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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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Gratitude and Sorrow?

Choose.PS

How many decisions do you think you make each day? Adults make an average of 35, 000 decisions each day.

Some are good, some might be bad, and others might be—hard …really hard…like choosing to be grateful in the midst of sorrow.

Is it possible to choose gratitude in hard times? What might happen if we surrender to sorrow? That decision could lead to the deadly D’s. With us being sucked into the abyss of depression, despair, and discouragement.

Sorrow could be a perfectly normal feeling for a mom raising a child with mental illness (MI). If a child says something bazaar, starts to unravel, refuses to eat or talk, cuts herself, lashes out in unprovoked anger, or abuses substances, sorrow would be a typical emotion. What mom wouldn’t feel deep sorrow while watching helplessly as her child slips away or heads towards disaster?

We wonder what is happening to our MI child when he is away. It’s easy to let our imagination get carried away. For our own mental health, we have to refuse to entertain those fears. When I’m tempted to go down the worry path, I consciously begin to count my blessings.

I’m grateful Chris lives with us. And that he involves himself in constructive activities, rather than isolating. I’m grateful he’s goal-oriented. And that he works to achieve those goals, instead of being unmotivated.

I’m grateful for times we have positive interactions. And that he initiates happy conversations, rather than shutting us out.

I’m grateful when I get glimpses of his intellect, musical ability, or technology talents. And that he’s willing to share those gifts with us from time to time.

Sometimes it’s not that easy to shift emotions. What can we learn from real people in the Bible? The Bible is full of decisions people made.

Some decisions were bad: Jonah decided to run from God’s will.

Some decisions were courageous: The boy David chose to stand up to a giant, in God’s power.

Some decisions were good: The Good Samaritan chose to help the victim of a robbery.

And some decisions were hard: The biological mother of a child told King Solomon to spare her baby’s life and give the boy to the other woman who falsely claimed he belonged to her (instead of dividing the child and giving one half to each woman).

The Psalmist gives us an example of how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions. Many times the writer calls out to God in his despair. Often his cry of fear or sadness is followed by a sharp turn in focus. One tiny word helps him rejoice in God. The word “but” represents a deliberate decision to reconsider his situation in light of God’s power and faithfulness. Essentially, he says, “My situation seems hopeless. But God is able to support, help, deliver, protect, strengthen, and give peace.”

Here’s a list of those “But Verses in Psalms“.

Matt Redman sings about choosing to bless the Lord in all circumstances—good or bad. His song “Blessed Be Your Name” includes these lyrics:

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say, Lord

Blessed be Your name, Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qp11X6LKYY

How to Get Through It

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How would you describe the insurmountable problems facing you? One mother raising a child with mental illness (MI) said, “It’s like a tunnel in the mountains: you can’t go around it; you have to go through it.”

Maybe your challenges are your Mt. Everest. You know you’re out of energy to take another step. You fear an avalanche of sorrow will drown you in a pool of tears (if you start to cry).

Christ used a mountain to encourage His followers. He assured them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Yes, we know that we serve the God who can do the impossible. But, how can we remember that His is able when daily struggles tempt us to forget His power and faithfulness?

I recently stumbled on a strategy. My pastor was giving a message on 2 Thessalonians. He gave a reference in Ezekiel to reinforce a point. I turned to Ezekiel and noticed I had put a box around the phrase ‘the Sovereign Lord.’ Then, I spotted another box with that phrase. And another. And another.

My pastor’s words faded into the background. All I could ‘hear’ was God speaking to me, “I’m sovereign. I’m sovereign. I’m sovereign. I’m sovereign.” Calmness flooded my heart.

I turned the page in Ezekiel and found ‘the Sovereign Lord’ in several more places. So, I boxed them. I found myself searching the entire book of Ezekiel. The repetitious act of boxing that precious phrase settled my heart.

Later that day, I searched the phrase ‘Sovereign Lord’ and found a great article in Christianity.com. In his article, Chip Ingram answers the question, “What does the phrase ‘God is sovereign’ really mean?”

If you’re world seems chaotic and out of control, uncertain and dark, take time to read his article. You’ll be reminded that God IS in control.

So, here’s my tip for the day: head to Ezekiel and do your own hunt for the phrase ‘the Sovereign Lord.’ I pray that the repetition will lead to your reflection of His sovereignty. That truth will relieve anxiety, fear, concern, and worry.

Jason Castro sings about the mountain crumbling faith of Matthew 17:20 in his song ‘Only A Mountain.’

As you listen to his song, reflect on God’s sovereign power that can remove all your fears and anxieties.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxWayfx3p2s

Tangible Reminders

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What’s the strangest thing you have in your home? I’ve got a giant work boot, the size of an umbrella stroller, and a mannequin.

Mannequin

Why, you ask? Those items were part of a collection I had when I taught second graders. The mannequin served as a 3D bulletin board. The giant boot was the perfect size for an eight year old to rest and read a book.  They remind me of fun times.

Other items remind me of God’s work in my life. Like the Post-its in my Bible. When our son, Rob, was a senior in high school, he wanted to have devotions with me. The Post-its represent portions of the Bible we read together. I’ll never remove them.

There’s someone in the Bible who put an unusual item in his tent (or some believe he put it in God’s tabernacle). Read what the boy, David did just after he killed the giant.

“David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent” [1 Samuel 17:54 (KJV)].

What an odd thing to do: store the enemy’s armor in his tent! Why would he do such a thing? It served as a reminder of how God enabled him to have victory over a giant.

Has God enabled you to have victory over the mental illness (MI) giant? What can you use as reminders? Why is it important to have tangible reminders?

We try to forget horrible times when our child struggled with MI. So, we tend to forget that God revealed His power, peace, and presence when we needed it most. That’s why we need reminders. Concrete items preserve the memory of His sufficiency. They help us when challenges return (as we know they will with MI). When the enemy attempts to incinerate our faith, those memories extinguish his efforts. Each memory strengthens our fortress of divine assurance, which protects our heart from breaking.

I know God will carry me through, just as He has done in the past.

My tokens of God’s goodness include: entries in my journal and Bible verses God embedded in my heart during difficult times. I also cherish photographs which depict Chris’s restored mental stability and renewed joy.

What items do you have or could you collect?