Victory

In the deep, dark expanse of space, a small group of rag-tag people works together to infiltrate a massive super-weapon. They are massively outnumbered, surrounded by all sides, and the odds of all of them getting out of there alive, are frankly, astronomically small.

You could say the danger radar is going off the charts.

The Life of a Teacher: As Told By Star Wars – Bored Teachers

While we may never experience a rescue mission like Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, and the droids, there are plenty of instances in life where our own “danger radar” goes off.

Whether it be something that is physically happening to us – moving to a new location where we know no one, someone we love has a serious illness, doing something outside of our comfort zone; or something more emotional and mental, like overcoming a phobia, losing someone, or just anxiety and fear in general. Any and all of these instances can cause our inner danger meter to skyrocket.

When that happens, our natural instinct can be a variety of reactions from panic, to taking action, to feeling overwhelmed – and at the root of it, a desire to protect ourselves.

Protecting ourselves via feelings of anxiety or fear, can be a good thing. After all, we don’t run into a busy street because anxiety tells us that if we did that, we would get hurt. We don’t touch a hot stove, because fear reminds us that we’ll get burned. Anxiety and fear can be protection mechanisms, given to us by God to make sure we do not do, well, stupid, risky things.

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However, the downside to this can be that in situations in which we really are safe, in which, logically, there is nothing to worry about, anxiety can, for many people, pop up and convince us that something bad is going to happen, that this really is something we need to worry about.

Psalm 32:7 says,

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me withLove the silhouette - entrance to cave // I pulled away the ivy, the long strands hid a cave. It sparkled like millions of fireflies. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I could not use words to describe. songs of deliverance.”

When we feel scared, God is saying that He is our hiding place. He is our refuge away from the storm – the one we can run to when our circumstances seem out of control. Even if we feel embarrassed, or feel like He’ll think our fears are silly (I know I have), God still wants us to come to Him.

After all, as our Father, He cares about all aspects of our being – both physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit writes,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I think it’s really interesting that Jesus is saying that we both need to communicate our worries to Him, and praise Him. Expressing gratitude habitually, is actually shown to reduce anxiety (see here), and combat depression, so that’s really cool that God included that in the Scriptures before science ever knew it!

Jumping back to Psalm 32, I love the last part of the verse, “surround me with songs of deliverance.”

At any point when we feel overwhelmed, and like we’re never going to get through ____ (fill in the blank), that everything is done for, God surrounds us and says, no. I have already won the victory at Calvary. You are free! Delivered. Victorious. 

In fact, Elisha and his servant experienced this very thing in 2 Kings 6:11-18. The king of Aram was at war with the king of Israel, and the Arameans king became furious since all of his plans to attack Israel were not working. Demanding his men of which had betrayed them, they answered that none had, but that Elisha, the prophet, told the king of Israel everything that he had planned.

Naturally, the Aramean king was not a happy camper. He found out where Elisha was staying and at night, surrounded the city with chariots, horses, and soldiers.

As most of us would do, Elisha’s servant began panicking.

“When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.”

Elisha replied,

““Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

In our day-to-day life, there are going to be times that we feel like there is no hope, that we are surrounded on all sides by enemies – whether literal or figurative. When that happens and our danger meter is off the charts, let us call to mind that the Lord is our protection and refuge, and though we might not be able to see Him physically, He is always with us, at our side.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

 

What if…

What if the sun turned orange? What if the grass was suddenly the sea? What if cotton candy grew on trees, what if money was free?Three Rivers Deep (book series) "A two-souled girl begins a journey of self discovery..." http://threeriversdeep.wordpress.com/

So many questions, and an imagination of endless possibilities!

In many cases, the “what if” questions can be thought-provoking and helpful. For the inventors, the engineers, pioneers of science, technology, and new products, for the artists, dreamers, writers, a world of creativity and new inspiration can result from the “what if.”

See the existence of Microsoft, animation, live-streaming television and current events. Would the iPhone exist without someone asking, “what if?” How about Disney, or Pixar – would they be where they are without someone pushing the boundaries of art and film?

See the source imageSo yes, the “what if” can be a wonderful question to ask in terms of creativity and invention. However, in many cases, the question of “what if” can lead to anxiety, turmoil, and procrastination.

The flip side of “what if” is where anxiety reigns wild. It is the king of its kingdom, fear is the queen, and chaos and pandemonium are its citizens. Their national product is branded uncertainty, and its shipments are made of all the filaments called “causes and effects.”

Have you ever been part of this kingdom? Found yourself captured in the falsely alluring sensation of looking at something from every angle? Caught within the chains, dangling from your hands – placed in front of Anxiety and Fear like a relentless ping-pong match of millions of possibilities?

I know I have.

It can be very easy to get lost in the “what if” of life. What if I fail this test? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I mess it up? What if…what if…what if……

Oftentimes, I turn these “what ifs” towards God. I worry on whether or not I’m taking advantage of His grace, how to know whether He really wants me to do this – is the trial and error too much to risk? I find my mind wondering towards questions like does He really still give grace when I mess up time and again? Does it really never run out?

What if what I’m doing is incorrect? What if in my attempt to figure out the right thing, I go against His will? What if I’m doing this following God life all wrong? What if…what if…what if……

Recently, when talking with a friend about this, they gave me a piece of advice that I wanted to share with all of y’all. I was telling them about how I’m always worried about messing up, and how I struggle with the concept of God’s grace and unconditional love. We talked about the entire “what if” scenario and how anxiety loves to take hold of the reins in those situations and just go crazy.

They said that when my mind wants to say, “what if” about messing up, failure, grace, God’s love, I need to refute that with “even if.”

Even if…I make a mistake.

Even if…I sin.

Even if…I willingly go against what I know to be right.

Even if…I mess up what God wanted me to do.

Even if…

In whatever the circumstance, as long as we are truly saved and at the heart of it desire to follow and please the Lord, then the “WHAT IF” questions should not be allowed to have any power over us.

Because…even if the worst thing our mind’s can come up with or that we could do comes to pass, even if that happens, God’s love and grace remains.

Romans 8:38-39 says,

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Right here, God says that nothing can take His love away from us. Not our mistakes, not our failures, not our anxiety or what if questions.

Romans 11:6 states,

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

And then later in Romans, we see grace being addressed. In this short verse, Jesus is saying that His grace is not contingent on our works. It is not determined by what we do, how we do it, or anything in between. God’s grace is purely an unconditional gift that He lavishes on His children. 

When anxiety and fear say “WHAT IF,” the Lord’s grace and love say even if. 

~ Southern Dreamer

To Fear Or Not To Fear…

Fear. That dratted emotion that can get us all wound up and in a messy pit.

See the source imageWouldn’t it be great, if we never experienced fear again, never had to worry over anything? Lived in a world where anxiety was non-existent? I think that would be pretty amazing. 

Unfortunately, we do live in a fallen world, and because of that, can feel fear. Something I have been off and on struggling with, in terms of that, has been fearing what God might ask of me.

It’s funny, because I do want to please God and be used by Him, but somehow, fear sneaks its way in and starts whispering all sorts of silly things. What if He asks you to do something that scares you? What if He tells you to do such and such thing that freaks you out?

This past week, I went to a Bible study, and then afterwards read a devotional. Once I finished reading it, I realized there was something similar in both what the devotion was saying, and a small part of what we had been discussing in the group (just a side note, often times, God will make those sorts of things align like that, because He wants you to pay attention to it or is trying to tell you something). In His Treasure, by Sheri Rose Shepherd, this specific day’s verse was from Ephesians.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” ~ Ephesians 2:10

Of course, my first thought was ok so God is wanting me to do something. OH. GOD IS WANTING ME TO DO SOMETHING. Cue my brain semi-panicking.

blog17Well, I turned to Ephesians, since I like to read the entire chapter of wherever the verse came from…and guess what the title of that section was?

By Grace Through Faith.

By Grace Through Faith. 

Crazy, huh? Here I am, panicking, and then God is like, “LANIE. GRACE.” It’s amazing how patient the Lord is with us, because I know for me, there are so many times that God has shown me grace, and yet, I’m still like grace??? WHAT. Does not compute.

I want y’all to see just how many times grace is mentioned in this passage.

“…by grace you have been saved…”

“…show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”

“…For by grace you have been saved through faith…”

Ok. Grace. Right. After noticing this, I went back to verse 10, now trying to remember that God bestows grace on us, as I read it. So, Jesus has created good works for us to do. What does that look like?

In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable, which, I believe, gives some insight into this.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,” ~ Matthew 25:21

I know a lot of times, people focus on the beginning part – the “good and faithful servant.” And while that is definitely a part of this, I want to focus more on the second half of the verse. The last line says, “enter into the joy of your master.” 

Isn’t that beautiful? He has just given his servant a larger assignment, and right after that, says enter into the joy of your master. This is not an assignment to be a burden or cause him to panic – you don’t tell someone, “enter into the joy” if what you are having them do is something that will cause fear, stress, or grief. 

Another way to look at this, is like a job promotion. Imagine you work at a huge company. You’ve been bringing coffee, fetching papers, doing odds and ends. Then one day, you come into work and your boss is there.

~~~

He gives you a grin, takes the coffee out of your hands.

Naturally, you are surprised, a bit confused. Weren’t you supposed to deliver those?

Chuckling, he tells you that you have been such a faithful worker, that he wants to give you a promotion. He’s got a job with you specifically in mind.

His excitement is contagious, and despite your worries over whether or not you will actually be good enough to do this next assignment (you had only been delivering coffee and papers up until now!), you nod your head and follow him to the next floor.

~~~

I love analogies – they always help me to better understand concepts and visualize what that would look like in day-to-day life. How would our lives be different if we could come to God, with no fear of what he might do/what he might ask of us, and just be excited because He wants us to do something more?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked to several godly adults, and something that has been common in their responses is this: God has gifted each and every one of His children with specific skill sets. He wants to use those. He gave them to us for a reason.

Yes, He might ask us to do something outside of our comfort zone, but it will be within our skill set. For example, my mom loves God’s Word and she loves to encourage others, but speaking in front of others? No way! And yet, that is what Jesus has her doing. But, do you see my point? It is outside of her comfort zone, but it’s not so far out that it’s in another hemisphere.

It’s easy to say all that of course, and much harder to actually believe. Changing the way you think isn’t easy, but I hope to retrain my mind to stop thinking about God like a drill sergeant, and more as a loving Father, who is eagerly wanting to show me more of the “family business,” and let me have a larger role in it.

~ Southern Dreamer

Note: This does not mean that we won’t be challenged when God is asking us to do something, or that we won’t experience difficulties. However, as His children, Jesus is not trying to make us afraid.