Archive | November 2014

Greater Rejoicing at Christmas BECAUSE of Suffering

manger.luke2.14

Little did we know back then that the Christmas story would hold the key to our son’s hope. When Chris was five years old he recited Luke 2:8-14 in church. Listen to his tiny voice declaring ‘peace to His people on earth.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yoVGaIaE8k

In December 1996 on another Christmas, eleven years later, Chris unraveled. Psychosis clouded his thinking and ravaged his emotions. He needed peace. We all needed peace.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines peace as, “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”

Can there be peace in the context of mental illness (MI)? Can we hope for peace? Back in 1997 we experienced God’s peace in the midst of our sorrow.

Surely we have trouble. But we can rejoice: in Him we find peace.

John 16:33 reminds us that Christ’s birth brought peace. Jesus assured his followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Suffering has a way of illuminating joy. How is that possible? Think about it. Serious struggles in life clarify priorities. Small annoyances no longer bother us. Dark trials deepen our faith. Send us to our knees. That’s when we really experience God’s faithfulness, power, and love. The result: inner joy.

What are you hoping for this Christmas? That the calendar days will fly by and the holiday will pass quickly? That you’ll have an incident-free family celebration?

Maybe you’re yearning for the less-complicated life of the past—before MI struck your child.

Do you wonder how you can celebrate with a heavy heart? Are you afraid Christmas lights will mock your dark emotions?

Perhaps what we all need is peace. That’s precisely why we can embrace Christmas more than others who seemingly lead a carefree life. The message of the season is peace. But we know life is filled with stress and trouble. We can count on them: trials. Sooner or later we’ll find ourselves enduring a trial.

Paul accepted that fact and told the Thessalonians, “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3).”

Where can we find hope knowing that we’re bound to experience trials? Raising a child with MI can test our faith. How can we hold onto our belief in a loving, living God?

When things got tough for Paul, the unshakable faith of others kept him strong.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith (1 Thessalonians 3:7).”

We’re like Paul. We see others going through a similar trial raising a child with MI. Their enduring faith encourages us. With bolstered faith we say, “If they can keep the faith during their ordeal, so can I.” Their testimony renews our trust in God. With greater assurance we declare, “If they can keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, so can I.”

In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he encouraged them with this reminder:

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).”

We all share in that ‘eternal encouragement.’ I don’t know about you, but I need endless encouragement. Reassurances from above that will settle my heart. And give me His peace.

The radio has already started playing Christmas songs. I love the familiar carols that remind me of His peace. Songs like these:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

“Hark! the herald angels sing

‘Glory to the newborn King

Peace on earth and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!’”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

“It came upon the midnight clear,

That glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth

With news of joy foretold,

“‘Peace on the earth, good will to men

From heaven’s all gracious King.’”

Give yourself permission to unwrap your Christmas present from God early. Open up Isaiah 9:6. You’ll find that blessed Gift, God’s Son, the Prince of Peace. Along with God’s Gift comes perfect peace. You’ll find the promise of that peace wrapped lovingly in Philippians 4:7.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That’s one re-gifting we can all celebrate! It’s for everyone!!!

 

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Assurances from a prisoner: God is in control

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh and Family

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh and Family

You don’t have to be in jail to feel imprisoned. Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) may feel incarcerated by worry, concern, and grief. Chained to challenges with no way out. Is it possible to have joy in our hearts when MI is in our homes? The apostle Paul would answer, “Yes.”

Paul didn’t begin his letter (written from prison) to the Philippians by saying, “Pray for me. I’m in utter despair. My back has been torn open by beatings and I’m left to hang in this dungeon.”

Instead he wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (Philippians 1:3-4).”

How could he even write the words “thank” and “joy?”

Later in Philippians, Paul implied that he wasn’t always joyful in his circumstances. We read him say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).” Then we understand it was a process for him to find contentment in trials.

Likewise, the more we experience God’s faithfulness, the greater contentment we’ll find in our situations. We surely may not be happy for challenges and heartaches. But it is possible to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control. If you doubt that Truth, just listen to the words of another prisoner.

An American, Pastor Saeed Abedini, has been in an Iranian jail for over two years. He endures ongoing torture and beatings simply because he won’t denounce his faith in Christ. He wrote a letter to his eight-year-old daughter as a birthday gift. Listen to his wife, Naghmeh read that letter. Warning: Kleenex alert!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H1DlJt5mUw

Pastor Abedini assured his daughter that Christ is in control. His unshakable confidence, in the face of evil, comforts us as well. His God is our God.

To hear more of the family’s story, listen to Naghmeh Abedini making her plea to Obama to get her husband home. Her children describe what it’s like to have their father in jail.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/08/11/video-shows-torture-facing-kids-jailed-american-pastor-in-iran/

Pray for God to loosen your chains as you listen to Tasha Cobbs sing ‘Break Every Chain’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pD2zIuiC2g

More Powerful than Pain

Lord.goes.with.us

If you obey the speed limit, the road will sing to you.

Yeah, right.

Newsflash: Melodies motivate motorists.

It’s true. Musical highways are popping up around the world. Sound unbelievable? Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJgCLq4Qo6A&list=PL5kpImGdIpVSiMPZZTUYNJTjT_K7mi8jQ

Drivers will only hear the melody when driving at the correct speed. That’s the point. Curiosity may kill a cat, but it can save a motorist’s life. Maintaining safe speeds to ‘play’ the tune can prevent accidents.

Popularity of these roads is growing because people enjoy the creative prompting to follow speed limits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all warnings could be equally enjoyable?

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can easily lead a mom to dangerous thoughts. Her heart can be filled with fear, worry, and cares. If allowed to fester, worse emotions can result. Like depression and despair. The Bible warns against such contaminated thinking. But how do we resist when life seems so out of control?

God Word is full of loving guidelines. Gentle warnings. Our loving Father couples don’ts with dos, offering us a way out. The biggest warning sign in scripture is hell. But God offers eternal life in heaven through Christ’s death on the cross. All we need to do is accept His free gift of salvation.

There are others:

Don’t fear:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

Don’t fear losing control of your reactions. Do rely on His power, love, and self-discipline.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).”

Don’t fear what will become of your child. Do depend on His perfect love to drive out fear.

Don’t worry:

“‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25, 33-34).’”

Don’t worry what tomorrow may bring. Do seek His kingdom and righteousness.

Don’t cling to cares:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

Don’t hold onto your cares. Do give them to the One who cares for you.

Too often I plunge into my prayers with countless requests. Then I realized that’s not how I approach my son. I don’t start off all my conversations with. “Chris, take out the trash. Do the dishes. Fix my computer. Move that clutter to the shed. Clean your room…” Instead I say, “How are you?” I enter most conversations with a desire to find out more about him. My relationship with him isn’t based on what he will do for me. So why do I treat God like an almighty Santa Clause?

Christ had a reason for instructing us to begin our prayers with, “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10)’”.

He knew our need to shift our focus to Him. When we first contemplate His power, anxieties melt. Pain shrinks in the light of His greatness.

Come to Him first with love. Then the list.  

Many of us can relate to Peter who seemed to personify attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No wonder he offers great advice when we mess up. God doesn’t say, “Off to the dungeon with you!”

Instead, 1 Peter 4:8 reminds us, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

So all we need to do is love (Ephesians 5:2), put on His armor (Ephesians 6:10-17), resist temptation (James 4:7) and draw near to His presence (James 4:8). That’s my formula for victorious living today.

Focus on Him and you listen to Matt Redman’s song ‘Blessed be Your Name.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWKehsOXu8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Loneliness

1.2012.Rachels

Why do you go for a walk? Would it be to exercise, think, relax, or explore? Maybe it’s to take pictures, study creation, or enjoy the scenery?

There are different motivations for walking with someone else. To take a romantic stroll or have an uninterrupted conversation.

Sometimes the walk can be routine or boring. Like walking to get somewhere. Or it could result in a precious memory. Like when my husband and I held the tiny hands of our one-year-old granddaughter.

Aborigines practice a more serious type of walk. They go on a journey—‘going walkabout’—which takes months. The concept of ‘going walkabout’ is new to me. I recently learned about the Australian aborigine ritual from a devotional posted on Rest Ministries by Kerryn. In her message titled ‘Going Walkabout To Be With My Father’ she described the aborigine form of initiation.

Wikipedia explains that a walkabout refers to, “a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.

In this practice they would trace the paths, or “songlines”, that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds.”

I read that and wondered: What are songlines?

The article ‘How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography’ by kuschk offered a description of songlines.

“In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised ‘creator-beings’ during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator-being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator-being is marked in sung lyrics.”

I may not believe in their mythology, but it got me thinking. Do I follow the true Creator’s lead in my life? Psalm 89:15 assures me that, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, Lord.”

How I yearn to find His light in the midst of trials. Sometimes it’s difficult to track God’s lead when raising a child with mental illness (MI). It can be a lonely life. Only someone walking that same desert journey can understand what it’s like. Because of the stigma that surrounds the illness, most moms don’t talk about it. Their hesitancy to reach out compounds the loneliness. Deep sorrow and anguish fill the isolation. We wander aimlessly in an emotional wilderness devoid of understanding companions.

Husbands travel their own wilderness—one of mental wandering. As they struggle to discover the way out…some solution for their child’s pain. A way to fix the problem.

At the root of a mom’s loneliness is her need for someone to understand. Christ understands. He experienced times in the desert and even welcomed lonely places. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

So we can meet Him in our lonely places.

My research about ‘going walkabout’ shed new light on my walk with the Lord.

Tourism Australia promotes the modern-day benefits of going walkabout. Their article ‘Walkabout’ stated, “Today we can learn from the Aboriginal concept of ‘walkabout’ and leave the pressures of everyday life behind to re-discover what is important to us. For the majority of us, going ‘walkabout’ means taking a holiday and using this time to escape the pressures of daily life and to get back in touch with ourselves.  Going ‘walkabout’ restores a sense of magic and wonder to our lives.  It enriches our spirit.”

I like the part about escaping the pressures of daily life. But disagree with getting back in touch with myself. True spiritual enrichment can only be found in Christ. Salvation through Jesus provides me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I can think of no greater wonder than to benefit from the indwelling power of God in me.

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can be painful. It’s a long drawn-out grieving process. Great sadness comes from desiring a better life for our child. Denial teases us on good days.

He seems to be doing so well today. Maybe he’ll be able to handle future stress.

But familiar symptoms return. Reality hits. Grieving returns. Where do we turn?

The world offers solutions. Tourism Australia points out that, “Contemporary understandings of ‘walkabout’ remain true to the concept’s Aboriginal heritage. To go ‘walkabout’ in the 21st century is to escape from the pressures of everyday life and to reconnect with yourself, with loved ones, and with the natural world.”

Escaping ‘from the pressures of everyday life’ sounds enticing. But reconnecting with myself sounds empty. I’d rather retreat and reconnect with Christ. He alone knows my secret pain.

My walk with the Lord should parallel an aborigine walkabout in one way.

Tourism Australia explains that, “a ‘Walkabout’ is not an aimless activity but a deliberate and focused journey connecting Aboriginal people to their traditional lands and spiritual obligations.”

My walk with the Lord should be ‘a deliberate and focused journey.’ What would that be like?

I’ll imagine Christ joining me on my private walkabout. I’ll picture Him joining me when I withdraw to pray for my son who has MI. I’ll ‘watch’ Him wipe away tears from my face and fears from my mind.

I’ll visualize him holding my hand as He guides me through each day. I’ll listen to the songlines He marks along my path. Worship songs will help me be alert to signs of His leading.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for not having a closer walk with You.  How I love spending time in Your presence!  Help me to keep my focus on You, walking with you each day.