It is time to put all of these crazy, negative thoughts into captivity where they belong! Let’s put’em in jail.
Easy to say, isn’t it?
How do we actually do it?
He was 16 then and I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep and just as the scoundrel does, he put a horrid image and thought inside my head. Oh, I knew it came from the devil and I instantly rebuked him in Jesus’ Name and suddenly it was as though someone had changed the channel in my brain, warmth and peace overcame me.
Take that, devil.
Today that 16-year old is 40 and is as normal as any man can be!
Take that too, devil.
Crazy, negative thoughts have got to be captured and put inside a cell. They can overtake us and bring anxiety, fear, stress, and oppression to name a few.
Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12.25 (NLT)
Let’s look at 2 Corinthian 10 and find out what Paul is talking about!
The church at Corinth was in criticize mode against the Apostle. They were challenging his authority and he rebuked those with impure motives seeking to undermine his ministry. He simply tells them…(all scripture in Susan Translation)
Our weapons are not those of humans but are mighty in GOD for pulling down strongholds and arguments and every other thing that raises itself up against the knowledge of God. 2 Corinthians 10.4-5a
The mighty weapons IN GOD are available to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10.5b
So, when the enemy comes in and says to me, “Susan, your son is going to be blank and blank.”
I can say to him, “Satan, I might look human but I don’t fight like a human because I carry the weapons, the mighty weapons, of Almighty God and I throw your accusations and threats and lies into jail!”
Then, follow up with a declaration, “Satan, my son is the righteousness of Christ. He is an oak of righteousness. He walks in the newness of life and God’s hand is on him for all eternity.”
When Satan comes in with thoughts of fear, tell him…
I am not afraid. God will never leave me nor forsake me. Deuteronomy 31.8; God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1.7
When Satan comes in and tries to steal your peace, tell him…
God will keep me in peace because my thoughts are set on Him. Isaiah 26.3; I am going to throw all my anxieties onto God because He cares for me. 1 Peter 5.7
When Satan comes in and tries to make you worried about things, tell him…
You know what devil? I am not going to worry about that because God is so good that He even takes care of the birds. And He makes the flowers beautiful and He cares about me and all the things that concern me. Matthew 6; The things that concern me, concern Him. Psalm 138.8
When Satan comes in and tries to cause you to stress and have anxious thoughts, tell him…
I am not going to be anxious because I can tell my heavenly Father about it. Philippians 4.6; Ya know what Satan? God is going to crush you under his feet and I am covered by the grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Romans 16.20
A Scripture for EVERY Thought
I can assure you there is a scripture for every thought that comes against us. You can Google any thought for a scripture to combat it. But we have to take the initiative. We have to be pro-active. Sometimes something is so serious and hard that we are told to fast and pray about it, here.
FIGHT THE ENEMY WITH HIS MOST FEARED WEAPON – THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, THE LIVING WORD OF GOD.
This Tuesday, May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness day. I thought it would be appropriate to share another encouraging post of how chronic warriors hang on to their faith to get through the worst of days.
I was greatly encouraged to hear Olivia Wolfertz story about her struggle with Lyme Disease. What an incredibly strong women she is. Please read on…
Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in May 2016. After several months or so of increasingly bizarre symptoms—chest pains, stiff neck, headaches, stabbing pains in arms and feet, and severe trouble walking, I was officially tested and diagnosed by a rheumatologist. I was fortunate that my diagnosis was relatively quick and that I had a positive Lyme disease test even by CDC criteria, as that is actually somewhat rare.
From there, I went on the pretty typical goose chase of finding the right Lyme-literate doctor and treatment combination. Unfortunately, even though I was treating my illness, symptoms continued to spread and expand to affect more and more of my body and mind. Throughout this four-year timeframe, I’ve seen several specialists and explored numerous treatment protocols ranging from conventional antibiotics and herbals to more unconventional methods like rife machines, essential oils, and now a nebulizer treatment. While I’ve seen tangible bouts of improvement and had seasons of “better days” in the mix, I continue to suffer daily with symptoms that largely impair and limit my life.
Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?
At the start of my treatment journey, I felt a strong conviction that God had given me this illness very intentionally. I felt like this was God telling me it was my time to walk through one of my first “major trials,” as I had never before had a serious health issue before. At the time I thought I would go through it, get treated, get better and move on and be able to look back at it as a story of how I joyfully clung to God during a hard time.
I subconsciously was viewing it as a test and thought that if I just stayed positive and did my best to fully trust God, he would soon enough heal me, and then I would move on with life and have this story to encourage others with. I viewed it as very transactional if I’m being honest. Needless to say, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was getting into.
Little did I know at that time how devastating and long-term this illness would be or how much it would affect every other area of my life. I would say for the first two years or so, I wasn’t terribly worried about this being the rest of my life and I was able to trust God relatively well all things considered. Of course, there were many difficult battles and symptoms and challenging times that I struggled more, but I felt very supported in the beginning and continued to believe healing was around the next corner.
It wasn’t until probably three years in that I really started to experience more sobering doubts and struggles in my faith. Not only was I still not where I thought I would be after 3 years (still unable to work or be financially independent), but I was feeling a lot of new and difficult symptoms, including serious mental health and sleep struggles, that were very challenging to live with.
Not to mention I was getting emotionally exhausted from the day-to-day struggle. With my worsening symptoms, it became a lot harder to be regularly plugged into a community where I could be spiritually supported, and the isolation made everything a lot harder.
I also wrestled with a lot of shame over the fact that my life isn’t “normal” that affected my self-image and ability to make friends and be vulnerable. Even still, God provided the right people at the right time and sent me some incredibly supportive believers whose prayers were a huge factor in keeping my faith from crushing beneath the pain.
Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?
As I mentioned above, the anniversary of year three was a turning point where I really started to struggle with doubts and fears that this might actually be the rest of my life and I may never get better. When I realized I wasn’t even close to getting better or even if I was on the right track with treatments, I began to wrestle with anger and disillusionment towards God and a lot of fear that things would never change.
Accepting the Inevitable
I also began to realize that all that I lost might never come back—
the ability to take care of myself and work a full-time job,
live on my own or at least away from my parents,
be able to have a normal social life
-all of those things suddenly seemed like things that may never happen again. This realization was the beginning of a very dark season of depression and increasing hopelessness.
Letting Others In
What made the most difference in turning from despair to surrender and trust, though, was taking small steps to let people in my struggle more. Whether that was being honest about my doubts, struggles, or the extent to which I was feeling lonely or needing support, that act of humbling myself opened the door for more people to encourage me in ways I actually needed.
This was such a hard lesson and one that I likely will continually need to relearn, but God definitely wanted me to get to this point.
Keeping a strong faith and hope is absolutely critical to fighting a chronic illness—but there are times where we can’t get there without inviting others in to help. Sometimes the struggles are too hard to emotionally or even spiritually deal with on our own and the turning point doesn’t come until others are invited in the mix and given the opportunity to pour their strength and hope into us. I continue to pray for a supportive community to walk through whatever my future has in store.
What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?
There have been several different scriptures that I’ve turned to during different stages of this journey. Here are some:
1 Peter 5:6-7
1 Peter 4:19
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Not surprisingly these are all verses that shine a light on suffering or trials and trusting God’s deliverance. Widening my scriptural vocabulary to include more specific truths to apply to pain and suffering has made a huge difference in my outlook during rougher patches.
Sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart, it can be all too easy and natural to feed into self-pity, anger, and overall exhaustion with our circumstances. It can feel like we are at the end of our rope and don’t know how we will get through the next hour let alone the rest of our lives if things don’t change.
I’ve found it absolutely critical at those moments to turn to a verse like one of these and allow it to penetrate my despairing thoughts. It does make a difference, and meditating on or carrying around these verses proactively help arm me so that I am more prepared when those despairing thoughts come and can be quicker to replace them with truths from Scripture.
How do you find comfort on especially painful days?
That’s a really tough question to answer and it definitely depends on the type of bad day I’m having. Sometimes a bad day might mean a ton of pain, in which case I will usually try to rest my body laying down but can find comfort in reading a good book or doing some Bible study if my mental energy is there.
Some days a bad day might mean an extreme excess of fatigue or dizziness or headaches in which case I am not up for reading or blogging or anything but can find comfort in closing my eyes and listening to a good podcast or sermon or take a bath. I find that this will be a good way to encourage my soul and heart even when I don’t have the energy or mental ability to read my Bible or an encouraging book.
Then a bad day might be where I feel more depression or anxiety or discouragement and something that brings me comfort on those types of bad days is talking with a friend or journaling my feelings or painting or getting fresh air if I am feeling up for that physically.
Painting has become an unexpected yet powerful channel for encouragement, as the feeling of tangibly creating something beautiful to share with others is rewarding when you feel like you can’t be productive in other areas of life.
What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?
The best things my friends or family can do for me during harder times are going out of their way to practically help me or take time to ask me how I am doing and listen to me. I live with my parents, so the best ways I feel comforted by them is when they respect my needs, whether that’s for space or independence or the freedom to not be okay all the time. It is also very comforting when they help out with practical things like meals and laundry or giving me rides to places on days where I can’t handle it.
I moved a few states away to go back home about a year and a half after getting sick, so a lot of my good friends are states away and it’s been hard to get involved and socialize regularly enough to make good friends here as easily. A great way that these friends have comforted me over the distance is through phone call check-ins, cards, and other gestures to show me they are thinking about me. And especially prayer!
Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.
I’m not in any formal capacity but it’s something I really have a desire to work towards. One way that I have started to give back towards others who are suffering (in any way) is to create and write sympathy or encouragement cards for people in my church or community.
I’m involved with a Bible study where the leader is very involved with the church community and she often notifies me when there are people in the area who are going through something hard. Since I love to paint, I love the opportunity to create a card and then bring it to Bible study for the whole group to sign. It’s a great way for me to feel like I’m giving back and tangibly support others with my unique talents and passions.
Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.
Something I would say to someone who is struggling in his or her chronic illness journey (whatever that may be) that I hope might be encouraging is that I believe suffering in this kind of way is a unique calling. I would tell that person that they are very brave for carrying a burden that is much harder than most people realize.
I would affirm that they were chosen with this particular trial for a reason that I believe comes with it a special opportunity for God to work in a very powerful way if they let Him.
I would encourage someone in the thick of their suffering to find inspiring examples and role models in the faith that triumphed through immeasurable hardships. I have found inspiration in people like Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century preacher who struggled with deep depression and Elisabeth Elliot, a twentieth-century missionary who went through devastating loss and hardship in her life.
I would also recommend reading the testimonies of Christians who have suffered or are suffering immense persecution or incarceration for their faith in Christ around the world. Hearing about how other believers have walked valiantly through deep trials always gives me strong motivation and inspiration to keep fighting the fight to trust and hope in God no matter where my health may be.
About that time, my family received a surprise announcement that we had two months to move out of our home. And the disciplines were set on the back burner. I continued reading, all the while these things have been simmering in my mind. Now that life returns to “normal”, I am ready to jump into writing.
I shared my plans with Patty Scott and she offered to write an introductory post to get us going again. So here we go…
by Patty H Scott
I came back to my walk with Jesus in my early 20s after having wandered away during some very painful and trying experiences in adolescence. I hadn’t planned to return to Christianity, but Jesus, relentless in His love for me, made an unexpected way. Then I found myself in a small group with a bunch of relative strangers after a friend had invited me to her church. The leader of this small group was immersed in Spiritual Formation as he attended Talbot School of Theology. He invited me to attend lectures at Biola (the University that houses Talbot). And that is where my foundation in Spiritual Formation began.
At that time, I had some distorted ideas about God. My faith had started in childhood. And had been strengthened through the influence of some families around me in my elementary and high school years. I had voluntarily read through the Bible five times. So I was well aware of the stories and many of the principles of our faith. While I had some meaningful personal experiences with God, much of my approach to my relationship with Him felt distant. I viewed God as being a lot like other authority figures in my life who were perfectionistic, demanding, and critical. Even though my head knew God was loving, I held doubts and hidden beliefs about His love and true forgiveness of me.
It was at this time in my walk with Jesus that I met Dallas Willard. Much like another famous Christian philosopher, C. S. Lewis, Dallas had a way of bringing Jesus into every situation. And reflecting the depth of his own walk with such thoughtfulness and intelligence. He was the man who introduced me to the Spiritual Disciplines. He also introduced me to my mentor who became like a mother in the faith to me.
Dallas taught that Spiritual Formation is the process of being formed in our spirit. This is the purpose of God. He made each of us unique. And He never intends to delete or override the special qualities He so carefully wove into each one of our personalities. He does, however, want to form us to be increasingly like Christ.
Just as a concrete worker sets out a mold before he pours the liquid into it, God has a mold for us to be conformed into – and that mold is Christlikeness. While we will maintain our own individuality, we also will become more and more like Jesus. As we practice the disciplines, we deepen our trust-follow relationship with God.
What are Spiritual Disciplines?
The Spiritual Disciplines are instrumental in this process. We often think of a few basic and common practices as we go about practicing our faith. It is usual to talk about quiet time, reading the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Those are all wonderful things we can do to deepen our faith and help us grow. What I want us to really look at here is how we sometimes misuse those practices. Then I want us to see how we can best apply Spiritual Disciplines to help achieve God’s aims…
to make us more like Jesus,
and to draw us into greater intimacy with the Triune God.
Being a “Good Christian”
As I said, my view of God when I returned to the faith was tainted with my misperceptions of His character. When I sat in quiet time, for example, I felt this pressing need to
use the “best” books,
do the most I could,
and show up daily for a specific period of time.
The time I set apart to be with God looked more like someone doing homework for a course than someone spending quality time with a good friend. I checked off the boxes, made sure I did things “right,”. And yet, I missed some of the benefits of sitting with God in His Word and prayer. I was doing it all to earn something from Him. I figured I was not worthy of His love. Therefore, I was going to work and work (serving in church, doing all the requirements of the faith) and show Him He hadn’t made a mistake in offering me His love.
Here I was trying to build my spiritual resume when God already accepted and loved me fully. I knew that in my head. It took a while for it to settle in the places that really mattered.
Over time my practice of the disciplines took a different approach. One teacher at Biola said,
“It’s not so much the form that matters as the function.”
He went on to say that some of us aren’t morning people. If we are forcing ourselves to have quiet time in the morning because we believe that is what “good Christians” do, but we are half awake and unable to focus, we have put the form (making sure quiet time is in the morning), ahead of the function (the purpose of quiet time is to draw us near to God and let Him reach into our lives and hearts to help us grow).
There are Varied Spiritual Disciplines
Over the years I have learned how many varied Spiritual Disciplines exist. For example, when I have been on Facebook and Instagram too much and those social media sites are starting to have a pull on me, I can fast from them for a while and my self-control is restored, as well as my sense of what matters most. Fasting is a great discipline to teach us how to be sweet when we aren’t getting our way. It also teaches us to say no to our urges and wait patiently.
Dallas often “prescribed” various disciplines as each one might suit a specific area of growth for an individual in a given season. If you are feeling prideful and constantly having to make your point, you can practice the discipline of NOT having the last word. While you may not find that particular practice in the Bible, it is a helpful thing to undertake with the Holy Spirit.
As we seek Him to show us areas where He wants us to grow, He will provide the means towards that growth. In any Spiritual Discipline, we do the thing we can do (abstaining from Facebook, for example) so that God can do in us what we couldn’t do before (cultivate self-control).
The most important aspect of Spiritual Formation through the use of the Disciplines is that our heart is in the right place. As we look at the Pharisees, we see that Jesus acknowledged…
their prayer life,
their careful tithing,
and their adherence to all sorts of religious practices.
Yet, their hearts were far from God.
We need to approach all Spiritual Formation knowing that we are already fully loved as is, wanted by God, and included in His eternal life. There is nothing to be earned. We are invited into eternal abundance and internal growth as we engage in practices such as…
meditation upon God’s Word and character,
worship with music,
or any other number of exercises.
I hope you can pick one or two practices and enter them with the sole purpose of drawing near to the God who formed you, loves you, and longs to help you grow to be more and more like Jesus.
Patty H Scott
It’s Your Turn…
It’s legacy Link-up time. What spiritual discipline are you working on? Share a post about your own spiritual formation or a book review of the book that is helping you grow.
Christianity is more than a theory about the universe, more than teachings written down on paper; it is a path along which we journey – in the deepest and richest sense, the way of life.
from The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware
The Way of Life: a Path Which we Journey
This quote in itself is the experience that I desire to find this year. I want to follow the old paths as Jeremiah instructed us. (Jeremiah 6:16) And here it was in the first chapter of Bob Bennett’s Disciplines for the Inner Life. You see, Christianity is more than just a prayer and hallelujah. It’s a personal relationship we experience every day, deeper and greater.
Yes, We are saved by faith through grace and that is all it takes to be saved. But I submit to you that there can be a much deeper faith walk than just believing that Jesus saves. We can experience this faith and salvation in such a deeper and more real way if we follow His paths and draw near to Him. We can truly experience God when we follow His paths.
Created for Relationship
God created us for relationship: not just to be someone He could lord over and tell us what to do. He desires to be our Father and our Friend: to “walk with us and talk with us and tell us we are His own“. But He also wants it to be a two-way street. That is why He has given us free will – an opportunity to chose this life. He wants us to desire to be with Him just as much as He wants to be with us.
How to Experience Relationship w/God
Just as with any relationship, talking and spending time with that person is the very best way to get to know them. When my husband and I were dating, we lived four hours apart. But we spent every evening talking on the phone. Many would say that a long-distance relationship is difficult, but we spent all that time talking where few talk this much when on an actual date. By the time our wedding rolled around, we knew each other well.
Throughout Biblical history, men and women talked with God; they questioned Him. They came to know Him through experience.
Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden every evening. (Genesis 3)
Jacob wrestled with God and begged Him for His blessing. HE said I won’t let you go until you bless me. (Genesis 32:22-31)
Job sat with God and questioned Him about His ways. He learned much and His thoughts about God became more clear. (Job 42:1-6)
The Samaritan Woman talked with Jesus and questioned Him until she understood about the Messiah. She hung on every word He spoke. Then she ran to tell others what she had learned. (John 4:1-26)
What’s the Difference?
Jeremiah described compared those who followed after God and those who did not. Those who follow after the ways of man find themselves weak and parched while those who follow after God become strong like a tree planted by the waters.
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 NLT
Desire to Experience the Power of God
The Apostle Paul desired to know God more than anything. He considered anything in this life not worthy of holding on to. It was like garbage to him. He wanted to experience the Power of Christ that only comes from surrendering everything to Him.
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Let’s finish up with the next few thoughts from Kallistos Ware…
There is only one means of discovering the true nature of Christianity. We must step out upon this path, commit ourselves to this way of life, and then we shall begin to see for ourselves.
So long as we remain outside, we cannot properly understand. Certainly we need to be given directions before we start; we need to be told what signposts to look out for, and we need to have companions. Indeed, without guidance from others it is scarcely possible to begin the journey.
But directions given by others can never convey to us what the way is actually like; they cannot be a substitute for direct, personal experience. Each is called to verify for himself what he has been taught, each is required to re-live the Tradition he has received.
“The Creed,” said Metropoliton Philaret of Moscow, “does not belong to you unless you have lived it.” No one can be an armchair traveller on this all-important journey. No one can be a Christian at second hand. God has children, but he has no grandchildren.”
Do you desire the things of earth or the things of Heaven?
Seek Him, know Him, and obey Him then you will experience Him fully and completely. Follow my posts this year as I seek to go deeper with Christ. I want to know Christ and experience the power of His resurrection.
I would love for you to partner with me.
It’s Your Turn
How do you leave a legacy with your deeper faith in Christ? What disciplines are important to you?
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
I Timothy 4:7-8
Train – (verb) to direct the growth of (a plant) usually by bending, pruning, and tying
Training is a word that gets tossed around a lot, especially this time of year when people are making new resolutions. People, anxious for a change in their lifestyle, know that something needs to happen differently. That given no direction, things will continue to go “off-track” (did you catch the “train” (noun) reference?)
Training a Bonsai Plant
One of Webster’s definitions of “train” is to “direct the growth (of a plant) usually by bending, pruning, and tying”. In order to train a plant, especially to achieve a look or purpose that is different than its nature, specific steps must be taken. Creating bonsai plants involves several types of cutting and shaping. Contrary to popular belief, bonsai trees are not miniature plants, but in reality, are regular plants which have been shaped/created to have a particular look or effect. Wires are used to bend and reposition branches, and later the wires are removed. Leaves are removed and deadwood created to bring about other effects.
Training yourself to be godly, as directed in First Timothy, is similar. Our natural bend or form is sinful. We need to make changes in order to achieve our purpose.
What are some spiritual pruning methods available?
1) Reading the instructions. The Bible gives us direction on how to become more godly. The New Testament is chock-full of directives for us. Love one another, turn the other cheek, don’t show partiality, forgive each other, take care of widows and orphans, etc. And James tells us, if you lack wisdom, just ask God!
2) Do it! Do what, you say? See #1. Do what it says. Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Faith without works is dead. You won’t get your body in shape by reading a book about good exercise. You have to actually “do” the exercise. Funny how that works.
3) Continue doing it. In my recent health journey, I learned this – As I have continued my lifestyle of eating habits, I will continue on my healthy path. But if after I have reached my “goal” I go back to my former habits, guess what? I will find myself back at the place where I started! The changes must be ongoing.
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.
2 Timothy 3:14
Continue steadfastly in prayer.
Let brotherly love continue.
Is it hard sometimes?
Do we fall short at times? Sure! Do you think Olympic athletes have never fallen? Do they quit if something is hard? No! When we start an exercise program, we don’t start with 100 pushups! We start with one. Then two. Then three.
Start doing one more thing today that will train yourself to be more godly. Then do another tomorrow. And guess what? In a year, a month, or even a week, that one thing will get easier and easier. And then you will do it without thinking because it will have become a habit, a lifestyle.
And just like the bonsai tree, the wire that is used to bend and reposition the branches will become unnecessary. The habit is made and the training is easier. And then we get to move on to more training in godliness. And godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
“Live by the Spirit . . . The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:16,22-23
It seems that once we have finished with Thanksgiving, we are suddenly barreling headlong toward Christmas. At times it can feel like we’re on a runaway train and can’t find the emergency brake.
Close your eyes.
Sit for a moment in quietness.
Give thanks to God once again for His many blessings. Now, think on the blessings yet to come.
Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord.
As we get all the physical preparations tackled for Christmas… the decorations, the shopping, the parties, the gifts and wrapping, the food, the programs… let us not forget to prepare our hearts!
Approach this Christmas with a heart already full of the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus came to earth so long ago, the tiny Prince of Peace, so that we could live lives full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Be thankful for the Coming of our Lord and Savior this Christmas, and let your life glow like a Christmas tree with the fruit of the Spirit!
Are you ready for the coming of the Lord?
Your Turn! Christmas Legacy Link-up
Share your post about how you are preparing for Christmas.
Throughout my years of reading the Scriptures, this verse has been one of my favorites. It has brought such comfort and joy in so many hard places. When night fell it seemed that the problems always loomed much larger in the dark than in the light of day. And as my heart ached with the weight of so many burdens, I held tightly to the promise that the Lord would bring the dawn of His light–the night of the trial could not last forever. And He did bring such peace to my heart as I watched the light dawning in so many of those dark, hard struggles.
The Hard Place of Chronic Illness
However, when chronic illness fell upon me several years ago, I found this verse taking on a literal meaning that hit me in a new way. The physical pains brought new tears in the evening. Every time I lay down, needing rest so deeply, the throbbing would heighten. Every time I finally drifted off to sleep, a jolt of fresh pain would awaken me. And the anxiety that accompanied so many of the medications brought nightmares and levels of pain that finally left me weeping before my Lord.
“How long will this night last, Lord Jesus? When will You bring the rescue?”
Finding Joy in the Morning
Finally, every morning, when the rising of the sun would finally light up my window, I could hear His words echoing in my heart:
“Rejoice, my child! We made it through one more night! My own heart is filled with joy to see you trusting Me even here.”
I could hear His words, and I could rejoice in the sunlight, but I could not rejoice at the coming night that I knew would fall again, all too soon. Recently though, He has been asking me to offer even that pain in the night up to Him as an offering. It has made little sense to me until I came across these Scriptures recently. Words that again, I have read so many times, suddenly jumped off the page for me:
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
Jesus Feels Our Pain
Additionally, Jesus endured the cross, and suffered that shame for us, but why? For the JOY that was set before Him. He offered Himself, every pain and every burden that was taken for us, and He gave it all over to God, for the joy of bringing us to His Father. Could I offer my own pain in that same way? Could I see my own sleepless and pain-filled nights as a place of offering to Him?
“Oh Lord, how I long to be able to offer it all to you? But even that offering is too hard for me. I don’t know how I can do that.”
Into the midst of my tears, He brought His Words to me yet again. This time they were ancient words, uttered to God’s people who had been long at work, obeying the Lord to rebuild His dwelling place and the wall of protection around His city. And God had called them to celebrate their place with Him:
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10 ESV
Finding Joy in the Morning Through Jesus
Consequently, it was the very answer that He had been whispering to my heart every morning. It is the JOY of the LORD that will be my strength. I cannot strive to attain that. But He has already won it for me. He bore all that pain for me, and now He is the One who can show me how to offer my own pain back to Him again and again, every dark night.
And always, the morning of HIS light of Joy will dawn in my heart, because it is His gift, His fruit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
My favorite post was Karen Sebastian’s post. Karen was participating in the 30-day writing challenge. She wrote on the theme “How to Live 101 Wonderful Years” in celebration of her father. This post on Joy was a perfect segue into the November theme of joy.
and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and
running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it
will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There
will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of
things has passed away…. ‘I am making everything new!’” – Revelation 21:4-5
We Never Know
Just over a year ago, my husband Skip and I left to go on a much-needed vacation. We packed the camping gear and the suitcases and away we went. Before leaving, though, we went to visit his mother, who was in a nursing home for physical rehabilitation after a long illness. It seemed like with each health improvement, there always came a new health problem. After our visit, she told us to have fun and to let her know when we got there. That was on a Friday. We left the following Monday morning. We never got to speak to her again.
She was taken to the ER that Monday afternoon and the family kept in touch with us. We continued our journey, reached our first destination, set up camp, and had supper. Just before bedtime, we got the call that she was gone. That moment is still very vivid in my mind. Feeling an urgency, we immediately packed everything back up and headed back to Mississippi for the difficult task of planning a funeral, while grieving, while comforting our family. Grief is hard and it is necessary at such a time, but God is our Rock. With that said, let me tell you about Granny Hen.
My mother in law was a tiny lady. In her prime, she stood
all of five feet tall. In that tiny lady was a magnificent mixture of love
(both tender and tough love), of fierce determination, a phenomenal work ethic,
and endless generosity. All these virtues – and many more – flowed freely from her
heart. She was always, no matter what the circumstances, a joy to be around,
and I miss her dearly. We all do.
Her name was Bonnie, but when I met her, everyone always
called her Granny Hen. I met her at Christmas time in 1984, a couple of months
after Skip and I became engaged. She welcomed me with a big hug, and from that
day on treated me as if I had always been part of the family. The meal she had
prepared that evening was unbelievably delicious, followed with pecan pie that was
scrumptious. As we sat around the table eating and talking over dessert,
I asked her if I could have her pecan pie recipe. Without missing a beat, she
smiled, saying “Mmhmm!” while nodding a definite yes. That was the first of
many recipes she gave me.
Granny Hen – Wife, Mother, Grandmother
Granny Hen loved being a wife, a mother (of five children, all born in less than five years), and a grandmother. She loved to work in her flower beds and in the vegetable garden and with the fruit and pecan trees in the yard. She had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. Each year the yields from that yard would produce unbelievable amounts of veggies, blueberries, pecans and, a few walnuts, all to be frozen for the winter. There would be jars and jars of jellies, jams, fig preserves, tomatoes, tomato juice, pepper sauce, pickles, chow-chow … I’m sure I’m leaving something out.
A Gardener & Preserver
Granny Hen not only loved making it, but she also loved sharing it. She would box up dozens of jars of various canned goods, sending them home with friends and family. She would ship them to friends and family too far away to see very often. On many occasions, we would bring a cooler when going to visit and return home with it completely full of frozen fruits and vegetables. She was a lifesaver on grocery bills when we were raising two boys. I haven’t had to buy jelly or jam in over thirty-four years!
Many years ago, in a conversation centering around her
gardening and cooking skills and her generosity, I said something about the
amount of sugar and jars and lids and such that goes into such a venture, and
the cost of such. With twinkling eyes and her sweet smile, she said with joy,
“It seems like the more I give, the more I get! God is good!” Indeed, God is
The epitome of love, joy, and kindness.
Over the years, Bonnie Atchison had battled much and overcome. She grew up poor in possessions, but rich in love. She married at the end of 1951; they raised a family. Their marriage and family was always full of love. Her husband went to heaven thirty years ahead of her. She had endured quadruple heart bypass surgery and recovered.
Many years later, she took a fall, had shoulder replacement surgery, suffered a major stroke, recovered, then fell again, resulting in a misplaced shoulder socket. The few years she lived after that displayed declining health and limited mobility. Despite those limitations, whether she was in the hospital, at home, or in a nursing home, her sweet spirit prevailed.
Granny Hen was always kind to her caregivers and generous with compliments and smiles. “The Hen,” (as some called her) was the epitome of love and joy and kindness. She was a remarkable woman. Was. Past tense. In the past. . .
Remembering Granny Hen
The drive back to Mississippi that night last October was long and sad. Planning the funeral was hard. Being with family was both hard and a comfort. Friends and loved ones who gave love and support were a comfort. My husband, a pastor who has done many funerals, spoke at his own mother’s funeral which was hard. Granny Hen’s pastor’s message at her funeral was a joy and comfort. He told of the way Christ shined from her being. In all this grief, we knew then and know now, that she is in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Granny Hen is free of pain and physical limitations. She is reunited with her loving husband and others who have gone on before them.
Granny Hen was generous. She gave of her love and her wisdom, her gifts and talents, her bountiful harvest, and herself. The memories we have of my dear mother in law are cherished and many. They are filled with wisdom, with love, with laughter, and with tears. Sometimes they bring tears because grief is hard. Sometimes they bring smiles and laughter because grief is not only hard, it is a strange comfort.
Often, he givGrief teaches us to remember, to ponder, to learn, to cherish, and most importantly, to go on. Of all the many things she gave us, the memories are the best, because within those memories lies all she was and all she taught us to be. Yes, grief is hard; it is necessary, and it is a teacher.
Treasure the good things
If you are in a time of grief in your life, I urge you to ponder the many things you love and miss most about your loved one. Treasure it all, but do not stop there. Go on. Live. Give of what was given to you. Share the love, share the wisdom, share the laughter, the tears, and the lessons. In it all, as hard as grief may be, let it come.
For that is the best way to honor them and their memory.
As we continue celebrating one year here at Mandy and Michele ~ Just Holding it Together, I thought we might share some reading and listening that has been inspiring us this year. Check some of them out, you may like them as well.
Our Favorite Inspiring Blogs
Tammy Mashburn – is Redefining the Wilderness this year. She is a fellow chronic pain warrior so her posts really connect with me; however, you don’t have to have chronic pain to experience wilderness life. Tammy is always an encourager to others. If you don’t have time to read, she started reading her posts aloud.
Nan Jones – Another friend who finds hope right in the middle of the wilderness. Beautiful prayers every Sunday and life lessons during the week.
Living our Days – Michele Morin is “Gaining a Heart of Wisdom” and passing it along to the rest of us. She posts a beautiful scripture lesson on Sundays. Her book reviews during the week always include a life lesson she is learning from the book. I always go away adding “yet another” must-read book to my list.
Karen “Girl” Friday – I connect with Karen because she is a pastor’s wife and is passionate about mentoring women and discipleship that helps followers of Christ live with an authentic faith in real life. Her personal and ministry vision is to know Jesus more and make Him known. As I read her blog, I am connected more and more with her.
Podcasts & Talks Shows That Inspire Us
Emily P. Freeman – I read Emily’s book Simply Tuesday a few years ago and she really resonated with me. Largely because she was a pastor’s wife who had experienced some of the same trials as myself. But she is all about taking time to breathe. This is a must. Her most recent book, The Next Right Thing, I haven’t had a chance to read just yet. However, I am enjoying her podcasts.
Better Together TV Show on TBN – There’s nothing better than women getting together just to talk about life. Check out this daily program with a variety of leading Christian women’s speakers. They discuss faith, family, friends and so much more—no topic is off-limits.
Dale Jr. Download – My husband and son are NASCAR fans which makes me a follower. I enjoy listening to Dale interview the drivers each week with the guys. (Just a note here: Ladies, learn to enjoy what your husband enjoys. It will improve your marriage.)
Inspiring Books we recommend
I’ve been obsessed with anyone named Susie or Susannah this year. Susanna Wesley has always been a role model for me. I finally got around to digging a little deeper in her life this year.
Susie Larson’s Fully Alive – Probably the best self-help book I have ever read. Susie shares from her own life to show us those hidden areas in our life that keep us down. This is a must-read for everyone. I have also been following her on Facebook. She has the most inspiring Morning and Evening Blessings and FaceBook Live events.
So MY legacy changed. And, of course, my kids’ legacy changed when we brought them into our family and received paperwork that said they officially belonged to us.
Likewise, God chose me.
Because He chose me, glorious grace is poured into my everyday life and inheritance is prepared for me. My life and legacy would be different if I didn’t recognize my identity in Christ and follow Him.
Ephesians 1:11 from The Message:
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”
Consequently, His legacy gets to continue through us to our children. I didn’t grow my three kids in my womb, but my husband Greg and I prepared for them and embraced them from the beginning. We named them and prayed for them before we held them in our arms.
Adoption Changed Their Legacy & Mine
Our legacy is shaped by them and their legacy is shaped by us. Cate, Ben, and Rachel to do anything to be our children. They’re named in our will and called daughters and son long before the court recognized that truth with new birth certificates. We chose them in the beginning and we have chosen them every day since – even when they’re loud and wild and grumpy and inconsiderate and obviously still learning like we all are. Adoption changed their legacy!
Likewise, God chose me in the beginning and still chooses me today – even when I stumble. Jesus says people will know we are in His family by our love. Of course, sometimes I don’t do a good job of representing my eternal family name, but this truth is my foundation and I want it to be my family’s legacy.
Just like Greg and I gave Cate, Ben, and Rachel our last name, God calls us His own. Just like we welcomed our kids into the responsibilities and privileges of being in a family, God welcomes us into His home.
Yes, there are glimpses of His kingdom here on earth,
but there’s also a promise of the eternal home Jesus is preparing for us. Because…
we are God’s.
our names have been changed and our covenants sealed.
we serve a God who believes in life.
We adopted our children because the God who gives us all life made that possible – and, thankfully, our legacy will never be the same.