Monthly Archives: August 2012

You Alone Are God

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Today I struggled with ______________.  It doesn’t matter what goes in the blank.  Each of us has our own  “blanks” that we could fill with the appropriate words for our own lives.  Some may need more than one blank to write all that is impacting them.  I came across this Psalm that seems to fit anyone’s blanks.  I love it’s immediate frankness–I NEED YOUR HELP… read on and be blessed.

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me for I need your help.  Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you.  You are my God. Be merciful, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly.  Give me happiness, O Lord, for my life depends on you.

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask your aid.  Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear  my urgent cry.  I will call to you whenever trouble strikes, and you will answer me.  Nowhere among the pagan gods is there a god like you, O Lord.  There are no other miracles like yours.  All the nations-and you made each one-will come and bow before you Lord; they will praise your great and holy name. For you are great and perform great miracles.  You alone are God.

I thank you for being God. 

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4-7-8 Breathing for Stress Relief

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Recently I was made aware of a stress relief technique that is simple, effective and at no cost so I wanted to share with any of you who have issues with anxiety, insomnia or depression.  The link below takes you to a You Tube video explaining the technique.  I do not know the doctor in the video.  The technique was created by Dr. Andrew Weil.  It really makes a difference and I hope you will give it a try when stress knocks you upside the head!

Uploaded by  on Nov 23, 2011

This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
•Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
•Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
•Hold your breath for a count of seven.
•Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
•This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.

Source: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html

Psalm 91:9-10  If you make the lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your dwelling.

Aside

I’m starting to feel a little guilty as I sit here pathetically pitying myself for the way my life is turning and twisting right now.  I feel guilty because a family friend unexpectedly passed away this week.  She would not be pathetically pitying herself as I am at this moment.  She was a woman of strong faith–enormous faith.  She was handed innumerable curves on her pathway and she left the earth with mild complaint and confirming she knew she had been watched over each step of the way in her life. That doesn’t seem so amazing until you know her background.

Ellie endured a divorce at a time when the word, d-i-v-o-r-c-e,  was not spoken and had five children to deal with single handedly.  One of her sons was born with a heart condition that deprived him of oxygen at birth and left him with physical challenges. Ellie lost her young and only daughter to cancer just as she was embarking on the adventure of motherhood.  Ellie married again and her second husband succumbed to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease shortly after the death of her daughter.  Years later the son with the heart condition passed away during his prime as his body could give no more,  and not too long ago Ellie’s third husband endured an unexpected stroke.  As Ellie cared for him she learned she had a fast-moving breast cancer, but that was not even the cause of her death.   She had kidney issues and was under-going treatment. A germ entered her body that was stronger than she.  This little germ had more power than Ellie had left after years of fighting off sadness and pain that we can not imagine.

The fact is, if you met Ellie, you would have had no idea she had so many moments of serious crisis in her life.  It’s not that she was unaffected.  She had an abiding faith in Jesus Christ and allowed Him to carry her through each and every tragedy that life presented to her.   It was often said when someone was experiencing difficulty that when they thought of Ellie’s life they realized how really fortunate they were.  I’m glad God handed that role out to the right person.  I am blessed in even my darkest circumstances.    I am blessed to have known Ellie and to witness how strong faith really has the potential to be if you let it.  Not just a believing faith, but a faith that is active.  A faith that knows no matter what I am served, God is watching over me, will never leave me, nor forget me. He is walking with me.  The fact that God allows us to have the trials we do speaks to His purpose though we are told that we can become more faithful through them.  Frankly, I must not have learned enough since my last one!

Though not a Psalm, there is a Bible passage that is quite meaningful in face of struggle from Matthew 6 (The Message)

25-26“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

27-29“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

30-33“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with gettingso you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

34“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

And finally the Psalm read at Ellie’s funeral- Psalm 23:

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Here’s to Ellie.  God bless you.

Woman of Faith

Generations

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Psalm 100:5  

For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Silent, Boomers, X, Gen Y, Millennium–if these words make sense to you it’s because you have been exposed to the ubiquitous dialog about society and their age sector and how they impact one another.  From those individual words you can identify a fairly clear outline of the personality traits, desires and characteristics of a person assuming you know their age.

What I find really cool is that talking about generations has been in vogue for thousands of years.  You see that theme strung throughout the Bible.  It’s repeated in both the Old and New Testaments.  There is this constant thread that holds together the past with the current and you know something is going to happen in the future that will connect as well.  It’s all because it has happened like that time after time, century after century, decade after decade.

I love looking at the oldest family photos we have in our own archives.  I see the eyes of someone I know and love today in the face of a person from 100 years ago who I didn’t know at all.  Yet, we are connected.  They had the same kind of faith that I have.  We probably celebrated it differently, but at the core, I believe what my great,great,great,great grandparents believed.   Think about how amazing that really is.

One of the building blocks of my faith has been how tons of things come and go through the years.  But,  there are a few that flow from generation to generation.  You can probably count that on two hands at most.  The Bible is one of those things.  Seriously, how can you question a book that historians know for certain was “pressed” out in in the 1400s?  Certainly there are debates about what one passage or another really means and translations have been adjusted, but there are key elements that haven’t changed for at least 600 years.  Generations have passed along their beliefs and traditions for thousands of years and they’ve stuck.

That means the message about God’s faithfulness has to be true.  We have yet to see a version of the Bible that tells a story where God wasn’t faithful. Oops,  He really wasn’t there.  All things didn’t work for good.  It’s been a lie all these years and we managed to keep it going for hundreds of years.  It’s in our nature to seek the truth.  If God wasn’t faithful then by now one of the generations would have stood up and said it, but they can’t because God has been faithful…to all generations.

I need to remember that.  I need to recall that God is mega-big compared to me.  My problems, issues, fears, shortcomings and more are in the hands of God who has outlasted every kind of fad or trend ever imaginable.  He’s not God 2.0.  He doesn’t have features that are only available on certain models.  There isn’t a better version of Him coming out in January.  He has been the same…to all generations.  And loved us in spite of ourselves.  I’m talking to myself a bit right now.  Maybe I’m talking to you too, but this reminder is definitely for me.  In my weakest moments I need to remember He has been faithful to each and every generation.  He will be faithful to me too.

Psalm 102: 12  But you O Lord, will rule forever.  Your fame will endure to every generation.

Anxiety Bites

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Not too long ago I experienced my first ever panic attack.  Totally out of the blue, unexpected and the most awful thing I’ve gone through.  I might have to contend it was worse than labor pains.  At least for that you can get an epidural.  Hey, there’s an idea–an anxiety epidural.  I guess the closest thing to that is Xanax.

I was going through tough job loss and I woke in the middle of the night to feel a heavy sense of doom all around me. It seemed like the color around me was darker than the blackest black you could imagine.  I really thought Satan was in my bedroom and coming for me.  I was going crazy for sure- I knew it.  No one would believe this. I was sure if I shared what was going on I might be taken to a “special hospital” without my say-so.  I started pacing around my house and saying the Lord’s Prayer over and over again.  Immediately my thoughts went to finding my dusty Catechism and I started reciting text I had learned more than thirty years earlier.  I sat on the floor in my bathroom and clung tightly to that little blue book for a good thirty minutes.  I was on my knees, I was hunched over, I was pacing, I was sitting.  I couldn’t be still.  I forced myself through it and then it seemed o.k. and I eventually went back to bed to fall asleep once again.  I felt horrible the next day and decided to keep as busy as I could all day long.  I succeeded but the darkness stuck with me throughout the day.  Nightfall came and once again something struck me.  I got to the third day somehow.  That evening I was attending a play and I thought I was going to jump out of my seat the entire show.  Again, in the most quiet hours of the night, the darkness came back.

The next morning was a Monday.  I made several calls to people who helped me greatly and I became indoctrinated to the world of anxiety.  I got immediate help for the gloom and doom–that’s why I know a little bit about Xanax- and then embarked upon a course of actions to help me understand who, what, where, when, how and all that other fun stuff.  I won’t get into the details.  Mine are no more unique than anyone else’s.   Talking with people and getting medical assistance made a huge difference in my life.

As a Christian I felt a sense of guilt about having anxiety in the first place.  If I trusted in God enough why would I have anxiety?  Let me encourage anyone who will ever read this to immediately free yourself of that guilt.  Cut it loose.  There is no doubt we are to trust in the Lord.  There is also no doubt we are to do a lot of other things that we simply don’t do or can’t do because of the very fact we are human.   It doesn’t mean stop growing in your faith, but be real.  I’d love to be “fixed”, but I’m not there yet.  Let’s go with that popular phrase, “a work in progress”.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but out of my experience(s) with anxiety some good things have occurred.  Now let’s not interpret that as I would pick anxiety over a life of  smooth sailing–that would be just plain stupid.  However, one of the most meaningful has been to tighten the relationship I have with God.  These experiences of panic and ugliness have drawn me to search out ideas of comfort that people thousands of years ago sought.  They have lead me to the passages where I’ve found some of the most beautiful writing and poetry ever created in my search for understanding.  Anxiety has made me psalmgirl.  It’s brought me to an understanding of my failures and short-comings and shown me there is redemption from that.  I am not alone.  In my moments of courage and giving the guards the night off I’ve opened up to people to find similar stories and great empathy.  Generations and generations have walked on this sometimes treacherous path.  If I ever get to the point where I can completely cast my cares on the Lord I know I will feel the most amazing sense of peace available on earth. I will do what I can to bring others along with me.  Freedom is so…freeing.  I’m working on it.

Until then I continue to seek the reassurance and comfort of the words written so long ago that still apply today.

They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest; but the Lord upheld me.  He led me to a place of safety;  he rescued me because he delights in me.   Psalm 18:18-19

 

The Porch Light

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Today I’m feeling a little fearful.  Life sometimes takes its toll on me.  I don’t want fear to win over, but when my guard is down-kapow!  Things change…plans fail.  I need a psalm about now.  Something to snap me out of it.

Psalm 103:2-6

Praise the Lord, I tell myself, and never forget the things he does for me.  He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love the tender mercies.  He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagles!  The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

I’ve had my share of unfairness.  In fact, some things in my life seem unfair right now.  They cause my fear.  Then I have to remember I’ve had more than my share of blessings as well.  That’s a little unfair too because I don’t deserve it.  God gave it to me any way.  And so I have to remember when I’m fearful, God has been here and God’s here now.  He knows where I am.  He knows where to find me when I’m off hiding somewhere.  Why is it easier to shiver with fear than to praise the one who has done so much for me?  I need to go to Him.

Psalm 9:10

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.

Praise be the porch light.  God’s is always on.  And when I arrive I find comfort and ability to shrug off the fear and accept his presence.

Solitary Refinement

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So what is Solitary Refinement?  It’s about change, especially change in me, and change by me that only I can do.  It is changing in a way that brings about the beauty that God seeded in all of us when He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13). In the Psalms we learn we are wonderfully complex.  His workmanship is marvelous.  He saw us before we were born and every day of our lives was recorded in His book.  Every day of our lives was laid out before a single day had passed.   Can you imagine keeping track of the billions of of us? That is some book He’s got.  

I know I haven’t lived as though I’m wonderfully complex or of marvelous workmanship.  Something that has those characteristics is well taken care of.  It’s precious.  You treat it delicately and proudly- you honor it.  Instead I’ve been condemning, rough and destructive.  I’ve left years of emotional callouses that can’t easily be sanded away.  

And here I sit today. With immense desire to be the woman God created when he formed me so many years ago.  Wanting to believe I really, really am marvelous and wonderfully complex–an appreciation of God’s craftsmanship- nothing I’ve done on my own.  Oh, I’m definitely complex, but I’m not seeing it in a wonderful way.  

I want to be refined-not in solitude, but recognizing it is something I must do solitarily with God.  I want to feel honest joy and belief when I read (Psalm 139:17-18) How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!  His thoughts about me outnumber the grains of sand?  That is truly awesome.