Say and Do, Hear and Obey

Marcus in heelsThis is such a nutty time. I know I could make that statement a 1,000 different ways, and we’ve all heard all of them. The picture I’ve included here is of my children passing the time by seeing who could walk best in my heels. This one in red is my 10 year old son. My daughters are making rose crowns to place on the dogs and I’m trying to balance the seemingly innumerous demands on my time. A co-worker of mine recently made the statement that we were not designed for the kind of responsibility we are now taking on…work, home school teacher, health aid, and counselor. As a parent, not sure if I agree?

Even with all the additional responsibility, the pace of life seems much slower, I get to be (noticed I didn’t say ‘have’ to be) with my family 24/7, and I’m loving it. One of the biggest pay-offs, outside of family time being all the time, is my time with Jesus. I am reading the bible more than I ever have before. I’m praying more and talking with Jesus more, it’s been eye opening.IMG_20200405_180221

My spiritual life is filled with questions, not the ‘where are You in the midst of all of this’, but more like how could the Jewish masses wave palms and praise Your coming one day and less than a week later, bay for Your destruction? Why did God allow so much disobedience in the Old Testament go seemingly unpunished? Why do we hold Gideon up as an example to follow, when actually his actions showed a lack of faith?

I’m working my way though the book of Jeremiah right now and finding that the story of God is a story of childhood disobedience. Not unlike my children. We give them boundaries and rules to obey, and they are constantly pushing those boundaries, trying to sneak under them, negotiation new ones, or just blatantly disobeying them…just because they feel like it. Yet, we as parents, each time correct, instruction, and redirect. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 16). Sounds familiar doesn’t it? As parents, this is our job to establish rules and guidelines and then to ‘parent’ our children through them.

In Jeremiah, God sent His word through the prophet to His people, “Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant “which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so shall you be My people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 11:4) God speaks and always does what He say’s He’ll do. His word is never shaken, broken or brought into question. Our job is to hear and obey.

We are God’s children, created in His image to bring Him glory and to be heirs along with Jesus. He created us. He isn’t trying to torture us, or make our lives hard, or embarrass us in front of our friends or force us to do unthinkable chores (like folding laundry). No He created us to be in relationship with Him. He wants to give us the very best, that means we need to operate within the laws and guidelines He has created. God is practical, He isn’t asking us to do anything unreasonable or harmful. In fact, what He is asking is in complete contrast to the unreasonable, unethical, immoral and self-centered way the world wants us to live…and it looks like fun. The world wants us to think that God’s rules are outrageous and unfair and serve only to make us unhappy, and we buy it hook line and 24K gold sinker.

We stop hearing Him, we stop believing in His promises and we listen to the creation, instead of the creator. Why didn’t God act sooner to punish the unruly and disobedient Jewish people, because they are His unruly and disobedient children. And just like we would never turn our back on our own children, regardless of their disobedience, He will never turn His back on His children. He will let them take their sin to a point, then, using extreme measures to get their attention, He will bring them back to Himself.

For my kids it’s video games or texting their friends or watching movies. For the Jewish nation it was a conquering nation that carried them off into slavery; more extreme circumstances, same principle.

I may get frustrated and occasionally angry at my children’s actions and choices, but like my Father, I will correct, instruct and redirect. I will allow them to experience the consequences of their actions, missing out on free time, extra chores, not passing a class, or not getting virtual time with friends, but I will never leave or forsake them. I am their parent and I love them… to infinity and beyond. When they turn and return, they will find me running to them with open arms.

“That I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day” (Jeremiah 11:5)

God always keeps His covenants. He has spoken and will do what He says, we need to hear His words and obey them, that it may go well with us.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

High Anxiety

High AnxietyDo you remember the 1977 Mel Brooks movie? If not I’ll shed a bit of light, it is a satire on several Alfred Hitchcock movies where the scariest scenes, ones that have terrified us for decades are turned into hysterical (and a bit irreverent) scenes where knives are replaced with newspapers and blood with ink. It takes us to the edge of anxiety, ramps it up a few notches then lets us fall down laughing at how we were taken in by what seemed to be something terrible, and turned out to be nothing at all. Sound familiar?

Proverbs tell us, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good words makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) In the amplified Bible it expands the meaning to anxiety weighing a heart down. Anxiety can weigh us down, cause depression and ultimately whatever we’re obsessing about becomes the lens by which we see everything else in life.

While reading recently I was reminded, “worry comes when we lose our awareness that God is our Father. That He created us, and He cares…deeply loves, that which He created. If we are truly aware of who we are in Christ, we should be more confident than any other people on earth. Here’s the stinger…does that mean that we’ll never experience any kind of fear or anxiety? Does that mean that we will walk through life, and no matter what is thrown at us, we’ll just shrug our shoulders, and think ‘it’s all good’, and move on unflustered? Does it mean that if we do experience a moment of anxiety that we are living in sin?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) This is a verse we’ve all read…but have we understood? In Luke we read, “ The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (8:14) Allowing your fretting, anxiety, fear to drive the direction of your life is a sin and can choke the life out of you, but experiencing a moment of stress or anxiety does not mean you are sinning.

I recently had a situation at work where I was faced with having a difficult conversation with a colleague. The thought of having this conversation was both freeing and anxiety provoking, I had knots in my stomach. You never know how the other person is going to respond, will it negatively affect our working relationship, how will it change our team dynamic? All these things were running through my head and heart as I was preparing myself for the conversation.

I sat down to pray, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.” I gave the situation to God, not with a heart of vengeance (this was not about me being right and they wrong but of clarification), I asked God to be in the conversation so we could hear and understand each other, move forward together, to be stronger and more effective in the future.

I believe in God’s word and the power and freedom that we find in obedience. I believe that we can life a life that is not weighed down by anxiety where our joy is choked out by the cares of this world. I do not believe that our lives will be, in this lifetime, free from anxiety provoking situations. In all the scripture I’ve read it states that when we experience anxiety, it is our response to that situation that determines the outcome. The scriptures say, ‘be anxious for nothing’ it does not say ‘you’ll never experience anxiety about anything’.

I will own that I struggled with this as I prayed about having the conversation. Did being anxious about the conversation mean I was in the wrong, that I was sinning? Did that mean that I was being sinful in the situation? Was the situation caused by my sin? Perhaps the anxiety was due to my being in the wrong. No! You can be completely in the right and still feel anxiety about a confrontation! It’s how you deal with that anxiety that determines where your heart is.

When Jesus sent out the disciples He said, “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father  who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19) Jesus did not say, ‘you will not experience fear’ He said do not let fear overcome you and thus choke out your ability to hear the Holy Spirit.

We will all experience fear, anxiety, and stress in life; anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, that happens a lot, especially in these seemingly uncertain times.  Experiencing anxiety does mean you are sinning! When you allow those feelings to become a state of being, a driver of your live that affects all areas of your behavior, feeling of self worth or belonging, then you are living contrary to God’s will.

Be anxious for nothing, knowing that anxiety will happen. But, hand it over to God through prayer, and thanking Him for all the times He has stood by you, saved you, guarded and protected you. Remember who you are, and whose you are, and anxiety will not be able to control your life.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Mountains vs. Molehills

mountain-or-molehillAs a Christian, I struggle with fear and doubt. There I said it, yes even Christians can struggle with fear and doubt. I accept that seemingly bad things happen to good people and believe that our Sovereign God can bring good out of even the worst circumstances. Yet, in the midst of trials in my life I still experience fear and doubt. I question what I did wrong, how could I have avoided these circumstances, who is to blame for my suffering, how quickly can I remedy the situation? Perhaps these exact thoughts are not what pop into my head but in some form I am trying to rationalize the situation and devise a way out.

In my previous sentences you may notice the use of the word “I” A LOT, and therein lies my struggle. In 2 Peter, we are told of several instances where God has preserved the righteous in the midst of the ungodly.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 4-9)

The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. So, while I’m sitting there stewing on what I can do to fix the problem, God’s solution had been ordained since the beginning of time. To put it more simply, God’s got my back. When temptations come, God promises to ALWAYS provide a way out of it…always, in fact the way out was there before we experienced the trouble, we just have to decide to take it.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So, why then do I respond the way that I do? I get caught in the moment and fix my eyes on the trouble I am in, not on Jesus. I get stuck in the immediate fear and pain of the trial, and instead of looking at the whole situation and what God is going to teach me through it, I allow myself to be paralyzed. Yes, I know it is hard in those moments to focus on the solution not the problem, but that is what we need to do. If we are focusing on the situation, and how we are going to fix it, we are not allowing God to work.

At the very beginning of our daughters chemotherapy treatment, we got an enormous cell phone bill (this was before there were unlimited plans). I was completely blindsided and had no idea how we were going to pay for the bill. The cell phone was our primary source of communication with family, friends, doctors, therapists, pharmacists. We literally could not do without a phone. I was so stressed with a little phone bill, it became the biggest thing in my world. I made a humongous mountain out of this molehill. This obstacle became the tipping point of my daughters health. Now looking back, it was such a small thing, but at the time it was HUGE! You will not be surprised to hear that an anonymous angel paid that phone bill. It was just the first of a long line of teaching opportunities that grew my faith, patience and trust in Jesus.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all”
(Psalm 34:15-19)

God’s way may not always be someone coming out of the woodwork to pay your bill, often it’s the simple answer that while difficult, provides a peace that passes understanding. What I would encourage each of you to do, along with myself…is to see the whole picture. Instead of asking, ‘why God’ in the midst of trials, ask ‘what are you trying to teach me’ or ‘what can I learn in this storm’. See the forest for the trees, molehills are just molehills unless you lose sight of the bigger picture. Keep your eyes focused on God and He will direct your path, keep your eyes focused on the problem and the problem will direct your path.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Perspective…You are NOT your job

In-Christ-I-Am-640x226Your identity is in Christ.

That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.

In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.

No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.

Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.

God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God”  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.

All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7

I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.

Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.

Lauren Daigel has a song out that I have gotten in the habit of playing over and over. You Say, has been a call to me when I feel like my priorities are beginning to get out of balance.

“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17

People who know their value, value people.

Love your neighbor as yourself“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me“. Hear the words he is saying, Being crucified with Christ means that we have partaken with Him in His death and resurrection. We have been made a new creation, and now instead of living as we were, being who we were it is Christ who lives in us. We are to identify ourselves with this single statement, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Can you come up with any greater statement of worth? If then we no longer live but Christ lives in us, shouldn’t we then live as He lived, love as He loved and give as He gave?

I have noticed that people who understand and know their value, I mean really know their value, always (and I mean always) value other people. It’s like knowing who you are gives you permission to treat those around you with respect and dignity. People who know who they are in Christ don’t need to establish a pecking order or earn respect via their status, appearance or possessions. They know who they are, so that kind of attention doesn’t matter to them.

In Matthew, Jesus is asked by the pharisees’, “what is the greatest commandment”, to which Jesus replies. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 28:34-40

I have had the opportunity to share this scripture several times over the past week and it continues to inspire me. Jesus is stating that you love God first, (yes Betsy we all know that part) but second is not to love others, as it is often quoted. The second part is to, “love your neighbor AS YOURSELF“. Yes, my dear ones, we are to love ourselves, we are to know our worth, only from loving God first and knowing who He is can we know who we are and thereby be able to love others.

This statement needs to ring true for all of us, regardless of where we are in life, what we face, what we’ve done, how much money we have or don’t have. You matter! Knowing who you are, really knowing who you are is the key to being able to show Christ’s love for others. Christ died for us, He died for you. You are worth more to Him than you could ever imagine. You should never settle for less than what you know God would want for you.

I want to shout out to several of my dear friends, and to some others that I know this is meant for. If you are currently struggling with a decision, I would ask you to consider the situation as if Jesus was physically standing there with you. Not because I want you to feel guilty, on the contrary, I want you to see the love on Jesus face as you make your choices. What decision would you make then, standing face to face with your Savior, knowing how much He loves you? How might that change the way you chose?

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Can’t earn it…don’t deserve it.

if god is for usSitting face down on my bed praying, crying really, someone said something to someone else, gossip starts which creates distractions, hurt feelings and damaged relationships. I’m not sure how the snowball got formed or who pushed it down the snow covered hillside, but by the time it slammed into me it was a hard, cold, dirty and painful.

As I placed my head in my folded hands and cried, I wanted so desperately to cry out to God, intercede! I wanted to be bold like David before the throne and cry out to the Lord God of the universe to fight my battle, to carry His standard before me.

“I come to you, Lord, for protection; never let me be defeated. You are a righteous God; save me, I pray! Hear me! Save me now! Be my refuge to protect me; my defense to save me. You are my refuge and defense; guide me and lead me as you have promised. Keep me safe from the trap that has been set for me; shelter me from danger. I place myself in your care. You will save me, Lord; you are a faithful God.” Psalm 31:1-5

I wanted so much to cry out for the Lord to fight this battle and defend me, but I felt unworthy. I sat there with my face to the floor wanting to cry out for my Father’s help and couldn’t because I know I’m not perfect. I wanted to go to my Father and show Him I was bleeding and ask for His help, but I was afraid because I was dirty.

Does any of this sound familiar? This was one of those moment where God truly spoke to me. David wasn’t perfect, neither was Paul, neither was Peter. He doesn’t call people because they are perfect, actually they are usually very very imperfect. In that moment the God of the universe showed me that His love, His protection, His defense was not dependent on my perfection, or even on my being worthy. It is only dependent on His love.

Let that sink in a moment… how often have we not gone to God because we feel we are unworthy?

There is a song on the radio right now by Cory Ashbury, Reckless Love, and it says:

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

He fights for us, He chases us, there is no distance, no pain, no sin, no obstacle to big (or too small) that He can’t – won’t overcome to get to us. Hear me dear ones, there is NOTHING that can separate you, make Him love you less (or more). We all need to step out with the boldness of David and claim the amazing grace God has given to each of us. There is nothing out there that can separate you from Him.

I cried harder at the realization of the depth of God’s love for me, than I did at the pain that this situation caused. He stands between me and trouble, He defends my right and left side, He goes before me and protects behind me. The only part I play in this relationship is to keep my eyes and heart on Him, and follow. He will guide my steps and lead me in the way of righteousness.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

School House Rock, still rockin’ my world

immigrationA couple of weeks ago we attended my youngest son’s school play. They did a rendition of School House Rock where a new teacher was having some serious conversations about whether or not he could cut it as a teacher. Throughout the program the School House Rock songs were used to illustrate how much this teacher really knew and build up his confidence to start his first day. It was a wonderful production and my synopsis doesn’t really do it justice. However, one of the songs they played, truly brought a tear to my eye, not just because of the childhood memory it invoked, but because of how far we have fallen away from the very concept. To see a group of almost 100- 3rd graders from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds holding hands, and singing The Great American Melting Pot, filled me with joy and sadness at the same time.

I don’t think I realized at that moment, how much the moment affected me until this morning. The drive to get three of my kiddos to their various schools each morning takes me about an hour. During the second half of that drive, we travel through an economically depressed neighborhood. The street is lined with mobile home parks, and at the time of the morning we drive through, it is also lined with children walking to school. There are children from Somali families taking refuge here, there are Hispanic, African and Dominican children walking to school in large groups; the older children keeping an eye on the younger children. Many of the parents are walking with them.

What struck me this morning were the smiling faces not just of the children but of the adults as well. Many of them wearing yellow crossing guard vests as they man the street corners where children will cross to get to school. They smile and wave as many of the cars pass by. Then there are those who take this street as it’s a cross between to major roadways. They are booking it down the road, way over the speed limit in their high end cars. They don’t like the crossing guards, they don’t like the school speed limit signs, they like to slam on their breaks and honk their horns…schools crossings are an inconvenience to their very busy and very important lives.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10

I think that we’ve forgotten, that unless you are a full blood native american, you too probably come from a refugee family. Somewhere in your background either distant or recent, someone came to The Great American Melting Pot to start a new life, for a better chance for your children, to escape tyranny and oppression, there are so many reasons why. When did we become so much more important, more valuable and more entitled than everyone else?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

This morning broke my heart! I felt nothing but love for the incredible people living in this city who, to some, are nothing more than a commute slowing bother. I applaud the courage it took to leave behind everything they knew, to start over, and work for something better for themselves, and their families. I am so grateful to be an American, my family came here, some on the Mayflower, to start a new life and to build something great, to be a better example for the world. Sometimes, I think we need a reminder of that. I’m a French, German, English, Irish and Native American Indian, American and I am so proud of that.

Christ called us to be disciples of ALL nations, not when it’s convenient, not when it’s safe, not when they look like us; ALL nations. How can we possibly be the people we are called to be if we are just rushing by at 55 mph in our cars with tinted windows, wearing our dark sunglasses, not making eye contact?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

As I write this, I am praying that it will be received in the spirit with which it was written. It is written in love, for everyone, love takes time, intent and compassion. Please, don’t lose sight of who we are called to be.

 

Love you the best…I Win!

I love you this muchMy children and I play a game, it’s one of those quirky things that you come up with your kids that becomes part of the daily routine. I’m not sure how it started but one day, after telling Marcus I loved him, he said, “I love you more”, then I say “no, I love you more”, and on, and on it goes. Well, one day my highly competitive, then 4-year old ended the non-stop game of one-up about who loves who the most by exclaiming, “I love you the best…I win!” He was so triumphantly emphatic that I had to laugh and agree he did indeed win!

This fast paced competition of who can get to ‘I Win’ spread to all of my children and is now part of our morning and bedtime rituals. It reminded me of a book I had been reading to my kiddos since they were very small. I actually bought it for our oldest daughter when she was four (she’d now be 25), miraculously it has survived relatively unscathed.

The book is called, “Guess How Much I Love You“, by Sam McBratney. It’s a wonderful story about a father and son Hare. The son keeps telling the father how much he love him. Then the father replies with an even larger illustration of love. The book ends with little nut brown hare telling his father that he loves him “right up to the moon”, as the father tucks his son in to bed he replies, “I love you right up to the moon – and back”.

This is such a great illustration of God’s love for us, one that we often have a very difficult time comprehending.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

There is no love so deep, so pure and so complete as the love I feel for you. There is no place you could ever run to that I would not find you. There is nothing you can do that could ever cause me to love you less or more than I love you right now.

My love for you is deeper than the sea, wider than the skies and more infinite than space and time. You may turn your back on me, hide your face from me, run from me and fill your life with false images meant to replace me; my love for you will remain and I will wait for you to return.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b

Our understanding of God’s love is so limited that we content ourselves with quoting scripture like John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Not only did God save us from ourselves, He did so while we were still a mess and in a such a way that our salvation could never be taken from us.

Then He wrote to us… yes, He wrote to us. He wrote us love letters. Letters to share His deepest desires for our lives, His great despair at our disobedience, His provision for our restoration and His unfailing commitment to our future in Him.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

No matter how much we’ve been shown love, understand love or our expectation of love, it is nothing compared to what God feels for us, expresses toward us and freely gives us. He loves us to eternity and back, the proof…He was willing to leave paradise and sacrifice Himself that we could be restored to Him.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Peace killers – Anxiety

originalWhen the idea of this series first popped into my brain, I thought perhaps there was too much similarity around the issues of stress, fear and anxiety. These three emotions are often used synonymously (I think that’s a word). However, as I’ve read and researched, although they seem to elicit similar responses they are very different emotions. While stress is felt when we allow ourselves to feel the pressure of the world closing in on us, fear is when we experience eminent danger causing us to fight or flee. Anxiety is  a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It can be a nagging and dragging emotion that drains us of our energy, focus and even our ability to move forward.

Anxiety in our world today is so prevalent that it also has a psychiatric definition along with numerous medications to help you overcome your anxiety. Anxiety disorder is defined as “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.”

A state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, sound familiar? Do you spend large parts of your day trying to control all the circumstances around you and worrying that things won’t turn out as you hoped, then becoming fearful of the outcome of that disaster, and  allowing the expectations of everyone around to  crush you to the point you just don’t feel like you can breathe? Anxiety is absolutely debilitating!

Many years ago, like about 8, we were going through an adoption process. My youngest son and my oldest daughter were living in our home as foster children. Marcus was placed with us the day he was born and his older sister came sometime later. Both immediately became part of our family, I was actually surprised how well they fit in and how complete my family became with them now part of it.

That’s when it began. Every three months or so we had to go to court for an update. I would worry about obscure possible relatives showing up and claiming them, what if the Judge changed his/her mind, what if my lawyer didn’t think we should have them, what if, what if, what if. My brain was constantly filled with anxious thoughts about what might, could, possibly, imaginably, vaguely, happen. I would start calling our case worker asking questions about every ridiculous possibility and she would finally tell me, “yes Betsy, that could happen, but worrying about it won’t change anything.” 

The Bible can be very simple and direct, we however, have a tendency to complicate it. In Matthew 6, Christ is very clear about or propensity to worry. “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” Matthew 6:27

In Matthew 6 from 25 through 34 Christ acknowledges that worry (anxiety) is something that plagues us all. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on it. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:31-34

Yes, I hear you, I wasn’t worrying about clothes or food. I was worrying about losing my children. But, I was worrying about possible (not probably) outcomes that I had no control over. I was spinning stories in my head and letting Satan live in my brain rent free!

God already knows the outcome, and better than that, His outcome is always going to be far better than one I could pull off. Not to mention my anxiety isn’t going to make a difference other than to have a negative impact on my health, relationships, walk with Jesus, and, and, and.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Marcus and Emily are a blessed part of our family. They were part of God’s plan for us all along, and my anxiety had nothing to do with it! Looking back I can see how allowing my worry to go unchecked and become a habit created so much tension that was unnecessary. It cast a constant, looming shadow across what should have been an exciting adventure and growth opportunity for my family. Luckily I serve a Sovereign and loving God whose Grace is sufficient. I don’t think I permanently scarred anyone!

Stress, fear and anxiety are NOT of God! At least, not in a perpetual ruin your day and darken your life kind of way. We are not meant to live in a constant state of any of these emotions. However, there is good news; Christ doesn’t want that for you either and He has provided relief in the form of the Holy Spirit.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

If you ask God to help you find peace and freedom from stress, fear and anxiety He will be faithful to answer.

I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Peace Killers – Fear

1934830_1246284886013_4974586_nWe have a biological response to fear. God created us that way to help us respond in dangerous situations, it’s our ‘fight or flight’ response. In times of danger our body has two natural responses; to fight or to flee. These are there to help protect us. They are almost immediate responses to impending situations. This response is good, it is there to keep us and those around us safe. However, fear can take on a life all its own if left unchecked. When fear of every unknown outcome, or unexpected turn of events becomes our norm, fear becomes another peace killer.

Fear is defined as, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” As we all know and most have experience, fear is exhausting. The fight or flight response that we have increases our heart rate, the flow of blood to our brain and increases adrenaline in your system to help you cope with what is happening. Our bodies are not meant to live in this extreme state for long periods of time. This response helps us deal with or escape from the current impending situation. However, stay there too long and things begin to fall apart.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

My oldest daughter Alex was 3 days old when she was diagnosed with a terminal liver disorder, I was told she would not live to see her first birthday. She received a liver transplant when she was 6 years old to cure her of this disorder, first one ever to be cured. When she was 11 she was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoprolific disorder (lymphoma) which she lost her battle with 2 years later, after receiving a stem cell transplant.

I lived in a state of fear. Fear of Alex not waking up, fear of doing something wrong that would cause her more issues, fear of being a bad mom, daughter, friend, wife. The phone ringing late at night would startle me awake so badly that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lived in a constant state of fear, and most of the time I couldn’t even tell you what I was afraid of.

When I read the 23 Psalm, I can say that those years, especially toward the end, i walked through the darkest valley any parent could imagine. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:1-5

When I look back at that time now, I can honestly say that without the Grace of God I would not have survived. Living in fear not only kills your peace…destroys it, it also damages your health, your state of mind, your focus, your career, your family, your relationships. I think one of the hardest things for a Christian to live out is not living in fear when your life feels out of control. That it’s in those times of deepest despair that we need to cast all our hope, all our cares, all our tears, all our everything on God and TRUST that He will handle it.

It really is like jumping off a cliff. I remember a scene from an Indiana Jones movie (confession: I love those movies). The scene where Indiana is rushing to get the holy grail to have his father who has been mortally shot by the Nazis. The must make a leap of faith. All he sees is the great chasm below him, and in order to save his dad he has to take the step. Into nothingness, into certain death…well if you haven’t seen the movie, he takes the step, only to discover there is a very cleverly disguised natural stone bridge constructed to look just like the chasm floor.

In those times of fear when we don’t seem to have hope, we are asked to take the step. To throw all our cares into the chasm, our very lives at times, and to believe that the bridge is there not only to catch us but to lead us to safety.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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