Those “Aha!” Moments . . . .

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary refers to the times when we experience, “a sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension” as,“Aha!” moments. When they happen, they typically grab our attention as we realize an adjustment needs to be made in our perspective.

My first, “Aha!”moment. as a young adult took place when I was 19. I was talking to a customer at my dad’s dry cleaners while waiting for his order to be put together. Mr. White was a postman who had watched my brother and I grow up serving customers for many years. As we waited for his last pair of pants to be pressed, Mr.White and I were enjoying a jovial conversation about the qualities I was looking for in the man I would consider marrying.  Mr. White laughed as I chattered, quite enjoying the mostly one-sided conversation. It wasn’t until there was a lull in my chattering that Mr. White spoke these words: “Those are amazing qualities you’re looking for, Kathie. But have you ever thought about what you have to offer such a man?” I can remember feeling my inflated ego burst like a balloon, as I inwardly realized that I had a lot more to think about (and work on!), if marriage was to ever be in my future!

“Beautiful possibilities to be worked out over time . . . .”

For Christians committed to living an intentional faith, “Aha!” moments can be important markers of spiritual growth and maturity. They happen fairly frequently working in the Counseling Room, as each Session is opened with a prayer asking God to, “Direct the path of our conversation.” He continually proves Himself faithful, by leading us to Scripture that lends insight and direction to navigate through the problem(s) the Client is facing.

Here is an example of such a moment that happened a few weeks ago:

As I watched and listened to an already stressed Client list the things that contribute to her anxiety, I could see an expanding mountain of guilt threaten to overwhelm her. As I listened, a verse from Proverbs came to the forefront of my mind:

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
she can laugh at the days to come.”
Proverbs 31:25

It is a beautiful picture of a godly woman who trusts and honors God with her life.  Even so, I tried to ignore the verse because I knew that it is part of the description of “The Wife of Noble Character.”* Thought by many as being a guilt-inducing, daily “to-do” list–myself included-the passage exalts a woman who buys fields, plants vineyards, manages her household and feeds the poor while her husband spends his time sitting at the city gate! (As one already depressed and anxious Client asked me years ago–“Does this woman ever sleep?!!!”) When viewed as an impossible “to do” list, the passage can be overwhelming!

However, trusting that the Holy Spirit had brought the verse to my mind for my Client, I felt convicted that we should at least go to the passage. When we did, my heart softened as I saw the passage with fresh eyes. Rather than being a daily”to-do” list, I saw the Proverbs 31 passage as a picture of a life dedicated to trusting and honoring God over time. To be clothed with strength and dignity, and to no longer be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, is to rely on God every moment of every day.

With that insight, the passage became a picture of beautiful possibilities to be worked out–as God guides His own through the challenges that WILL come.

In reading verse 25 as God’s goal for His children and then looking at the passage as being worked out over a lifetime, both my Client and I experienced the refreshment of an “Aha!” moment. Suddenly, wisdom and hope replaced guilt and anxiety as we understood that we are to no longer rely on ourselves but look to God as our faithful Shepherd.

Weeks later, that insight continues to inspire and encourage me and several other Clients I have shared it with.

Do you have an “Aha!” moment you can share that God gave you? Here’s your opportunity to pass the blessing you received on, by writing it in the comments below.

All to His Glory!

*Proverbs 31:10-31.

Hope At Easter: An Anchor For The Soul . . . .

It was a miracle. The morning after watching the blazing fire that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral, there was little hope that there would be anything left but an empty, burned out shell. Yet, even as the fire raged, something miraculous took place as newscasters talked about the historic roots of the 800-year-old cathedral:

  • How those involved with the construction of the Cathedral–over the course of 200 years–dedicated what they were building to the Glory of God.
  • They noted that there are NO NAMES of those who built the architectural marvel, nor are there names attached to the multiplicity of statues or its world-acclaimed stained glass windows during those first 200 years.
  • They marveled at the mysterious dedication of a people (servants of Christ) who loved God and wanted nothing more than to pour out their lives to glorify Him.
“We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19a

After burning through most of the night the fire was finally extinguished. The next morning, the world watched and wondered: Would there be anything left within the charred ruin?  The first pictures taken of the altar, showed the Cross of Christ anchored firmly in its rightful place for all to see. After watching the blazing inferno of just hours before, it was nothing short  of another miracle!

As I reflect on this week, knowing that Jesus declared victory over death with His Resurrection and is coming again, I am struck by an even greater mystery:

 Why did Jesus follow the trail that eventually lead to taking the punishment we deserved upon Himself?

That question has fired up many a theological discussion that I have no intention of entering into here. Instead, I offer to you a word picture given in Hebrews that invites all to look to and learn from Christ’s example witnessed that horrific day:

Therefore, . . . let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of faith.
Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 13:1,2

Joy? Yes . . . JOY.

Despite His pain and suffering, Jesus saw beyond His immediate circumstances to the fulfillment of His Father’s Eternal Goal. With this call to repentance and faith in Christ, comes an assurance that brings about an eternal peace rooted deeply in the souls of all who trust in Him:

We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Hebrews 6:19a

I just saw a news report of multiple churches bombed in Sri Lanka with many fatalities and injuries. While mourning the pain of loss and suffering inflicted this Easter morning, we find courage and strength in the promises given in Revelation so long ago:

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Christ has risen . . . He has risen indeed . . . Come Lord Jesus, COME!

All to His Glory!

 

 

 

 

 

A Season To Remember . . . .

What comes to your mind when you think of Thanksgiving? My thoughts go immediately to familyfood and giving thanks to God–not just for the “stuff” in my life but for His Divine Presence.

 I remember one Thanksgiving traveling to Grandma and Grandpa Hutcherson’s house from our home in the Los Angeles area. The three-and-a-half hour journey, North from LA to Bakersfield and beyond to Pixley (a small farming community where my dad grew up) was never boring.  As we (Mom, Dad, my brother Norm, and I) made our way out of the busyness of the suburbs, we watched the sunrise in the east. We followed the old Highway 99 Grapevine–tmountainous yet devoid of trees (except for the occasional cluster of black oaks scattered across the dry, grassy landscape– it offered a unique beauty. As we followed 99 down to the wide expanse of the Central Valley, where oil fields and farmland commingled, our excitement grew–we were more than halfway to Grandma and Grandpa’s house!

When we finally reached Pixley we were grateful to stretch our legs as we got out of our car and exchanged hugs all around. Throughout the day, as more family arrived, there were always more hugs and lots of conversation, often spiced with gentle teasing and an abundance of laughter. Grandma Grace, a farmer’s wife and the mother of 6 children, always had things well in hand by the time everyone arrived.The fragrance of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy wafting out of her kitchen had us all salivating as we eagerly listened for the magic words, “Time to eat! Once everything was laid out and the call made, we filled our plates high with Grandma’s fixings and the numerous side-dishes other family brought for our Thanksgiving Feast. Reflecting back, with my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and several cousins now gone, it remains a little slice of heaven in my bank of memories . . .💝💝💝

This year . . . the year of COVID–Thanksgiving (and Christmas) will be very different from years past. The warm exchange of hugs will largely be missing and the sharing of food will likely be different too. In fact this holiday season will be one of mourning the loss of loved ones and facing uncertainty.  I don’t know about you, but with so much loss and the “restrictions” placed on many, the idea of any sort of traditional “celebration” seems almost impossible,

So how can we bring good (and perhaps discover blessing) during this tough, unexpected circumstance we find ourselves in? The wisdom of the Apostle Paul provides a timeless framework when it comes to living out God’s will in every season::

“Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • Rejoice that when life seems out of control, God is still in control.
  • Pray for your concerns with the confidence that you are heard!.
  • Give thanks to God for watching over you, especially in the tough times.
  • Remember that God sees a larger picture than we do, as He works out His good and perfect will, for our good and His Glory.

How can we work this out practically? How can we bring more light (and with it hope) into this holiday season as we celebrate God’s Sovereign Goodness? Here are some thoughts  to help make this years celebration, is a season to remember:

  1. To be more intentional in “unwrapping” God’s gift of each new day–confessing fears/sin while asking Him to help us see His blessing throughout each day.
  2. Use whatever means available to stay connected with people–especially people you can laugh with to keep your spirits up. (I participate in three different Zoom groups each week that help me take my focus off myself as I connect with others.)
  3. Start a special Thanksgiving Journal –covering the holiday season through Epiphany. Fill it with a log of daily praises (add to it a list of the blessings you have received or witnessed during the past year.) Also include concerns and insights gained that day through people as well as in Scripture,.
  4. Watch for ways to help the needy. (It’s a fact that when we help others we are also encouraged.)
  5. I still plan on decorating my home this Season–focused on the Birth of Jesus–in the hope of encouraging hurting neighbors and friends. (No schlock this year!)

This morning I found comfort in Lamentations that lend a helpful perspective on why thanksgiving to God is so very important this year:

“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,
to the one who seeks Him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:19-26

Yes, because of the Lord’s great love we have much to give thanks for. Please join me in giving thanks to Him for the hope that is ours in His Son.

What are some of your thoughts about celebrating the coming Season? Please share with the rest of us in the comments below!

All to His Glory!

When Evil Appears To Have The Upper-Hand . . . .

Several years ago I listened to the testimony of a man who had escaped the atrocities being committed against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.  The man went into grim detail about what he had witnessed–entire families being buried alive, young and old suffering torturous deaths–because they refused to abandon their faith.  The man was obviously dismayed by the retelling, yet it was as he described the perpetrators of such evil as “animals” devoid of their humanity, that he sobbed uncontrollably.

As I watched I realized that he was crying out to God–not only for the people who were killed or for those who are still trapped or have been displaced from their loved ones and homes–the man wept as he begged God to save the perpetrators of evil from themselves. As I watched I remembered Jesus crying out on the Cross:

“Father forgive them . . .
for they know not
what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34

When evil appears to have the upper-hand, how are Christians to respond?  It is tempting to react in kind-–“an eye for an eye”—that’s biblicalright?  Here is what Jesus had to say about that:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. 
If someone strikes you
on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic,
let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile,
go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you,
and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” 

Matthew 5:38-42

With regard to dealing with our enemies, Jesus went on to say:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” 

(Verses 43-45a)

To turn the other cheek, to offer one’s cloak or go the extra mile are not passive acts–they are examples of an intentional Christ-centered love that is not of this world.  Such love and prayer should always go hand-in-hand when it comes to dealing with evil.  The man in the interview saw the deadness in the eyes of his perpetrators and wept for them–and so should we.  We should weep and pray as we remember that it is from such deadness that we have been saved.

When evil appears to have the upper hand, Christian love reaches out intentionally and sacrificially to help those in need.  The entire chapter of Romans 12 gives instruction on how we are to respond when evil threatens.  It says in part:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.

(verses 9-13)

The Apostle Paul also warns against repaying evil for evil, but encourages the faithful to trust God to bring about ultimate justice:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right . . .
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath . . .
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

(Verses 17:19-20)

As I reflect on all of this I am struck by how much courage it takes to love as Christ loves us. I wrote this post six years ago and decided I needed the reminder it contains today.  How about you? Living in the world we live in, does it at times come easier to hate than to love?

I invite you to join me in praying for the courage needed to love as He directs our steps.  Rather than giving way to hatred, pray for wisdom and a deepened faith as we resist the temptation to repay evil with evil–God IS in control and is worthy of our trust!

All to His Glory!

On Coming Full Circle . . . .

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are of the times when Dad and I stayed up talking all through the night about “life”, family and him fighting as a Marine machine gunner in Korea. He was 23 years old when he was drafted in 1950–having to leave my mom with a just-turned 2 year old little girl named Kathie and another baby (my brother Norm) due to be born in December.

I loved our through-the-night-chats because I learned so much about my dad:

  • Dad and I – November 14, 1970

    He talked about growing up on a farm during the Depression in California; seeing impoverished-looking people move into the state looking for work.

  • Dad talked about how special it was the night I was born–the only girl in the nursery with five baby boys. Dad insisted that the other fathers were “jealous” that he got the only girl!
  • He also talked about fighting in Korea: about how poor the people were who were running for their lives and about many of the young men he served with who, “Didn’t make it home.” 

It was during one of those all night chats that Dad spoke about the future decisions I would face as an adult. One conversation that remained vivid in my mind took place when I was about 11: “Kathie, there will come a time when you will tell me you are in love and want to get married. At that time I will tell you whether I approve or not. If I don’t approve I will tell you only once. If you decide to go ahead and marry anyway, the choice will ultimately be on you. Just remember that you will have to live with the consequences of making that decision for the rest of your life.”

That conversation stayed with me for years. It influenced who I dated, especially who I brought home. When Marshall and I met the attraction was almost instantaneous. When we wanted to get married, we announced our decision rather than asking for permission. Both our families seemed to approve and we started making plans for our wedding.

It was on the night before our wedding that things came full circle. Dad and I had finished work at our family business and were headed over to Marshall’s parents home where the Rehearsal Dinner was going to occur. (The idea was that we would meet at their place, go to the church together for the wedding rehearsal and, when finished, the entire wedding party would go back to enjoy the dinner Marshall’s mother had prepared.)  It was after Dad turned onto Marshall’s parents driveway that he suddenly slammed on the brakes and looked over at me. Because it was in mid-November it was dark, so I couldn’t see him very well. Yet the gentleness of his words washed over me powerfully as he said, “Kathie, your mother and I are very proud of you and of Marshall. You definitely have made the right choice.”

In that moment, the 11 year old girl in me, who so wanted to please her daddy, suddenly felt whole. It was if a soothing balm suddenly made how I saw my future even brighter. I remember little of the rehearsal or the dinner, but I absolutely do remember standing in the beautiful old stone building while holding onto Dad’s strong arm–knowing I had his approval.  I also remember entering the candlelit sanctuary with Dad, and the wonder of seeing the smiling faces of so many family and friends who came to witness Marshall and I say our vows. Most of all I remember the joy of seeing Marshall waiting for me to begin our own new circle.

Fifty years later, having raised three amazing children and continuing to enjoy our 7 grandchildren, I feel as if we have in many ways come full circle. As we celebrate, we do so with gratitude to God for His faithfulness in keeping us together, soothing the rough places with His Presence and making us whole. After sharing five decades of life, the wisdom of Solomon has become increasingly precious to us:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Do you have a “full circle” story you can share? I would love to hear it in the comments below . . .❤️

All to His Glory!

Truly Free . . . .

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

Freedom is something we long for and yet often eludes us.  Many times we attribute our struggle to low self-esteem forged in our past that keeps us in bondage. I believe it runs deeper than that.  As I have said to many clients over two-and-a-half decades, 

It’s not your self-esteem that’s the problem.
Rather, it’s your esteem for Christ that will truly make you free.

Perfectionism defined:

1. The theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth.
2. A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.)

Speaking from personal experience, I would add a third:

3. Perfectionism is a robber of joy when pursued apart from Christ Jesus.

After battling depression for many years, what freed me from that pattern of self-destruction came one night in a dream. (At least I think it was a dream, even though to this day it remains so very vivid in my mind.) In that dream:

I saw myself standing next to God on a mountainside, our back silhouettes enhanced against the setting sun. How did I know it was God? I cannot say, I just did. As we stood together I realized that we were looking across a landscape that represented my life. There were rolling hills and steep valleys, winding roads and straight. As I took in the sizable expanse that represented my life up to that point I recognized the pain of rejection and betrayal in many of the valleys as well as delightful paths I had enjoyed with others. As the sun continued to set and the light shifted, I saw beauty (and even hope) in the darkest places as I realized that He had been with me every step of the way.

I cannot tell you how long we stood there, God and I . . . but I can tell you that it was a transforming moment that warmed my heart as never before. I realized then, that having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, I could for the first time in my life say that I liked me! I gave thanks to God in that moment for both the dark and light places, because I realized that they all came together by God’s design to make me, “ME”. 

As I reflected on all that I saw, I understood that I would not have the sensitivity to the pain of other people (having counseled for over twenty-five years) were it not for the pain of my past. In my having experienced the darker places–inflicted by others or by my own hand–I more readily embrace the sovereign goodness of God over my life. Only in the blood and saving work of Christ Jesus are we truly free! 

To this day I continue to be encouraged by the impact of that dream, giving thanks to Jesus for freeing me to live for, love and serve Him with a glad heart. I share my story with you in the hope that, if you are in bondage to your past or to perfectionism, that you will embrace the only One who can make you truly free . . .

        “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
     having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
     that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” 
James 1:12

Now a slave has no permanent place in the family,
but a son belongs to it forever.
So if the Son sets you free,
you will be free indeed.”

John 8:35, 36

All to His Glory!

 

Never Felt More Alive . . . .

It has been over six weeks since I knew I was closer to death than I had ever been before, and yet . . . I had never felt more alive. After being hospitalized with a badly infected perforated ulcer and then having problems with my heart, I was finally released from the hospital and wrote the following to a friend:

Thank you for your prayers! They carried me through many a cliff-hanger as doctors and nurses did everything they could to save my life.. Once the surgery was done, that took the back burner as two nurses worked through two nights to restore the natural rhythm of my heart. It was tough in many, many ways. But God blessed me with His presence and peace, which many non-believers who watched the drama unfold could not deny. It took 3 days and switching around countless medications to finally get the rhythm of my heart restored.

“Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display Your power among the peoples.
With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people . . . .”
Psalm 77:13-17

I never realized how awkward it is to write about something that you know happened, but there is no other explanation for it except to say, it was a miracle.

Miracle defined: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.*

As I write about some of the “extraordinary events” that happened after being unexpectedly hospitalized, I do so in the hope of enlarging the vision of those of you who are facing challenges you would never have chosen for yourselves.  I invite all to draw your own conclusion as to whether it was God “intervening in human affairs” or if it was something else. (I would love to hear your thoughts.)

In the first of this three post series** I wrote about“sheltering in place” for months because of COVID-19, and how the thought of going to the hospital and picking up the virus terrified me. Then the night came when, finding myself in unbearable abdominal pain, I had no other choice than to face my greatest fear. As the ambulance siren wailed I found myself praying this simple prayer:

Thank you God that You love me and that I am not alone,
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what!

Such was the beginning of an adventure that would transform my faith in remarkable ways. It was that first night and into the next day that I came to understand this simple truth:

 God often uses the very things we are most afraid of
to draw us closer to Himself.

In my second post I wrote how God has faithfully worked in the lives of people since the beginning of time. I pointed to the prophet Elijah, who ran away when Jezebel threatened to kill him. The passage talks about how God ministered to Elijah and how eventually Elijah “pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” when he heard God speak in “a gentle whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-13) In that post I wrote about  learning to listen for His gentle whisper when fearful, discouraged or feeling utterly alone.  The night I was wheeled through the Emergency Room doors I heard that gentle whisper in my mind asking, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

Looking back all these weeks later, I can now see that when I responded to God’s question (at first tentatively and then fully) with, “Yes Lord, I will trust in You!” –it was then that the Holy Spirit stepped in. During the entire time He helped me take my eyes off myself/my fears and to choose to trust in God’s sovereign goodness.

Only now, as I reflect back on the night of my surgery, can I better appreciate what happened. Scheduled for exploratory surgery at five that evening I was remarkably at ease. In fact, as I was wheeled into the surgical room I suddenly remembered having seen the same setting of lights, people and a surgical table waiting when I had my tonsils removed when I was about six years old. For me, it was a pleasant memory as I remembered seeing stars after they put the mask over my face. That is my last memory until I was taken back to my room three hours later. I was told the surgery was a success, but I paid little attention to it as I watched two nurses diligently work through the night trying to get my heart rate under control. As they worked together the lights were low, and it felt like being in a cathedral.  Surrounded by a scattering of vaulted light and soft, shimmering colors, the nurses ran lines of various combinations of medications to finally stabilize me. I watched and prayed but experienced no fear and no pain. Finally the male nurse (Shawn) spoke to me: “Mrs. Siler, your hair is shining!” Moments later he exclaimed, “Mrs. Siler, your skin is beautiful!” and then asked, “Mrs Siler, what are you doing?” All I could think to say was, “I’m cheering you on!”

It wasn’t until weeks later that I thought about Shawn’s question: What WAS I doing?!! I thought about how they couldn’t understand how I was able to stay with them as I teetered on the edge of life and death!

  • Humanly speaking I should have been exhausted. I’d had major surgery to address a life threatening issue just hours before. (Imagine my surprise when, days later, I saw the seven inch incision down my middle being held together by fourteen staples!).
  • Yet I was clear-headed, not a bit fearful and felt no pain. (My only concern for the nurses.)
  • In fact, I felt exhilarated to the point where I cannot remember ever feeling more alive!

The only reasonable answer was the working of the Holy Spirit in me. It was indeed, “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs” .

So what can we learn from this?

  1. God often uses the very things we are most afraid of to draw us closer to Himself.
  2. To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest requires that we be fully invested in Him–not our fears or the things of this world.

But how can we avoid giving way to our fears/emotions and the stress that is so much a part of this world? The Apostle Paul put it well: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) To fight the onslaught of emotions that can so easily overtake us, I have found it most helpful to simply bring Christ into the center of my thinking:

Thank you, God, for loving me and
for sending your Son to save me for Yourself.
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to live for, love and serve You with a glad heart.

The words of Jesus that flew like a banner in my mind when I first entered the hospital, continue to be true for all who choose to trust in Him:

“I have come that they (YOU!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

All to His Glory!

*Merriam-Webster Dictionary
**To access the first and second posts of this series press here >>Not Afraid << for the first post and here >> The Fullness Of Life << for the second.

 

The Fullness Of Life . . . .

Inspiring words posted by a friend about to lose her hair due to cancer treatment:

“And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The stars are beautiful this morning, Venus in the eastern sky like a diamond. The moon in the southwestern sky. Every star has a name given by the Lord. Billions just like us, the sparrows, the hairs on my head, all the good and bad cells in our bodies, He knows it all. And with His great love, mercy, grace and justice, new every morning.”

As I write to you, I do so to share my story about the largeness of God and how He can use what we most fear to draw us closer to Himself.  We see it happen again and again in Scripture as we read about how He worked in the lives of people determined to trust Him since the beginning of time:* 

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
1 Kings 19:11-13

 This picture of how God ministered to Elijah, after Jezebel threatened to kill him, is one of my favorites.  Full of fear, discouraged and feeling abandoned, Elijah wanted to die.  But God still had plans for him.  In the passage God was not in the wind; nor was He in the earthquake or fire.  Instead, Elijah recognized God’s voice in, “a gentle whisper.”  I love it because I have learned to listen for His whisper when fearful, discouraged or I am feeling utterly alone: “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” Perhaps you have heard Him too?

In my last post  I told you about how I had “sheltered in place” for months because of COVID-19. During that time, the thought of having to go to the hospital terrified me most of all. Twice I experienced bouts of extended heart palpitations (when I normally would have gone to the hospital) but did not go because I so feared picking up the virus.

That changed on the night of August 4, when I was overcome by abdominal pain that was so severe that I could not walk. I screamed for my husband to call an ambulance. As the crew bundled me into the back of the ambulance my husband was told not to follow because he would not be allowed to enter the hospital.  It was then that I embarked on an adventure not of my choosing. As I rode to the hospital I prayed a prayer I have prayed many times to quell my fears and put my focus on Him:

Thank you God that you love me,
thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what.**

As I was transferred into the hospital Emergency Room my fears were left behind me as the words of Jesus pulsed through my mind: 

I have come that they (you!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

Suddenly the words ‘life” and “full” took on new meaning for me:.

To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest extent
requires that we be fully invested in Him.  

As I contemplated my circumstances– separated from the shelter of my home, family and friends– I none-the-less felt energized, even as I was poked, prodded and questioned. I did my best to answer their questions but I honestly don’t remember much about any of it except that the pain subsided even as doctors determined the danger was very real. They decided I had a perforated ulcer that might be infected but they needed to run more tests. I was admitted as a patient under observation and finally put into bed at 4 A.M.

Sound asleep and assuming I was in a private room because of my age and vulnerability (I am over 70 and have heart and lung issues)  I awoke to the booming voice of a young man trying to translate the hospital menu into Spanish for the roommate I didn’t know I had! There were other sounds I could hear but because of the heavy draperies that separated our beds I could not tell how many people were actually there or what was happening. I would love to tell you that I took it in stride but I didn’t. It was in that moment that fear gripped my heart in a big way.

After calling for the nurse, a young woman came to my bedside. In a shaky voice I expressed my concerns about being in the category of “most vulnerable” (I’d heard it on the news for months) and for that reason I had expected to be in a private room,  The nurse was patient but unsympathetic, telling me that there were no private rooms available.  She added that patients with COVID were no where near where I was. Suddenly I saw the tired eyes of a nurse who had had the same conversation many times before. Feeling very convicted at giving way to fear, I heard that gentle voice whisper, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

In that moment something changed in me. After battling health concerns for months, I had longed to connect with God as I once did. Instead, I felt increasingly distant from Him. Even my love of reading Scripture had wained, as I looked around for other distractions. Watching television programs I had recorded and doing paint-by-number projects had become my two favorite distractions.

It was then that I knew God’s answer to my longing for more of Him,
was to place me exactly where I was,
away from all the distractions.

With that realization I gladly replied, “Yes, Lord, I will trust You in this!”

Are you in a place not of your choosing?  Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed by problems with your health; or are stressed over finances and/or family responsibilities.  Maybe you have so distanced yourself from the world out of fear, that you have also lost connection with God as I did?

Then if you claim Christ and desire to enjoy the fullness of life God intends for you, I encourage you to pray in the quiet confidence of His Sovereign Goodness:

Thank You God that You love me;
thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path
with Your eyes, as I trust You no matter what.**

In my next post I will finish my story about how:

  • God worked miracles large and small that would change me forever.
  • He opened up my eyes to appreciate healthcare professionals even more than I had.
  • My confidence in God’s Sovereign Goodness continues to draw me ever closer to Him.

All to His Glory!

*Read Hebrews 11 and the beginning of chapter 12 for inspiration.
**I have found that developing a praise response to God when trouble comes, is helpful to battling depression.and anxiety.  Keeping a praise journal (I recommend logging three things you’re thankful to God each day) helps breakup the negative perceptions so common with depression.