How God Gave Me Victory Over 9-11

September 2008

The clock was ticking.  One joyous hour had passed since my youngest son’s birth.  The process had been simpler than last time, and I was gratefully munching on delicious food.  While a nurse checked on me, Tim surprised me by asking her, “What is that dripping sound?”  The nurse replied casually, “Oh, it’s probably just something in the bathroom.” Nope.  It was me.

Suddenly I felt like an actress in a dramatic movie:

  • In one corner, my extremely concerned husband was talking with a doctor
  • Our room was suddenly filled with people, my hospital bed surrounded by worried nurses
  • The anesthesiologist (whom I had expected never to see again) was poised, ready to prepare me for surgery

Someone got down close to me and explained that I may need to have an emergency hysterectomy.  I only remember saying, “I don’t want to die.”  Praying that I would live to continue to be Tim’s wife and Bugga and Booga’s mommy, they pushed me down the hallway toward surgery.  I was lifted onto a table.  Then it all went black.

I woke up gasping for breath and shaking uncontrollably.  Tim and our pastor were standing next to me.  As the symptoms lessened, I was relieved to learn I had only needed a  D&C (a surgical procedure to clear out stubborn placenta that was causing me to hemorrhage). My uterus was in tact, but, my blood count was terribly low – less than half of normal.

That evening, when my Dad asked about what I had been through, I was startled by my sharp reply:  “I don’t want to talk about it!”  My heart had been stretched further than it ever had been before.  All I could do was think about my too-close-for-comfort brush with death and thank God for getting me through.

Hoping that the worst was behind me, I looked forward to going home and starting our new life with two boys.  But, my blood count was simply too low.  Thus, a miserable blood transfusion followed two days later.  They couldn’t find a vein.  I could think of a million places I’d rather be at that moment.  God sent a gentle nurse to pray with me. “I don’t like needles!” I tearfully admitted my dread. She sympathetically held my hand and sadly whispered, “I don’t either.” They tried again and again … finally, mercifully, a willing tunnel accepted the gift of life, and soon we were on our way home.

For months I struggled with the fear of dying.  Sure, I knew that whenever it was my time to go, I would go to be with God.  But, this solid fact surprisingly didn’t prevent the panic attacks I was experiencing.  It didn’t help that my weakened state was the ideal resort for every germ within a hundred miles.  I was sick more than I was well, and I kept getting weaker.  I felt like a helpless, hopeless, useless woman.  A few sweet friends from church and my sister came to help us. They were such an encouragement!  Sadly, I hardly remember having the energy to enjoy my babies.
Curiously, as the title of this post suggests, my fear manifested itself primarily in an obsession about September 11, 2001.  Every day I would have day-mares, reliving the horrors I had seen on television and heard on the radio.  It felt like I was chained in front of a video stuck on replay.  This wasn’t something on my to-do list: Think morbid thoughts.  
 
Truth be told, I was stuck and didn’t know how to get out.  To exacerbate my rut even further, it seemed like every time I looked at a clock it said 9:11.  Even though I prayed, went to church, and read my Bible, I felt like I was losing touch with reality.

A medical doctor referred me to a local Christian counselor.  She was a good listener, kind, and pointed me to God’s sovereignty.  Practically she suggested that whenever my thoughts started capsizing, I should immediately stop whatever I’m doing and walk into another room, completely changing my activity.  This diversion helped, but I needed something more powerful.  I desperately sought the strength of my Counselor. 

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

I cried out to God and asked Him to pull me out of this pit of death.  I thought often of Psalm 40 and waited for Him to pull me out of the miry clay and set my feet on a rock and establish my goings.  I sensed that God wanted me to be specific in my prayers, so I asked Him to turn my head clock-ward at eleven minutes after anything except nine: 2:11, 5:11, 7:11.  And I promised Him that every time I would see an “11” I would say, out loud, “God is faithful! Thank You, God!” 

Almost immediately, I kid you not, from that time forward nearly every time I looked at a clock I was rewarded with seeing 2:11, 5:11, 7:11, 12:11, and so forth.  For years I had known God’s power through His word and His work in my life.  But with this recent gift, I knew the power of God in a very personal way, and I could see the tender warmth of the Son burning off the fog of fear.  My toxic thoughts changed to praise and I poured out, “God is faithful! Thank You, God!”  It was particularly delightful when He would cause me to look up and see 11:11 – double duty praise and thankfulness!! 

After about a year, my health improved and I regained strength.  God had never left my side, and He became dearer than ever before.


With Joshua (2 weeks old) at Pikes Peak State Park

Why do I share this with you?  It is so tiny compared to what others have suffered due to the events of 9-11.  I do not pretend to compare my situation with others.  Nevertheless, I too, in a small way, suffered part of the consequences of sin and death in this world.  It was a dark time in my life.  God let me stay there, I believe, long enough to always remember what it felt like.  Then, when His timing was right, God pierced through my shadows with His marvelous light.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” 

Psalm 27:1-5

Whatever it is – from your past or in your present, it isn’t too big for God.  He can work in seemingly small ways to remind us of His huge faithfulness. Have you asked Him to show you His light?

If you have time, here is an amazing account of a Bible recovered after 9-11-01. 
 

 
Joyfully His,
Sara

P.S.  This morning (9-11-14) I looked to see what time it was, and the clock read 11:11 – “God is still faithful, thank You, God … God is still faithful, thank You God.”

Prepare To Worship


“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

It is Saturday evening.  My husband and I are sitting near each other working on our computers while listening to one of our favorite music stations.  If you’d like to listen with us, click here.  It is the evening before we go to church to worship God with our local family of believers.  Sundays are unique from every other day . . . a day set aside to focus on God.

It’s not that we don’t worship every day at home. We can worship God while we have our Bible quiet time, while we’re sitting down to a meal, in the shower, sipping tea, kissing boo boos, baking cookies, pulling weeds in the garden, etc.  God isn’t particular about where we worship Him, as long as we worship Him in spirit and in truth.  But, there is something particularly special about worshipping God as a church body.  Together.  And for this special event, we like to prepare.

Here are some ideas that might help you prepare on Saturday to worship on Sunday:

1.  Pray for your pastor and his wife.  A friend on Facebook always posts a nifty reminder like the one pictured below on Saturday evenings, reminding us to pray.  It is great for many reasons to teach our children to pray for their pastor.

2.  Reserve the evening to be at home.  We’ve found if we plan too much on Saturday evenings we are exhausted and not in very good shape for Sunday.  Of course Saturday activities cannot always be avoided, but because of the substantial benefits we make this a priority in our household.

3.  Lay out clothes and begin food preparation.  Is it just me, or does it seem like Satan is working overtime on Sunday mornings?  It is upsetting to the whole family to scurry around hairy-scary at the last minute looking for that missing shoe!  We are trying to get in the habit of laying out our clothes and shoes the night before, along with having breakfast and lunch preparations well on their way.  Have you ever read about the lengths Jews go to to prepare for Sabbath?  It’s phenomenal.  Sunday is the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on our behalf – it seems like a day worthy of respectful preparations.  I’ve found that Sundays are much more peaceful if I prepare to be undistracted by things that could be taken care of on Saturday.

4.  Listen to worshipful music.  Like the link I shared above, there is nothing besides Scripture and prayer that prepares my heart for worship like worshipful music.  This can also set a wonderful Christ-centered atmosphere on Sunday morning while the family gets ready to go to church.

5.  Read Scripture passage before the sermon tomorrow.  We get our bulletin via email around Thursday or Friday every week, so we know what Pastor will be speaking on the following Sunday.  It helps me if I prayerfully read through the passage before he preaches.  God’s Spirit has more time to work in my heart, making it more likely that I will apply the Word to my life come Monday morning.

6.  Watch a worshipful video/DVD.  My favorite, for Saturday and any day of the week, is In His Presence: A celebration of the peace, love and promises of God in word and song (Moody Video).

7.  Ask God to clear your mind and heart.  Confessing sin and asking God to clear your mind of sinful thoughts or attitudes is essential for worshipping God. This could be likened to preparing soil in your garden for seeds and growth.  Check out this link to read verses that address this very need.

8.  Pray for the persecuted church.  At times I find myself taking my church for granted, or obsessing about inconsequential irritations (there is no perfect church).  One sure cure for this is to remember my sisters and brothers around the world that face persecution and are not allowed to openly attend worship services.  We are so very blessed – let us thank God and cherish the privilege of meeting to worship and grow in God together.

Do you have any other ideas that you use in your family or personal habits that you can share with us?  I would love to hear about them – please leave a comment below!

Praying for you dear sisters as you prepare to worship with your church family tomorrow.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25


Special thanks to Brenda for sharing the pray-for-Pastor picture!

Ten "Going Crazy" Tips

“Call the Funny Farm!”  Not if, but when is the last time you were in a position of confusion, exhaustion, discouragement and/or grief, and you felt someone must quickly provide emergency intervention?  If you’re like me, it was as recent as yesterday or this morning. Stressful moments, from mildly irritating to incredibly difficult, come to all of us!  They can sneak up as a complete surprise.  They can also be predictable.  Can you relate to some of these?

  • Full schedule
  • Homeschooling (especially on wet or cold days after we’ve been inside for too long!)
  • Times of transition
  • Weddings
  • Holidays
  • Illness or injury
  • Hormones
  • New member in the family
  • A time of loss
  • Financial strain
  • Job tension
  • When disappointed by people or circumstances
  • When we sin against or disappoint people 
  • When we receive bad news
  • Reorganization at work or church
  • During a move/remodel
  • Etc!

How do you deal with your craziness? It really is a good thing that our lives aren’t completely trouble free.  If they were, where would our need be for God?  You’ve probably heard these before, but I’m praying that God will use something here to encourage you, dear Sister!  Here are a few of my favorite “Crazy” tips:

1.  Rest

As soon as possible do whatever it takes to get much needed rest.  My two boys, six and four, are pretty much beyond naps.  Yet, we still have a 1 1/2 hour reading/quiet time in the middle of the day.  It is helpful for everyone.  My six-year-old actually looks forward to it!  If you are anything like me, everything seems much worse when I am overly tired.  And my exhaustion can be a sign that my priorities are out of kilter.  My doing too much can be attibuted to my own pride. 

Whenever necessary (not more than once per day :)), get your kids occupied with a good video and go to your room, close the door, put on your MP3 player or a good set of earplugs, lay flat on the floor and stretch your arms above your head while breathing in and out slowly.  Here is one of my helpers:

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2


2.  Eat

It really can be as simple as taking time to nourish ourselves.  My tendency is to crave chocolate and potato chips, but these usually make me feel worse.  At the risk of sounding like your mother, eat well and drink lots of water.  Grill some chicken, make a salad, grab an apple.  Go through a drive-thru and buy a salad if you can afford it.  Indulge in the food you are craving, if you must.  But, don’t go overboard, and don’t resort to splurging as a daily escape from reality.  Popcorn is a calming snack, as is a banana.  I love it that when Elijah was tired, afraid, and discouraged God did not berate him and condemn him.  God isn’t condemning us: let us not condemn ourselves.  Enjoy some of God’s good gifts – eat!

“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.  And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’” I Kings 17:2-4


3.  Remember you are in a spiritual battle.

Too easily I forget that I am a soldier in a spiritual war.  I’m sure that my forgetfulness, and the ensuing consequences, makes Satan very happy.  We should expect daily battles!  You think your temptations regarding food isn’t part of your spiritual battle?  What was Eve’s first spiritual battle about?  Yet, what we are really fighting against is far more gigantic than people, circumstances or food:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” Ephesians 6:12


Would we go to the hottest site in Afghanistan unarmed?  No way.  Give me the largest tank and a wide selection of the most accute bombs available.  So then, how can we expect to face spiritual battles unarmed?  There is no option here.  We must eat, we must breath, we must be in God’s Word!  Especially during days of pressure, weakness, doubt, and possible depression, begin the day by putting on the armor of God, by reading and praying through Ephesians 6:10-20 (you can read it by clicking on the link below):


And, remember, we are on the winning side.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4

We must take time to read God’s love letter to us and . . .

4.  Pray

We cannot begin to estimate the power of talking to God.  Pour out your heart to Him!  If writing is your thing, grab a pen and paper or a computer and write your prayers to God.  It will help you to get it out of your system and leave it with the One Who has the power to work 24/7 for your good and His glory.  If you write it down it will also help you gain perspective on your problems.  How precious that our almighty God took on flesh and came to this wicked world.  He cried our tears, sharing our sorrows:

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15,16


5.  Talk to a godly friend. Ask for help! 

One of the highlights of Sunday is talking briefly with a friend at church about how we can pray for one another throughout the coming week.  And I can’t remember the number of times I have sent emergency emails or Facebook messages to ask sisters to pray for me.  It is an immediate relief to be reminded that we are not alone.  Don’t worry that you will be bothering someone (unless this is the 5th time you’ve called them today!). 

I do want to stress GODLY friend.  Not perfect (there aint any!), but growing.  Who is a godly friend?  One who is going to love you, show you grace, not judge you . . . but, also someone who is going to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.  Call the friend who listens, cares, and points you to Jesus.

We recently heard Todd Wilson, of FamilyMan Ministries, speak to our local homeschool parents group.  He spoke of a woman who called his wife and asked if she could come over to talk to her.  They started with small talk, but soon the conversation got deeper.  The visiting woman, one of whom Todd said we would all look at as the ultimate godly woman, quoting Scripture and giving glory to God, shared a personal hurt with Todd’s wife.  She told of a time two years before when she had been studying her Bible and her little girl kept interrupting and trying to get Mama’s attention.  The woman grabbed her little girls wrist too hard and broke it.  Since then the mother had been in agony.  As she shared her burden with this godly friend, she was able to breath and move on.  Todd’s wife didn’t condemn her, but instead told her things like, “Oh, I am so sorry!  Any one of us could’ve done the same thing!  I know you didn’t mean to do it.” (Todd even humorously admitted wanting to share some personal experience/not-so-good advice, “I understand . . . I’ve often felt like I wanted to break every bone in my child’s body!”)  Finally, this Christian sister was able to move on with her life.  Sometimes we just need to confess our mistakes or sins to a godly friend.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

6.  Forget the past and move on. 

If your stress has to do with your past (twenty years ago or yesterday), God wants you to forget it and move one.  If you need to apologize, write the letter, make the visit, or pick up the phone.  Even if people are hesitant to forgive.  God is always ready to forgive us!

If you have been sinned against and are constantly plagued by bad memories, practice giving these burdens to God – the more you do it the easier it will get to give them over to Him and not grab them back.  If you are obsessing, ask God to change your mind and literally get up and move into a different room and do a different activity.  A Christian counselor recommended this when I was obsessing about death after a close call, and it really helped me.  It is so refreshing when we can look forward to the future, entrusting our past and our future to God’s excellent care!

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14


7.  Plan something to look forward to. 

We women have the privilege of serving the people in our lives: cooking, cleaning, driving people to appointments, cards, listening, etc.  But we get worn out and need to be recharged.  Get out your calendar and look for the first free space – plan a date with your husband or a friend.  If other people are too busy, plan a date for yourself – go out and get a coffee or ice cream, read a favorite book, sit by a beautiful lake and soak in God’s beauty.  And do it without feeling guilty!  God gives good gifts to His children!  He gave Jesus so that we can live more abundantly.

“And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.” Mark 6:31-32


8.  Claim your blessings. 

Reminiscent of Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book One Thousand Gifts, simply sit down and start writing down all the things you have to be thankful for.  Your list of “bad things” is much smaller than the “good things” . . . and you’ve probably realized why I set apart “good” and “bad” to remind us that our point of view is terribly limited.  What may seem bad to us may be what God is going to use to do amazingly good things in our lives.

Ask God to help you be thankful for where you are right now, including all the yucky stuff.  He can and will give strength to help us be genuinely thankful for trials. All we need to do is ask and wait on Him.  God highly treasures our sacrifice of praise.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

9.  Cry and Breathe

Just a couple days ago I let it all out in my room, boo-hooing and doing some much needed grieving.  I felt so much better afterward. Crying purges!  It rids our bodies of toxins. Crying is part of what God has given to help us release some of the pent-up emotional pressure.  These verses are probably familiar to you, so I want to share them in a translation other than the NKJV to give another perspective.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)


If you are not a cryer, take a brisk walk, work out, release that stress somehow (and I don’t mean hurling a pan over your husband’s head!).  And as our sweet more mature friends gently remind us, “This too shall pass.” 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

10.  Pick One

Think of five people you know who are going through a trial right now (not including yourself).  Plan how you, or you along with your family, can do something simple and special for him or her. 

If you have a neighbor who just broke her arm, offer to rake her leaves.  If you have a friend who just went through surgery, take a meal or a happy balloon over with a favorite coffee.  Fresh flowers can be an extravagant gift making people feel loved, but most women I know prefer plants that aren’t going to die (unless they have thumbs not even close to the color of green and are thankful that after a short while their flowers die naturally 🙂 ).

I have a friend who has been suffering with depression. Just a phone call meant the world to him and helped him to be brave enough to seek the help he needed.  I praise God that He used little ol’ me to help a brother in need, and at the same time get my mind off my own troubles.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

I hope something in this list will help you during this crazy time of life!  The best thing to remember as women on God’s mission, we are not alone, and God is lovingly continuing the good work He started in us.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” Isaiah 41:10
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  Philippians 1:6

God of Mountains Topples Walls of Fear

 
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1

From the breathtaking mountains of Colorado . . . back down to the foothills of Mount Neverest (laundry).  I didn’t want to come home.  I wanted to stay there and stare at God’s art work all day, every day!

What did I come home to, besides lots of dirty clothes?  A busy autumn schedule, a spiritual battle, and a wall of fear . . . it looms over me. 

  • How am I going to ____? 
  • What if ____ happens? 
  • I don’t feel good about ____.   
  • Am I going to be able to be ____? 
  • Am I ever going to be content with an imperfect life and house?  
  • What about my friend’s hurts? 
  • What if ____ happens to my family?
  • What if my dreams for Women On God’s Mission are too big? 
  • What if I’ve bitten off too much with my schedule?
  • How can I continue to make the 45 minute commute to church 2-3 times per week? 
  • Do my goals match God’s plans for me? 

Fears like a dripping faucet nag at my heart – that loved ones who do not believe in Jesus, as the Way the Truth and the Life, will lose their opportunity with God. And fears for precious friends facing persecution around the world . . . on and on, the walls of fear could rival the Wall of China.

Thankfully, peace is not inextricably connected with time, place, vacation, God’s beautiful creation, nor with anything I do or don’t do! C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing.”  Where God is, there is peace.  Even in the midst of hectic real life!  I thank God that He uses these fears to draw me to Himself.  If I had no fear, there would be no need for God. 

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

If I am carrying fears around, I am accepting a “gift” from the father of lies, Satan.  After I lift off the enticing wrapper I drag around a back-breaking, heart-wrenching, rash inducing time bomb.  Through me Satan disrespectfully flaunts a small victory in the face of his and my Creator God, while he designs to do everything he can to destroy me, my family, and any godly influence from my life!  In contrast, our wonderful God sweetly yet powerfully assures, “I have it all under control.”  He calms the storms around me, giving me freedom to breathe, freedom to sleep sweetly, and the assurance that He is working on ___ and ___.  God understands!  God cares! 

Are you in a fearful place?  Surgery is scheduled, your biological clock is ticking, you lost your job, your baby has cancer, loved ones are moving away, your house won’t sell, your husband is being called up for another tour of duty, you don’t know if you are on your way to heaven when you die (see above under Lovely Links to get help), your very life is at stake in a land where there is no freedom of religion . . . whatever it is, Satan would love to tie us up in ropes of fear – he wants to snuff out all of the big dreams that come with following a big God!

Like my Indonesian sister in Christ told me tonight, “I just need to meditate more on His word and draw myself even closer to Him. This cloud of uncertainty and doubt has been a thorn I need to get rid of FAST!” 

And when we are too weak to cast off our fears, He can and He will!  Will you kneel with me right now and commit our fears to God?  He has all the answers we need.  He is the answer.  Pray and watch the walls topple.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah 41:10

Cry Out to God

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14

This morning I had a rare opportunity to read, pray and talk to God alone at a park.  A sweet friend had invited my boys over, and I savored every moment of God and me time.

I’ve felt drained lately, more so than usual.  The past two years, around this time, we were preparing for our exchange student daughters to come.  From the moment their planes touched down, we were off and running, seemingly non-stop, for two 10+ month intervals.

In June with my Ghanian daughter Ama, just a few days before she left

After two action-packed years, I feel my body and emotions wavering between shock and recovery mode.  And I am grateful for the good memories as I put my feet up, this time blissfully uninvolved with the local high school schedule.  Although, there is a tinge of boredom in the air . . . how do we go back to “normal” after ultra-activity?

God is using this time in my life to help me reevaluate.  As I was sitting at the park enjoying the amazing book Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay For Women to Slow Down by Kim Thomas, I was curious when my heart was particularly alert during the chapter about anger.  I listened for God’s Spirit to speak to me as I reviewed those who have wronged or misunderstood me: ____ = forgiven, ____= forgiven, and down the list I went.  Then a most unexpected turn of events – I sensed God was showing me that I had not forgiven myself!  And all this time I have been stewing about those other people. 

“Forgive yourself” possibly sounds like a talk-show diagnosis.  Challenged by a wise friend who asked me the biblical basis for this, perhaps it would be better to say I accept God’s forgiveness and no longer condemn myself.  In case you are interested, here are some thoughts we discussed:

  • Colossians 3:13 – “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” . . . The Greek root word “heautou” (one another) refers not only to others, but also to ourselves.
  • Berating myself for past failures and sins has only prevented me from living in God’s forgiveness/being fully who God wants me to be. Living spiritually is seeing myself through God’s eyes: Sinful, yet FORGIVEN. Therefore, it is my own pride and stubbornness not likewise to forgive what God has already forgiven.  
  • Hebrews 9:14 – “…how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” 
  • Ephesians 4:32 – “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  Even though I am a sinner, God gives me the choice to forgive or not forgive other sinners.  Do you think Saul/Paul needed to stand with God forgiving himself for his violence against his new brothers and sisters in Christ? At least he probably had to remind himself, when nightmares plagued his conscience, “I stand forgiven in Christ, therefore I shall not live in the past, condemning myself.”  I have the privilege of saying with Christ, “Sara, you are forgiven … go on in God’s grace.” 
  • Romans 8:1,33 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit . . . who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”  GOD justifies – I cannot justify myself nor anyone.  Accepting His full and free forgiveness – it would be disrespectful of His sacrifice to continue to condemn my forgiven self. 
  • In John 8:9-12 Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery that He nor any other man condemns her, and then a very important “Go and sin no more.”  Why?  “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

It seems to me that holding onto the guilt is connected with pride . . . as if something I can DO will justify myself.  I am thankful that I do not have gigantic baggage – God protected me greatly.  And some of the things I have struggled with are sins of omission or the sad happenstance of not knowing that someone I love was being abused.  “If only I had known, I would’ve helped them!!” 

Another part is accepting God’s sovereignty.  I am just not that big!  He works through our sins and mistakes for good in our lives and in the lives of others – He breathes life into dust and brings the dead to life.  Hallelujah!   

Tonight, while all this was soaking in, and right after I shared with Tim the release God gave me today, I was contacted by one of the people on my forgiven list.  It was like a bright cherry on top of a sundae, reminding me that God can open channels which once seemed impenetrable. Thank You, God, for working faithfully and patiently with Your children!

If you are in a place of exhaustion, confusion, or just plain needing a recharge, I highly recommend Kim’s book.  And as soon as you can, cry out to God and go to a quiet place, prepared to listen to Him.  What you think may be the reason for your struggle may be completely opposite of what God is trying to teach you.

I’d like to close with something my wonderful friend Kay gave me yesterday: “Psalm 23:2. He doesn’t LET us lie down in green pastures because we usually don’t do that of our free will (we’re too busy). So He makes us lie down. So thankful He does that for us. THEN, after He does that, He leads us to the quiet water and THEN He refreshes our soul. “

Get out of the way!

Twelve years ago I was privileged to be a preschool teacher in Poulsbo, Washington.  I loved my students!  I remember one day when a new fellow joined our class.  The poor little man had major first day jitters and insecurities.  Not even music and story time could cheer him up.  He continued in distress until . . . I got up and moved.  Behind me on the wall was a picture of Jesus (similar to the image above).   After Kevin saw the picture of Jesus, his entire demeanor changed!  As I watched him smile, I could picture a party going on inside his brain – “This is a Jesus place!  I’m going to be okay!”  From then on, he seemed to feel at home.

While studying John 3:27-33 (*context below) today, I was challenged to remember that I am privileged to point people to Jesus.  Like John the Baptist, I have the opportunity to tell others, “It’s all about Him!”

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30  

This passage of Scripture reminds me:

I must diminish!
The good things you see in my life are only because of Jesus.  I am only special because God made me in His image, God in the flesh died to pay my sin debt, and I am chosen by Him to know and serve Him.  Why should my screen time only point people to Him?  Because . . .

1.  I have nothing except for what has been given to me by God (27). No room to brag!
2.  I am not God (28).  It seems obvious, but I find myself idiotically trying to play God in my life.
3.  I have been sent by God (28).  On His mission, not mine.  He uses the weak things of this world! (I Corinthians 1:27)
4.  I am His bride (29).  Do I act like a bride in love, preparing for our day?  Do I glow and tell everyone about the One I love (Who first loved me – I John 4:19)?
5.  The sound of his voice gives great joy – in Him my joy is fulfilled (29).  So, why do I go elsewhere for my joy?  Rejoice in the joy Giver!  And find my fulfillment in Him alone.  Not in my accomplishments!  Not in my list of souls won!  Not in my one-upping a sister with whom I feel a pull of competition in church leadership.  No!!!

He must become greater!

Jesus IS the greatest – this verse is saying that He must take center stage and be given complete dominion in our lives.  Why?  Because (again, taken from John 3) . . .

1.  He is the Giver (27).  All gifts are from God!  Isn’t His signature verse John 3:16?  And, don’t forget Romans 8:32!  With His strength, I can appreciate His gifts and become a selfless giver.
2.  He is the Sender (28).  Matthew 28:18-20.  I am on a mission!  I should be grateful – I get to serve the King of Kings!
3.  He is the Christ (28).  Anointed One, appointed by God.  Jesus is God in the flesh, no matter what other people say.
4.  Jesus and I have extremely different roles.  He is transforming me into His image while I am but a speck in the shadow of the Almighty.  That means I must continue to reverence and obey Him.  Humble myself.
5.  He is the bridegroom (29).  He loves me.  He chose me.  I am His precious bride.  He is worthy of my adoration!
6.  He is above all (27-28, 29-31). So, doesn’t He deserve my complete allegiance?!  I cannot even imagine the ridiculous spectacle of a termite bragging about his strength next to a tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur.  God and me?  The difference is even greater!

HE is above all!
He IS above all!
He is ABOVE all!
He is above ALL!

7.  Jesus is evidence that God, and what He says in the Bible, is true (33).  Divine and sent by God, Jesus gives a living, breathing view of God.
8.  He has something to say that is worth hearing (32).  Am I listening?

We have the privilege of pointing people to Jesus.  Let’s get out of the way so people can see the source of hope and true joy!

Practically Speaking: How To Point Others to Jesus

Family:

  • Above all, your family needs for you to be godly.  When you are right with God, God is able to shine through you!
  • Talk about God to your children, every day of the week. 
  • Begin the day with a verse and prayer. 
  • In a moment of frustration, let them hear you pray to God for help and strength. 
  • Put a little love note on their pillow that includes a Bible verse telling about Jesus’ love for them. 
  • If unsaved family mock or accuse you, be like Jesus to them, keeping silent and taking it graciously. 
  • Let them hear you pray for them out loud.
  • Be excited about God!
  • Teach them about good manners – the purpose of which is not to make people think they great, but it is an opportunity to show people the love of Jesus.
  • Talk about how great God is and show your children how you can together enjoy praising God in song and service. 
  • Praise them for their accomplishments, then add, “God is so good to have given you such a special talent to use for His glory!”

Neighbors:

  • Take baked goodies to them, just because.  Put a little note on the treat, including a simple Bible verse, that says you are thankful God allowed you to be neighbors. 
  • Be the first one to take a meal to a new mom, a newcomer to the neighborhood, or a grieving family.  Include a winsome tract telling about God’s love and hope. 
  • Don’t flaunt your beliefs – have an attitude of kindness and humility. 
  • Don’t be afraid to show them you can have fun. 
  • Take care of your yard.  This one is hard to keep up with (we know)!  But it is important to respect our neighborhood by taking responsibility – this will help people to view Christ in a positive light. Think of your house as God’s embassy in your neighborhood!
  • If you borrow something, return it as soon as possible. 
  • Don’t keep a perfect home – let people see that you are real – someone they can relate to.  People feel more comfortable in a home that isn’t spotless.
  • How you dress matters.  Incorporating Biblical principles of modesty, be approachable in the way you dress – neither slovenly, goody-two-shoes, nor Hollywoodish.  They are more apt to listen if your appearance doesn’t distract from your message.

Friends:

  • Don’t gossip. 
  • Don’t control the conversation, but try to guide it toward godly ideas.
  • Offer to pray for and with your friend.
  • Share what God is teaching you and ask her what God is teaching her.
  • Ask how you can help her in her Christian walk.
  • Ask for accountability – when she is holding you accountable, she will more likely seek to be right with God herself.
  • Give gifts that will remind her of God: perpetual calendar with verses in it, a Bible verse magnet or picture, a favorite music or speaker on CD.
  • After she sings or plays the piano, don’t say, “You’re awesome!”  Instead say something like, “Your song blessed my heart today.  I am so thankful you are using your talents for God’s glory!”
  • Send an e-mail saying you are praying for her today.
  • Share what God is doing in your life on Facebook.  Don’t be afraid to admit your struggles, but try not to complain.  Verbalizing what is true, even online, can help you and your friends focus on the One Who holds all the answers.

Strangers:

  • Smile and say hello. 
  • When waiting in line or while your kids are playing together at the park, try to find common ground by asking about their interests. 
  • Pray for an opportunity to share Christ, but be sensitive to His leading.  Being too bold can give people a negative stereotypical view of your Christianity. 
  • Invite them over for a play date or for supper. 
  • Always carry a quality tract with you to give them some reading material later on. Have your e-mail address or phone number on the back in case they have questions.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

*27 -John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.   
28 – You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  
29 – He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  
30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.  
31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.  
32 – And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.  
33 – He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.” 
– John 3:27-33