Sunday, January 21, 2018

Answer Fear With Praise...

     "For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy." Psalm 63:7  Over and over again God has been my help. Every time I feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to navigate this season of life, He shows me the way. You would think that the "over and over again" part of things would make the ways He helps me seem monotonous...or that I would see Him show up in the same old expected ways. Not so. He continues to surprise, challenge, and delight me. I am captivated by how He loves me through the hard places, especially when the lessons I learn don't come easy and I can't always sense His presence right away.

     Recently within a two week time span, my mother and my father-in-law were in the hospital with some serious health issues. It was during this time of uncertainty, running to and from the hospital, and trying to keep up with the responsibilities at home that I was presented with a new challenge. I had to navigate the thoughts, concerns, and fears that swirled in my mind. How do you calmly drive to the ER when your mind is consumed with an attack of the "the what-if's" while simultaneously making a list of items to pack for your loved one's overnight bag? When the fear of what might be knocks the words of prayer right out of you, and all you can eek out is a "Please God"?  The answer...you can't. You can't calmly drive to the ER with all this going on unless you offer up all that you have. Offer up your "Please God" and let Him do what He will with it. In this instance, I found that my heart and mind were suddenly full of worship songs...some of which I haven't heard in years. Each time I finished singing one, He brought another to mind. With each song some of the "what-if's" disappeared. With each song my heart became more peaceful and less fearful, until finally I was able to pray the words that wouldn't come out in the beginning. By the time I got to the ER with my mom's overnight bag, I was completely calm. I didn't realize it yet, but God was teaching me how to answer fear with praise. The following week when my father-in-law was taken to the hospital, I would learn why.

     He was taken by ambulance on a Sunday morning. My husband left to be with him and I was left at home with a dilemma of sorts. Should I go to church or stay home and wait for news? It had been such a long week leading up to Sunday. I was exhausted and my heart was full of things that I had shoved aside to process and pray through later. The symptoms my father-in-law had involved his heart and we almost lost him once before to heart problems. All this weighed on me and I didn't want to go to church and have it explode through the surface...but I knew I desperately needed to be replenished. I went. As we sang the first few songs my mind was elsewhere. I went back and forth between feeling overwhelmed and praying... unable to really focus.  Then the worship team began to sing the song "What A Beautiful Name". Something in me broke at the words " You were the Word at the beginning one with God the Lord Most High". My hand went up involuntarily and the tears came in a steady stream as I sang. Each verse of the song was a reminder of who Jesus is. As I sang the words it felt as though I was declaring it to myself, my fears, and to all that overwhelmed me. By the end of the song I was weightless.

     What I learned that Sunday was this: Answering fear with praise, is singing for joy under the shadow of His wings. Praise reminds us of who our help is. Praise reminds us of who our God is...the Beginning and the End, the lover of our souls, our provider, our healer, and our Savior. When we worship in the middle of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear it's an act of faith. We are holding up what overwhelms us into the light of who God is, and bringing it all under His authority.  This puts it into perspective, it puts fear in it's place and sets us free.

     What makes you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or afraid? What is it that so overwhelms you that you can't even eek out more than a "Please God"? Answer it with Praise and be set free! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Reflection...

     "This One will be our peace." When a lone gunman shoots up a church congregation...this One will be our peace. When a man opens fire on a crowd in Las Vegas, this One will be our peace. When the leader of our nation makes fun of a foreign dictator in such a way that his words could very well cause "Rocket Man" to go nuclear, this One will be our peace. When Congress passes a tax bill that may cause 1.9 million low income children to lose their health coverage through the  CHIP program, this One will be our peace. When hurricanes cause mass destruction the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades, this One will be our peace. Though a terrorist tries to bomb the bus station in New York, this One will be our peace.

     I have held tightly to this verse from Micah 5:5 throughout 2017. As always, I asked God to give me a verse to hold on to for the year as a way of directing me. In His infinite wisdom He chose this! If I were to continue  the way I began this post in a more personal way, with the year in review it would look something like this: When my mom is diagnosed with a debilitating lung disease that will ultimately cause her increased suffering, this One will be my peace. Though I have few answers to all of my questions about God's sovereignty and our suffering, this One will be my peace. When my daughter gets her driver's license and I am not in the car with her, this One will be my peace. When my father-in-law has a hernia operation and gets a staph infection, this One will be my peace. Even as I watch my mom have convulsions on Mother's Day, this One will be my peace. When I am away on vacation and a drunk guy bangs on our door at 3 am for 30 minutes, angry we won't let him in, and security is missing in action...this One will be my peace.Though all home repairs and home improvement projects will ultimately go wrong, cost more, and take longer this year...this One will be my peace. Every single time I feel overwhelmed, overbooked, and exhausted...this One will be my peace.When I spend the last  remaining days of the year in the hospital with my mom who has pneumonia, doctors who are searching for answers, my anxious father, and all the uncertainty thick in the air...this One will be my peace. But how?

     Prayer. Prayer is the how. Prayer connects me instantly to the One (Jesus) who will become my peace. It's a way of positioning myself in Christ. Peace is elusive outside of Christ. All other methods of trying to obtain it, only amount to temporary releases of anxiety. Jesus however, IS peace and prayer allows me instant access. Prayer ushers me into His presence where I can unburden my soul. It's there that I can unload all that overwhelms me, petition for help, and find rest. I can't begin to tell you how many times this year I have felt overwhelmed by what needed to be accomplished in a day or who I needed to care for, only to pray and find instant release. I believe part of the reason for this is because the very act of prayer requires me to acknowledge that I need God. I can't do it all on my own. There is immense peace in acknowledging that. It's freeing to know that I am human and limited but that my God is powerful and  limitless! I find peace when I run to the One who IS peace. Anxiety flees and wisdom for the journey takes its place. My circumstances may stay the same but my response to them becomes different because I have positioned myself in Him, and by His grace am now able to view them from His vantage point.

    Maybe like me, you are not necessarily looking forward to starting another year. I am thankful that 2017 is over, but who is to say that 2018 will be any better? It could be worse! As with all the years before there will be world events, national events, and personal events that try to rob us of our peace.  What are we going to do about it? Will we walk around tied up in knots with anxiety and fear...overwhelmed and exhausted? Or will we hit our knees and position ourselves in Christ...in the One who IS peace, and find rest, hope, strength, and wisdom for the journey?