The Need For Rest Will Just Have To Do For Now

The last time I was sick on Christmas was five years ago… before my life was drastically altered after meeting my husband and embracing the Christian faith wholeheartedly for the first time. I had traveled to Colorado via Greyhound to spend the holiday with my best friend and her kids. Taking the bus was a great way to get out of the city to venture the beaten path with my camera after the end of a six-year relationship I never should have been in, and the end of a disillusionment for an affair that would never be more than a roll in the hay. 

Yeah, I’d had better days and the opportunity to run away from home was enchanting. The road to freedom was a little more traveled than I wanted it to be though; it took three days to get to Colorado and five to get home. I remember getting stuck in the Dallas bus station for a day and a half while a snowstorm wrecked havoc just north of us. I was still trying to get to Colorado, and I was completely at the mercy of a storm I couldn’t even see. It wasn’t snowing in Dallas where I was, but all around me it was coming down so heavy that travel all the way up to Denver was at a halt. I just wanted to get where I was going, and I wanted answers. There was no way out and nowhere to feel safe. 

I think it took a good 12 hours before they finally brought a bus out for us weary-eyed travelers to sleep on. I was so thankful… all I wanted was answers and rest, but I would settle at the moment for just some rest. It’s how I’m feeling again after all these years.

Cancer has a way of eating away at your soul… if you’ll let it. Sometimes I do, I won’t lie. Sometimes, I give in and let the cancer take a bite or two out of me. Sometimes it takes a few days, weeks, or months for me to wake up out of the chokehold-slumber that cancer is and stumble again onto my faith. On Christmas Day, it was just a reminder staring back at me that reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yesterday, it was a complete meltdown on the living room sofa where I begged God to help me over and over again. Today, it might look like something completely different but I’m not giving up. 

The answers may come another day but for today, I’m going to take the rest that comes with knowing Him. 

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A Refuge For The Oppressed

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I wrote a song on my last album called, “Don’t Let Me Get Comfortable.” It’s one of those songs with a strong message that had to have come from up above because I was just a baby Christian at the time. Especially considering it’s something I’m still grappling with. It sounds like cake when the sun is out, but let a storm roll in and it’s hard not to run for shelter.

When I think of shelter, I normally think of the comfy couch in my living room. Even the seats in my mini-van aren’t that bad. But what if you had to endure the storm way past your limit in order to have the things you really wanted? Would you weather the storm or settle on whatever is closest just to get out of the rain? If you’re just looking to get out of the rain, you might settle for something like this…

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Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Does it bring you a sense of peace? I feel like I would be in even more danger in that shack than I would be outside of it. And isn’t that how it feels sometimes when we are in a hurry to find peace?

When we get tired and fed up with our current situation we will look for anything to make us feel better.

We decide to seek shelter in the world from things that don’t provide the comfort we are seeking. It may be food, drugs, sex, money, gambling… even relationships with people we know aren’t good for us. For me it’s food, sweets specifically and with everything I’m going through, it’s the last thing on earth I need. On that note, I’m just going to put these jellybeans aside.

The good news is that it is okay to seek comfort in stressful times, but it should come from God.

It is okay to come in out of the rain, but we have to be mindful of what’s really going on. We need to know in every given situation if we are choosing comfort provided by the Lord, or comfort provided by the world. Are we looking for a quick bandaid or true healing? We also have to make sure that our seeking comfort is not a way for us to escape the path He has set us on (which is what my song was about).

There are many verses in the bible that talk about comfort during trying times, especially in the Book of Psalms. Psalm 9:9 tells us that “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Elsewhere in the Psalms, we learn that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (46:1). And then of course, there is Psalms 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

When we are in a rainy season, or even a season of waiting, it is easy to give in to temptation and mistake it for comfort. On the other hand, when we seek the arms of the Lord, there is never a guilt residue. There is never the thought of “I should have done this, or I shouldn’t have done that.” When we seek comfort from God, we truly receive peace, hope, comfort, and love. I pray these things find a way to your heart, whatever your season.

Defining Weakness

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It was supposed to say strong. That’s what I really wanted to communicate to a pastor I was talking to this morning. I wanted to say, “be strong…” but the Spirit told me no. So instead my words came out as…

Stay weak so that He can be strong in you.

Not easy to type, not easy to read. Not easy to digest and say to another person. I mean, what does that even mean? I shared it with my husband, and his first response was “why would you want to remain weak?” I’m sure I would get that response from a lot of people.

In case you didn’t know, I’ve been dealing with sickness a lot lately. Headaches, nausea, numbness, vertigo, as well as vision and hearing issues. Been like this since the first of the year.  Being that it’s the 9th of February, I’ve been dealing with this for 40 days. The good news is that a ton of people are praying for me, and my MRI will be done tonight.

40 days is a long time to endure the wilderness of suffering.

During this time, you are in disbelief that it has been so long and you’re tired and desperate for relief. There are days when you suffer more and days when you suffer less, but overall you’re still suffering. And when you are in the wilderness, there is weakness. The pain is wearing you down. It’s all you can focus on, and you do your best to get through your days with impairment affecting you on many levels. You can’t do the things you used to do. You make modifications to your lifestyle so you can get by, and you try to rely on others more than you really want to. For all intents and purposes, you are weak.

With our American independence, weakness can seem like a pretty dirty word. Why would we want to appear weak or lean on someone else? Often, people with illness and disabilities are left to fend for themselves because we live in a “me, me, me” society. No one seems to really care how you are feeling, what you are dealing with, or what you can and can’t do until it affects them personally. Sure, that can be upsetting to acknowledge but as hard as we try, it really is difficult to walk in someone else’s shoes. Especially when that person is in pain all the time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about 2 Corinthians 12:9. The words have not left me, and I find myself meditating on them, trying to understand the depth of their meaning:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

What does that mean? How is grace enough? How can I apply this to what I am currently going through? This is what I have been wrestling with and I’m sure it had something to do with why I told the pastor to stay weak. No one chooses weakness; we would all rather take life by the reigns and do things on our own. Why let God take over when the sin of pride says that you got this?

The thing about ministry is “you don’t got this.” You truly can do nothing worthwhile for the Kingdom if your interests and your desires are steering you.

You and God can’t lead at the same time.

That being said, it is a lot harder to walk away and let God take over when you feel like you still have enough control in life to be strong on your own. When you are fighting sickness, you already feel out of control.

I’ve noticed some things in the last 40 days as I’ve battled whatever it is my body is going through. For one, listening to or writing worship music seems to strengthen me to the point that I can move past the pain I’m feeling. It doesn’t make it go away but it is no longer the object of my consciousness. This also seems to be the case when I’m actively involved in ministry work, like when I led my small group recently or when I’m working with the youth for the Fine Arts competition this year.

When I am focused on working for Him, regardless of how I feel, He steps in and gives me the strength to help me get through it.

When I am weak, there is room for God to do a work in me. I have made a way for Him to perform a miracle only He can do. How many miracles can He do if I’m leading the way? None. I may not have a choice over being weak from my illness, but I see now the beauty in it. I’m starting to understand how suffering does not have to be such a bad thing, even longsuffering. When I look at those that have endured pain all their lives, I’ve often wondered how they do it. Now I know – it was never them but God himself.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Growing My Faith

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Hurricanes are scary. In all of my time living in North Florida, we have had many predicted to come here but nothing could ever compare to Hurricane Matthew. Back in the day, you just had a hurricane party; this time, my family had to evacuate.
 
Can I share something with you? I got a little too wrapped up in anxiety with this storm. I had been watching it for at least a week ahead of time, keeping my manager in the loop so that we could make decisions at work. All of that time researching, studying storm surge maps, wind tables, etc. etc. resulted in me forgetting about my faith a bit. I got so wrapped up in the storm that in a lot of ways, I brought it with me when we made it to Alabama. It was as if my faith had been pulled up out of the ground, and I was just a mess. I knew that we were safe but I just couldn’t let go of the anxiety until we were safely back in our own home.
 
I know what the bible says. I know that I shouldn’t be anxious. It’s a reminder to me that I still have some work to do in growing my faith. I want my faith to be unshakable. I want a solid foundation to stand on, and I realize that the enemy wins every time I give in to the anxiety instead of giving it to God. I need to keep working on that Armor of God.
 
Psalms 55:22 is my new life verse: “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
 
What are you holding on to? What do you need to give to God to strengthen your faith? Respond below.

Amazing Grace

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“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me the strength for my work because he knew he could trust me. I used to say terrible and insulting things about him, and I was cruel. But Christ had mercy on me because I didn’t know what I was doing, and I had not yet put my faith in him. Christ Jesus our Lord treated me with undeserved grace and has greatly blessed my life with faith and love just like his own.”
1 Timothy 12:14
This is EXACTLY how I feel. I did used to say very bad things about God. I couldn’t stand Him or the name Jesus. Literally used to make me cringe. But I have been freed from my prejudice and now live my life with full understanding, full knowledge and truth. Thank you Jesus for saving a wretch like me.