Returning to Joy...again and again!

Returning to Joy...again and again!

Today I would like to share with you what has become my "spiritual survival image."

Why?

Because life can be overwhelming, frustrating (people and circumstances don't always cooperate with our "plans"...amazing!), and stressful to the point of sending us "over the edge."

So here is where the Lord always seems to take me, even in the dark, even in the not-knowing...perhaps especially in the not-knowing.

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not...Emmanuel Finally & Forever (Part 3)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not...Emmanuel Finally & Forever (Part 3)

As the old year is coming to a close and the holiday glitz and cheer have dwindled, what is rushing in?  Anxieties and fears for today and the year yet to come? Then hear these words again from your Creator and Savior:

Fear not, for I am near you!

Fear not, for I am closely associated with you! I've gone through it all too!

And now finally and forever...

Fear not, for I am united with you forever...we are one!

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not! Emmanuel, One of Us (Part 2)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not! Emmanuel, One of Us (Part 2)

As near as God has always been to His people, when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, pierced through and entered our human history, everything changed.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman... Galatians 4:4

God came closer still... He became one of us and so He took on our fears, the greatest of which is our separation from Himself.  Even though God was nearby, there was separation...until Jesus!

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Now that gifts are unwrapped, the food at least half-eaten, the many emotions grabbing at us during the season fading, the loneliness getting deeper and the grief, abandonment, "being left out" -- all having left their wounds...and the dread of bills looming in the back of our minds. We feel lost! So enters in...fear!  Yes, fear!

God had set me up one year to think of fear...

from the terror of a grandchild seeing glimpses of a horror movie on Halloween to a blog by a young mom about the fears for herself and her family....

from the anxieties of aging to the arresting truth, read in a book, that fearlessness is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit in a life...

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Because the Bully Never Gives Up! (Part 2)

Because the Bully Never Gives Up! (Part 2)

Bullies don't often give up. They just look for another opportunity in a different place of vulnerability, changing tactics and catching the victim off-guard.

And so true to form, the Bully didn't take long to regroup and sneak up on me in another situation. (See the previous post) It sent me into a tailspin of emotion...trying to choke back tears and keep on doing life. But thankfully, my Hero, the Holy Spirit of Christ broke through the emotional cloud I was churning in.

"Ok Jan. Resist! Stand! Say NO! Remember that? Now look at the entire passage and park yourself there."

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Now that gifts are unwrapped, the food at least half-eaten, the many emotions grabbing at us during the season fading, the loneliness getting deeper and the grief, abandonment, "being left out" -- all having left their wounds...and the dread of bills looming in the back of our minds. We feel lost! So enters in...fear!  Yes, fear!

God had set me up this year to think of fear...

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Casting or Carrying? My Choice...and Yours too!

Casting or Carrying? My Choice...and Yours too!

If you have been following my last few blogs, you know that I have become more aware of the enemy around us as we walk out our life in Christ. He and his minions are not so thrilled when we are walking in peace and rest. And so, there are those dark forces around us that seize any and every opportunity to distract us, discourage us, disturb us and cause us to distrust the Lover of our Souls.

This week, our beloved son Jeremy told us that he was scheduled for a biopsy in the area where he had thyroid cancer almost 20 years ago. 

 

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The Bully Doesn't Give Up! (Part 2)

The Bully Doesn't Give Up! (Part 2)

Bullies don't often give up. They just look for another opportunity in a different place of vulnerability, changing tactics and catching the victim off-guard.

And so true to form, the Bully didn't take long to regroup and sneak up on me in another situation. (See the previous post) It sent me into a tailspin of emotion...trying to choke back tears and keep on doing life. But thankfully, my Hero, the Holy Spirit of Christ broke through the emotional cloud I was churning in.

"Ok Jan. Resist! Stand! Say NO! Remember that? Now look at the entire passage and park yourself there."

Read More

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not! Emmanuel, One of Us (Part 2)

As near as God has always been to His people, when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, pierced through and entered our human history, everything changed.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman... Galatians 4:4

God came closer still... He became one of us and so He took on our fears, the greatest of which is our separation from Himself.  Even though God was nearby, there was separation...until Jesus!

Why were we separated from God?  Our sin, rebellion, independence...yes, of our first parents, but we confirm that choice time after time with our own. And this one of us Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became closely associated with us as the God-Man who died to pay for that independent way of ours.  But not only that, He lived our life...the life we couldn't live.

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Prayer when I can't sleep...Laying aside my hindrances at the feet of my Savior

night
night

Up in the middle of the night.  All is quiet...except my mind!  All the dark traps of the day, the hindrances to living my life, obstacles to "running my lap in the race of faith," prey upon me...uglinesses like:

She hates me! Her friends hate me too!

I'm overwhelmed.  I can't do it! I'm going to fail!

I'm so depressed.  I think I may go over the edge!

I might as well be invisible...no one understands!

Why is she jealous of me...I'm not trying to compete, just live my life!

Then the prayer, that I've known since childhood, rises up from within:

lit candle
lit candle

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;Where there is injury, pardon;Where there is doubt, faith;Where there is despair, hope;Where there is darkness, light;Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekTo be consoled as to console,To be understood as to understand,To be loved as to love;For it is in giving that we receive;It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. [prayer of St Francis of Assisi]

Yes, Lord!

I am renewed afresh to let You be You in and through me in this world!  Amen.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (author unknown*)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

[*Several people are associated with this proverbial saying, notably John F. Kennedy. It was first spoken in public by Peter Benenson, the English lawyer and founder of Amnesty International, at a Human Rights Day ceremony on 10th December 1961. The candle circled by barbed wire has since become the society's emblem.]

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not...Emmanuel Finally & Forever (Part 3)

fear

fear

As the old year is coming to a close and the holiday glitz and cheer have dwindled, what is rushing in?  Anxieties and fears for today and the year yet to come? Then hear these words again from your Creator and Savior:

Fear not, for I am near you!

Fear not, for I am closely associated with you! I've gone through it all too!

And now finally and forever...

Fear not, for I am united with you forever...we are one!

Through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel, God with Us, we are now in union with God, always and forever.  We are one with HIM!

Through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right Hand of the Father, Christ made this union possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The night before He died, our Lord told His close friends:

...it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [the Holy Spirit] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. John 16:7 NLT

And it is through the indwelling Spirit of God that we are forever united to the Triune God.  So with that in mind then, Jesus could then pray that very night for all of us believers down through the ages,

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me... I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them. John 17:20-26 NLT

The apostle Paul then later on would expound on this indwelling Spirit of Christ,

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.... For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God...

Abba

Abba

And what is our spirit like, now that we are united to the indwelling Spirit of God?

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory... Romans 8:9-17 NLT

Did you notice?  It's not a fearful spirit that is afraid of God, but recognizes the sovereign Creator of the universe as our Abba...yes Daddy!!! WOW! So then what about all the other fears we have?

...fear of one another:  does she like me? will they leave me out?

...fear of ourselves: am I adequate? will I fail? will I get cancer?

...fear of material creation: will I have enough to pay the bills this month? will I have enough to last through the rest of my life?

But the Lord describes the spirit He has given us:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 AMP

So, of course, we will be afraid in this fearful, fallen world, but we can face our fears with the courage of the indwelling Spirit of Christ...with power for whatever He calls us to, choosing love instead of hate and revenge, and with the stable mind that fixes iteslf on the God of the universe...to whom we are inextricably united.

Why not journal today by listing your most current, more bothersome fears.  Bring them to the Lord, one by one, leaving them in His capable Hands.  Receive what ever words He may say to you about each.  And then rest in the peace that is yours through your indwelling Lord:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NASB


Stripped Bare? Why me?

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked a few years ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting at the time.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and my blog.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 30 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3,4

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then the Lord said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, or even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

 

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11

Prayer when you can't sleep...

night

night

Up in the middle of the night.  All is quiet...except my mind!  All the dark traps of the day prey upon me...uglinesses like:

She hates me! Her friends hate me too!

I'm overwhelmed.  I can't do it! I'm going to fail!

I'm so depressed.  I think I may go over the edge!

I might as well be invisible...no one understands!

Why is she jealous of me...I'm not trying to compete, just live my life!

Then the prayer, that I've known since childhood, rises up from within:

lit candle

lit candle

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;Where there is injury, pardon;Where there is doubt, faith;Where there is despair, hope;Where there is darkness, light;Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekTo be consoled as to console,To be understood as to understand,To be loved as to love;For it is in giving that we receive;It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. [prayer of St Francis of Assisi]

Yes, Lord!

I am renewed afresh to let You be You in and through me in this world!  Amen.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (author unknown*)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

[*Several people are associated with this proverbial saying, notably John F. Kennedy. It was first spoken in public by Peter Benenson, the English lawyer and founder of Amnesty International, at a Human Rights Day ceremony on 10th December 1961. The candle circled by barbed wire has since become the society's emblem.]

C-C-C-C-Courage...and So Much More

In this world, you will have trouble,But take courage, I have overcome the world!John 16:33

Who doesn't love the classic movie The Wizard of Oz?  And of all the characters, the Cowardly Lion is a favorite!  Why is that, I wonder?  Could it be that we see ourselves in him -- while putting on a brave front to face life, we find that, in reality, we are scared little "kitties" inside?

I especially love the lion's "courage monologue":

COWARDLY LION:  Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

DOROTHY, SCARECROW, TINMAN: Courage!

COWARDLY LION: You can say that again!

Can you identify? I can...

And that's how I felt with teaching and speaking in a front of people.  I was inwardly terrified!  I felt a lot of shame about this, because I wanted to trust God completely.  (I've since found out, though, that speaking in public is one of the top fears among women -- go figure!)  Anyway, this fear was debilitating...often to the point of physical illness.

This was especially true when it came to a big meeting connected to my job with a local Christian school.  I used to be a home school coordinator, and in those early days, I had a very large group of families to help.  At the end of the summer each year, we would meet as a group with all our families -- new and returning.  At that time, we would tell them about ourselves, encourage them, and explain how the program ran.

Well, I dreaded it!  Not because they were a hostile group...in fact the opposite was true!  And they loved me to boot!

DCS homeschool moms 2009
DCS homeschool moms 2009

So in my mind, this fear was totally illogical and unfounded!  I talked to myself and the Lord about it...but to no avail.  It would ruin my whole summer every year!  UNTIL...

One summer, I was agonizing as usual over the big home school meeting. In the midst of my agony, I thought to myself, "I need courage!"  So I proceeded to beg, plead, pray for courage.  I tried to do my best "courage self-talk".  All to no avail!  I was still a wreck!

In the meantime, that summer I happened to be teaching the little book of Colossians...for the 2nd time (I'm a slow learner!).  As I was preparing to teach the second chapter, the Holy Spirit highlighted two verses to my mind and heart:

For in Him [Christ] the whole fulness of deity [God] dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him... Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

All of a sudden the realization came crashing through:  Jesus wasn't a wimp! Remember how He stood up to the Pharisees -- not exactly a friendly audience!  Courage is part of the fulness of God in Christ.   And the courageous God Christ lives within me.  He will live His courageous life through me as I trust Him! That's what being filled in Him means.  No more begging, pleading, self-talk, Christian mental mind games!  No more shame & despair!

So I decided to trust the Courageous Christ.  And guess what?  He WAS courageous through me so that I could relax and be my charming :) self--to the glory of God!  And it broke the bondage for me in those situations...now I have normal levels of nervousness.  And I know that every situation is a new opportunity to trust the full Christ within to be who He is in and through me.

So do you need courage today?  The Courageous Christ will be courageous through you as you trust Him. Do you need love today?  The Loving Christ will love through you as you trust Him. Do you need to forgive today?  The Forgiving Christ will forgive through you as you trust Him. Do you need patience today?  The Patient Christ will be patient through you as you trust Him. Do you need _______ today?  (You fill in the blank)  The _________ Christ will be ________ through you as you trust Him.

If you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the full Christ lives within you.  He is full through you as you trust Him!  It's the devil's lie to get us to think of ourselves as separate from our Lord.  He's not up there, and we're down here, praying He throws down a little courage (or whatever) if we pray correctly!  NO!  We are one with Him...united in a way that nothing in heaven or earth can separate!

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

So, dear sisters & brothers, look at whatever you are facing today as your opportunity to experience Him in His fulness!  Praise His Holy Name!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2Peter 1:3 ESV

...that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. Eph 3:19b ESV

The Father's Pruning

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked just a few weeks ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and this new website.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 25 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3,4

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then He said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11