Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Queen of Worry

I am the queen of worry. Not a crown I want to wear, but it’s a familiar one.

When my kids were young I worried about what they ate, who their friends were, or how to keep them healthy. It really wasn’t something I enjoyed, but I comforted myself with the reassurance that I had some control over their lives. Still, I anticipated the time they were grown and worrying would become a thing of the past. What a lovely illusion that turned out to be!

worry

Now that they are older I still struggle with worry. Since my kids have flown the nest I can no longer gather them close to count heads, or check their faces for signs of fatigue, illness, or turmoil. I can no longer walk through the house at night to listen to them breathe, or to pray over them. The difference now is that I realize that I never really had control over their lives, and I don’t want it. I want them to recognize Jesus, and give Him control.

He is the one who is a perfect parent (1 John 3:1), not me. He is the one who loves them without conditions and without fail (Psalm 13:5), not me. He is the giver of wisdom (James 1:5) and the one who completes the good work He has begun in them (Philippians 1:6), not me. I know these things. I trust Him with my kids, because He loves them far more and far more perfectly than I ever could. But what do I do with my tendency towards worry?

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “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 comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Ahh…so the antidote to worry is to pray with thanksgiving. Granted, that doesn’t come easy to me. Worry? I’ve had lots of experience, and I’m pretty good at it. Yet the illusion of control that it brings is just that, an illusion. When I consciously decide to obey the Lord and gratefully pray, it allows me to identify exactly what I am feeling, and then release it.

I have this mental picture that I combine with actual physical movement. I cup my hands, and picture them full of all those chaotic, unsettling emotions. Raising them to the Lord as an offering, I turn my hands upside down and consciously release all the stress and worry to Him. Finally, I raise my hands to Him, again cupping them, but this time it is so He can fill them with what He has for me instead.

Sweet tendrils of peace slowly wrap around themselves around my anxious spirit. Heart rate slowing, my burdens for my kids transfer to Him and my mind refocuses on His faithfulness.

I give up worry and gain trust. I trade my anxiousness for His peace. It pleases God, and allows me to sleep at night.

Praise God, the queen has been dethroned.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.                                                    Matthew 11:28-29

Further reflection:

1. Think of a time when worry seemed a constant companion. What did that feel like?

2.  When you feel that worry, use the mental picture of offering it as a sacrifice to the Lord. Thank God for His presence, His goodness, and His sovereignty in the midst of it.

Father, in my head I know that worry is pointless. Beyond that, it reveals a desire for control and a lack of trust. Help this truth to be deeply internalized. I love You, and am grateful that when I come to You, sharing my burdens and choosing to release them to You, I not only gain Your peace but also the joy of pleasing You.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Total Darkness

The darkness was so thick I couldn’t see my hand in front of my eyes, so thick it felt sinister. Granted, I was only thirteen years old but I will never forget what it felt like.

My parents had taken my three siblings and me on a three week vacation, visiting several state and national parks. One of them was the Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana, where we opted to take the subterranean tour.

The guide led us deep into the mountain past well-lit scenes of stalactites and stalagmites. When we hit the halfway point we stopped, and he warned us that he was going to turn the lights off for a few seconds. That’s when the darkness struck.

lewis-and-clark-caverns

That total absence of light was disorienting, and the air seemed to thicken and press in. The darkness felt…menacing. The stuff of nightmares, it seemed we all held our breath until the light was switched back on.

I’ve thought a lot about those moments of total darkness, and how it stood in such stark contrast to the light.

That’s exactly what my life felt like with, and without Jesus.

My life independent of Him was full of doubt, insecurity, and missteps. I thought I knew where I was going, but I was really stumbling in the dark. It was a painful, uncertain, and scary time, because I had cut myself off from Jesus, who is the true source of light. Once I realized I really had no idea where I was going in life, I longed to live differently; with meaning, purpose, and direction.

There is clarity only where there is light. Jesus not only brings light, but He is light. He says this about Himself; “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ( John 8:12) He is what brings life into focus. He is what illuminates the darkness of self-will. He is the one who not only sees me just as I am, but also sees what He wants to make of me.

If I had never walked in darkness, I don’t think I would recognize, or appreciate, the difference.

Darkness or light; we get to choose. I choose Jesus.

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.        2 Samuel 22:29

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.                                                                                                                       2 Corinthians 4:6

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.                                                                                     1 John 1:5

Further reflection:

  1. Has there ever been a time when you felt like life was dark? How would you describe it?
  2. What changed that feeling?
  3. Take a few minutes to consider the truth of 2 Samuel 22:29; “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” Journal the ways that Jesus has brought light into your life.

Father, You are light, and Your word gives light. Thank You that You didn’t leave me in the darkness, but sought to bring me into the light of knowing You. I am so grateful for the clarity that You bring, and the joy of walking with You.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It’s the People!

If you read last week’s blog (http://www.aneverydayvoice.com/2013/03/the-great-wall.html) you know that I just returned from a short-term missions trip to China. As I’ve run into various people they all ask the same question; “What was the highlight of your trip?” The answer is both very easy and very challenging: it’s the people.

It’s easy because the Chinese were incredibly warm and welcoming. They translated our western concepts in a way that made sense to the Chinese mindset. They brought us gifts.  They listened to us talk about our families.

sharing family pic in china

Best of all, they invited us to their home to make dumplings for dinner.

making dumplings

Their joyful attitude made it easy to love them. The hardest part was saying good-bye, not knowing if we would see them again this side of heaven.

But the Chinese people were also challenging, because they exhibited qualities that I only wish I possessed. They were so hungry to hear God’s word, and eager to learn. We taught at one place for five hours, and when we finished they clamored for more. They love passionately because they have sacrificed to know Him. Because they take risks to be together there is uncommon unity among the believers.

I think everyone on our team would agree: we learned far more than we taught. We received much more than we gave. And none of us will forget them, nor will we be the same. Because our hearts were united not only by a common love for Jesus, but also an anticipation of the day we will see “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9b-10.

I saw Jesus in them. And I was humbled by it.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.    1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Further reflection:

1. Have you ever met someone who challenged you, as a Christian, to be more?

2. Were you at all changed by them?

Father, thank You that You created us with such diversity. Thank You for the privilege of meeting the Chinese people, and joining in their lives for a short time. I have grown to love them, and ask that You would strengthen those believers. Continue to be what brings joy, and meaning, and purpose to their lives. I cannot wait for the time when we sing together before Your throne!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Great Wall

Some things you just have to see to fully comprehend.

A few days ago I returned from our postponed trip to Beijing, China. One of the things that made the biggest impression on me was the hospitality and friendliness of the Chinese people. They were so warm and welcoming to us, and hungry to learn.

Something else that was made a big impact was the Great Wall. Taking hundreds of years to complete, it’s almost 4,000 miles long. It averages 32 feet tall and 10 feet across—wide enough that 10 men or 5 horses fit side-by-side, and it’s estimated that between 4 and 6 million Chinese died building it! After learning about it and trying to imagine what it would be like, it was almost more than I could take in to actually be standing on it. The undulating expanse of it was truly remarkable, and a massive testament to human wisdom, tenacity, and engineering. It has endured for hundreds and hundreds of years.

our great wall

Nevertheless, there are parts of the Great Wall that lie virtually in ruins. In spite of its incredible durability, this amazing structure has crumbled in places.

great wall unrestored

The same is true of all of man’s accomplishments. No matter how well designed, nothing man builds—not walls, not structures, not weapons, nor any plans—endure forever. They cannot last forever, because they are, by their very nature, temporal. Their very substance has an innate tendency to decay.

Missionary C. T. Studd once said: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

Only things built on Jesus Christ last forever. He is our Rock, the only foundation for anything eternal. When we love with His love, it will outlive us. When we speak with His words, they count for eternity. And when we yield our heart and soul to Him, He keeps it forever. Those things alone endure.

Everything else will ultimately perish.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.                                                            Matthew 27:24-25

Further reflection:

1. Have you ever visited a place that made an impression on you because of its enduring, imposing nature?

2. Which of your own behaviors will endure? Why?

Father, You are my Rock, my strong and secure foundation. I can get so caught up in things that, in the end, won’t last. Only those things that are built on You will endure for eternity. Help me to focus on those things, the ones that bring honor and glory to Your name.