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Are the Bulls of Bashan Surrounding You?

Bulls of BashanShe came over to my house that afternoon trembling. Life had rocked her, and while she approached the finish line of a chapter of her life coming to an end, she was fearful. Who wouldn’t be? What if all the pieces God had helped her set into place suddenly were yanked away?

The fear was palpable. As I embraced her and held her hands, I could feel it. And so I prayed. There was no other peace I could offer than Jesus. My words were empty. I was rambling as usual, grasping at straws to bring comfort. But His words are always full, life-giving, and without end.

As I prayed, I reminded Christ of these words in His Holy Scripture:

 

2 Timothy 1:7, KJV

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

All I could do was remember His promise and speak it to her. I had no power of my own to take the spirit of fear away.

But I had the name of Jesus. And it was enough.

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Initial news of a diagnosis had come in. It sucker-punched

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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God, Fear, and the Presidency

god-fear-and-the-presidencyMy brawny Shih Tzu Samson spent the entire morning running around afraid and jumping to high surfaces to escape a mouse while his slight little sister, Delilah, sat confidently on the floor, alert and nonplussed.

It occurred to me: This is me on any given day.

What about you?

Do we fear the issue at our feet that is taunting or stressing us, or do we know our Defender well enough to rest that He will eventually take care of that “mouse”?

I need to remember my advice to Samson: “Some days I am like you, Buddy. I jump to higher surfaces because I forget my Master’s care and strength. Rest, my little fuzzball. You are safe and very loved.”

Can humans royally mess up? Yes. Are there reasons to be fearful whenever the “other” candidate comes to power? Sure. Is this a particularly worrisome election year? Depends on whom you ask.

But this is not about the president or who runs Congress. I wouldn’t try to tell you how to vote even if I wanted to. You know why? Because our great democracy allows us to become informed as best we can and cast a vote in the direction we’d like to see the country go. We win some. We lose some. The pendulum swings.

What does God say about sovereigns and rulers—and what to do with fear?

For some folks, the fear may feel like it’s about our new president and what he stands for. It could be about ISIS. It could be about Korea, Russia, and nuclear missiles.

On some days, my fear starts right at my own doorstep about the future of my children, whether my newly minted teen driver will navigate slick roads, if certain relationships will ever repair this side of heaven. I understand fear. I struggle regularly with social anxiety. On some occasions, fear threatens to determine if I walk into an event or social setting, if I’d let it­—but I’m learning not to.

The author of fear is not God. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When You’re Stuck, Like Me

When You're Stuck, Like MeThis article was first published at Your Tewksbury Today, where I wrote in real time as I processed the loss of my father during Advent 2015. While this was two months ago, to the day, I feel it is important to revisit it; it is part of an ongoing series I am writing on grief. Sometimes it is a stuck place, and we need a little help to get unstuck, but it’s not just grief that leaves us feeling this way. We can land with legs up in the air, unable to find our ground during any kind of loss: relationship disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, a crushed dream, etc.

I hope you find something in it to bring you or someone you know peace and comfort as you/he/she experience/s the inevitable: mourning what was and adjusting to the new normal.

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I was stuck—a stuck mouse to a glue trap in my grief. Arms and legs flailing in perpetual motion but no ability to move forward. My sweet father lingered in a place where peace was promised ahead, but he had to cross the precipice by himself, and there was nothing I could do about it. The push-pull of those last days brought such conflicting feelings that penetrated my very marrow. Waking or sleeping, all I could do was picture the glory ahead and a sweet man with fingers gently reaching up to wait for the hand of Christ.

When I look at my youngest son’s limbs, hands, and feet, freckled and long, I see my father. The auburn wisps around his face? Another genetic transfer. For years, when we lived in the Marshall Islands, we would send his hair clippings to Dad to show him that beautiful autumn fire that successfully lived on in the gene pool.

Last week I found myself holding my breath just looking at my son. I was grateful my father was so evident in his appearance. I walked around half-completing tasks, afraid to be in public when the phone would ring, immobilized in my favorite IKEA chair with both dogs on my lap, and unable to fully clear a table, finish a load of laundry, or make a meal. Time. Stood. Still. I was waiting for the crossover with a grief that engulfed me for what would be—a fearful anticipation of life without Dad. I could not move on.

What about you? Have you found yourself stuck in grief, fear, disappointment, shame, or disillusionment? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Where Fear Tries to Tread

Where Fear Tries to TreadMy 9 year old Little Man and I were out waiting for the bus, watching Bobo the Smith Lawn Chipmunk scuttling around in our front wooded area. He was eating and storing things in his little cheeks.

Little Man was fascinated for quite some time, but then he
said: “Mom, what if a snake gets him today?”

And isn’t that a sign of how we all mature from our innocence and learn the darker side of the world? When fear creeps in where we used to prance about with untainted optimism?

Don’t we all so quickly “go there” in our minds and hearts? Fear is always crouching. Darkness always wants us to think it wins.

2 Timothy 1:7, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking 

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

It’s interesting that the King James Version uses the word “sound mind” instead of “self-control.” It suggests to me we are given the tools in Christ to put our minds where they should be. Our minds don’t have to be tossing about at the whims of our fears. We are given the power and love to keep them sound, safe from the torment of crippling “what ifs.”

What if:

  • The chemo doesn’t work?
  • We never work through this conflict?
  • S/he leaves me?
  • S/he never learns to read?
  • We can’t pay for college?
  • They never learn to live on their own?
  • I fail?
  • The car dies before we can afford to replace it?
  • We never sell this house?
  • There’s a car accident?
  • S/he never comes home?
  • I never get well?
  • We die before the kids are raised?
  • I lose this job?

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Thankful Changes the Atmosphere

When Thankful Changes the AtmosphereShe had just put a huge meal on for tourists and was about to reload the table for her family of 9. It was almost 8 PM, and they were coming in from the harvest. The corn had to be collected before the rains came. Her youngest child, a boy of 7, had helped late into the evening the night before, but they still had some work to do. She had a twinkle in her eye, but there was a shot of weary and concern as well as she turned her bonneted head toward me and chirped happily in her heavy accent:

“I have so much to be thankful for. God has given me many blessings.”

Her words grew feet and scurried right into the center of my heart.

It was the Amish way, and yet, as tired mothers: one the “worldly English” and one with the “plain life,” the only thing separating us in our common mama sighs was our lifestyles. Otherwise, the weightiness of our hearts beat to the same sound. We shared the same God. We each wanted to express love into the other’s world, if only for a few hours, without making her world become fully ours.

And yet those penetrating words. Despite the fact setting the table for her six-course meal was on its second round, she was grateful.

Counting blessings—

—with another sinkload of dishes in the almost-dark.

I grew up not far from this community. We regularly came “up the country” to Lancaster County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Horses and buggies were part of my childhood tapestry. But now, with my parents living amidst the Amish community in surrounding farms, I have come to pay greater attention to my Christian brothers and sisters in solid, dark colors.

And as I left her house that day, this 39 year old mother of 7, with worn hands from many years of caring for her family, gave me a gift I can never exercise enough. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Removing Unwanted Layers

Removing Unwanted LayersIn light of the recent “National Dog Day,” I was reflecting on my newly shorn Shih Tzu Samson. Like his namesake in the Bible (Judges 13-16), he is strong and very hairy.

(If you’re not a dog fan, hang in there…I’m going somewhere with this—and as a sidenote, how can you not be a dog fan? Wink.)

My daughter and I spent an hour and a half one day out in a doggie-gated area of our backyard taking the clippers to our resident fuzzball. It was mother-daughter bonding time: many laughs over our mild-mannered but fed-up Samson. He was mostly patient as we practiced our haircutting skills, trimmed a little more beard here and there, gave him a manly tail shape, and assessed where we missed and he still looked a bit shaggy.

But under all that hair was a robust dog, strong and youthful, playful and now much cooler. Our home isn’t air-conditioned, so I could almost see Samson breathe a huge sigh of relief, pant a little less, and feel a bit more spry with the weight of his “wool” off. He looked like a lamb, fresh from the shearing.

Oh, Samson, Buddy! We forgot how unencumbered you are without the heavy weight of your hair! How free! How cool! How lovely!

I thought about myself and others carrying around burdens. Maybe you are too. I considered what we look like—even feel like—when we take a few layers off, when we start stripping off the layers of worry and care.

Granted, we cannot always do that. We all have responsibilities and commitments, right? We can’t simply “drop hair” like Samson and now run about footloose and fancy free in the yard.

Or can we? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Power Over Mind Games

Power Over Mind GamesToday, Espressos of Faith is delighted to have guest blogger, Bonnie Sue Beardsley of More Than Just Coffee. If you pay even a little attention to me, you can see we are not only name but also coffee twins, joined at the hip by our love for God, and secondly, writing.

I drew so much wisdom from this post of hers. It somehow reached into an old, rusty wheel that turns once in a while inside my mind and heart and oiled it with God’s Truth.

Don’t we all resurrect those old negative voices now and then? See how Bonnie encourages you to follow Scripture to shut out the self-talk that holds you back. She shares what lies just ahead of pushing through. Blessings!

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“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

I’m sure when Paul wrote Philippians 1:21, he was talking about physical. What I learned is this verse is one of the most powerful truths to ending the negative self-talk. We let it run amuck in our heads everyday.

For to me to live is ChristA couple weeks ago a good friend and I had an argument about me being able to write fiction. I felt like there was no way I could do it. He just told me to get out of my head and do it. Yes, I have a BIG problem with listening to the voice inside saying, “You can’t do this,” or “You wouldn’t be good at that.”

It doesn’t matter if I know Philippians 4:13 says that I can do all things in Jesus. It is when I let the voice get in my way and stop me from even attempting to try to do something, like write a fiction piece.

This week there was a challenge in a post to write a spontaneous piece to a picture in the post. My first thought was there is no way I could do that. Then as I sat looking at the picture thoughts of what was going on in the scene started popping into my mind. I pushed past the negative thoughts and wrote down what was going on in my mind about the picture.  When I finished it, I could not believe what I wrote.

Did you notice what happened? I had to die, put to death the negative self-talk to do what I thought I couldn’t do.  When I died to my thoughts of not being able to write fiction, then I became alive to new God was working in me.

 

What are some of your mind games you need to die to, so you can live what God has planned for you?

 

 

Here is my spontaneous piece (the picture that inspired it can be found here):

 

The ship is back!  She threw open the sash.  Leaned out, with hope that she could see the face she long to see once again.  She scoured over every face on the deck until finally her eyes met his.  Her heart leaped to her throat and tears started flowing down her cheeks.  He’s home!  She couldn’t wait to hear his stories of the trip.  She wanted to run as fast as she could down to the ship but she couldn’t stop looking into his eyes.  The fear of if she stopped he would be gone again.  How her mind raced; “How was her appearance?  Did she have everything needed for his favorite meal?   How much longer until she would be in his embrace?”

 

Bonnie Sue Beardsley

 

For years I have been comfortable serving in women’s ministry behind the sound booth.  When we move to Texas,  I lost that hiding place.  Soon after we moved God placed  on my heart to write devotions for women.  I fought with God over that.  I was a busy wife and homeschooling two boys.  Didn’t God know I didn’t have time to write.  Ten years later several friends asked me to start my own online study.  He never gives up on us.  Now I write for Him.

 
 
*This blog was first featured at More Than Just Coffee. Join Bonnie at her Bonbon ‘n’ Coffee Link-up Party each Thursday!

**It has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkupand Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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