Archive | April 2016

Dragons in our Lives

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Chinese Lantern Festival Philadelphia, PA

I didn’t stand in fear of the dragon. In fact, its beauty amazed me.  The vibrant colors lit up the dark sky.  It was just one of countless structures in the Chinese Lantern Festival.  It could do me no harm.

But dragons in our lives are another thing. Like the dragon named Mental Illness (MI). Knowing what it’s done in our child’s life, could anyone embrace that creature as a thing of beauty?

The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke seemed to suggest just that. In his Letters to a Young Poet  he explains, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It seems that Rilke would have us view MI as “something helpless that wants our love.” Seriously?  Such twisted philosophy comes from a man who lived his entire life rejecting Christianity. He searched for deeper meaning in life by writing poetry. His poems, therefore, reflect a troubled inner self.

In The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge he writes, “How is it possible to live when after all the elements of this life are utterly incomprehensible to us?” What a sad view of life!

Those of us who know God and who have an intimate relationship with Him gain an eternal perspective of trials. We have a clear vision of what He has done in the past, how He provides for us in the present, and what He will do in the future.

We see God as the One who has already triumphed. As the One who is greater than any challenges before us. And He is the One who will banish the dragon deceiver. Revelation gives us a picture of God’s ultimate power over deception.

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.” (Revelation 20:1-3).

“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:9).

The deceiver of nations contaminated Rilke’s view of God. He prevented Rilke from finding God in his search for life’s meaning. That deceiver led him astray from knowing God. So Rilke created his own twisted version of God.

But that deceiver of nations does not have to deceive us. We need not listen to that voice that taunts, “God isn’t able to help your child. He’s not even working….” The Bible assures us God IS alive and working in our lives.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

There may be times in our journey that we wonder where God is. But He is faithful to reveal Himself in our darkest days. And His light is more beautiful than the dragon lantern’s vibrant colors that lit up the dark sky. He’s done it for me and he’ll do it for you.


Here’s a peek at some of the photos I took of the Chinese Lanterns. Click on the link below and enjoy a diversion from your day:

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e4451774e7a59344e444e384f5459314f4441314f444d3d0d0a

 

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No Shame

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How do you feel when you’re at a gathering and parents begin bragging about their kids? A mom raising a child with mental illness (MI) might not feel comfortable sharing achievements like, “My child started eating again…My child smiled and talked cheerfully yesterday…My child doesn’t isolate; he exercises regularly and fixes computer problems…”
We secretly celebrate our child’s victories. Why? Maybe because we think others wouldn’t understand. Honestly, it’s also because we harbor unnecessary shame. The stigma of MI stifles us.
We feel judged. Most of us imagine what others must think about us raising a child with MI. Some have actually been judged. People, who have no clue what challenges we face, have acted like experts. As if sitting on their self-imposed thrones of perfect parenting, sharing their wise advice.
In our thoughts we imagine revenge: You should TRY living just one day in my life and see how you’d cope!
We can related to the psalmist who said, “May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace” (Psalm 35:26).
Surely, those who judge us should be the ones who feel shame. Yet, we’re the ones who are made to feel shame.
We don’t deserve to be judged. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if others could understand? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could let everyone know we didn’t do anything to cause our child’s MI?
God did just that for Job. The Creator of the universe set Satan straight in his judgment of Job.
“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’” (Job 1:8).
Even though Job had God’s stamp of approval, he was still made to feel shame when his friends made accusations. Job felt powerful shame. In his physical condition Job felt emotional torment. He revealed his needless shame by saying, “If I am guilty—woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction” (Job 10:15).
How can we remove the ugly cloak of shame others place on us? By proclaiming with resolve,
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).
The easy-to-read version of Isaiah 50:7 gives us a simpler way to memorize it: “The Lord God will help me, so the bad things they say will not hurt me. I will be strong. I know I will not be disappointed.”
The Lord protects our hearts from needless pain and then fills our hearts with praise.  The blooming trees and flowers remind me that God’s able to restore joy.
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations”
(Isaiah 61:11).
Have a shame-free and joyful day!

Rain to Wash Away Confusion

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“Mother Nature is confused,” reported the meteorologist. The roller coaster temperatures of early spring led him to that conclusion.  Weather reporters often get the weather wrong. We can’t blame them. They’re not God. They’re not in control of the weather. So I can excuse a faulty weather prediction.  But I take issue with a false statement. The meteorologist can’t give “Mother Nature” credit for controlling weather.

Even the report, “God is confused” would be inaccurate. God isn’t confused. I’m sure He knew just what He was doing when He sent a burst of snow on April 9th.  Those of us who were weary of winter moaned. But the fact that we have seasons is evidence that God still IS in control.

After Noah finally exited from his ark, he built an alter to the Lord to worship Him. God promised never again to destroy every living thing. He said, As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22).

When things in our world go wacky, there’s comfort in the knowledge that God still IS in control. We may be confused about what’s happening in our lives. We may wonder why our most fragile child has to struggle with mental illness (MI).  We’re not alone. I’m guessing at some point everyone wonders what’s going on. They ask, “How did I get here?” and “Why is this happening?”

The Israelites wandering in the wilderness became confused when they became hungry. Confusion caused hundreds of thousands of God’s people to complain.

“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’” (Exodus 16:2-3).

God had freed them from captivity. But things seemed much worse.

They wondered, How did we get here?  Why is this happening?

I’ll bet you’ve wondered the same thing when you watched your child with MS suffer. In your confusion you may have wondered, How did we get here?  Why is this happening?

Jacob also must have been confused. He had made a deal with Laban to work seven years for him so he could marry Laban’s beautiful daughter, Rachel. But after Jacob fulfilled his end of the bargain, Laban tricked Jacob and gave him his other less-beautiful daughter, Leah. And required Jacob to serve Laban for seven more years to get Rachel as his wife.

Jacob must have wondered, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

I’ll bet you’ve wondered the same thing. After you’ve invested all your best efforts and your child still has MI, your confusion may have caused you to wonder, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

Jacob’s son, Joseph must have also been confused. His brothers conspired to kill him and then decided instead to sell him to the Ishmaelites (who later sold him to the Egyptians).

Joseph must have wondered in his confusion, How did I get here? What did I do to deserve this?

But Joseph’s bad times turned good. His master saw that the Lord was with Joseph. So he elevated Joseph to the position of overseer.

“From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).

But soon Joseph’s good time turned bad again. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to lie with her. When he refused, she falsely accused him of a crime. And Potiphar threw him into prison.  Here’s what Joseph said to one of his fellow captives, a butler:

“I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” (Genesis 40:15).

Joseph was echoing his father’s confusion as he wondered, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

After two years, Pharaoh called for Joseph to be taken out of the dungeon to interpret his dream. God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dream and its meaning. Pharaoh elevated Joseph to be over his house, all the people and over all the land of Egypt. Things were once again good in Joseph’s life.

Where was God during all Joseph’s trials? Had God abandoned him during the tough times? Through good and bad time, the Bible tells us that the Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-3, 21).

During our darkest days, we may also wonder, Where is God? No matter what the weather, the seasons are proof God is real and He is with us.

“But God was always there doing the good things that prove he is real. He gives you rain from heaven and good harvests at the right times. He gives you plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” [Acts 14:17 (ERV)].

Dear Father, remove all confusion from our minds. Fill our hearts with joy once again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.