from places such as Indonesia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Greece and Australia, just to mention a few. I never imagined my thoughts and faith in God would reach such far off places. My hope is that someone, somewhere along the way, near or far, was touched, found faith themselves or was lead to a greater understanding of the power and greatness of our Lord.

As I look back on the year, it is obviously been the hardest year of my life. I started out as someone I didn’t recognize. Slowly, I have found her again and I want to thank everyone who has been on this journey with me….you know who you are! : ) And to all of those who faithfully follow and read my blog, the ones who “like” the link when I post it and send me comments or messages, I thank you as well. I am looking forward to the New Year and pray I can continue to INSPIRE you.

Below are a few quotes, prayers, words of encouragement and verses that I collected this year. Some made it to the blog, some didn’t, and some are words that I carry with me to remind me I am never alone when I am a true believer in Christ.

  • “As a man thinketh, so is he”….Proverbs 23:7 (quote from a friend.. “Funny how the bible has an answer for everything”)…so true!
  • I don’t know about you, but often it’s just plain easier to throw up our hands, sit back, let life happen, and go nowhere. Or head backwards, slowly but surely. Hauling ourselves up the ladder takes focused energy and ongoing effort that we can’t drum up without the gracious help from our Heavenly Father. Yet, if we want to claim His rich, wise, eternity-in-view perspective, we have no other choice but to humble ourselves, get on our knees, and ask Him to lead the way.
  • Attempt something so big for God that it is sure to fail without Him!
  • Just BELIEVE in yourself and you will make it! (thank you Callie)
  • If I’m struggling, it’s not because of what I’ve been through. It’s because of what I came to believe when I went through it. God heals me, not by changing my past, but by revealing truth and displacing lies.
  • The battle is over but the memories will have to be rearranged to the back of your mind and this is where God’s gift must be fully internalized….you survived!
  • The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
  • The beginning of anxiety is the end of FAITH.
  • Let it go, and let God take control.
  • Hakuna Matata!!! (thank you again, Callie!)
  • Live a life worthy of the calling you have received – Ephesians 4:1
  • Follow Me one step at a time…if I do lead you up the cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for the strenuous climb.
  • God will never lead you into a situation and leave you to fail. If we sit still long enough to hear his whispers and adhere to His counsel (the message may come through an acquaintance, stranger or friend), we can transition from a difficult place towards victory
  • If you feel like you’re just ‘going through the motions’ and it even feels fake, keep doing it! Otherwise, you may die in the desert, on your way to glory
  • “You have to break that bad habit, you have to face your fears not once, but continually and realize they are nothing but creative interpretations from a fatigued and confused mind. You must stay strong, keep hold of hope and have faith you will overcome this.” (this has been posted to my bathroom mirror for a year : )
  • The only thing wrong with you, is that you still think there is something wrong with you.
  • And finally….”Cast all your anxiety on Him…because He cares for you!” – 1 Peter 5:7

 Happy New Year everyone!!!

“Hope in OUR God”

My heart has been so heavy the past few days. My mind has been consumed with so many thoughts and questions. Once I heard news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, I had hoped that it was nothing major. The first report was that a teacher had been shot in the foot and that a child had been injured but alive and being taken to the hospital. I immediately thought okay, this is probably a domestic dispute gone horribly wrong. That’s all it can be. As we all know now, the reports that came in showed an absolutely grim situation. Much like the day that innocent lives were taken at Virginia Tech, just miles from here, my heart began to sink when I realized the seriousness of what had just happened.

As a mother, my mind could not comprehend this. I left for lunch shortly after the news broke and as I started driving I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. Then I asked, Why, God?? Why?? What leads someone to do this? We immediately want to put a reason to someone’s crime. As if it would make any sense to us. Just anything at all to make you understand. But there is nothing. Nothing that can justify taking innocent lives in such a horrific way.

I returned to work and immediately searched the words of Billy Graham. I wanted something to cling to. Some words of hope that would help the thoughts running through my mind. I felt comfort for a while but found myself back to a depressed state that night. Our youth group was planning to go caroling and I needed to get my head on straight for myself and my daughter. I found hope as we sang. We didn’t speak of the days events much that night. We tried to enjoy the moment. But as we sang Silent Night, I looked up to the sky. It was a perfectly clear night and the sky was full of stars. I thought of those precious ones who had left that day and realized they were in a much better place than we are.

The comments stemming from this shooting have run the gamut from more gun control to arming teachers and keeping schools locked full time during the day. I agree our schools need better security. Unfortunately it has come to that. But the comments that break my heart the most are the ones that, in response for a call to prayer, ask “Where was YOUR God when this happened?” My response: OUR God is still here. I have questions myself but I will not give up on MY God. I will turn to MY God when this happens because without Him there is no hope. MY God is still my refuge and my strength in these times. The last thing this world needs is more people giving up on God. I fear this is why our world is in the state it is in now. I read a quote from a father who lost a daughter on Friday. He said as much as she was needed here and missed, she had beat them to paradise. If he can still have hope in OUR God, then we all should.

So my thoughts leading in to today were this: What can I do? How can I change what is happening in our world for my daughter and future generations? I refuse to give up hope, I want so desperately to believe there is still good in this world. I know there is. It just doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Our Sunday school lesson today was very meaningful. It touched on this very subject. What can you do to use the gifts God has given you? How can you make a difference? It’s time to stop worrying about offending someone or being embarrassed. It’s time to step up and do something instead of sitting back and shaking our heads about why this happens. I know I can’t save the world but I can try to do my best to reach out to those who need to hear God’s word. Maybe it will make a difference, maybe not but for my daughter and those around me, I will do my best. So if you can pray, pray! If you can speak, speak! If you can’t speak, listen! You never know when something you can do can make a change. I urge everyone to do this. Anything…this week, to use what God has put in you. It does no good if you keep it to yourself.

Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in LOVE” – Ephesians 4:1-16

“Grace and Forgiveness”

“Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness or else forgiving another”

SIN. What an ugly word. We all do it. However, we all do it in different ways. Some are more serious than others but to God, a sin is a sin. He forgives no matter what. Sometimes it’s hard though to really believe that your sins have truly been forgiven. The bible says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 and Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Those words are God’s gift to us. To help transform us with His grace. We all fall from grace so to speak. Some harder than others. It’s how we pick ourselves up that matters.

CONVICTION. The proper definition is the act of convicting (proving guilt). God’s conviction is very specific. He makes it known to us (sometimes in a very uncomfortable way) that we have done something wrong and because of such, we must right that wrong. He will usually show you the way toward that. It can come as a subtle hint or a gut-wrenching feeling that just won’t go away. Once you accept this and do what is necessary to correct it, your heart and mind can be at ease. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

FORGIVENESS. Big word! Forgiving and being forgiven can sometimes be the most freeing thing that a person can do for themselves. Forgiving someone for their mistakes, no matter how hurtful, takes a huge heart, a heart that is shaped by none other than God himself and makes us more like the One who forgives us…of all of our wrong doings. Asking for forgiveness is huge too. Pride has to fall by the wayside. You are admitting you are wrong and sometimes acknowledging a sin. There is nothing more humbling than that. But the peace that comes with it is absolutely worth it. Free of guilt and shame.

I have dealt with all three of these things in my life and one or two this week alone. Each of these with the right outcome will lead to opportunities for growth and a better understanding of ourselves and our daily walk with God. God uses conviction and forgiveness to purge us of those things that are still weighing us down and holding us back from the person He is trying to mold us into. What you have done in your past does not define you. (Whew…thank goodness!) The thing to remember is that what our Savior has done within us and for us makes us who we truly are.

“A Heart For God”

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure – Philippians 2:13

Compassion, forgiveness, respect, courtesy, patience…do you practice these on a daily basis? If we are to have a true heart for God, then these are the things He asks of us. Throughout the last few months, God has been working in me and through me. There is still so much I need to work on but I try, throughout my days and weeks to use those things that He would have me to use when I am out and about. Your conscience will speak to you during a particular moment when you know what you should say, do, or not say and not do. This is God speaking to you. There are so many times in the course of a day that you can put these things to work. Think about this when:

  • You get angry with the slow cashier at the supermarket/department store or the waitress at the restaurant. Maybe he/she is doing the best they can. Maybe it’s their first day or week. Maybe their burden is so heavy that they can’t concentrate on the task at hand. Be patient.
  • You get upset with a spouse/significant other/family member. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to figure out why they may have said what they said or did what they did. Imagine yourself in the same situation. Be forgiving.
  • You see an elderly person ahead of you in the check-out line struggling with a credit card machine or in slow-mode going down the highway. Life can be so fast-paced for people who have lived most of their life during a time when the days were simpler and life wasn’t so complicated and technology-driven. Don’t be rude. Be respectful.
  • You spot that person by the road asking for a handout. It seems easy to judge them. You might ask “why don’t they just get a job?” But do you know their circumstances? Are there mental health issues? Are they illiterate? Disabled? Maybe they have a job but it’s not enough to make ends meet. Obviously, there are those who ask for handouts and use them in less than appropriate ways (alcohol, drugs) but what if that person on the street is God’s way of allowing you to show compassion? Be compassionate.
  • Someone starts a conversation with you in the store aisle. This happened to me a couple weeks ago. I was trying to get a few things and get out as quickly as I could. I was rushed and this elderly man started a conversation with me. He was very kind and I tried to be kind in return, despite my rush. When I left the parking lot, he drove by me, honked, waved and smiled. Yes I was in a hurry but I took the time to speak with him. Maybe I was the only person he would speak to that day. Maybe he had no one else. If that conversation made him smile then it was worth it. Maybe God put me in his path that day. You just never know. Be courteous.
  • You feel the need to gossip. Ask yourself what you are gaining by passing on information (that may or may not be true) about someone else’s struggles or issues. Is it for the reaction that you will get from the person you are telling it to? Is it to make you feel better by speaking about someone else’s problems? If it is hurtful, it shouldn’t be said or repeated. We are all guilty, even me from time to time but I am really working on that.

I want to have a heart for God. A heart that will make Him proud. Think about the true “contents” of your heart. Does it contain things to be proud of? If not, consider making changes so that everything that comes from your mouth and every step you make comes from that place inside you where God wants to live and longs to stay.

“Changing the 66%”

There’s this kid. (young man I should say). He’s pretty cool. He likes to goof off and hang out with friends and do the stuff that fourteen year olds do. However, he’s not your average teenager. Statistics show he represents only a third of teenagers in a particular group. This group I’m speaking of is those who believe in God. That means roughly 66% of our teens do not believe God is real, do not pray, do not go to church and do not read the bible. 66%. That’s quite a number.

This young man, Drew, is trying to change that. He wants to make a difference in that percentage. God has laid it on his heart to reach out to those who may not know the written word and he has accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion. I admire him. He is doing something that has and most likely will continue to bring him ridicule and negativity. Does it bother him? I’m sure at times it may. Does it stop him? Absolutely not. No doubt he knows his goal and his reason for doing it and that is a greater reward than any words could ever change.

Drew started a prayer group on Facebook. This was huge for someone his age. His mother shared the story of his group in church and the following day, I joined. As I read through it, I was touched by all that he was doing. It was inspiring to see the praise and encouragement he was giving to his fellow teens (and adults too). As I continued reading though, I was shocked (sort of…honestly a lot of it didn’t surprise me) at the negativity aimed at Drew. There, on his prayer group page, was part of the 66% representing themselves in the cruelest of ways. Foul language and jokes about his faith and beliefs. Being the person he is Drew replied with prayer and scripture suggestions. I can only hope that somehow his words were heard.

His mother also recounted how he called her one day last week from the pool. He wasn’t asking for extra money or a ride home. He wanted her to come to the pool and bring….bibles. Yes, bibles. She admitted she was shocked. When she arrived (stack of bibles in tow), he called his friends over to a table under an umbrella in the corner and right there, at the pool, Drew led an impromptu bible study. He only had five bibles. There weren’t enough to go around so he helped the others download a bible app on their phones. That’s pretty awesome. His mother admits she was still in shock at what was happening, but no doubt was proud. Teenagers (and a couple moms I think) soaking wet, covered in towels sitting there reading the bible and learning a scripture lesson from a fourteen year old.

Could I have done this? Probably not. I’m not sure I would have had the courage. Most of us are afraid of what people will think. Shame on us. We could learn a lot from Drew. He is a true man of God. A warrior for God. Keep it up, Drew. You’re gonna change the world!

“Old Time Religion”

Last week Greg, Callie and I attended two nights of the 34th Annual Robert Sheffey Camp Meeting. This event takes place in July, in Trigg, VA, just a few minutes down a winding road from our home. Once you turn off of that road, you pass a church, a cemetery, a prayer chapel and the birthplace (transplanted from its original location) of Robert Sheffey.

Mr. Sheffey was a Methodist evangelist and circuit-riding preacher from about 1854 to his death in 1902. He was known for his eccentric nature and power of prayer.He had an unyielding faith in God and believed that God would take care of you if you simply asked and had faith. He proved this many times over along his travels. He eventually ministered, along with “singing and shouting”, to more than fourteen mountain counties spanning Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

I hadn’t attended the camp meeting in many years and I suppose until this time, I never really took much interest in the history that surrounds it. One evening while Callie was attending the youth event before the service, Greg and I wandered around the cemetery and found our way into the Sheffey Prayer Chapel, a tiny log building consisting of three pews and an altar. I sat down alone for a minute and just took it in, saying a prayer.

We made our way toward the grounds and stopped to visit the small log home that was the birthplace of Mr. Sheffey. It was as small as my living room, one room with a fireplace. It was hard to imagine a family living in such a small space.

Once you travel the remainder of the dirt road, you come to an opening in the trees. It’s a step back in time as the camp meeting takes place there under a roof with no walls and a wood chip floor. Although not entirely primitive (there is electricity for a sound system and bathrooms) there is still something inspiring about being a part of something that started long ago by someone who had an amazing relationship with God.

One particular evening, I walked to the car for my jacket and all I heard was the sound of the choir singing and the birds in the trees chiming in. What better place to spend time praising Him. After the choir sang, and the minister brought his word, there was an altar call. No matter who it is, whether I know them or not, there is something amazing about watching someone commit their life to someone so much greater than themselves.

I left there both nights, with a joy and peace in my heart. Being in the stillness of God’s beauty and in the company of others praising Him and giving Him glory did my heart good. There was a presence that only someone who knows God can feel. It was beautiful.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature – Mark 16:15