Unraveled

Kite in the skyWe lived out in the country when I was an older kid, and we had a field that was ideal for flying kites.  I had a beautiful kite that hung in my bedroom for display.  But because this was a special occasion, I took it outside to fly.

The weather anchor could have announced, It’s a kite flying day because the wind was just right.  I let out more and more string as the wind carried my kite higher and higher.

When I was only a few rolls from the end of the string, I said something to my dad like, “Look, I’m almost at the end of my string.”

He said something like, “That’s great.”

So I unrolled the rest of the string.

I think he started to stop me, but it was too late.

The string flew up in the air, far too high to grab, and the kite flew away.

I had no idea the string wasn’t attached.

My dad took me out in the car to look for it, but we never found it.  My kite was gone.

It seems like there are a lot of things in life that, at one time or another, we thought were attached, that we find out can unravel at any moment.  Relationships.  Finances.  Health.  Careers.  Safety.

But there is something in this world that we are guaranteed won’t unravel and disappear from our grasp.  And that is the love of Christ we receive when we believe in Him.

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation. (Romans 8:38-39, GW)

 

 

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Published in: on June 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ziplining Faith

Flying fox - cablecarWe were a church group on a weekend retreat.  We stayed at a camp site with outdoor games and a zipline.

I knew from before we ever set foot on the campsite that I was not going ziplining.  I will admit, I toyed with the idea, but in reality I knew I’d probably never do it.  And if my heart wasn’t willing before I saw the zipline, it certainly wasn’t after!

The zipline started far, far up a hill.  It traveled over a gaping ravine.  And it finished after a long tour of field.

All of it was bad to me, but the very worst was the ravine.  Somehow, falling off and landing (dead or badly injured) in a field was one thing.  But falling off and landing in a ravine was another.  The depth of the ravine and the height of the zipline together made me a bit ill.

I was one of only two in our group too terrified of heights to make the commitment.  I stayed below, at a picnic table, while my friends all took the long drive up the hill.  By the time they had climbed the tower, two of them were having second thoughts, though.  When one called it off, the other did, too.  They decided they’d rather go back in the truck than down a little cable suspended in midair.

I watched as my other friends–with different expressions and reactions–made the descent.  Whether they were mostly closing their eyes and clinging to the handlebars, or laughing and sitting comfortably in midair, I was impressed they had the courage.  Even so, how they ziplined reflected the trust they had in the process.

For me, I had very little confidence in the process, which was why I was on the ground.

  • I didn’t trust myself to put on the harness correctly.
  • I didn’t trust the young men running the zipline to clip in the handlebars correctly.
  • I didn’t trust the tiny, insignificant-looking handlebars to hold my weight.
  • I didn’t trust the little gray line in the sky to hold me.  I didn’t trust the ravine not to swallow me up.
  • I didn’t trust any bit of the process and I wasn’t about to get my feet off the ground.

My friends who had gone up but come back down had thought they were committed, but changed their minds when they saw what they were truly committing to.

Some of my other friends were mostly committed, but still a bit afraid.

Still others seemed used to sitting in the sky, and they seemed to have full confidence that the zipline would hold them and all would go well.

And then there was “Sara”.

I was so unprepared for Sara.

Teenage Sara was the youngest on our trip, and the smallest.  She had (I think it was) a broken collarbone from an injury she’d gotten before the trip.  She had every excuse and every reason not to zipline.  And yet she was the most eager of any of us to do it.

I have seen circus performers who have practiced themselves into being fearless.  But I have never seen anyone just be so fearless on a high wire as Sara was on the zipline.

She came flying down the cable.  She was so relaxed, her body was able to do extraordinary aerobics as she hung in the air.  She had no desire or need to grab the handlebars.  Not one particle of her seemed to be afraid.  She laughed and performed, and the ravine was like a speck not even registering on her joy radar.

I was awed.

I have no plans to ever zipline in my life, but I want to grow the kind of faith in God that Sara had in that zipline.

Although in this story I was sitting on a picnic bench below the zipline, in my walk with Christ I am on the zipline.  But far too often, I find myself white-knuckled, drenched in sweat, and shaking in terror as I worry over and over again if the ride is safe.

  • Does God really love me?
  • Am I really safe in His care?
  • Does He really accept my faith?
  • Is Jesus really willing to forgive my sin?

Instead of trusting fully, I let my fear that faith alone isn’t enough–and the ravine below– terrorize me.

Like my friends who ziplined nervously, I’ll still make it to my destination of Heaven.  But the joy and witness lost is too high a cost to pay.  So I want to learn to be like Sara.  I want to fly through life all-in, at rest in His grace, at peace in His security, and at joy in His love.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)

Published in: on June 11, 2014 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Not to fear

I fear all sorts of things.

Heights.  Animatronic animals.  Getting into the median lane at the same time as someone else.  My husband having a heart attack.  Saying something crazy and destroying my reputation (you see it happen on TV all the time).  Getting my arm caught in the garage door.  Going into the wild and seeing a little animal get eaten by a predator.  Someone breaking into the house at night.  An elevator door closing on my hand or foot.  Walking by a fish tank and seeing dead fish floating up at the top.  Plane rides.  Running over one of the squirrels in the parking lot.  Bungee jumping.

I fear all sorts of things.

But Romans 8 reminds me of something I don’t have to fear.

And it’s the big one.

CONDEMNATION.

Law scales, judge gavel on table. Symbol of justice

I don’t have to fear condemnation.

Not even a little bit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, ESV)

If you are in Christ Jesus, you don’t have to fear condemnation.

Not even a little bit.

Christ has set us totally free–perfectly, positively, wholly free–from condemnation.  We are absolved of guilt.  We are parted from shame. We are disassociated from sin.  We are 100% removed from condemnation.

If there was ever anything not to fear, now there is: absolute justification in the eyes of God.

No condemnation.

And if there’s nothing to fear with God . .

all my other fears can be scratched off the list as well.

Not to fear:

This is a gift from God.

Have you received it?

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

Do you want to be less afraid?

The more God’s love fills you, the less afraid you are.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18b, ESV)

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pulling

I’ve never appeared in a theme park commercial for a reason.  Rides make me motion sick and/or scared out of my wits.  My stomach doesn’t handle carnival food, and I don’t particularly enjoy standing at the bottom of rides waiting for my friends to finish.  Ergo, I’m not much for theme parks.

One time at a theme park, as I was waiting at the bottom of a ride, a friend suggested I try a smaller ride off to the side.  The ride was all self-propelled.  You sat down in a buckled seat and pulled one of two ropes to either go up or back down.

I sat down and began pulling myself up.  Since I’m terrified of heights, I was comforted to know I could stop at any time and come back down.  No one was expecting me to make it to the top.  I could go halfway and slide back down and no one would care.

The verse for the day in my inbox reminded me of this ride.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NLT)

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Jesus’ trip to the cross was totally self-driven.  He had to, every moment, pull the rope to take Him toward suffering, shame, condemnation, guilt, and death–none of which belonged to Him.  He had, every moment, to resist pulling the rope to take Him back toward joy, exaltation, freedom, peace, and life.

He personally carried

As no one expected me to make it to the top that day, no one expected God the Son to overcome the cross.  If at any point He had given up and simply chosen to die early (He could release His Spirit at any time), no one would have noticed.  Not even His most ardent followers expected that anything good would come from a cross.

He personally carried our sins

It was comforting to me that no one expected anything from me, because my task didn’t matter.  But can you imagine how agonizing it was for Jesus to have NO support from His own closest friends and family?

He personally carried our sins in his body

No one knew how to support Him, because no one knew it was possible to do what He was doing–to pull oneself into the responsibility of paying for the whole world.  Only God in His love could shoulder the infinite grief He was taking upon Himself.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross

The cross looks like a stationary object.  But, we should see the spiritual cross Jesus took on in motion, swaying as He pulled Himself up inch by inch.  As though ropes were attached, Christ with perfect resolve pulled Himself closer and closer until, at last, He had arrived at the place of worst human agony and defeat.

And there, all of us who believe find life.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NLT)

Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 6:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tips for Preventing and Lessening Panic Attacks

Teenager im Glas

It can feel impossible in the moment of an attack to try rational strategies. That’s why tips are best tested when you’re feeling better and stronger. Visiting a wise mental health professional (and listening to their advice) can greatly increase your chance for success in trying these tips. Always see a professional when in doubt and get help immediately if you feel suicidal.

  • Practice thinking about things that give you special delight. Philippians 4:8b says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT) Make a habit of thinking about these kinds of things. Even if you start only thinking about them 1 minute a day and add 1 extra minute each day, in one year you would be thinking about them for about 6 hours a day! Ask God to help you focus your thoughts on the good, not the evil.
  • Practice thinking about things that have eternal significance. Colossians 3:2 says, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Does that mean God doesn’t want you to think about paying bills or unloading the dishwasher? No, actually what it means I believe is to look at everything you think about through the perspective of eternity. If you realize that paying your bills helps bless your family and leave a godly legacy for them, or that unloading the dishwasher sets an example for your children for how to serve, for example, you’re on the right track!
  • Find a small group. 1 Thessalonians 5:11b says, “. . encourage one another and build each other up . .” Join a small group where you can share with friends and they can share with you. You might just find they could use your help! If you don’t know how to get connected to a small group, ask around at local churches. More than likely, unless you live rurally, there are a ton of options in your area.
  • Get involved in missions. Philippians 2:4 says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Feeding hungry families at a local homeless shelter, hosting a book fair for elementary students, bringing flowers to a friend in a nursing home, and volunteering at a local pregnancy care center are all ways you can touch the lives of others. You never know, but that God could use you to help others who have panic attacks, too!
Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Picturing Fear–or not!

I recently read that the number one disease that kills women is heart disease.  Stress is one factor.

Stress is a murderer.

Yet knowing that, how do I avoid what seems to be ingrained in my very nature: fear?

Fear not just of one thing or two things, but fear of all kinds of things.  It’s as though the walls of my mind are filled with masterpieces of phobias!!!

Paintings of big fears.  Paintings of little fears.  Paintings of known fears.  Paintings of unknown fears.  Paintings of fears of what could happen.  Paintings of fears of what has already happened.  Paintings of fear of fear.  Even paintings of fear of not being afraid.

What a gallery!

How can I possibly revamp this museum of terror in my head?  How can I even take down the picture of one fear when the very reason it’s hanging in my head is because I’m afraid of it?!?

Only in the artistic hall of trusting God is it possible to navigate the perils of a fearful heart.  If you picture perils as a wilderness scene with quicksand, carnivorous plants, leeches, bogs, cliffs, and vultures, trusting God is  like painting a new scene of gentle pools, good pasture, picnic blankets, exquisite flowers, oak trees, stunning birds, and speckled meadows over top (i.e., see Psalm 23).

In this spectrum, there are all sorts of brilliant colors to paint over fear and change how you think and feel.

But if artist’s masterpieces aren’t identical, you can guarantee the ways we fight fear through Jesus Christ won’t be, either.  Nonetheless, here are a few of my ideas–colors in the Light of God’s grace–to get your palette started:

  • Choose creativity.  Read a Scripture verse and reflect as you paint, write, cook, carve, sew–whatever gift God has given you.
  • Choose energy.   Take a walk, go for a jog, hop on an exercise bike, or take an aerobics class.  You can even vacuum the house!  Spend your time in prayer.  I find when I’m stressed that sometimes doing something as I pray can really help me focus.
  • Choose friendship.  Call up a wise friend, share a cup of coffee together, or meet at the park.  Your friend can pray for you, too.
  • Choose giving.  Sponsor a child, send a card, visit a lonely friend in the nursing home, bake cookies for your family, or serve a meal at the local homeless shelter.

Most of us will have to fight fear all of our lives.  But with the grace of God, the landscape of our lives can change.  Every time Satan paints a new fear into our lives, we can learn to paint over that fear with the goodness of God.  It’s not easy; it’s often not quick; but it is promised that, as a Christ-follower, we will be over-comers.

. . in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. (from Romans 8:37, NCV, read Romans 8 for the full picture!)

Fear

“Fear God . . or fear everything else.”

–Author unknown

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28, NIV)

Published in: on March 7, 2014 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Straight through the Lions

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

–2 Timothy 1:7, NLT

Fear & Timidity will ruin your day.  In fact, if you let them, they will ruin your life.

As in Pilgrim’s Progress, they will point out the lions in your path.  And they will tell you that, if you don’t turn back, the lions will eat you for a small, in-between-meals snack.  They will be sure to reiterate over and over that you . . are . . just . . a . . snack.

Power (God’s Power), Love (God’s Love), & Self-Discipline (Submission to God’s Way) are the lion walkers.  They will walk right out in the middle of lions and not be consumed.  They will look straight at those long, curved claws and slicer fangs.  And though they may shrink down in terror, they will not budge from the path.  Power, Love, & Self-Discipline follow God wherever He goes.  Even through the path of lions.

We are all on a journey.  We’re all walking either towards eternity with Jesus  or destruction away from Him.  And it seems both paths have plenty of lions.

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ and you follow Him, you will still meet lions.  Maybe even more lions than you ever did on your past journey towards destruction.

Along this new path of salvation, you will meet lions on your path.  They’re already waiting for you.  And not just in one spot, but throughout your travels.

But only Fear & Timidity need to despair about that.  For you, Christ-follower, you have the opportunity to experience God’s surprising Power (working through weakness), God’s extravagant Love (you won’t believe how tightly He can hold you), and God’s other-wordly Self-Discipline (you’ll do things for Him that you wouldn’t or couldn’t do for anyone else).

Hold onto His gifts and walk straight through the lions.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

–2 Timothy 1:7, NLT

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 6:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Because of the witch . .

As a child (ok, and an adult), when I like something, I tend to be eccentric about it.  Very eccentric.  I don’t want just one Gooseberry Patch cookbook.  I want bookshelves of them.  I don’t just like mango sticky rice at our local Thai house.  I could eat it just about every night.  And when I used to watch ML baseball, I was so eccentric about the Yankees that I would take a nap in the afternoon so I could stay up and watch the late-night games!!

So as a kid, when I say that I liked Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, I’m talking about that eccentric thing again.

Back then, you couldn’t buy the movie on VHS.  The only way you could see it was when it came out for a limited time at the theaters.  So my job was to convince anyone and everyone to take me to see the movie while it was still playing.  Mostly, that meant merely asking my daddy, who was a huge cartoon (and daughter) fan.

So when my parents surprised me with a trip to Disney World on my seventh birthday (and I got to skip days in kindergarten to go), I was wearing my proverbial Mickey Mouse ears before we ever stepped off the plane.

While we were there, there was of course Winnie the Pooh and Robin Hood, Cinderella’s palace and the spinning teacups that my mother could write an entire novel on the love & persuasion of a daughter and the regret of a mother in riding 😉 . .  but the big deal, the really fantastic ride was the Snow White and Seven Dwarves (SWat7D) adventure ride.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  To the 7-year-old eccentric Grumpy-fan mind (I was, after all, going to marry him when I grew up and was happy to tell everybody), there could be nothing better at Disney than riding in a train cart and visiting Snow White and the Seven Dwarves *INCLUDING* GRUMPY!!

Gasp, gasp.

I couldn’t wait to ride the SWat7D adventure ride.  Kindergarten bliss.

The whole universe of Disney revolved around this one ride.

But ask me how many times I rode this ride, and I’ll tell you . .

NONE.

(none)

. .

. . .

So why, you may ask, did I never ride it?

. .

. . .

Because of the witch.

Because of the witch, I never rode the SWat7D adventure ride.

Not even once.

Before boarding the ride, my mom–who knew that, like my eccentricity in love, I have my obsessiveness in fears–told me that on the ride, there was a moment where the witch appeared and tried to offer you an apple.

My eyes shot open like I was in the middle of a horror movie.

The witch??

The witch was on my ride??

My special ride??

The paralysis of fear was alleviated only by one remedy I could come up with:

Not ride the ride.

Oh, the disappointment.  The shame in letting my family down.  And the ache that I could not meet the 7 dwarves.

But all of it was capsized by the fear of the witch.

I simply could not handle the thought of the witch trying to hand me an apple.

And so I refused to ride the ride.

Day after day, my mom tried to coax me into riding my most favorite attraction.

But I never did.

On the last day, I had one last chance.

And I didn’t take it.

She assured me I could close my eyes.  That it was a brief moment.  That she’d be with me.

But I couldn’t do it.

I was just too afraid.

Because of the witch.

. .

. . .

Do you have a witch?

Something that is stopping you from realizing God’s dreams for your life?

Are you so afraid of meeting the witch, that you’ll forego the joys God has in the adventure of living?

If so, you’re in good company.

You are, after all, listening to the 7-year-old who wouldn’t experience the best ride of all . . because of the witch.

What’s the solution?

Be braver?   Be stronger?  Roar through it?  Act like a Viking and hope nobody sees you as a coward?

Or hide?  Avoid?  Make excuses?  Deny?  Wither up in a corner?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)

The solution is,

Trust in the Spirit.

Trust.

He’s not given you fear or timidity.

He’s not given you the inability or incapability of facing the witch.

He’s right there with you.

Ready for the adventure.

Go on it with Him.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.

(from Romans 8, the Message, approx. verses 15-18)