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"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I lived on the banks of a river . . . and it captured my attention. These are my observations about the parallels between my life...and the river.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Refuge in the Storm

As I write, I am curled up on my couch. The sliding glass door is open to let in the soothing sounds of a gentle summer rain and hummingbirds darting in for a few last sips before nighttime. It is nearing 8pm and already getting dark outside. The cloud cover is quite heavy.

But so is my heart. In fact, I find the weather to be a perfect fit for the day. It would almost be too cruel if the sun were shining, bright and warm.

Tragedy struck this weekend. A father’s life was taken in an accident while working on his home.

When I heard the news my heart immediately broke for the family of this man. Our families overlap, so I was grieving for the loss of ones I love dearly. I wanted to be transported there immediately to hold them, to comfort them. To DO something.

The feelings of grief were quickly joined by feelings of anxiety – “It happened so quickly and unexpectedly, what’s going to happen next? Am I going to lose another of my own loved ones?” were the questions that plagued my mind throughout the evening and into the next day.

Where is God when things like this happen? How can He allow such disasters as this, that tear families apart, not to mention disasters on a much greater scale like the recent earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?

Where IS He? How is this part of His plan? Does He know how these tragedies break us? Or is heaven so far away that He doesn’t see us falling to pieces as one senseless thing happens after another?

I went to church yesterday morning looking for answers to these questions. Questions I’ve asked at least a hundred times before, but somehow the answers had escaped me.

My pastor referenced “The Saving Life of Christ”, in which author, Ian Thomas, says, “All that God IS, you HAVE, you can not have more, you do not need to have less”. Colossians 1:26-27 was then quoted“…The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people… this mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory…”

Christ in you.

Christ IN you.

No matter what happens, you never have to face it alone.

Deep in my heart I felt a whisper, “Don’t worry baby girl, I’m here.

We don’t always feel that He is there. We don’t always feel, or even believe, that He is good. We don’t always see evidence that He is on the throne and in control of all.

But He is.

He is here – IN me. He is good – ALL good. He is powerful – reigning over everything.

When we remind ourselves of these truths, His peace comes into even the darkest of situations. Does it remove the pain? Absolutely not. But it helps to ease the fear and anxiety.

As we worship God for Who He Is even when circumstances are trying to convince us otherwise, then His peace that passes all understanding comes in and sets up a guard over our hearts and minds. He carries us through, with tender, loving arms.

Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings will you take refuge.”

There’s no guarantee that we’ll be preserved from tragedy. In fact, the guarantee is that there WILL be storms in life! But the rest of the guarantee is that we can find refuge in Him. He is always there. He is always faithful. He is Love.

Monday, August 08, 2011

F. E. A. R. -- Illusion or reality?

I've heard fear described as "False Evidence Appearing Real". While I think that is only part of a true definition, it does make me stop and think. How many of the things that strike a chord of fear in my heart are reality, and how many of them are my assumptions of what reality may turn out to be?

For example: being afraid of dogs. Can dogs be harmful and/or dangerous? Absolutely. Are ALL dogs harmful and/or dangerous? Absolutely NOT. So a fear of dogs is sometimes based in reality, while more often than not, based in an ASSUMPTION of reality.

I've been wrestling with what fear is a lot lately because I've been trying to tear down some of the "False Evidence" in my life that is holding me back.

You've heard the phrase, "all bark and no bite". Imagine a child that was attacked by a dog growing into an adult with an incredible fear of dogs. Is that fear valid? Well, it is based in reality, but is it true, or accurate of ALL dogs?

Imagine this. The individual walks up to a house and knocks on the door. There erupts a terrible barking from indoors, proof that a large, angry dog lives inside. Fear immediately strikes at the heart of our friend. Upon a closer look, we find the dog inside the house to be toothless and hobbling about on three legs from an accident years ago, where she was hit by a car. And she's barking out of excitement that someone is visiting!

I'm guessing our friend would find themselves no longer quite so afraid if they were to see the reality of this particular dog scenario.

Why am I thinking so much about dogs and fear?

I've lived my life with much anxiety over many things. In the past 6 months I have begun to realize that I don't want to stay where I am, I'd rather take some steps to move forward in life. But that means facing my fears.

Facing the reality of why I am where I am.

And that is a very frightening thing! It's scary to look inside yourself and be honest about what you find.

But what's amazing is this -- often, when you look inside and figure out what has been holding you back, then decide to face that fear, it's often not nearly as bad, or dangerous, or painful as you expected.

In simple terms, I'm finding I was frightened by a dog with no teeth! Things that I was afraid to try, I am now finding that I can handle quite easily. What was reality many years ago, and enough to hold me back, is now barely enough to slow me down.

What has changed? Has reality changed?

Not really.

But I have changed.

I have grown.

I am stronger. I am wiser. And the things that held me back will no longer hold me down.

False Evidence Appearing Real.

I think I'm starting to get it. And as I get it, I can overcome it.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Somber Celebration

Today is a big day for America.

Or rather, late last night was.

Sunday, May 1, 2011 -- the day Osama bin Laden was killed. The day justice was served for the atrocity of September 11, 2001. Nearly a decade later.

I must admit, I was not watching television last night when President Obama came on to deliver his special news report. I was sound asleep. Some patriot, huh? :) But we didn't get an advance warning of the planned attack, so how were we to know that we should be watching TV at 10:30pm?

Part of me is a bit envious of those that were mindlessly watching TV at that moment -- those that heard the "Stay tuned for an important message from the President of the United States of America" interruption.

Yet part of me is relieved. I have a brother-in-law in the army currently stationed overseas with my sister and nephew. I can only imagine the terror that would have run through my veins at that message, and the unbearable wait until President Obama came on to speak.

So how did I feel this morning, when I finally figured out what everyone was talking about? Hmmmmm, it was a very bittersweet feeling. The first word that came to mind was, "Finally....."

But "Finally...." what? Finally there will be an end to al Qaeda? I doubt it. In fact, the following thought was, "Oh my God, what will happen next?!" What kind of retaliation will befall America now?

But they started it!

My mind argued with itself all the way to work. I just couldn't figure out how I felt. Or how I was supposed to feel.

As a follower of Jesus Christ we're supposed to forgive our enemies, to love those who persecute us. "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay!" saith the Lord....and all of that.

I heard stories of people staying up all night, filling the streets, cheering and shouting "USA! USA! USA!"

I didn't know WHAT to feel.

Nothing made sense, nothing felt right. And as I read the news stories later in the day, how one of his wives identified his body to US soldiers and confirmed his identity, I found myself thinking, "This man had a family. As much as he was a monster, he had a family. How must they feel right now? Are they relieved? Did they know him as a monster? Did they know how many families he destroyed through his attacks?"

As you may realize by now (especially if you've read much of this blog), my mind often thinks WAYYYYY too much.

So now, at the end of the day, I find myself praying that God would have mercy on his soul. What does that mean, that I want to share Heaven with him? No, not really. And yet, God is sovereign, and I believe that He knows the turmoil of our hearts. And yes, He will repay anything due to Osama bin Laden as a result of the life he lived while on this earth.

And I do not need to hold onto any anger or vengeance in my heart for the man, because if we were to stand together in front of the throne of Heaven, neither one of us would be found righteous. It is only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I can be found worthy to be received into His kingdom. Not by any righteous works of my own.

May God comfort the families of those lost in 9/11, may He bring peace and closure to their hearts, and may He bring healing and peace to the war-torn countries that have been affected by bin Laden's leadership and teachings.