The Cure

Last week I wrote about someone who invaded my life once again to moan about the latest consequences of his wrong choices.

This person shows no desire to get right with God but communicates if he can get help from me and my husband, ie financial, circumstances can be made so much better.

Many offered monetary assistance to him in the past with disastrous results. They/we discovered people who prove unable to manage their lives tend not to be able to manage their finances. Their wrong choices also affect how they choose to spend money.

This individual refuses the cure to the many crises he faces in his life—ones brought about his own tendency to gravitate toward low life living. He wants a band aid for a wound which gapes and gushes.

Only God can cure what ails this man.

Unfortunately, he renounces that truth.

He did come to our door last week. My husband spoke with him briefly, but discerned he already closed his heart to any real help we could offer. He asked for assistance but refused any wisdom to keep him from repeats of this pattern of downward spirals.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said repeatedly.

Yet when we offered wise counsel, he rejected it.

My heart breaks over the many people who live like this man. They make mistake after mistake and yet never learn from their errors.

I continue to pray, but I realized to talk to this person wastes my time and energy.

The verse that comes to mind gives this message: Give wise reproof only to those who have a listening ear. (See Proverbs 25:12)

This man wants me to listen as he spouts negativity, hopelessness and helplessness, but he refuses to listen when I bring words which can save his life both figuratively and literally.

Over the last several years when I go for walks and come to a dead end, I pray for this man and others.

“Lord, deliver them from dead end living.”

Only He can.

“The Cure” by Unspoken

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JKXhxFwVZc

 

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Remember When

This year marks 40 years since I received Jesus as my Savior.

A song I heard lately reminded me of my messed up heart and life before I knew the Lord. One quest I devoted myself to before embracing Jesus centered on looking for perfect love from others rather than from Him. What a joy to experience His extravagant love for me.

God brings me back on a regular basis to a glimpse of my past, so I will extend mercy and grace to people who remain locked in dead end lives where they live for themselves and act the fool like I did way back when. (The Bible defines a fool as someone who says or acts like God doesn’t exist. See Psalm 14:1)

Not too many days ago one of these fools who lives life as if no God exists called our home to tell of the dire consequences of his continued journey on the path of destruction. Repeatedly in the past my husband and I reached out to him with the good news of the Gospel and wisdom from the Lord, which he rejected. Now he calls to say over and over, “I don’t know what to do; I’m so scared.” Still, he voices no desire for a walk with God—just an escape from the consequences of his vile choices, which he blames on others.

At this moment as I write this blog, this person who continues to reject the Lord called again. As we talk, he makes excuse after excuse for not doing the next right thing.

Despite all he faces, he still seems unable to humble himself and allow God to take charge of his life. He says, “I want to,“ but when I suggest what he can do to get right with God, He refuses.

The first prayer I prayed for him is, “God, have mercy on his soul.”

The next one: “God, break down his walls of resistance, so he can say ‘yes,’ to you instead of ‘yes’ to all these wrong decisions and deadly mindsets.

As I speak to him, I realize people who make wrong choices form a habit which seems impossible to break.

He keeps saying, I’m scared; I’m scared,” but it seems what frightens him most centers on being afraid to do the right thing, afraid of not being in charge even though his “I can run my own life” stance brought him to this place of desperation.

He wails, “I need to come over and talk.”

“OK,” I say.

On numerous other occasions my husband and I heard words of desperation from him, but they failed to lead to repentance. Instead he developed an urgency to depend on us to get his immediate needs met. But in the end it led to using and abusing, lying and betrayal and a continued dedication to the enemy and his ways.

Father God, speak through us when he arrives. Give us grace and mercy and wisdom. Open his blind eyes. Unstop his deaf ears.

Thank You, Lord, for the freedom I have because I said “yes” to you 40 years ago. Give this man courage to say “yes” to you—courage to allow You to be in charge, courage to receive Your love. Help him to see himself as You see him and to see You as You are.

Help him to see himself as a fool. Humble him enough to realize the only cure for foolishness lies with You. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

To be continued…

“When Love Broke” Through by Toby Mac

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdeSYHfJkqA

 

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Deliver Me From Unrealistic Expectations

Not long ago I realized anew one reason I allow myself to sink down a slippery slope in my mind and emotions centers on unrealistic expectations.

The problem comes when I possess high expectations of people and minimal expectations of God.

This happens in my vital relationships, especially in marriage.

Today I looked up the word expectation. I read: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a belief that someone will or should achieve something.”

The Amplified connects the two words expect and hope: “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” (Isaiah 40:31)

I wrote about this subject in my book, Or For Worse; Loving Your Husband Through Hard Times.

In the chapter titled, “Holding On To Hope,” I listed all the hopes I focused on in regard to changes I longed to see in my husband. Then I came to this conclusion as I discovered the list brought on disappointment:

“I saw God did not reside at the center of my hopes. Instead of hoping my husband would change, I needed to put my hope in God.

As I studied the Word and looked up verses about hope, I began to understand how wrong it was to put my hope (my highest expectations) in my husband, a fallible man who failed often. When I put my hope in God and His unfailing love for me, I found myself more joyful and having fewer ups and downs in my emotional life in regard to marriage.”

Here’s more from the book: “On the way to a counseling session one day, my husband accused me of this: ‘You have lost hope in me.’

After I thought about it for a few minutes, I realized hoping in him had been my problem—even in the latest crisis we dealt with in counseling.

‘Honey, my problem is I keep putting my hope in you and not in God,” I said. “This is why I repeatedly get crushed by disappointment.’

God’s Word reminds me that the right kind of hope—hope in God and His unfailing love ‘does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts’ (Romans 5:5).”

My lessons learned about marriage apply to every relationship in my life. If I let go of unrealistic expectation of others, I free myself to love them unconditionally in the present moment and not “if you meet my expectations.”

When I let go of high expectations of people, I center on expecting from/hoping in God. Some verses I found which highlight the word expect follow:

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

Guide me in Your truth and faithfulness and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You [You only and altogether] do I wait [expectantly] all the day long. Psalm 25:5 AMPC

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for and expect You. Psalm 25:21

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity; I have [expectantly] trusted in, leaned on, and relied on the Lord without wavering and I shall not slide. Psalm 26:1

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. Psalm 27:14

As I read these verses I discover another word related to hope and expectations. The word? Wait. If my hope and expectation truly remain fixed on God, my heart wills to wait for Him.

Sometimes it seems He takes a long time to intervene, but if no waiting happened, would I grow in faith?

I know I have my expectations centered on God and not people when my focus remains on Him and His promises and not them and their problems.

Today I pray God will help me to let go of unrealistic expectations of people (including myself) and turn my expectations toward Him. As I look again at the definition, I pray I will maintain “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future;” and that I will embrace “a belief that someone (God) will or should achieve something.”

No, He may not act in ways I want—or even demand–but He will perform on my behalf as He does again and again. Even now as I write this, I sense His peace begin to wash over me.

And this song comes to mind, a song God gave me years ago in the midst of a major family crisis: “Everything will be alright, everything will be alright, into the darkness, I will shine my light, and everything will be alright…”

I determine to do what Psalm 27:14 instructs: “wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.”

Note: God healed our marriage in mighty ways. We love each other now more than ever. He is able!

“Expecting” by William McDowell

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Lift God Higher

Weeks ago I heard for the first time a song by one of my favorite groups, Unspoken.

The song, “Higher,” speaks of how if life brings me low, I need to lift God higher.

Every time I hear the song since, I tend to sing aloud—sometimes quite loudly—to remind myself of this truth I too often forget as I face difficulties in my life which threaten to crush me.

I realize my most desperate moments come not when troubles bombard my life, but when I lift difficulties above God. I allow them power over me, and I forget how the power of God trumps any trial I face.

When I observe others who face hard times in their lives, I see them lose hope, faith, and even their love for God and people when they fail to lift God higher than their problems. I think, I resided in that place before; you can choose not to stay there. I try to speak to them about this truth, but often they refuse to listen. Instead they speak out loud their problems again and again.

How often I fall into the same trap. And I too can fail to listen to the wisdom of others around me.

One way to lift God higher during hard times centers on worship. How easily I forget to spend time in worship when worry takes over. Instead of thoughts which magnify the Lord, my negative thoughts cause my problems to grow until they seem huge—even compared to God.

Satan gladly supplies the negative thoughts which keep me focused on my problems rather than on the presence, power, and provision of God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 spells out one way to combat these negative thoughts: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Yesterday I visited my daughter’s church where the sermon title asked, “What Keeps You Up At Night?” The pastor brought up fears we battle. Fears, which are close cousins to worry, rob me of my firm faith in a God who loves me with an everlasting love and who possesses the power to bring me through every trial—if I depend on Him.

Satan wants me to doubt two attributes of God: His love and His power. And when I give in, I fail to lift Him higher.

Today I choose worship above worry, and I determine to let thoughts of God’s love and power to override any thoughts which cause me to sink lower and lower. And I want to speak out loud more and more how God blesses me instead of repeated proclamation of my problems and disappointments.

God promises me victory if I allow Him to lead—to be God Most High. And He uses me to urge others to keep Him as God Most High as they see me do it.

“But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere”   (2 Corinthians 2:14 AMPC).

I embrace that promise and every other promise He holds out to me. I choose this moment to believe He is who He says He is—God Most High. Joy rises as I do.

“Higher” by Unspoken

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H9SXqzs0oI

Another song that helps me to keep my focus on God Most High: “Magnify” by We Are Messengers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgF4SjdRP3s

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My Good Friday/The Joy of Obedience

I don’t feel like it, I thought.

Besides I no longer have the mike my friend, Julie, let me use before since she lent it to someone else and couldn’t get it back in time. How would I be heard out there with the noise from the wind, the traffic, and the chatter of the tourists?

I charged my amplifier and looked through my bag and found an old microphone. I plugged it in to the amp, and it sounded clear–even better than the other mike with the tiny amplifier box I wore on my waist. I didn’t have a stand for this one, so how would I hold it in my hand if I wanted to play the guitar?

The questions which mattered weren’t, Do I feel like going? or Are there too many obstacles in the way?

The most important question popped into my mind: Did God want me to go?

I sensed He did.

This was the open door since I had to work 12-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

Recently a song I heard on the radio touched my heart. I printed out the chords and decided I will sing this song to the people.

Then this thought came as I got ready for my outing to the beach. If I turn on the JOYFM, and this special song comes over the airways, it will be a confirmation from the Lord. I didn’t expect it, but I thought it would be nice.

I heard the last several words of the song as I tuned in on my IPAD, and then the DJ announced, “You just heard ‘What A Beautiful Name It Is,’ by Hillsong–my song.

Thank You, Lord, I said and continued to prepare for my adventure.

Last time I went to Clearwater Beach to sing during Easter week, I rode my bike and brought a small travel guitar to avoid traffic and the search for a parking space.

This time I’ll take either the ferry or the free bus ride, which I saw offered days before.

I drove to downtown Clearwater and parked my car in the free lot near the water. I saw people at the bus stop and decided on free transportation. I waited for the bus for 20 minutes and the it took 20 minutes to get there (on a less crowded day it would take 5 minutes), but I enjoyed the beautiful weather and pretty scenery while I waited and while I rode.

The bus dropped us off right in the midst of the crowds, and I walked the short distance to my usual spot.

I started out playing the amplified guitar and sang as loudly as I could. One of my first songs was the chorus of “What A Beautiful Name It Is.”  After a while I set the guitar aside and sang with the microphone and no music. It felt easy since I knew most of the songs well.  I shared these selections and more: “Just A Closer Walk with Thee,” “”There’s Just Something About That Name,” and “Jesus Paid It All.”

I had tracts to pass out in a hat, and almost immediately people put money in the hat. Other times I played, I wanted tips as an affirmation, but received none. As I sang more and more people gave a tip. (I hoped it wasn’t because they thought me a poor homeless lady who couldn’t sing whom they felt sorry for.) Still, I felt encouraged.

I turned the knobs on the amp to get some different effects ie reverb. The quality of this mike with this amp proved to be superior to my last mike, and it didn’t entail the repeated readjustment I had to do with the other.

I enjoyed the sunshine, breeze, and happy people who walked by. I prayed people would recognize songs or be caught by phrases and the name of Jesus want to know or return to Him.

As I continued to sing, I realized fear of the people no longer plagued me as it did in the past. I closed my eyes for short periods of time and worshipped before the Lord and felt so close to Him.

“God, did you call me out here for them or for me?” I asked.

I sensed the answer: “Both.”

One heckler shouted from a passing car. I waved and blew him a kiss. I said “God bless you” to those who gave tips, to others who smiled or gave a thumbs up, and to people who seemed upset in conversation as they walked by.

As I sang I felt overwhelmingly grateful for all Jesus did for me by His death on the cross.

As time passed, I looked at my watch and saw it was near 3pm–the hour the Bible said Jesus died. I said a thank you, Jesus in my heart and sang songs about the cross: “At The Cross,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “Nothing But the Blood.” Joy overflowed in my heart. I celebrated the beautiful life the Lord lavished on me–despite traumas and trials I faced.

As I obeyed God’s command to “go out into all the world,” (Clearwater Beach certainly had visitors from around the world,) this came to mind: the joy of obedience. God wanted me right there at that moment, and I obeyed instead of giving in to my excuses and dedication to my petty agenda for the day. I thought of Jesus’ obedience on the cross and how mine seemed small compared to His. This thought occurred to me as well: His obedience brought me joy, but my obedience can bring joy to others.

After I sang for two hours, I sensed it’s time to go.

I crossed the street to the bus stop and talked to a man about the Lord after he asked about my singing while we waited for the bus.

The ride back proved pleasant and passed quickly as I talked to a sweet elderly lady from New Hampshire.

I plan to go back to Clearwater Beach to share songs and words of encouragement. When? Whenever the Lord calls me to do it. I long to experience once again the blessings and joy of obedience and bask in the knowledge that when I do what God asks me to do, He is pleased with me. After all, when I’m in my right mind, that’s my highest goal–to please Him.

“What A Beautiful Name It Is” by Hillsong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQWFzMvCfLE

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No Longer A Slave to Fear

Not long ago I heard a song which described my life. The chorus proclaimed, “I’m no longer a slave to fear.”

When I heard the song, I sang along and celebrated the truth of the phrase as I applied it to myself. I marveled at how far the Lord brought me on the pathway marked, “deliverance from fear.”

I remembered back to my childhood and how I often felt paralyzed by fear. Fear of rejection, fear of the dark, fear of future overwhelmed me.

When it came time to make a decision, I felt afraid to do so. What if I made the wrong choice? Surely calamity would befall me.

As I examine my present life, I realize one reason it seems fairly easy—at least compared to years past–centers on this fact: I now allow faith rather than fear rule my day. I believe by faith God loves me and trust He will take care of me. I know how to leave the future in His hands, so I can enjoy the present.

Yes, I sometimes fall back into fear, especially when I interact with others who allow fear to rule their lives. But I now know how to stop the stranglehold of fear.

I look to the Lord and focus on Him. I read His Word and believe it relates to me.

One verse, which I call my life verse, transforms my thought life when it comes to fear. I like it in the Amplified Version of the Bible:

“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 rightness and justice.” AMPC

I love the promise contained in the brackets within this verse: “there is nothing to fear.” The rest of the verse explains why with these four phrases: “I am with you,” “I am your God,” “I will strengthen you,” and “I will help you.”

For too long I failed to believe any of these, even as a Christian.

Another verse, Psalm 56:3, reminds me what to do in times of fear. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. NIV” This verse shows me when fear immobilizes me, lack of trust lurks nearby.

A verse in the New Testament also encourages me when it comes to fear: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

The enemy, the one who tries to push me toward fear, wants me to doubt God’s power, His love, and the sound mind He gives me.

A fourth verse comes to mind about fear: “But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV)

God’s true love and deep fear may not reside simultaneously in my heart. Fear rules when I refuse to receive His love—when I put a wall to block its flow because of guilt, shame, unworthiness, all three connected to fear.

I desire not just to bask in my deliverance from fear, but to help others overcome fear as well—to assist them to believe what God says about fear and urge them to follow His instructions, so they can move toward freedom.

Jesus died on the cross to set me free—from all which binds me. During this Easter season I will continue to celebrate the release from my old title, “a slave to fear.” I remain determined to fully embrace my new title, “a beloved child of God.”

“No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

 

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The Gift of Empathy

Recently God sent an empathizer my way.

After work I drove my car to a church nearby to get closer to the bridge.  I put on a bright yellow shirt over my uniform and donned my sunglasses and hat and headed for the bridge which connects the city of Clearwater to Clearwater beach.

I looked at my watch. Run for forty minutes, my goal ran through my mind.

In about two weeks, the Iron Girl race over that bridge takes place.

So I determined to train after work on a regular basis until race day since I work near the bridge.

Within minutes I headed up the steep grade of the bridge. Thankfully a fence provided safety from the cars that whizzed by. The view proved wonderful as the sun headed toward the horizon and glimmers of light danced on the water in Clearwater Bay.

When I ran on level ground, it seemed simple. Now my legs ached early on. I felt breathless, but not quite as bad as my previous practice run on the bridge. My inability to catch my breath reminded me of when I vacationed in mountains at a high elevation.

I blew out slowly and took my breath in gradually, so I wouldn’t hyperventilate.

Other runners, walkers, and people on bicycles passed me from behind, and some came over the bridge from the other side. I smiled (more like a grimace) or said or nodded a “hello.”

I rejoiced when I made it to the top and looked around in every direction to enjoy the view, and the sky where pink streaks suddenly appeared. I dared not stop to gaze.

As I made my way down the other side of the bridge, a runner came toward me with a grin on his face even though he too appeared to work hard like me to conquer the bridge—not one of those runners who makes it all look easy.

At the moment we approached one another he raised his left hand to give me a high five. I raised mine, and we connected as my hand slapped against his.

Wow! He understands how I feel right now, I thought.  He knows about my battle to breath, and the aches in my legs. He empathizes with the effort it takes to move one foot in front of the other.

Once I made it down the other side of the bridge, I ran until I reached the twenty minute mark and then turned around to head back toward the bridge and up the steep grade again since the race would entail that route.

On the way back up the bridge, I ran into the same runner, and we exchanged high fives, smiles, and empathy again.

My practice run that day felt easier because of that empathizer.

My life feels easier when God sends people who empathize not only with my physical but also with my emotional and spiritual struggles.

But the empathizer who encourages my heart the most calls Himself Jesus.

He came to earth, so He could know how I feel as a human being. He experienced similar battles to the ones I face, and as I draw near to Him I sense His empathy.

Today I looked up the word “empathy.” “The ability to understand and share the feelings of others,” I read in my New Oxford American Dictionary.

In the Bible I found one verse which contained the word “empathize”—Hebrews 4:15, which reads “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” The next verse remains a favorite of mineLet us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Not only does Jesus understand, but He desires to help.

I look forward to my 5K race on April 9th.  During the race I will be surrounded by those who empathize with me. The camaraderie among runners in races always lifts my spirits and causes me to feel connected.

But to have someone who reached out to me on the lonely course of my practice time for the race cheered me up in a special way.

Thank you, Mr. Empathizer. You made my day.

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