Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘faith’

2012 was an entire year of trial for me. It was probably one of the toughest years of my life I have ever had to face.

But it was also one of the most beautiful.

It was one of the most beautiful because the I AM was with me-in the very middle of my suffering, sin, and fear.

IV%20BAG%20wgif[1]He was there with me in a dark hospital room when I longed for a daddy’s eyes to acknowledge his daughter again. When the doctors were shaking their heads saying, “I don’t know.” When the nurses were whispering, “His fever’s back up.”

He was awake and He was there when everyone else around me was sleeping. When a father was literally unable to keep his eyes open, when a mother was sleeping from the stress, when a city lay warm and cozy beneath their beds, and when a desperate daughter cried, “God, please. I just want to hear his voice again.”

He was there squeezing my shoulder, smiling, looking me in the eye and saying, “You will.”

He was there giving her a vision of the future-peaceful dreams as nurses went in and out, drawing blood and asking questions. In the dream, her dad was fine and he was packing a suitcase and getting ready to go home. And a week later, it came to pass.

He was there when the girl took her book project to a place called Manitou Springs for the eyes of authors to scrutinize, criticize, and refine. He was there when the girl couldn’t find the words to say, and she felt as though her dreams were slipping and scattering away from her like pearls on a string. He was there when her heart felt torn and tormented, wondering whether she should stay with a family who needed her or give up on her own dream.

He was there on the car ride over when her heart felt sick and her stomach queasy as she thought about giving a speech that night in front of twelve expectant faces. In front of bestselling authors and fabulous speakers and writers who knew what they were doing. What did she have to offer when her chapter had been written in the very middle of hospital visits, beeping machines, IVs, and phone calls at 3:00 in the morning that said, “Dad has the chills and is blacking out”?

She was so unprepared.

He was there and He told her, “Just think of me standing right beside you before you have to speak.”

He was there as her knees knocked together, her heart beat faster, her stomach revolted, and she waited for her turn. He was there as she swallowed, as the eyes turned her way, and the panic set in. But then, the peace. He’s right beside me. He is with me. He will not leave me.

He was there as the girl stood, confidently making eye contact with everyone in the room and holding her head high. He was there as she remembered every word, enunciated each one clearly, and felt no fear or worry. He was there as she said “Thank you,” resumed her place, and everyone in the room clapped. He was there when one of those authors leaned over and said, “Well done!” And the girl just shook her head, trying to understand how she went from almost losing her supper to standing poised and confident, a speaker all her life. It was because He stood beside me.

He was there on a night in December when a girl who longed to remember a time when things went right cried out to God with tears streaming down her face, “I’m done, God. For the first time in my life, I just want to give up. And what if I did? What if I gave up my dream of being an author and stopped trying so hard? What if I walked away right now? It would be a lot easier. What if I stopped trying to meet everyone’s expectations? I don’t want to feel this way, God, but I’m done with prayers for right now. Nothing happens when I do. I’m done with saying, ‘thank you,’ for circumstances I don’t like. I just don’t know, God. I really don’t know anymore. Do dreams come true? Was I just a silly, naive girl to ever think that? Am I to be poor, broken, penniless in pocket and spirit for the rest of my life? I don’t have hope or faith anymore, God, and that’s the honest truth.”

He was there when the girl walked into church that last Sunday of December with arms crossed over her chest, trying to keep the world from seeing her bitter, angry, and hurting heart. What was 2012 but a year of failure and lost dreams? It was one thing after another. Family members who chose to hang out with the wrong crowd of people and go down a path that would ultimately lead to their own destruction. A godly man who spent his entire life doing nothing but be a good man, and here he was, a hard worker struggling to find work and spending half a year in the hospital? First for critically low sodium, then for a gall bladder attack, then for an infection from having his gall bladder removed, then to have brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, then this, then that.

Writer’s block. Not a single thing written for six months-my blog languishing, my schoolwork suffering, my book nonexistent. This was not how it was supposed to be.

My sister breaks off the side mirror of my car after her brush with a semi, and the night before Thanksgiving my niece ends up in the hospital with pneumonia.

Hospitals. Bills. Tears. Will it ever end?

Despite my prayers, despite my belief in miracles, despite my dreams-one thing after another is taken away. Money, health, peace.

Is this all there is to life, then? Constant struggle? Do you even see us anymore, God?

Does anyone? Does anyone see me? Who in the six months this has been going on has called me? Who has asked me how I’m doing and really meant it? Who would listen or care if I told them? And what right do I have to expect that of them? Who sees my pain? Who cares?

In the middle of the girl’s listing of grievances, in the very middle of her complaining, ranting, and railing, the presence of God stops all words.

(C) Arnold Friberg.

(C) Arnold Friberg.

Her breath is stolen from her, tongue turned stone, thoughts evaporated, and she is Moses, staring at the holy, fiery presence of God as the preacher’s words finally filter through as he reads God’s words,

“Then the LORD told him, ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…” (Ex. 3:7-8.)

I have seen you. I see your pain. I have seen your suffering, and I will deliver you.

You ask, is this all there is to life? No. No, for I have many plans for you. No-because I AM the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6.) There is plenty more to life, because there is plenty more of me. An eternal, endless kind of more. I AM and will always be. Unchanging. As I delivered then, I deliver now. As I was always more than enough then, I AM always more than enough now.

Peace, I AM.

Joy, I AM.

Love, I AM.

Your answer, I AM.

Your provider, I AM.

Your salvation, I AM.

Your healer, I AM.

Your deliverer, I AM.

All objections are blown away from my lips. All doubts and fears and anger gone.

I can do nothing but bow my head, the tears streaming down my face. We are in the second row and the pastor startles and looks at me, as if asking, “What did I do?”

I’m embarrassed and wish I could hide, but I can’t help it. What else am I to do?

The taking down of the strong “I’m fine,” mask is like the taking off of Moses’s sandles. It is vulnerable and exposing and uncomfortable, but what else to do in the presence of holy? In the presence of truth? I am in awe.

Because the I AM- Moses’s I AM-is here. And He says He’s seen me and is aware of my suffering.

The only emotion I can name or a put a finger to is that I feel seen. And it is such a wonderful feeling.

Like Moses, the presence of God came so unexpectedly. I was doing everything I could to push God away for the moment. I was done praying and asking for help. I wasn’t seeking Him or His presence. I was too busy blocking Him from my heart and saying I didn’t care about the pain there. I was angry and bitter and ungrateful.

It was into the middle of that that God came. In the very middle of my angry diatribe. In the very middle of my pointing the accusing finger of Martha asking, “Why didn’t you show up? If you had only been here…” (Paraphrased, John 11:21.)

And God replied, “I AM here.” (Paraphrased, John 11:25.)

The presence of God so strong and so sweet, my breath is stolen away, my head drops in bowed reverence, and the tears sting my eyes and run down my chin until I’m a slobbery mess.

I feel His love. His love.

Why would He give me love when all I’ve given Him are accusations?

He should be the one accusing me. “Why have you been so ungrateful? Why have you not had faith? Why do you think so little of me? Why do you daily insult my character by calling me uncaring, incapable? How can you think I’ve not seen you? You’re my child. Do you think so little of your Father as that?”

There’s a twinge of shame-but for right now, in this moment with his arms wrapping ’round me, telling of forgiveness and mercy-I feel only gratitude.

“Thank you,” I whisper, “Oh, God-thank you. Thank you for coming into my mess, time and time again. Thank you for meeting me here. For blessing me with your presence when all I was trying to do was run away from it. For seeing me in a world that does not see. Not like you do. For holding me, for healing me, for being here. For loving me-me, the one who bit into the apple of envy, of selfishness, of anger, of ingratitude, all the while hearing your voice in the back of my head warning me not to. For loving the me who pounds those nails into your hands, crying, ‘I don’t need your saving grace! I don’t believe you love like you say you do! I don’t believe you give like they say you do! Your love is not the kind of love I want. The kind that lets fathers struggle and dreams die and joy get stolen. I don’t need the kind of love that doesn’t see me! And you always, forever replying, ‘Father, forgive her, for she knows not what she does.'” (Paraphrased, Luke 23:34.)

But it’s here, now-in the presence of I AM, and in the presence of the truth-where I do see truth.

His love is the kind of love that looks over to thief hanging on cross beside-in torment Himself-and says, “I see you. Today you will be with me in paradise.”

His love is the kind of love that turns to look in a crowd full of people singing His praises, clamoring for His attention, asking for help, and asks, “Who touched me?”

His is the kind of love whose gentle glance takes in the woman all bent in shame and fear and sin and asks, “Who will cast the first stone?”

His is the kind of love that detours to meet a Samaritan woman at the well.

The kind of love that says, “Let the children come to me.”

The kind that meets a murderer on the road and says, “Why do you persecute me? Instead, come and follow me.”

Time and again. Over and over, and now I see: I was never unseen. I was never alone. He has always loved me. He does not come to lie, and cheat, and steal from me. Where in His word does it say that? When has He ever shown that, in Scripture or in my own personal life?

In fact, who was it the Scriptures said did come to do that? “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10: 10, emphasis added.)

I am a fool to have listened to that wily serpent for so long.

And I bow the head again. “Thank you.”

Was it not just last night I said I was done saying, “Thank you”? And yet, here I am today.

I also told God I was done dreaming. Done trying. Done hoping and having faith. Done praying.

But if I was wrong about saying thank you, maybe I was wrong about some other things, too. Okay, I was. Really wrong. Shamefully wrong.

Father, forgive me.

And His love whispers, I see you. Your sins have been forgiven you.

And it’s here in the presence of the I AM that a new whisper settles into the wind, “Your faith has healed you.”

I am healed, restored, loved, peace-filled. Forgiven.

Was it more I was asking for? A miracle?

I think I might just have been given one.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My Facebook status the day after my dad woke up and began speaking again in the hospital:

This is going to sound melodramatic, but do me a favor: give your dad a huge, long squeeze. Tell him you love him. Have a long conversation with him, just to hear his voice. Today I’m crying and grateful because my dad couldn’t stay awake even a minute yesterday, and couldn’t say anything more than two words. I went to sleep praying that God would just allow me the opportunity to have a conversation with Him today. He answered that prayer. Things are getting better, so thank you for all the prayers! But if this has taught me anything, it’s that life is fragile. The little things-like hearing your dad speak-are the big things.”

 Life can change in a heartbeat. In a late night call or a down economy. In a ferocious storm or a devastating diagnosis. In a divorce, a death, or even in the very midst of our every-day lives.

So many times in life tragedy hits our blind spot, and we never realize it’s coming until we hear the crunch of metal and recognize we’ve collided with it.

It’s then we learn the fragility of life. But it’s also when we learn to treasure time as well.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve written and re-written this blog post. I feel as though the message is such an important one, and it’s been burning in my heart to share for quite a while now. I can never say it the right way, so I finally decided to share it anyway. This may be messy and not the most well-written piece, but maybe that’s sort of fortuitous. Because life is sometimes messy, and it doesn’t always look good or make sense on paper either.

Some of it started with the wildfires. As I watched the wildfires in Colorado take in a matter of minutes what others had spent years building, the injustice of it all shot through my heart like an arrow.

Fire doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care how greatly we treasure something, nor how closely we guard it. I heard the phrase over and over again as I watched the news, “You never think it’ll happen to you.”

I really began to learn the lesson when my dad went into the hospital. The day before my dad landed in the back of an ambulance, I could have never imagined him unable to stay awake for even a full minute or say more than two words.

But here’s the thing: none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We’re only given today.

It’s a terrifying feeling when you realize just how fragile life really is, am I right? Suddenly the whole world feels about as safe as an abandoned alleyway.

It’s one of the most painful lessons to learn. Fire burns mercilessly and leaves scars. But it also teaches us a very important lesson we wouldn’t learn any other way.

Though we may consider something as sacred and untouchable, nothing in this life is truly sacred and untouchable except for the Lord Almighty.

That’s not necessarily a comforting thought. It may not seem like the price we pay to receive that revelation is worth it. But there is deep comfort in knowing the truth: though life can change on a whim, the Bible tells us the unfailing love of God never changes.

Maybe you know what it feels like to have something burn. Or maybe you live in fear of a coming fire. Either way, if we stare into the fire too long, it can begin to look hopeless. It stings the eyes and scorches the soul.

But dear one, listen to me: our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in Him.

He came to deliver and rescue you from the fire. Not only that, loved one-He came to walk with you through the fire: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2.)

Whoever or wherever you are today, please know I am praying for you. Please know I care for you and whatever fiery trial you may be going through.

But also know this: you can meet with the Savior today. In the very middle of your pain. In the very middle of the fire. And when you do, He will have healing for your hurts. Peace for your pain. And He will have love to wash over your fear.

How do I know? Because like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He was with me in the fire, too:

So touched by God’s abundant love, mercy, and grace. A week ago today my dad couldn’t even get a straw to his mouth, let alone stay awake for a few seconds. Circumstances said he should have died, gone into a coma, had a seizure, or suffered brain damage. But God said otherwise. Today he defied the odds and walked into church to praise his God, raising the same hands that could barely move last week. The same voice that couldn’t say more than two words, and the mind that kept shutting down. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a miracle to me. He is all deserving of praise!

(My Facebook status a week after the first.)

I Hear Ya: Please share how I can pray for you today, or about a time when God delivered you from a fiery trial, and let’s lift up and encourage one another today!

Read Full Post »

Part I: Speechless

There is no fear until you’ve faced the fear of wondering if one of your loved ones will make it through the night.

Last month, I had to face that fear as my dad went in and out of the hospital. I learned a lot through that time, and my perspective changed on many things. The blessings God has given have made me speechless. But I’ll go into more detail on that with Part II of this post. Right now, I just want to tell a story. The story not as it ended, but as it began-before I learned the lessons.

When Dad first went into the hospital, we didn’t think he was suffering from anything more serious than food poisoning. The doctor sent him home with instructions to drink lots of fluids. Mom and Dad were on their way home when they got a call telling them to come back to the hospital immediately. The results from a test were back, and Dad’s sodium levels were so low that he was in critical condition and could have a seizure at any time. Normal sodium levels for most people are between 130-140; Dad was at 113.

That was scary, but they immediately hooked him up to an IV, and his sodium levels began to rise. The doctors didn’t seem concerned and told us he could go home on Sunday, so we counted our blessings for having caught it in time and looked forward to his homecoming.

However, something in my heart told me he wasn’t coming home that particular Sunday. I called Mom that morning to see how he was doing, and knew immediately from her voice it wasn’t good.

“He’s slurring his speech, Lizzie. And he can’t stay awake.”

My heart plummeted with her words.

I packed my bag right then, knowing I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Right now he was still talking and still pretty cognizant. What if he slipped into a coma and this was the last time I got to speak to him? I needed to get there while he was still aware enough to understand what I was saying. I needed to see him awake at least once more. I needed to tell him I loved him and have him understand.

When I arrived, the doctor made my sisters and I leave the room so she could talk to Mom. I knew that wasn’t good, and I was mad. We were his family. Didn’t she know Mom needed us? Who wants to hear bad news alone? We should be there to support her!

Once we were allowed back in, Mom was sobbing and inconsolable. The doctor told us Dad had a tumor on his Pituitary, and we girls were going to have to be strong for Mom. On one hand, I agreed with the doctor. I stepped up to the challenge. The other part of me asked: but who will be strong for me?

The nurse wheeled Dad in from his CAT scan, and the room grew quiet. I could barely recognize the strong, brave man I’d known and loved all my life. He sat in a hospital gown his shoulders seemed too wide for; a wheelchair his legs seemed too long for. Hospitals, wheelchairs-they were for frail, old people. Not this man. Not my dad.

He looked haggard. He covered his face. He tried to speak, and his voice was hoarse. Only two words emerged: “What now?”

The sight broke my heart. I wanted so badly to be brave and strong for this man who had always been brave and strong for me. I recognized in him the person I’d been at different times of my life-maybe not physically, but at least emotionally. Times when I’d been broken, discouraged, wondering, “What now?” And I wondered how he’d always found the right words to say.

Mom replied that we would be taking him in an ambulance to St. Mary’s.

He tried to drink from a straw, and I watched as he missed his mouth twice before taking a drink.

He fell asleep in the middle of the day, and we gathered around him to pray. I wanted so much to pray. To cry out to God, to speak hope into this situation and to be brave for everyone else around me. To remind them-and myself-that God was with us.

But I stayed mute. What could I say? What words could express the anguish of my soul? What plea would be desperate enough to plead for the life of my father? What words to explain the depth of my confusion? Words were empty. So I let my soul cry out instead.

I nearly cried when our dear friends who’d come to the hospital found the words for us. They said the things I wanted to, but couldn’t find. They asked for healing, strength, peace, answers.

We ended the prayer. Mom’s face blanched, and I followed her gaze to find out why. A stretcher was outside waiting.

Suddenly desperate, I asked Mom if I could hug him before they took him. I needed to touch him. To tell him those three words. To wake him up.

I needed to find a way to wake him up. If I didn’t, he might never wake up.

I hugged him tightly, and suddenly I didn’t want to let go. I knew my sisters were waiting for their turn, but I stayed where I was. My face was buried in his chest as it had been so many times before, but I’d never been so eager in my life to stay there. How had I taken this for granted before?

I finally drew back. “I love you, Dad.”

His eyes fluttered, and he focused on me for an instant.

“Bye, Dad. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

He nodded once, his eyelids fluttering back shut. He briefly pressed his lips into a kiss as he always did to say goodbye, and I almost cried. At least he could still understand.

When we arrived at the ER room of St. Mary’s, the doctor told us the Pituitary Tumor was nothing to worry about; it was very large and would need to be removed, but it wasn’t what was causing his problem now. He didn’t know what was causing his problem now.

95% of the time Pituitary Tumors were not cancerous, so he wasn’t concerned about that; what concerned him was the sudden change in my dad. From being healthy and normal the day before, to slurring his speech and having mental fogginess a day later after no significant trauma puzzled him. He’d treat him for an infection and would stop by later to check on him, but that was all he could do for now.

I remember reading the sign above me as we were transferred to a nicer room: “Neuro Trauma.”

Mom and I opted to spend the night in the hospital room with Dad. I slept in a chair, while Mom slept in a chair that rolled out into a bed beside me. She instantly fell asleep from the stress of the day, but I couldn’t even close my eyes.

I stared at Dad in the bed. I just wanted him to be himself again. To have a conversation with him, like we always did. Dad and I loved a good talk. It’s what we did. I wanted him to hear, respond, and understand. I wanted to hear his voice. I wanted my daddy back.

The tears came to my eyes, and in the dark I begged God, “Please, please, please. Let my dad be normal again tomorrow. Please let me talk to him again. Please just let me wake up to him talking and acting like himself.”

I prayed the same thing over and over until finally God answered. With a strong and confident voice that felt like arms wrapping around me, He said, “You will.”

You will… Finally at peace, I fell asleep.

I woke up several times during the night to nurses checking on Dad, poking him for blood draws, and asking him his birth date.

They’d shake his shoulder and say, “Terry? Terry? Terry?” It would always take at least three tries to wake him.

At one point they asked him to cross his arms on his chest. Confused, he rolled to his side. “No, like this,” the nurse said, demonstrating it for him. He finally got it on the third or fourth try.

Once I woke during the night to the whisper, “His fever’s back up.”

I had a dream. A peaceful dream. Dad was fine, and walking and talking normally. He was carrying a suitcase of some kind, and we were going home.

I opened my eyes. My heart sank. It had only been a dream. He was still laying in the bed. We were still in the hospital. And even though it was morning, he was still asleep.

Mom got up, and we talked for a little while. Not long after that, Dad opened his eyes. And he spoke. And he didn’t slur. He’d made it through the night, and he was here. Really here.

I spoke to him, and he responded normally and as himself. No longer slow, no longer with a slur. Completely awake and present. I smiled through the tears as several whispers throughout the night came back to me in a rush…

Terry, Terry, Terry.

His fever’s back up.

I squeezed Dad’s hand and savored the sound of his voice.

You will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Today I am thrilled to welcome Jennifer Slattery as today’s guest writer. Jennifer and I first met at last year’s Writing for the Soul Conference, and since then I’ve come to know her as one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate people I’ve ever met. She is an excellent writer, and her blog is one of my favorites to read. Jennifer has also started something called the “Reach Out to Live Out Campaign”- a campaign that focuses on sharing true stories to make acts of love contagious. To share your story and be entered to win a free gift basket, you can find more information here: http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/reach-out-donors/.

But now, please join me in welcoming Jennifer!

From Fear to Faith

by Jennifer Slattery

If I were to ask a group of believers for their favorite Bible stories, I suspect a few would rise to the top: David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den … Abraham and Isaac. We love to hear stories of courageous men and women following God with unhindered obedience. If only we had their courage and unwavering faith!

And yet, I can’t help but wonder what happened in the “back story.” Were these heroes of old always courageous, or was their courage learned through experience?

We like to think these Bible heroes are somehow more than human, but the truth is, they likely struggled with the same emotions as you and I: fear, sadness, anger, discontentment. What made them great was not their super-human spirituality, but instead, a superior God who continued to mold, guide, strengthen and transform their hearts.

I love the story of Abraham because it demonstrates a steady progression from fear to faith. I’m tempted to start and end on Mount Moriah, where God tested Abraham’s faith and Abraham came forth as gold, but if I skip over his times of struggle, I miss out on crucial growth steps.

In Genesis chapter 12, God promised to bless Abraham (called Abram). God repeats the blessing once Abraham arrives in Canaan, but with more details.

Abraham’s offspring will inherit the land. Only there’s a problem–Abraham and Sarah don’t have any children. This means, God’s going to have to grant them children in order to make good on His promise.

And yet, a few verses later, once Abraham gets to Egypt, he fears for his life. Faith would say, “God said He would bless me. God promised I would have offspring. Dead men don’t have children, therefore, God will protect Sarah and I in this foreign land.”

Abraham didn’t say that. Fear took hold instead, and motivated him to take matters into his own hands. Perhaps he thought God needed a little help. And so, Abraham came up with a plan.

Before entering Egypt, Abraham told Sarah, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 

12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13

Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-12)

And what happens when we allow fear to control our actions and take matters into our own hands? We make a mess! Which is exactly what happened here. Because of Abraham’s sin and lack of faith, countless Egyptians suffered.

17But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. (Genesis 12:17)

Abraham takes Sarah, and a large amount of riches from Egypt, and moves on. God is gracious, and in Genesis 15, He repeats the blessing. This time He’s even more specific, telling Abraham his child will be his own flesh and blood.

6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.(Genesis 15:1-6)

So now, God has spoken to Abraham on three separate occasions, promising to bless him, protect him, and give him a son. And Abraham believes God … at least, during the miraculous moment when God speaks. But notice what happens in the very next chapter:

1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. (Genesis 16:1-2)

God promised Abraham a son. Abraham’s married to Sarah. Sarah’s not having children, so Abraham decides he needs to help God out … again. He takes Hagar, Sarah’s handmaden, and sleeps with her. The result? Another mess. Tension fills the home, to the point that Abraham sends his own son and Hagar away.

 By the time we join Abraham on Mount Moriah, he and God have quite a history, don’t they? Time and time again, God’s promised to bless Abraham, yet when difficulties arise, fear takes hold and Abraham takes matters into his own hands. Each time, his actions create chaos and pain. I’m thinking by the time God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he’s finally learned that God’s ways are indeed better.

So basically, Abraham’s faith grew through experience, by watching God show up again and again, by hearing God’s promises again and again. With each failure, Abraham learned God’s grace wasn’t dependent on Him.

The same is true for us. I believe our faith starts once we get to the end of ourselves, when we realize that we are incapable of going it alone. When we’re tired of creating messes.

It is hard to have unshakable faith straight out of the gate, but as we continue to walk with God, He shows us day after day and year after year that He is good, and strong, and wise. Then, when new difficulties arise, we can remember God’s faithfulness and derive courage from our past experiences.

Are you struggling with fear today? God wants to replace your fear with unshakable faith. Spend a moment in His presence, and remember times He’s proven Himself faithful in the past.

————

Jennifer Slattery lives in the Midwest with her husband of 16 years and their 14-year-old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Café Devotions, Jewels of Encouragement, the Christian Pulse, and maintains a devotional blog at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com

Read Full Post »

Imagine you’re on a battlefield. Cannons are booming, and you feel the wave of sound assault your eardrums. Strong men all around you cry out in pain. A buddy near you yelps and falls to the ground. He grips his leg and grits his teeth. A dark red stain appears and spreads out from beneath his fingers.

If it were you in this scene, what are three things you absolutely wouldn’t want to be without? I’ll bet you can come up with them quickly.

One would be armor. There’s no way you’re going out there without some protection, right? You’re lucky if you survive with armor, so you’re definitely not going out there without anything at all.

Another would be a weapon. Some way of defending yourself. You wouldn’t go out on that battlefield without a way to fight back.

And finally, shelter. Some covering. You can’t be out in the open the entire time, or you’ll be as easy to pick out as a flamingo in a line-up.

What if I told you that every day, you’re walking out onto a battlefield without armor, without a weapon, and without any covering? That would be crazy, right? But us Christians do it all the time.

The Bible says we have an enemy. This enemy is the devil. We know that we do not fight against flesh and blood enemies, but against powers and authorities of the unseen world. (Ephesians 6:12.) In other words, demons. We know they are out to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10.) Whether we like it or not, we are in a war.

Consider yourself drafted.

But here’s the choice we do have: we can fight back. We can either be an easy target, or a mighty warrior.

How do we fight back?

Well, for starters,

1) We make sure to wear our armor: Ephesians 6:13 urges us to “put on every piece of God’s armor,” which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit. Each of these items are worth studying on their own, but since I have limited room in this blog post, today I’ll just focus on the shield of faith.

The shield of faith reminds us of the many ways God has shown us His character in the past, and helps us to trust Him. Who was it that parted the Red Sea like a curtain so His people could get through? Who was it that laid the foundations of the earth and molded the mountains with His hands? Who was it that used a shepherd boy’s sling to topple a mighty giant? Remembering God’s deeds also reminds us of just who is on our side, and gives us strength for the battle.

Next,

2) We grab our weapon: It’s interesting to note that the only offensive weapon listed in Ephesians 6 is the Sword of the Spirit, or the “word of God.” (6:17.) The weapon we use to counteract our enemy’s advances? God’s Word. We should never underestimate the power of the Scriptures. Jesus Himself used Scripture to fight off the devil when he was being tempted by him in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11.) It is so, so important we are reading our Bibles daily so we can fight back against the devil’s strategies.

Finally, and most importantly,

3) We find our shelter: Many places throughout the Bible, the Lord is described as our “place of refuge,” our “shelter,” and our “hiding place.” Psalm 91:1 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

When the battle becomes too much, when all our strength is spent, when fear rules and our courage wanes-what grace to know we have a fortress to run to. A safe place where we can rest.

For our God is not a commander who lets His troops struggle alone on the battlefield. Instead, He bears arms and comes right alongside us. May we never forget that Jesus walked the very same sod we walk today. That His blood is poured out for us so that we might have the victory.

Knowing that our God goes with us, no matter how bleak or terrifying the battlefield, we can march forward without fear.

So pick up your armor, child of God. Draw your sword. Rest in your shelter. Then go forth, and win.

 I Hear Ya: What battles has God helped you win lately or in the past?

P.S. There will be no blog post on this coming Monday, February 2o, as I will just be getting in from out of town. I will most likely resume blogging the following Monday, February 27.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

As most of you know, on Monday I took the dreaded driver’s test. I had a little trouble going to sleep the night before going through all the possible scenarios, trying to remember the course, and mentally taking note of all the things I needed to do to pass.

The day of I made sure to pray with both my mom and dad, read some of Grace Fox’s book Moving From Fear to Freedom (which helped), re-read Isaiah 43 and Psalm 91 to remember God’s truth (which also really helped), and took some homeopathic chamomile which helps with nerves. After all that, I felt mostly prepared.

We drove down there, and went through the route one more time. Then we parked and waited. I tapped my finger on the steering wheel, and popped a piece of gum in my mouth to keep from biting my lip.

Soon the driving instructor arrived, and I sucked in a breath-sending up one last hasty prayer asking for help. She got in the car, and almost immediately set me at ease. Almost.

Having heard several horror stories from my friends about driving instructors who were stern and silent, I was expecting the same with this lady. However, she surprised me by being both friendly and talkative. Before we ever left she was asking me about what I was going to do for Halloween, what I was doing now for school, etc. This definitely helped set me at ease, but I showed my nervousness when she told me to pull out from the parking lot. I struggled to switch gears for a few seconds, wondering why nothing was happening.

Then I remembered. I hadn’t started my car yet.

Sheepishly, I turned the key and looked at her askance. “I forgot I turned off my car.”

Oh, nice save Lizzie. “I forgot I turned off my car”? Brilliant.

At this moment, I think the instructor realized I was pretty nervous (yeah, ya think?), and reassured me by saying, “A lot of people get nervous because it’s a test. But I’m probably the most laid back instructor you’ll ever have.”

If you were inside my head at this moment when she said that, you would have heard the hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. If anyone ever needed a laid back instructor, I did.

After I actually started the car, the drive went incredibly smooth. The instructor took the exact same route my sister had helped me practice on, so I knew every move before she gave them. By the way, I have to take just a moment and congratulate myself on my acting skills: I don’t think the instructor knew for a moment that I already knew the route. I’m tellin’ you-an Oscar is in order for that one!

It was about a fifteen minute drive (it was supposed to be ten, but I was being insanely cautious and going a little below the speed limit), and then we were back. I put it in park and anxiously awaited her verdict.

She looked down at her paper and wrote something as she spoke. “You did a really good job…”

Yes, yes?

“You looked over your shoulder when you changed lanes, stopped at the appropriate places…”

Yeeeessss…?

“You did make a couple of wide right turns, and when we went through the Thru Street you should have looked down it to see if anyone was coming…”

Gulp. Yeees?

“But everyone does that. You’re allowed twenty points before you fail, and you only got four. I think you’re ready. You passed.”

YES!

Oh, the happy jig that started in my heart with just those two little words! I had prayed to get no points whatsoever, but I could deal with four out of twenty. Besides, the goal was to pass. And I’d passed!

She signed the document for me to take to the DMV, and we both stepped out of the car so my dad could pay her for the test. As the three of us stood there, we all caught sight of the same thing at the same moment. After a few seconds of silence the driving instructor said, “Well, good thing I don’t give points for parking, huh, dad?”

I had parked my car sideways across two parking spots.

Really, Lizzie? Really?

It was embarrassing at the time, but I think it’s hilarious now. That’s me, all right! Starting with a good impression, and ending on a positive note!

My dad, sister, and I went to the DMV as soon as my test was over, so I now officially have my license! I couldn’t stop grinning all day yesterday. I had that song from My Fair Lady on replay in my head with some amendments: “I did it, I did it, I did it, I said that I would do it, and indeed I did! I thought that I would rue it-I doubted I’d do it- but now I must admit it that succeed I did.”

I also went driving for my first time alone yesterday. Some friends invited me to go have coffee last minute, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gone driving alone for a little while yet. There’s still some things I feel I need to learn (like parking), and had my friends not called I probably would have waited. But once they called, I agreed hesitantly to meet them. After all, I was on a roll. I’d already taken on one challenge that day. Why not take up another? I couldn’t very well tell them no the day I’d gotten my license. What would be the point of that? Besides, it seemed like a God-thing. It was like He was giving me another opportunity to reach my full potential.

The drive went very well, and I even parked successfully at Starbucks!

It was just an amazing, surreal feeling. I got my license. I drove by myself to meet friends for coffee, and I didn’t have to rely on my parents to get there when I wanted to leave. I just did it!

There’s still a few skills I need to refine (like parking), and there’s still a bit of nerves remaining, but I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I passed the driver’s test which means I am at least capable. The lady said she thought I was ready. I drove by myself and didn’t do anything dumb. Most of all, I know now more than ever that I am not alone. The Great I Am goes with me.

My God showed up for me on Monday in a mighty way, as He always does. I beat this fear through the strength and peace that Christ alone can give. The only reason I felt confident enough to drive alone was because I knew I wasn’t going alone. The Lord would be with me watching over me, as well as guiding and directing me.

I know it was because of your prayers I was so calm. Normally, my nerves would have gotten the best of me. While the nerves didn’t go completely away, I was calm when it mattered. I didn’t get sick to my stomach, and I passed.

Thank you to every single one of you for going on this journey with me, for praying for me, and for leaving your sweet, encouraging comments. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

When I first started blogging about this fear, I was very afraid of being judged and rejected. I thought people wouldn’t understand, and I was very worried of what others would think of me. But what I found was something entirely different.

I found people who were what real friends ought to be: encouraging, supportive, and there to cheer me onward, not to drag me down. I had one friend who sent me a key chain to encourage me. Another who sent me a visor clip decorated with a mustard seed and cross. For, “Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.” (Matthew 17:20.) People were praying for me, and lifting me up when I was down. You’re more than just my readers now: you’re my friends. I cannot thank you enough for how you showed the body of Christ to me, even if just over the internet. Thank you so, so much. I hope one day to pass along the same love you gave to me.

At the beginning of this year, I prayed and asked God to help me have a year free of fear. I asked Him to help me conquer my fear of driving, and I wanted to be free of it in 2011. Honestly, a lot of times I doubted it would happen, as you all well know. You’ve been on this journey with me. You know I had my ups and downs. But God is so gracious and faithful. He keeps His promises, and He answered my prayer. He gave me the peace that surpasses all understanding. He rescued me when I felt as if I were drowning. Who can I thank but God that my little sister knew the route and could remember it so I could practice? Without it, I think I would have been ten times more tense and less able to do a good job. Who was it that brought me such great friends through you, my readers?

Through this experience, I learned this truth again: that even when I have given up on myself, God has not given up on me.

Going by the title of this post, you may think it’s only been thirteen days that I’ve worked to overcome this fear. In reality, it’s been more like four years I’ve struggled with it. To be free of it now-to have my license and to be driving-is a surreal feeling! But here’s what I want you to know: the same can be true for you. You are not alone in your fear, whatever it is. If you’ve been afraid of sharing it, afraid of people not understanding or rejecting you because of it, know there is freedom in the light and in the truth. You have God and me on your side. You are never alone. You may have been struggling with the fear of trying to overcome your drug addiction, of facing your eating disorder, or your fear of others thinking you’re a bad mom or dad because you struggle with your temper. Maybe you’ve struggled with it for years. You may think it’s too late-that there’s no hope and that it’s impossible.

But if I can do it, you can, too. I thought the same with my fear of driving. It was very hard for me to see the end. But I’m here to tell you that through God’s power: I made it! What was once impossible was made possible through His grace in my weakness. Don’t give up. You may have still have a bit of a struggle before you, but you can overcome. No matter how many years your fear has been tormenting you: you can overcome through Him who gives you the strength, and I’m witness to that. Forever and always, I’ll testify to His unfailing love. After all, I’ve seen it in action.

Read Full Post »

Those who are righteous will long be remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” (Psalm 112:4-8.)

Last week we looked at the above verse and talked about the question: is God trustworthy? I think many problems we have with fear can be traced back to that question. If we’re unable to trust God for certain situations in our lives, then fear automatically has a foothold. What do you do if you can’t trust God in the scariest moment of your life? If you’re unsure He can help, or if He even wants to? If you missed that post, you can read it here: http://wp.me/p132LV-lV

Today I’d like to check out that verse in Psalms again and go even a little bit deeper.

Four words stood out to me when I first read this verse, and they were these: trust, confident, fearless, and triumphantly. Each stood out to me in a unique way, so I thought it would be fun to have a look at each of them separately. Whaddaya say, you in? Awesome, then let’s get started!

Trust: Would you agree that any good relationship is built on trust? If so, then how is our relationship with God any different? To grow in our relationship with Him, we need that trust. Without trust, it’s impossible to live a life without fear. If we don’t trust God to care for us, then who are we trusting?

The more we build that faith muscle, the more our fear fat shrinks. How do we build that trust? By getting to know the Lord intimately and well. By reading His Word, and learning more about His character as we do life with Him. By partnering with Him through trials and struggles. After all, how do you learn to trust anyone? By getting to know them and their character.

It’s a thing built over a lifetime, not gained overnight. So start today. Pick up God’s Word, or ask for His help today. Get to know Him. If you do, I’m positive you’ll find a God who is mighty to save, loving, and faithful. A God worthy of your trust. But don’t just take my word for it-experience Him for yourself! He’s just waiting on you, treasured one.

Confident: Now that’s an appealing word, huh? Confident. I don’t know about you, but I admire confident people. I respect them and maybe sometimes even envy them. We look up to confident people as long as their confidence doesn’t verge on arrogance.

Do you know the secret to being confident in who you are as a person and how to confidently expect a better tomorrow? You confidently trust the LORD to care for you.

You see, confidence and trust go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. I find it very interesting that the word “trust” follows “confidently” in our verse above, because the definition of confidence says this: “Full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.”

Here comes that pesky word again: if you want confidence in your life, you’ll first have to find trust.

Fearless: Now this word is somethin’. Did you know it was possible to be fearless? I certainly didn’t until I read this verse.

Imagine. A day completely free of worry, stress, or anxiety. No worrying about getting the bills paid on time, if your children are safe, or if the world will end in 2012. No walking through the dark listening to every creak in the house, of not auditioning because you just know you won’t get the part and will fall flat on your face, and of not sleeping until you hear the front door click and your teenage daughter’s steps on the stairs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be absolutely, bona fide fearless? Well, this verse says you can be! And it all begins with trust.

Triumphantly: Ah, the best word of them all!

A foe is a oppenent of any kind. Anything that’s opposing us on something-whether that means depression opposing us on our joy, or an unkind co-worker opposing us on every decision we make. Each of us have our own personal foes.

The good news is, God offers us triumph over them! If you’ve asked Jesus to come into your life and save you, you have God on your side.

The good thing about having God on your side is that He wants you to win. Christians can get uneasy with this concept, but consider this: you love your children. Would you ever wish failure on them? Of course you still them love even when they do fail, but don’t you want them to succeed with whatever they set their minds to do?

Our Heavenly Father isn’t any different. He wants the best for us, and He’s there to help us reach our goals. To find healing and freedom. He loves us and wants us to experience triumph and victory in our lives.

The thing is, He can’t help us if we don’t let Him. If we never trust Him with the things that are troubling us, then all we’ll ever face is the fight. He wants us to also experience the victory.

So whatever fight you’re facing today or this week, let God join in on the fight with you. Partner with Him so you can face your foes. If you do, I can guarantee you’ll soon find some other things along the way: trust, confidence, fearlessness, and a little thing called triumph.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »