Letting Go of Fear of the Future–Again

As I’ve been examining my thought life in recent days, I notice how often I am thinking fearful thoughts about the future. Here is a blog I first posted in June 16, 2010. Even though I wrote this over four years ago, the truths are ones I needed to be reminded of again. I pray that they also minister to you.

Lately as I’ve been dealing with fears, I see that many of them have to do with fear of the future. When I think of family and finances, worries about whatwillhappen in these two realmscan plague me.

When I think of politics and employment, it’sthe future of both that can cause me to get strangled by what ifs.

When I contemplate my church life and my writing life, it’sfear about the future of these two entities that can cause me to want to give up hope on bothandconsider pursuing a path of self-gratification instead.

As I pondered my battle with fear of the future, God whispered a truth to me–that these fearsgenerally don’t originate with me. He brought me back to theY2K scare where Christian groups I was a part of were in a panic about crises that would happen when the year 2000 arrived. They talked about stocking up on food and buying generators.Often they reprimanded me for doing nothing and for not joining them in being afraid.But I was convinced there was nothing to fear. Still they wanted me to “catch their fear.”

The same goes on these days with politics and finances. Christianstry to convince me Democrats are ruining the financial world and the world in general. They insist I must do something–at the very least be very afraid. Rarely do they tell meto do the thing God has called us to do.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” 2 Timothy 2:1-3

I confess I’ve sometimes succumbed to fears that orginate with others–even though I believe God is in control and will lead me through any difficulties that may arise. And yes, He may call me to do something, but out of obedience, not fear. Also, hard times can cause people to become more hungry to receive Jesus as their Savior, which is a good thing.

Now that I’m aware of this passing on of fears, I’m better able to resist it. One way is to deletecertain emails and avoid various TV and radio programs. I also change the subject or say, “Let’s pray about that.”

God wants me to stay focused on Him and not on problems in the world or in my family or church family, or at my job or in my writing life. Repeatedly He reminds me of this verse:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.

Often I tell those who try to pass along fears that I believe God is in control, and nothing man does can change what God has planned–either for me, the body of Christ, or our nation. I remind them God has taken care of His own all these years, and He’s not going to stop because of what someone is doing in Washington or anywhere else in the world.

And I hold to what my 6-year-old granddaughter, Destiny, said to me one day, “I will not let fear ruin my life.”

Is there someone in your life that is trying to pass along fear to you? Determine to deal with the situation God’s way.

The following song reminds me that God is in control of my future.

“Already There” by Casting Crowns. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s099Omqw1_E

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Collecting Recipes and Wisdom

“Wow, that looks good.”

It’s usually the photo that catches my attention.

Then I read over the recipe and decide, I’ve got to write this down.

I grab some paper or at times write out my new-found treasure in the back pages of my journal all the while thinking, I can’t wait to make this.

I usually write out the recipe instead of tearing out the page from the magazine because I want to keep the magazine intact to give away or it’s in someone else’s magazine—at a doctor’s office or other location.

I’ve done this repeatedly over the years.

There is just one problem with this habit of excitedly writing down recipes.

I rarely make or bake the recipes I collect. They are in various locations in my kitchen. Right now I have a bunch of them in a large clip attached to a magnet on my refridgerator figuring if I leave them there I will more likely do something with them. Those have been there for several years.

Others are stuck in my cookbooks or crammed in a folder in the cupboard with the cookbooks.

Sometimes I look through the recipes and once again I say, “Oh, that would taste so good.” But still I do nothing to bring those words to life.

One of my latest recipes is for zuchinni soup It’s in my journal, but soon this journal will be full, and I’ll put it on the shelf in my office and start a new one. Who knows when I will get that journal out again. I could copy it on the copy machine and put it with that collection on the fridge…

My passion for collecting recipes reminds me of how I am with wisdom from the Lord. How I love to write things down in my journal in Bible studies or during the sermon at church. The problem is that too often it ends up just stuck in my journal, and I forget about it shortly after writing it.

Sometimes my wisdom comes in prayer time, and it’s the Lord speaking to me. But too often I treat lightly the powerful words He’s laying on my heart. Recently this is what He spoke

LIVE IN THE PRESENT, ELAINE. THE PAST WILL TRY TO TAUNT YOU. THE FUTURE WILL TRY TO TERRIFY YOU. I AM IN THE PRESENT. THAT’S WHERE MY PEACE, JOY, AND HOPE RESIDE. IF YOU SENSE YOU ARE LOSING ONE OR ALL OF THESE IT’S BECAUSE YOU’VE MOVED IN YOUR MIND FROM THE PRESENT TO THE PAST OR FUTURE.

But this time I insisted I wanted to go beyond the collecting of words. I longed to live it out in my life. First I passed the wisdom on to others in person, and hey I’m doing it here too. That’s what I like about a blog. You can share an insight from the Lord right away.

I’m also asking God how to make what He said to me bring about a difference in my life instead of being just something I talk about like telling my friends what great recipes I’ve collected. How much better to bring them a piece of the cake I baked or truly learn to live in the present with them, so that we can really enjoy our time together instead of anxiously rehashing what happened in the past and worrying out loud to them about the future.

I want this time to be different.

Give me grace, Lord, so that I can obey this verse:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22 NIV).

Before bed tonight I’m going to assess the thoughts running through my mind and see which ones are about the future, which ones are about the past, and which ones are concentrated on the present. Then I’m going to pray God will show me how to live more in the present as I repent over how much time I’ve wasted getting stuck in feeling guilty and angry about the past and having dread about the future.

And then tomorrow I may make some zucchini soup.

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Story of Victory–The Gift Wrapped in Pain

Lately I have been reflecting on James 1:2: “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (NIV)

Today I have a guest blog from Elnora Hinson who calls her trial “The Gift.” I met Elnora, an RN, while working with the mentally ill. Even though she is not a professional writer, she has encouraged me and many others to embrace God’s truth by sending out devotions via email.

Here is Elnora’s encouragement for those of you who are struggling in your faith as you face various trials in your life. Thank you, Elnora.

I have encountered many trials in my recent past that if not for God’s grace and mercy, I would not have survived. Someone once said “Trials come to make us strong.” Well, I have to say I wanted the strength, but I did not want the trials.

In August 2011 at the age of 62, my life course began to change. I now know and believe that God had different plans for my life. You see, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and that changed the lives of my husband, me and my entire family. Life as we knew it would never be the same.

One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was tell my husband of my abnormal examination and possible cancer. On August 9,2011 the tissue sample was tested. Then the waiting began. My husband by my side trying to reassure me and love me through the hard times. Waiting for the dreaded call. Well, we didn’t have to wait long. The call came the following day. The doctor called and said the tests confirmed just as she had suspected…..Cancer.

I don’t remember much after that call. My husband heard me sobbing uncontrollably from the other room and was immediately at my side. He held me and cried as I cried, sharing my pain, as I told him the news.

Hearing those dreaded words began the change and transformations for many areas of my life. It changed how I look at life–every area of my life. I have now discovered a whole new level of relationship and communication with my husband and most especially with the Holy Spirit.

It has been nearly 3 years now, and I truly give God the glory and praise for my “Gift” wrapped in pain. For without the “Gift” of testing I would not be where I am today.

My husband and I endured the challenges together. I could not have made it without him–through the mastectomy, the late night tears and restless, sleepless nights. I know without a doubt that God gave us the strength to be there for each other.

I have to say that it was tough to realize that the pain of poor health came to make me strong. How? How could this make me strong when the pain was so intense? How, could I see these trials as “Gifts Wrapped in Pain”? How could cancer be a “Gift”? Surely God must have made a mistake!

If a gift is well-wrapped it may take a while to open it, but once inside we find the true, unanticipated gift of a lifetime. It is sometimes very difficult to anticipate something good inside when we are unable to see past the wrapping.

But God has a plan that we may be incapable of seeing. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)

The greatest “Gift” is knowing that our struggles could be something that God could use for His glory. God turned the pain and struggle that my husband endured to define us and has brought our relationship to a whole new and deeper level. I now know that my true purpose is to tell all who will listen about “The Gift.”

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God’s Faithful Humbling

“How could that person be so out of it that he doesn’t realize his headlights aren’t on?” I wondered out loud.

I was driving down a street near my home on a recent evening when I noticed a car coming toward me with no lights on.

That’s dangerous.” Once again I spoke my thoughts out.

Here we’re on a narrow road with no shouders, minimal street lights, and ditches on each side of the road…

I made a move to flash my lights at the driver when I noticed something disturbing.

My headlights weren’t on either.

The car I was driving that evening was a rental car since mine was being repaired. Since it was a 2014, I assumed that it had automatic lights like our newer car. I quickly turned on my lights just as my fellow negligent driver turned down a side street.

The question now was, How did I not notice my lights weren’t on? I had been out since before dark, and I was on familiar roads. I’m sure the other driver also had his reasons or excuses.

That incident humbled me and made me think of my spiritual life–exspecially since light and being in the dark was involved. I realized again how easily I can slip into a haughty, “I’m doing things right; what’s wrong with these other people?” attitude.That’s when I’m busy focusing on their faults and failings so that I stop noticing mine.

I recall that not too long ago I got upset that my husband yelled at my granddaughter over what seemed like something petty. My attitude was, I would never be that harsh with her.

Later that day, I gave my granddaughter an instruction, and she defiantly ignored me even after I repeated it. I responded in a louder, harsher way than my husband had earlier.

I thought of two verses as I contemplated what had happened,

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV

Another verse that spoke of judging was Romans 2:1:

…at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning youself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. NIV

I’m praying once again that God will continue to reprimand me and give me a gentler, more merciful view toward everyone in my life.

Reading a section of Psalm 139 has repeatedly been a reminder to deal with the issues in my own life instead of judging and trying to fix them in the lives of those around me. These verses came to my mind again lately.

David writes in Psalm 139:19-22:

If only you would slay the wicked, O God!…They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up again you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them as enemies.

David was focused on wicked people around him—people not living life God’s way. Instead of praying for them, David is asking God to slay them and giving in to hate. Oh, how easy it is to go there.

But then something happens to David between verse 22 & 23. He changes his focus:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (23-24—emphasis mine).

I want to live life God’s way. Instead of judging others when they don’t and giving in to pride, I can allow the light of Jesus to flow to me and through me. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. To stay humble all I have to do is remember what I was like before I knew the Lord. That brings me back to the place of humility and mercy.

Here is a link to a song that speaks of how Jesus sees people who are doing wrong things. It is “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipwEtvWL_3c

 

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Proclaiming God Poolside

“Does anything jump out at you?” the resort’s activities director asked.

My sister had invited Steve and me to stay at her timeshare resort with her and my brother-in-law for a week. My parents also joined us.

It was my first evening there, and Mom and I had come to the pool to look around and spend time in the hot tub. Karaoke was going on. Mom voiced being excited that we’d have entertainment while we soaked. But God was putting a different thought in my mind.

The last time I saw karaoke being performed I had said, “next time I will do that.” It was mostly because I wanted to practice singing in front of people since God had called me to minister with songs.  Sometimes I felt upset about this calling since I’m not blessed with an “American Idol” kind of voice. And I can easily slip into seeing myself like one of those contestants auditioning early on the show who can barely carry a tune. But with practice, it seemed my voice was improving. Still I often battled lack of confidence.

As I struggled with my decision while enjoying the hot tub, I remembered God had told me about my singing: “Little is much if God is in it,” and that He didn’t want the people’s attention on me, but on Him.   

After getting out of the hot tub and drying off, I looked through the songs in the notebook on the table. Maybe I could find an inspirational tune that spoke a truth and subtly pointed toward God.

“Are you really going to do this?” my mother asked, a bit shocked because she tended to be timid in front of people.

“Yes, Mom, I’d really like to do this” or maybe I should have said, “I need to do this to overcome my fear of performing in front of people and of saying ‘yes’ to the Lord.”  

Around thirty tourists sat poolside in lounge chairs while others frolicked in the pool. A middle-aged woman was presently singing, “The Midnight Train to Georgia.”  She was struggling some, but making it through.

What could I sing? I mostly sang spiritual songs but had learned some oldies for mental health patients that I sang to during informal music therapy groups. Suddenly I longed for the security of my guitar and the walls of a room.

Are there any songs in here that I could sing? I wondered as I continued to turn the pages in the karaoke notebook where hundreds of songs were listed.

Then a song did pop out at me. It was listed in the section with the Alan Jackson songs. I didn’t expect to find a Christian song. For a moment I wondered if people would be offended if I sang what some would call a churchy song.

But hadn’t I been praying about how to minister to people while I was on vacation? And hadn’t I also prayed I could keep God at the center of my life—even while traveling? Here was an excellent opportunity. It would be the first time I had sung in my bathing suit which I still had on underneath my cover-up. I had considered going up to our suite and changing, but then I might chicken out.

“Next we have Elaine,” came the announcement.

And so I sang “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” to a group of vacationers in Orlando, Florida praying that someone or even many someones in that group would be blessed to be reminded of that truth or to hear it for the first time. And even though I felt I was singing off key at times and had a hard time hearing the melody on the machine, I knew my singing at that moment was a spiritual victory.

People applauded after the song, and I felt relieved to have made it through. I also felt blessed that God had given me the opportunity to tell a group of strangers about Him in a song and that I had not let fear keep me from it.

Two evenings later at the next Karaoke night, I went down and found another Christian song in the book, “In The Garden,” which was in the Loretta Lynn section of songs. This song is one of my favorites, and it felt a little easier to sing that time.

I pray God will help me to stay open to presenting Him to the world—no matter where I am and no matter how He tells me to do it.

Here is Alan Jackson’s version of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCV5t8wRBI8

 

 

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Song Therapy–Part Two

In my last blog, I wrote about how I too often give in to believing my feelings instead of being led by my faith. This is a battle I’ve been engaged in most of my life. Even as a Christian I can still feel convinced that my feelings are more real than the truths in God’s Word.

This is why immersing myself in Scripture daily is so important. As I read, memorize, study, and mediate on God’s Word, it becomes more real than my untrustworthy feelings.

Once again I came up with seven ways that I can feel when going through hard times. Even recently I have felt all of these. Listening to the songs as I prepared this blog has built my faith and encouraged me as the enemy as whispered such lies as, “There is no hope” in regard to various circumstances.

You may want to take one little section each day of the week and listen to the song that goes with it. As I wrote before, songs that echo the truths of God’s Word have helped me to get them deep into my heart. I pray that they will help you to do the same.

 

My feeling: I feel defeated.

Truth: I am an overcomer.

Truth from God’s Word: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

Song: “Overcomer” my Mandisa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw5FuvScrr4 

 

My feeling: I feel too weak to handle this.

Truth: I am strong in the Lord.

Truth from God’s Word: I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV 1984

Song: “Strong Enough” by Matthew West http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCJNZydWoOg

 

My feeling: I feel too afraid to go on.

Truth: I can overcome my fears with God’s help.

Truth from God’s Word: Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with my [victorious] right hand of righteousness and justice. Isaiah 41:10 AMP

Song: “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur6Zznc407U

 

My feeling: I feel hopeless in this trial.

Truth: I can find an endless supply of hope from the Lord.

Truth from God’s Word: For in You, O Lord, do I hope; You will answer, O Lord my God. Psalm 38:15

Song: “My Hope Is In You” by Aaron Shust http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RRZgr7wNDs

 

My feeling: I feel overwhelmed by all I’m going through.

Truth: God will help me when I feel overwhelmed.

Truth from God’s Word: From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and fainting; lead me to the rock that is higher than I… Psalm 61:2 AMP

Song: “Oceans” by Hillsong http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2PNTq_-mZs

 

Feeling: I feel my prayers aren’t being answered.

Truth: God hears and answers my prayers—in His way and time.

Truth from God’s Word: And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 ESV

Song: “Blessings” by Laura Story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmcKWvOQZqY

 

Feeling: I feel ugly inside.

Truth: I am beautiful in God’s eyes.

Truth from God’s Word: For the LORD see not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the hearts. 1 Samuel 16:7 AMP

Song: “Beautiful” by Mercy Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C2o0jHNRuU&list=RD7C2o0jHNRuU

 

 

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Song Therapy Time

One truth I’ve been reminded of in recent months–especially in hard times–is how much I depend on my feelings instead of relying on my faith in God. These feelings, which are fed by negative thoughts and lies by the enemy, can seem so real.

Lately God has had me capture these feelings and then counter them with verses from Scripture. And since I love music and it ministers to me so much, a song also comes to mind which proclaims the truth from Scripture.  Often I pass these songs along since God has even given me the privilege of being an amateur song therapist where I get to minister to the mentally ill and others who are going through difficult times.  

Here is a list of seven negative thoughts/feelings I’ve battled so far this year. Since this list has a song with each, you may choose to listen to one song each day this week. Or you can go through them all in one sitting and feel overwhelmed by how much God loves us and cares for us.  

The question for all of us is: will I depend on my feelings or my faith? I want to choose faith more often and more quickly.

 

What I feel: I feel unwanted.

Truth: I am wanted by God.

Verse from God’s Word to back up this truth:  Behold…I will deal with all those who afflict you; I will save the limping [ones] and gather the outcasts and will make them a praise and a name in every land of their shame (Zephaniah 3:10 AMP).   

Song:  “Wanted” Dara Maclean  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zarimIztNUM

 

What I feel: I feel comfortless.

Truth: I am comforted by God.

Verses from God’s Word to back up this truth:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles… (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)

Song:  “Held” by Natalie Grant  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABjNDl2z7sA

 

>What I feel: I feel unsafe.

Truth: I am safe with God.

Verse from God’s Word to back up this truth:  The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10 NIV).  

Song: Safe in His Arms by Phil Wickham  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZAUq1-c8dw

 

What I feel: I feel alone.

Truth: I am with God, and He is with me.

Verse from God’s Word to back up this truth:  Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).

From the Amplified Bible: for He [God]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

Song: “He Is With Us” by Love and the Outcome  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6mEQS2fsWE

 

What I feel: I feel everyone is against me.

Truth: I am protected by God.

Verse from God’s Word to back up this truth: If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV

Song:  “Whom Shall I Fear?” by Chris Tomlin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0gu0nOaFsI

 

What I feel: I feel unforgiven.

Truth: I am forgiven by God.

Verse from God’s Word to back up this truth: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 ESV

Song:  “Forgiven” by Sanctus Real  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRKAXU1Fjic

 

What I feel: I feel unloved.

Truth: I am loved by God.  

Verse:  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV

Song:  “Oh, How He Loves Us” by The Dave Crowder band

 

How about you? Will you choose to be directed by your feelings or your faith and truth from God’s Word?  If you choose the latter, you will be blessed in a mighty way.

Next week, I will have seven more “I feel” vs “the truth” statements.

Note: please excuse any ads that may come up with these songs. I try to choose those with no ads, but they change and sometimes they are bordering on inappropriate. Pray for those who are in bondage to whatever may be mentioned in the ads—like those that are about alcohol.

 

 

 

 

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