Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jesus Still Shows Up

I've had a full on panic attack once in my life for sure. It drove me into the fetal position in the middle of the floor of my kitchen in tears after I had left messages with everyone at my husband's work that he needed to call me as soon as he landed. It was terrifying. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't stop my mind from racing. I couldn't think rationally. I was utterly out of control of my emotions. I never wanted to feel like that again.

So when I left a friend's house the other day, I was shocked when I could feel it happening again. This time it was the beginning of an anxiety attack, and I was driving down the highway. I needed to get a grip on life...and fast.

But the waves of thoughts streamed through my mind, one after the other. Relentless. Unstoppable...

Do you really think you're special? You're a terrible friend. That was totally awkward. Why would she want to spend time with you again? Look at you. All frazzled and second-guessing your every conversation. Of course no one's going to respond to your emails! Why would they? Some room mom you are. No one takes you seriously. You're on your own. And what about Joey? I mean what kind of wife are you? Always forgetting to send him those texts and notes he's asked for repeatedly. He probably feels completely unappreciated, and he should. Some wife you are. And your kids? Have you even taken time to see them? To enjoy them? So encompassing is your grief you can barely think of what to talk to them about. Forget parenting. That's a joke. Your kids are basically raising themselves at this point....

And the lies just.kept.coming. One after the other. Sucker punches taking my breath away. I could feel the tears well behind my eyes once more. My throat felt tight. My breathing had become fast. I was panicking. In that moment, I wanted to crawl into a dark hole. I wanted to do whatever it took to escape the voices. I couldn't escape the voices! The guilt! The condemnation.

"Dear Jesus what do I do?!?!"

And in the same moment I was contemplating pulling my car over and losing all composure on the side of the highway, the next thing I know my mind was cleared. Completely calmed. Hushed. At peace. My body physically relaxed, and my thoughts stilled.

My Jesus, who'd been there the whole time, raised His hands in the middle of my storm, and He made it stop. He calmed the sea. (Mark 4:39)

And in my spirit, I heard Him speak, "Lies. Why do you listen to the lies? That's enough. Be calm. Be still. Believe Me. I Am here. No one else matters. Just Me and you. You will never be enough, but I will always be Enough. Peace."

And I felt like I imagine the demon-possessed man felt upon being healed, clear of mind and able to discern truth. My shoulders straightened a bit. I took a deep breath of grace, and I immediately thought of the verse card that's been staring at me from my kitchen sink.

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

I must have reached my limit. The temptation to give in and let the lies engulf me had become too great. In my weakness, my failure to stand strong and claim truth, my Jesus kept His Word. (2 Corinthians 12:10) He kept His promises to me, and in a split second of time, an inward battle that had been raging for months was ended. Just like that.

I wish I could tell you the war was over, but I'm still breathing, so I know that's not true. But His peace has lingered with me, guarding my mind even in the midst of my doubting Thomas outlook on life these days. (Philippians 4:7) So I am deeply grateful. Broken and weak, but grateful.

I had just wept the other morning, begging for Him to show up, to make Himself known, to prove once again He really was who He says He is. And then this incident happens.

Jesus still works miracles, my friends. He still calms the storms and casts out the demons. Just maybe not quite in the literal way we want or expect. He hears our honest prayers, and He still shows up.

How can I not be devoted and eternally endeared to a God who fights for me even when I'm fighting Him?!?!

Life happens. People hurt and grieve, and most of us will never know or understand the depth of the battle that rages inside each one of us. All I can do is tell my stories--the good, the bad, and the ugly--and let it be known that my God shows up. My Jesus calms the storms and keeps His promises. He casts out the demons and mends the broken-hearted. He carries the overwhelmed and challenges the underwhelmed. He speaks peace and life into torment and lies. Even the demons believe there is one God and shudder at His name (James 2:19); they beg His mercy (Mark 5:12). How much more will He willingly show mercy and kindness and goodness to me, His child, in my time of need? (Matthew 7:11)

Moving forward from this point, from this reset, it is imperative I keep my eyes on Christ. Not on anyone else but Him.
He will always be Enough for me. He can be Enough for you too.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Good, Good Father

Oh, I've heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You're like
But I've heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You're pleased
And that I'm never alone

They played this song at Xander's funeral. Just four months ago, this 8 year old boy's father raised his shaking hands in praise to our Heavenly Father--willing these words to be true.

You're a good good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

I've sat by his mother's side in services since then and watched her sing these words, tears pouring.

Every time I hear this song now, I cry.

Oh, and I've seen many searching
For answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word

I cry for my friends and the deep pain they must bare. For the rest of their lives. 
I cry because how can they choose that song for their 8 year old son's funeral? What faith! What trust.
I cry because in my soul I have screamed at God, and I know there are still days I do not possess that faith and trust. Days I don't believe God to be good.

You're a good good Father
It's who You are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

I cry because even after all my temper tantrums on their behalf and my own, I still end up right back at my Daddy's feet, letting Him speak over me and into me.

Cause You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

I cry because there's no better place to find Refuge and Comfort and Peace.

You are perfect in all of your ways
Oh, You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

I cry because when the emotional cycle completes itself, I inevitably find myself with hands raised, singing the truth of this song. Believing it's truth once again.

Oh, it's love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

I can't explain completely in words how God always brings me back to this place, to this juncture, where I just know that I know that I

You're a good good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

Despite all the compelling evidence that appears to prove otherwise in certain circumstances, I have a certainty in my spirit, as a child of God, that my Daddy knows what He's doing so much greater and better and more so than I can even imagine.

Cause You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

If you're not a child of God, you think I'm talking crazy at this point. How does a "good" God allow evil, sin, death, war? There are many long answers to those questions. For me, what I keep coming back to is does a handful of terrible, nightmarish circumstances negate all the blessings of His Comfort, His Presence, His Help, His Encouragement over my entire lifetime? Once you've experienced, not simply tasted, what Jesus has to offer, how does anyone have a palette for any other option, god, or religion? It's like choosing to go with fast food when a Micheline 5-star chef is cooking dinner in your home every night for every meal.

You're a good good Father
So the Lord and I might continue to wrestle over this grief, these questions--and maybe you wrestle with Him too--but I was sealed by the Holy Spirit many years ago, marked for Christ when I made a choice to answer His call, take up His cross and follow. Follow hard at His heels. Follow without always understanding His ways. 

You are perfect in all of Your ways

And to choose to follow anyone or anything else always takes me down a dead end street where I sit lost until He comes and finds me again. 

Because, you see, I'm a child of THE King. I can question Him all I like. He may or may not answer--at all or in a way I like, but that does not change the fact that at the end of the day my place, my heart, my hope, my home is in His Presence, by His side, following hard.

So maybe you sit here grieving something of your own today. Because Lord knows, we grieve so. many. things. in this life. You're screaming at God. You're wrestling with Him. You're asking Him to answer you, to show Himself to you. You're crying in moments when you least expect it, and you're heart is heavy and hurting.

All I have to offer you is Jesus. Because that's all I can offer myself. Somehow, in some mysterious way, a relationship with Jesus is the only real answer--the paradox of finding complete comfort in the One you also place complete blame and responsibility. And it's statements like that that make Christ-followers sound completely crazy. I get it. I do.

But meditating on His promises, buried in His Word, singing praises to His name in the car, in my brain, praying for His tangible presence, needing Him to show up in small moments--that's where I am. And my friends, He shows up every. single. time.

You are perfect in all of Your ways

How? A text or phone call from a friend or family member at just the right moment. A song on the radio with just the right message. A time of prayer with the Lord where He just whispers back encouragement and assurance. Moments of mediation on scripture where I am filled with unexplainable peace, and I'm able to just breath deep His presence. I hear Him in the roar of the ocean, and see Him in the way a sunset plays across the mountains as it sinks. I see him in the caring words and hands of others, sometimes complete strangers. I see Him in all the GOOD.

Because the bottom line, He said it Himself, is that only God IS Good (Matthew 19:16-17). On top of Him actually being the manifestation of good itself, "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17)." He is the definition and embodiment of Goodness, the Giver of all that is Good. Yet any worldly circumstances that cause us to grieve never feel good. I will spend the rest of my life trying to explain the conflicting emotions and ideas that I feel as a human with flesh and spirit, satan's worldly realm and God's spiritual Kingdom at war in my life! 

But my experiential truth is that God is good, and God always wins. Even in the terrible things that cause us grief, God wins--somehow, someway He always wins in His perfect time. But only for those of us that choose to follow hard at His heels, that make time for being rocked in God's rocking chair, that beg and weep for Him to answer. For those of us who persevere despite the set backs in our faith. For those who choose Jesus.

God is God. He knows what He's doing ALL the time. I only think I know what I'm doing SOME of the time. There are days I still think I'd rather do it my own way, that God doesn't understand or "get" me, that this hard act of Christ-following just isn't worth it anymore. But I never get very far down that path before I'm faced with a decision, an emotion, a circumstance that sends me running right back into the Arms of the One who I KNOW has held me before, safe and steadfast through the storm, the scary, and the hard. 

My life is a living testimony to the Lord. I can't even argue with myself when I want to choose differently, decide differently, or believe differently. He's just proven Himself too many times before.

You are perfect in all of Your ways (Good, Good Father, lyrics written by Chris Tomlin.)

I still persevere in a hard place these days. I still question in rebellious pride. I get it wrong and end up in bad mental places--A LOT. Maybe you do too. But eventually, I always come home to my Daddy, my Bridegroom, my Friend, my King because I can honestly say He's my truest, reliably safe place. He's where I belong.

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