Fear

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Fear is darkness.

Have you ever woken up at night and fearful thoughts start running through your head? Those thoughts tend to multiply and sometimes become overwhelming. The fear grips us in a mental, emotional and even physical way. The darkness becomes even darker.

I remember vividly a time soon after the birth of our first child when fear gripped me in this way. Phil was late getting home from a trip (before cell phones!) (although that might not have made a difference since Phil’s cell phone is most often on his dresser – turned off!) and I became consumed with fear. My mind went wild as I planned his funeral, planned how I was going to live as a widow, and raise our little boy without his father. The more I thought, the worse those thoughts became. The darkness became darker!

When he walked in the door, I was an emotional mess!

Yet we may have those same fearful thoughts in the midst of the day and they don’t seem quite as terrible.

Why?

It is the LIGHT of day.

We see things more clearly.

Jesus says in John 8:12 –

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John explains the blessing of recognizing Jesus as the Light and following Him.  – I John 1:7

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Fear is darkness.

Faith is light.

As we allow the Light of Jesus to enter our minds and hearts we will have faith. Just as turning on a light in a dark room reveals where things are located so we don’t stumble and fall, the Light of God’s word illuminates our daily path as we follow Him.

Psalm 119:105 says –

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

When our children are fearful we need to share this truth with them as well. I memorized this verse from Psalms as a child and it still reminds me to follow the light of faith, not the darkness of fear.

There is so much to be concerned about in our world today. We must not let the darkness close in. Fear of the future can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. We should be examples of hope by our words and deeds.

We can choose to walk in the Light!

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Don’t Let the Fire Go Out

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I heard a truck in the driveway and the first thing I did was glance at the wood stove.

Was there wood in the stove or had I let the fire go out?

As is often the case, I had been caught up in my book-making and I had forgotten to tend the fire. So, before Phil came in I quickly added wood and was sheepishly grinning when he entered the den.

After 41 years, Phil is accustomed to those sheepish grins. 🙂

Yes, I am easily distracted, yet when I am working on art, time literally slips away. I am totally immersed in the creative process and I need reminders to fulfill my other responsibilities.

We do this spiritually as well. We can get so caught up in “doing” for God that we forget to “tend the fire.”

What does it mean to “tend the fire” spiritually?

It means that we are re-stocking our lives with fuel from the Source, in other words making sure that we are receiving fresh spiritual food from God’s Word. I have been a Christian for almost 60 years, yet I can’t survive on old teaching from my past – as good as it was.

Anyone who heats with wood will tell you – old wood burns up fast!

I need to allow Holy Spirit to speak to me with fresh insight for the current issues I face today. As I read the Bible, the Living Word, it feeds the flames of the spiritual fire within me. This past weekend I attended a women’s conference at our church. Katherine Wright shared from her heart some things that the Lord had been teaching her recently through very tragic circumstances.

“We have created for ourselves an illusion of safety,” Katherine said. “My recent study of Scripture has made me realize that this was NOT Paul’s or the early Christians view of suffering.”

In I Peter 1:6-9, Peter encourages Christians that their suffering has a purpose –

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I must be faithful to feed the spiritual fire within me through reading God’s Word, hearing Biblical teaching, and listening to the Holy Spirit within me. Katherine’s words clarified for me the truth that suffering is part of life, yes, a NORMAL CHRISTIAN life.

Feeding on the Word of God will keep my fire burning!

A Good Story

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Everyone loves a good story.

Be honest now, remember the last time you were at a baby shower (Sunday for me) with a bunch of women – many with a birthing story to tell. It is amazing! Anyone who has had a child has a story – some are funny, some painful, some are hard to believe, some can’t remember anything because they were drugged.

Some stories are sadly tragic. Yet each story ends with a birth. My friend Carol, a long time labor and delivery nurse, says that the saddest births are those that end in a still-born delivery. Dear friends of ours lost a baby soon after she was born and I remember what a painful time that was.  After nine months of anticipation and planning all the hopes and dreams of sharing that new life die with the death of that baby.

Sharing these stories, good and bad, happy and sad, keep alive the memories of these precious little lives however brief. Sharing the stories of those babies who did not live or had very short lives allows future children to acknowledge that their life is a gift – not a given.

Children love to hear stories about their birth and early years. The story gives each child a sense of belonging and family heritage that is important as they form their self image. This is important for adoptive children as well. The fact that they were chosen by the adoptive parents and the story of the effort that those parents made to include them in the family will help those adopted to feel every bit as loved and valued as biological children.

The shower Sunday was for a baby whose mother is 42 and the parents have been married 18 years. The testimony of that mother of accepting God’s will when they thought they would never have children is a lovely story of God’s grace and faithfulness.

And…YES! Surprise!

This is a time of the year when many of us celebrate the sanctity of human life. As we do so, we remember that each life is ordained by God and so precious in His sight. The following verses were written by the Psalmist before there were x-rays, ultrasounds, or CAT scans. Yet they acknowledge what we now can see through scientific technology – what grows inside the womb is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be.

This is a story we must tell our children and grandchildren. Share with these children the story of their birth, celebrating together God’s faithfulness.

Each of them is made in the image of God and as their lives unfold, the story of their lives has been written in God’s book – planned by the God of the universe.

Heart Problems

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“Lord, don’t let my heart get hard.”

Phil and I were snowed in on Sunday. Our road had not been plowed and since it was 9 degrees when we woke up, the surface of our road was snow and ice. It was beautiful, especially since we are blessed with a wood stove and are able to look out our windows from a place of warmth.

We took some time to share what was on our hearts – what we felt that God has been impressing on each of us. Then we prayed.

One thing I shared with Phil was that I did not want to allow a critical, or hard heart to develop. I don’t want my grandchildrens’ foremost memory of me to be

“NO”.

We probably all have family members who are most remembered for their critical, crabby attitude, especially as they got older. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Each of our older grandchildren have gone through a “no” phase, usually from around 18 months to two years of age. We recognize this as a stage in development that is normal as a child learns that they are a separate entity and that they have a free will. They also learn that words express meaning – “no” means “I don’t want to”. As caring parents and grandparents we need to discipline these children to understand that they can not always have their own way – nor should they. “No” is sometimes good for us.

How we respond to “no” becomes a matter of the heart – for each of us as well as our children.

Hard hearts develop when we refuse to accept that what we desire may not be God’s will for us.

My friend Patti shared at our last Bible study session on Ezekiel that the recurring theme of that book (not my favorite, I must admit, but needed by me) was the heart condition of God’s people – REBELLION.

Our heart problems start with rebellion.

When our children say “no” to us, it expresses their rebellion, their disobedience. Their hearts become hard instead of tender. They want their own way.

When we say “no” to God, it expresses our rebellion and begins the hardening process in our hearts.

Matthew 13: 14-16

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’

We cannot hear nor understand what God is speaking when our hearts become hard. Patti went on to share these words that have been ringing in the belfry of my heart ever since she shared –

“The heart of God wants to recapture the hearts of His people”.

YES!

May we let God recapture our hearts.

Soft hearts that see and hear Him.

 

He’s Coming, Again!

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The last of our children and grandchildren left yesterday.

We had a wonderful time with family – coming and going at various times with a brief overlap of everyone. It can be wild and crazy at times, yet the joy of having our children and grandchildren in our home supersedes all other factors. We know we are truly blessed.

As I mentioned in my post on December 13th, I spent a lot of time preparing rooms – making beds, putting pictures of the anticipated occupants in the rooms, (learned from a dear friend Donna), a small dish of special candy in the adult rooms, and fresh towels. As much as possible, I wanted each family member to feel welcome and loved.

I also put away any breakable or valuable non-essentials so that we did not have to say “no” any more than necessary.

The preparation paid off – I enjoyed the seven days we had family here and we only broke two dishes, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

So, yesterday we started cleaning up. Phil vacuumed, I put things away. One load of sheets is in the dryer and the second load is in the washer as I type this.

Yet, something my older brother texted me with his holiday greeting keeps resonating in my mind.

“Jesus is coming again!”

We made so many preparations to celebrate the first appearing of Jesus. All were special and held meaning for us and our family as we celebrated Jesus’s birth.

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But what preparations am I making to prepare for His second coming?

In I Thessalonians 5: 19-24 (MSG) Paul addresses this very issue –

19-22 Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

23-24 May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!

The preparations are quite clear –

  • allow the Holy Spirit to empower us
  • listen to those who speak God’s truth
  • don’t be deceived – test everything by the standard of God’s Word
  • throw away the bad, avoid everything that is evil
  • God will make us holy and whole
  • God is completely dependable – HE WILL DO IT!

God will make us prepared for the second coming of Jesus. We can begin the process by following the first four steps – but ONLY God can complete it.

The joy of preparing for our family’s arrival was the anticipation of them actually coming. Our granddaughter Adella said to me, “Nana, you are so happy when I come to your house.” Yes, I am, and I am so pleased she knows it.

If we had not prepared, I dread thinking of the consequences. No food, no beds ready, no clean bathrooms….There would be no joy on Macktown Gap!

No one knows when Jesus will come again. We DO know He is returning.

I want to commit to intentionally preparing myself – spirit, soul, and body – for the return of Jesus, my Saviour and Lord.

Jesus is coming, again!