Faith and Anxiety

The title seems like an oxymoron–can faith and anxiety co-exist? I do not consider myself an
“anxious” person by nature–but I certainly have walked through periods of anxiety in my life. It seems like I have met more people who struggle with living in this condition than ever before–or else they are more candid about it! Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. My heart and prayers go out to people who find themselves struggling with anxiety. I believe there is hope and help for those who find themselves overwhelmed with anxiety. Life style changes can help–getting rest, exercise and eating well will help promote an atmosphere in which peace can grow and still anxious hearts.

So what happens when we read Philippians 4:6, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and we still find ourselves nervous or worried about the situations facing us? I know I have shared this before, but I think it is time for a reminder! We do not have to live in an overwhelming state of anxiety. It will knock on our door and present itself as a natural fact of life. If we do not take our rightful authority over it–it will not even take time to knock, but just move on in and take up residence in our souls, costing us peace, joy and the ability to enjoy life! It is not a stagnant thing–but if we feed it, it will grow and grow until we are paralyzed by not only anxiousness, but fear itself.

I recently found myself fighting anxiety on a different level. As I read the news lately I have been hearing about the possibility of another recession. I realized that every time I would hear about it, anxiety about my future would begin to rise. I began to rethink every purchase decision I was making and struggled to purchase even food I needed! I began to pray and ask the Lord, where is this coming from? He showed me it was fear about my future caused by what I had read. I had forgotten to do the rest of the verse in Philippians 4:6! I had forgotten to add the “with thanksgiving” part! I had brought my needs before Him like it instructs, but not with thanksgiving! O Lord, I need you to protect and multiply my finances–then doubt and concern would rush in. When I added the thanksgiving part–faith arose. He showed me how he had helped us through the last recession and he was very able to help us make it through if another one showed up! Concerns about my children, grandchildren, friends with health issues etc can become either opportunities to grow in our faith for them, or areas where anxiety takes over and leaving us fearful an anxious.

My friends who struggle with anxiety, I ask you to think about simply adding a time of thanksgiving to your mornings. Waking up and thanking the Lord for your family, His grace, your health or whatever comes to mind is a first line of defense in fighting against these anxious thoughts that would control your life. If you find yourself fighting anxiety through the day–stop and begin to thank Him for your freedom. Ask Him for His solutions to the problems you are facing. Thank Him for simply loving you as you are and helping you move from whatever level of anxiousness you are currently in to a lesser state. Do not beat yourself up because you find yourself anxious–remember He loves your anxious self enough to help you move away from it! It is amazing how just knowing you have an ally in God in the midst of your situation can begin to calm your fears. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 His desire is to help us not live in anxiety–part of what Jesus died to redeem us from. Let us not settle for less than He desires. It is worth fighting for–peace that passes all understanding! Resist the thief who would steal your joy and substitute it with anxious thoughts.

Father, I pray for all your people who are struggling today with anxiety. I ask you to send your peace and help them to see the power they have over these anxious thoughts. I thank you for freedom from fear and for a new hope to arise that they do not have to settle for less than your peace. You know the concerns and cares we carry as we live in this world. I thank you for helping us to cast them upon you today in Jesus Name. Every lie that has been spoken that tells them they are not worthy of your help, I renounce now in Jesus Name. Every evil thought that would steal their hope, I curse now as well in Your Name. Thank you for meeting our every need in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Faith and Worship Leaders, Writers and Musicians

The Bible reminds us that God has given gifts to each one–severally as He will. I did not receive the musicians gift! I know I have mentioned this before, but I am sincerely in awe and blessed by people who can translate my feelings into songs in a way that reminds me that I am not alone in life’s journey. Scripture based words infuse faith when feelings would tell you to quit, they bring hope to the hopeless and strength to run our individual races.

I have been pondering this for several days. Today at our MOPS meeting we were asked to select a song that motivates us to get up and move–even to clean our houses, or one that pulls us from our down moods and lifts us up. I laughed because the other day I was listening to ” Way maker” by Leeland in the shower, and I admit I was doing a bit of a dance move! Maybe this is too much information–but it was fun, freeing and uplifting. I definitely would not have been dancing in the shower without that music! I did a bit of a background check and this amazing song which declares many of the attributes of our God was written by a Nigerian gospel singer Sinach Joseph, Osinachi Kalu (Osinachi is an Igbo name}, meaning Comes from God. As I delved deeper I discovered she was encouraged by her pastor to pursue the gift he recognized within her. She has a humble heart to share not only share the gospel, but also encourage her fellow Nigerians with their gifts. This amazing artist has over 100 million YouTube views for this one song. She has received many awards internationally. God has shown Himself faithful to her. She is just one but many artists that desire to honor and glorify God with their giftings. Not every musician will become internationally famous–but they are still making an impact in their sphere of influence.

Because her pastor encouraged her gifts, we all benefit! If you have not heard the song–take time to google it! I posted the lyrics below. I believe it will be a blessing to you. I took the time to listen to her sing her own song–powerful. I pray a blessing on every worship leader, song writer and musician who takes the time to translate God’s truth into succinct thoughts that we can take with us. They encourages us to look up when we want to look down, and inspires our faith when we maybe feeling content with our status quo relationship with Jesus. Music is just one vehicle He uses to encourage us–but we have to have vessels that give themselves to it. I thank God for every musician that gets up early to seek His anointing, practice their craft and seek to grow in their relationship with the Lord so I can be strengthened. Thank you for the hours in prayer seeking Him for His revelation. Thank you for working together with others (which isn’t always easy!) to add the subtle sounds that touch our hearts even if we are not aware of it! Thank you vocalists for honing your gift as well, we appreciate you. Sometimes we take these things for granted but God doesn’t!

I also want to encourage you to use your gifts–whatever they may be. We need them. My husband had wanted to be a painter in His college days. Toward the end of his life, he returned to this love–but the amazing thing is our son in law was also a painting major in college. He is using his gift and God is honoring Him. Our daughter is also growing into an amazing artist of her own right. Vastly different, but so life giving. Did the years Darryl laid down his painting in obedience to follow the God’s plan, sow a blessing they are reaping now?

Let’s celebrate God’s gifts wherever we find them. I love people who have the ability to articulate perspectives in clarity and many times humorously, these too are gifts. What are yours? What can you do to grow in them? We all will be blessed because of it!

Lyrics:

You are here
Moving in our midst
I worship you
I worship you
You are here
Working in this place
I worship you
I worship you
You are here
Moving in our midst
I worship you
I worship you
You are here
Working in this place
I worship you
I worship youWay maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who you are
Way maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who you areYou are here
Touching every heart
I worship you
I worship you
You are here
Healing every heart
I worship you
I worship you
You are here
Turning lives around
I worship you
I worship you
You are here
Mending every heart
I worship you
I worship you Way maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in the darkness
That is who you are
Way maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in…

Faith and Receiving

This past week end my local church chose to continue implementing their “Live Generously” campaign by helping three different widows/single moms with some maintenance work on their homes. I was one of the people chosen to receive this special gift. One of our pastors headed up the team at my home along with two of my children’s help ripped out some old planting and pruned desperate areas with the goal of making it easier for me to maintain. They thought it best for me to “go away” and enjoy myself, so I spent the week end with my daughter Rosanna and her family. I admit it was more emotional than expected!

Sometimes it is very difficult for me to receive, I know I am not alone in this. In fact, I think it may take more faith for me to be on the receiving end than on the giving end. I have to release my faith that those who poured their hard work into my home will be blessed by our God in ways that I cannot perceive. It takes belief and faith that not only am I worth their time and energy, but also they believe in me.

When we are on the receiving end, we are not in control. I’m learning it is not easy for me not to be in control. I needed to admit that there were areas in my life that I couldn’t control or do. With my asthma/allergies triggered by “stuff” in my yard, it just isn’t healthy for me to weed or prune. Obviously I need help. I was honored and blessed but also a bit embarrassed that I was chosen! How could such a gift be also embarrassing? Because if my twisted soul is like others, my pride got involved. I don’t like to be needy. I want to be able to “do it all”, but in reality, none of us can do it all.

Scripture tells us it is more blessed to give than receive. Somebody has to be on the receiving end–why not me? Why not you? This past week our Life Group was able to bless another member’s daughter with some warm winter clothes as she transitioned from Florida to Washington. It was a joy to celebrate with them. Our MOPS group has been taking meals to new moms and cancer fighters and it is our joy to do so. I can tell some of the “receivers” may struggle with my pride affliction as well, but it is their season to receive. It was my season to receive this help. The work done on my home helped not only myself–but also my neighbors, as the team were able to pull some blackberry vines from their side of the fence as well! It benefited my family as the work done was work they did not have figure out the time and energy to do. The comradery that is built when people work on a project together is priceless. I so appreciate Life Church. My daughter Elizabeth said, Mom, some of the workers did it as a tribute to Dad, but others did it because they love you–(those who never had the privilege to meet him).

So when you are given the opportunity to become the receiver–do it cheerfully, humbly and with out a bunch of protests. Do not rob the giver of their blessing by refusing the help they offer. It may be as simple as can I hold the baby for you? What can I do to help during your illness? Can I pick up some groceries for you? Can I re-do your yard????? Learn to not only be those that offer to help, but also be those who graciously receive. It will strengthen your relationships. I think it could possibly bring a smile to the Lord as well.

Faith and Daily Life

We walk by faith, not by sight, well at least that is the admonition of 2 Corinthians 5:7. Learning to apply it all day, every day is a process. We are given ample opportunities to put it into practice as we walk through life’s challenges. I remember when my children were small and wondering if my constant reminders to pick up your clothes, clean your room or countless other instructions would actually stick. I knew it was my responsibility to teach them, but in the end it was really my faith that brought me through that season. Even when one of my children informed me–“You taught me how to clean my room, mom, don’t worry, I know how!”. And they did know how.

The Holy Spirit does the same thing, if we follow His leading. Our Life Group has been focusing on Jesus and HIs Miracles. It has been so faith building to take the time to slowly consider some of the most amazing stories shared in the gospels. I have found my faith and expectation of His intervention rising and growing. Fear of God NOT answering is giving away to “let’s ask, believe and trust Him in the receiving.” I just want to encourage each of us to stay diligent in the Word, day after day; week after week. It makes a difference. Our faith will grow and needs to grow.

The only way that we will see the fruit of our faith is to use it! Begin to pray stretching prayers based on Him, not on yourself. Looking back on myself as a younger believer, it was a lot about me! Was I doing it “right”? I’ve learned to rest more in Him and trust He has taught me well! My daily conversations and time in the Word do make a difference. Your thoughts begin to become His thoughts. It becomes a much more peaceful journey of trust.

Keep on planting His Word in your heart. It will bear fruit. Do not compare yourself to someone else. We don’t know their journey or story. Keep on walking with Him. Resting in His ways and HIs will. Do not let discouragement take hold, dear friends. Discouragement comes often with a sneaky undermining thought “why bother”, or “you can’t do it anyway”. Silent those voices quickly and firmly. He who has called you will go on and perfect your purpose, calling and faith. I am more aware of those subtle voices now personally, but it doesn’t stop him from trying.

Dear friends, I want to encourage you to keep close to your Savior. Listening, obeying and following Him will bring you to some amazing pastures as well as warfare! It is definitely not a boring life when you let Him lead. Blessings and strength to you today, my friends. He is with you.

Faith and The Draft Part 2

I know Faith and the Draft part 1 was a bit of a bait and switch–at least for some of my football fans! Read it if you haven’t, it will set the stage for this article.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you [ My loving-kindness and My mercy are more than enough-always available-regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.

At times in our life’s journey we are thrust onto another path than may be our choosing, these are paths that are not the “norm” and I have labeled them “subgroups”. Cancer fighters, special needs parents and children, the disabled, caregivers, those suffering from chronic illness or the mentally ill, widows or foster children would all be classified as “subgroups”. There are many many more, with the “subgroups” being divided into even smaller groups. The one thing that these subgroups have in common, while the individual may have contributed somewhat to their being part of that group–these are usually not a group anyone would choose to belong to. However, I have found by experience God can and is doing great things in the lives of those who are part of these subgroups.

The initial entry is usually unexpected and overwhelming. Your child has Down Syndrome or is autistic is not something any parent anticipates. I’m sorry to tell you that the tests came back positive and you have cancer. I’m sorry your husband has suffered a heart attack which threw a massive blood clot and is basically blind, deaf and gone. (This last sentence was the beginning of my derailment into the subgroup of caregiver!) I was confused and my faith, though in tact, I admit wobbled a bit. But the interesting thing about being in a subgroup–there is no going back. If you choose to accept the situation as your new “normal” it can be a very life changing learning experience. I felt weak and disorientated in the first few days and weeks. The body of Christ showed up–bringing their faith, their strength and their help. It was amazing. Church, we need to identify these subgroups so we can help each other–in big ways and small ways.

I wrestled with my new normal for quite awhile–I wanted to go back to my old life. Some cancer fighters who are healed can go back to a more pre-subgroup life, but they are still changed. The experience brings them into a new community of other fighters who have common experiences of chemo, radiation and other treatments. They can help others in their fights–supporting and encouraging; or they choose to shut down and run from the memories and let others fight alone. It is our choice with any subgroup–fight it alone, or join with others. It is much easier to do life in community. That is why there are so many “support” groups.

It has been nine plus years since I became a member of the caregiver subgroup. A friend of mine is now her husband’s caregiver. We saw each other at Walmart and I was able to encourage her with hope plus give her some practical tips that I learned. In a week it will be seven years since I transitioned to a new subgroup–widow. Another new journey change.

During my time as a caregiver I met new people–therapists, doctors and other caregivers. It was an opportunity to be a light in the midst of people I would never meet otherwise. I chose to ask the Lord to help me touch these people as He willed. I watched Him answer that prayer. Joining a subgroup opens up your life to new experiences and opportunities to learn. Take advantage of it! I chose to trust that God had a plan that was bigger than me and He was with me in this journey as He had when I was not part of these subgroups! He showed up. Look for Him. Ask Him to show you what you can do, stop focusing on what you feel you have “lost”, but look up! It is not easy. Your enemy becomes “why me?” and “self pity” and “what if” and “if only”….but our Gracious God sees you right where you are. He is a very present help in your time of trouble. Call on Him often.

If you are reading this and your are not a part of a “subgroup”, you may be the answer to someone’s need. Look around you, make yourself available–a word of encouragement, a meal, a phone call or physical help may be just the thing that is needed to help others. Learning to love others in action and deed is amazing. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or say–do the most loving thing you can think of–and when in doubt–you could always ask “how can I help you?”

I did feel “drafted” into the world of caregiver and widow. I had no choice. People commented “you are so strong”, I felt weak the scripture above encouraged me. It wasn’t easy, but I have learned so much. I miss my husband, but I’ve chosen to live my life as fully as I can to be useful for my family and His Kingdom. I had an amazing first part of my life. But I also have an amazing “subgroup” life as well. It is just different.

Faith and “The Draft”

It’s fall football time, in our area the Seattle Seahawks are usually the favorite, but because we are also a military town we also understand that it is not the only team that is playing! Before every new season there is something called “the draft”. It is when coaches and owners send scouts out to colleges and universities to see which player would be an asset to their teams. They examine their “stats” versus the positions that they may have open and during the special “draft days”, in some kind of predetermined order select a new player for their team. I am sure it is done with many calculations and those young players are thinking “pick me, pick me”.

Joining the NFL only happens to a small percentage of the population–it is like a subgroup. There are many subgroups in life–some we actively choose to join, others that life seems to choose for us. A friend of mine son just joined a subgroup of children with diabetes 1. Not their choice by any means. Receive a cancer diagnosis? You’ve just joined a subgroup. Found out your child is autistic or born with Down Syndrome? Another subgroup. Got divorced? Infertility diagnosis? Addiction in yourself or family? Dealing with mental illness? Yes, you are now part of a subgroup. Sometimes being drafted into these subgroups can seem unfair, random and overwhelming.

Sin entered into the world. It brought death with it and over the years has also affected not only our physical bodies, but also our emotional and spiritual self. To be honest, life in the general “mainstream” has enough challenges. The younger me when hearing of someone in these “subgroups”, would just be grateful it “wasn’t me” or my family. I, too, was drafted into some subgroups without my choice. My husbands debilitating stroke shoved me into the role of caregiver. His subsequent death enlisted me in the “widow” subgroup. If you have the courage, look around you. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend or extended family is probably part of a subgroup that they neither chose or want, but are taking up that cross.

Matthew 25:34 then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was in prison and you visited me. These are other subgroups Jesus encourages us to acknowledge and care for. Father, open our eyes to other subgroups that we can minister your words of hope. Open our hearts where we are afraid to reach out because of some unknown fear. Father, help us not to be afraid of you drafting us into any subgroup. You know our purpose. I ask for strength, grace and mercy for anyone reading these words that feel they are overwhelmed by their subgroup. Help them. Heal them. Send help from your sanctuary and your people. In Jesus Name, amen

There is hope for you in whatever subgroup you currently find yourself in. God has not forsaken you. Part 2 is next week!

Faith and Answered Prayer!

August 25, my children put together a wonderful (almost) surprise birthday celebration for me. It was a very special time–I felt very loved and cared for by my family, friends and the Lord. September 6 our son turned 37–so we were able to celebrate him with family–again it was very special.

However, September 8 was even more amazing! Our church has started doing a very special “water baptism” Sunday each summer. The children’s ministry teaches on water baptism a few weeks before–preparing their hearts. The Sunday of, the preaching pastor also teaches and shares about this step of obedience. It is a very special day.

A few weeks ago I had talked with four of my grandchildren about baptism. They were not interested–citing various reasons why they would/could not take part. Each of these children have each personally encountered Jesus as Savior, so I really was surprised at how adamant they were about not following this next step. It was curious to me that they felt sooo strongly they weren’t going to participate. (Too cold, don’t want people looking at me etc–I just said, well I guess you simply aren’t ready.) But I began to pray against these obstacles.

During my birthday celebration there were words given about our family legacy. It was very special and encouraging. My adult children are all committed to following Him, but I saw a picture of piece of aluminum sheet metal separating the next generation from that legacy. I began to pray seriously about this resistance.

I woke up Baptism Sunday morning praying that the Holy Spirit would make each one’s baptism significant to them. I had no idea of who was going to get baptized. It was so strong on my heart–that I just kept praying about it all morning. Praying for the sermon as the pastor preached on different scriptures concerning baptism. At one point I thought–we don’t know what is going to happen. Certainly all the people who witnessed Jesus’ baptism did not know that they would be hearing a voice from heaven! For this special day, all the elementary children join their parents in the main sanctuary for the service. Something amazing happened during the preaching of the Word or the worship–but three of my grandchildren had their hearts changed and chose to be baptized! How surprised, blessed and excited I was to be able to witness their obedience! After the service they told their folks of their desire! What a joy it was to see their parents join the pastors in the pool and participate with these precious children. There were 28 people in total who followed Jesus into the waters of baptism that day. My heart is full–praying for the rest of my grandchildren to make their own decision when the time is right. They were so excited. Only the Holy Spirit could have help them overcome their fears and reluctance. They were so so happy they did it!

I did not know how the Lord would answer my prayer that day. I did not know that the Holy Spirit had me praying for my own grandchildren–I am so glad I followed the Spirits leading and prayed anyway. The amazing thing is several of our other friends children were baptized the same day–different towns and even in different states! What is the Lord going to do with this “class” of disciples? I certainly will keep praying, watching and believing for them to fulfill His purpose in each of their lives. The other wonderful fact is that their grandfather’s birthday was September 9. I still am not sure how much Heaven’s citizens know about what goes on in earth–but I know it must have made him happy too!

Dear ones, do not give up praying. Those girls were very adamant just two weeks before how they were not going to be baptized. I kept praying. I did not pressure them, condemn or cajole, I just said ok. You must not be ready yet. It is about Jesus and following Him, not about your likes and dislikes and left it. Their parents also talked and prayed with them. Do not forget to rely on the Holy Spirit to bring the changes you need or others! He does good work!