Monday, July 25, 2016

Releasing the Ghosts of the Past

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13 (NLT)

I hadn’t looked at my high school yearbooks in years. There was no need. That was then. This is now. I had moved on. Or so I thought.

As I reached up into the living room cabinet and took one down, I could feel the memories flooding back. Opening the cover, I could hear the spine crackling, as if the book was an ancient artifact, fragile from years of storage.

I felt a sense of dread come over me. Sure, there were some good times back then, but buried in that book were memories that haunted me right down to the core of my soul. These were not just a few bad moments. These were the kinds of ghosts that I had spent years trying to exorcise from my mind, the kinds that would keep me locked up in a prison of guilt and shame, remorse and regret.

There, in the pages of that yearbook, were reminders that my life had spun out of control that year. As I tried to deal with my teenage insecurities, I groped my way through life as in a dark tunnel…feeling my way around, not knowing where I was going. I was lost, and stumbled over and over again. One mistake led to another, and the consequences began to add up. On the outside, I was a bubbly cheerleader on her way to a bright future in college and beyond. Inside, I was a wreck.

I was led down the path of recollection by accident. A classmate had died, prompting me to think of other people I had known and cared about, and wondered where they were now. As I flipped through page after page of pictures and notes, I was saw the younger versions of people I still see on Facebook, who now have kids of their own.

I felt sad that I didn’t know many of them very well. I had been too caught up in my own mess of a life to share in their happy times with friends and family. I also felt sad about the one we had just lost. That was a big surprise to us all. Fit, happy, and the nicest guy you’d ever meet, we couldn’t imagine he would be one of the first to go.

But then I remembered. There was one who had left us long before now. She could have been me. Bubbly on the outside, but dying on the inside. Her mistakes caught up with her before she could stop the permanent damage. I was lucky. I too had run away from God, but He had caught up with me early on and I was willing to turn around while I still could.

As my eyes welled up in tears, remembering all that had transpired, I found a way to be grateful. I was grateful for my husband, who knew my past but welcomed me as his wife despite it; and I was grateful for the classmates who knew me before that last year or two. They knew me for long enough, well enough, to see and believe that I was not just the sum of my mistakes. They somehow found a way to see the good in me, even when I couldn’t see it in myself. For all that I was not, when they wrote in my yearbook, they still called me “friend.” Today, I was included in an email group whose title included the word “family.” Wow.

So often, it is easy to get so caught up with where we have been in the past that we have a hard time looking forward, an attitude that is referred to as “living in the rear view mirror.” For some of us, it’s about shame. We hold onto the pain of our mistakes, or of things done to us by others, and it is as if we are wearing a scarlet letter. We fear of being judged, and so we back away from anyone who might draw close. We are lonely, and yet we live in a prison of self-isolation. We are bound by the ghost of guilt.

For others, it isn’t the failures of the past, but the remembrance of joys we used to have that are holding us back. Perhaps we experienced great success in life, but an illness or other life situation has stripped away our freedom. When we live in the past, we allow bitterness to grow in our hearts and we are unable to take joy in what we have today. Our anger – over that which we can no longer do  – fuels our self-pity. We are haunted by the ghost of resentment, chained to an attitude of unhappiness.
Perhaps you are struggling with ghosts of the past but don’t know what to do. You are not alone.
In the Bible, the spiritual life is often compared to training for a race. In Hebrews 12, we are told to strip off anything that holds us back. We can’t run if we are bound in shackles! And while that analogy is typically applied to sin in our lives that can weigh us down and prevent us from becoming all that God wants us to be, it is also applied to our past. God makes it clear – we can’t move forward if we are driving with our eyes focused in the rear view mirror!

When Moses released the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, he was trying to get them to the Promised Land. What continued to hold them back was their lack of faith in God’s promise for the future. When they took their eyes off the Lord, and focused instead on their fear and frustration, even their prior years of slavery looked good to them. They would grumble, stop and stagnate. In the end, it took them 40 years to go just 240 miles!

In another biblical example, God rescued Lot and his family from the sin-infested cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, before he destroyed them. The instructions were clear: don’t look back! And yet, Lot’s wife, unable to let go of the past, just had to turn around and take another look at what she was leaving behind. In an instant, she became a pillar of salt.

Letting go of the past is not easy. In fact, in one translation of Philippians 13:3, Paul says he strains toward what lies ahead. That implies effort. We can’t just stuff our feelings under the rug and hope they go away. We have to deal with the pain, grieve our loss, and make a conscious choice to move beyond it. We can do that best when we follow some simple guidelines set out in the Bible.
  1. Pray. Philippians 4:6 says not to worry, but rather to pray about everything. Tell God your needs. He hears your hurts. He can feel your fears. Don’t be afraid to be honest. He is there for you, anywhere and anytime.
  2. Cast Your Cares. Psalm 55:22 says that when you cast your cares on the Lord, He will sustain you. When you turn over your burdens, and “let go and let God,” there is healing in your heart. If there is shame, you can find forgiveness. If there is blame, you can forgive, knowing that God will be the ultimate judge and avenger of wrongs. And if there is anger, you can pray for peace and acceptance. As mama says, “there’s no use crying over spilled milk.” Let God take his big paper towels and clean up the mess. That’s His job. It’s your job to let Him do it.
  3. Trust in God’s Promises. Faith is believing what we cannot see. And yet, that’s what it takes to move on. Faith means we accept that all things – even our biggest mistakes and our greatest hurts – work towards our good (Romans 8:28). Faith also means believing that our past doesn’t define us, and that God has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11) in the future. And faith means choosing to believe in God’s very big, unconditional love for us (John 3:16) that can wash over our past, our present and our future…into eternity itself.
  4. Stay Focused on Him – By releasing the ghosts of the past, you have room in your heart for the Holy Spirit to fully dwell. Your past or even present struggles don’t just disappear, but you no longer have to focus on them. When your focus is on Jesus and the future He has promised you, that anger, shame and fear has no hold on you anymore. Instead, you can look confidently at the future with His peace, love and joy.
Are you haunted by ghosts from your past? Pray about the burdens you are carrying, and lay them at Jesus’ feet. Believe in God’s promises and be healed from your grief!

Releasing the Ghosts of the Past originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

I looked around me at the women in the pool, watching as their gray-haired heads bobbed up and down to the beat of the loud music. Their wrinkled, sagging skin told me they had at least 10 or 20 years on me, and yet I was the one struggling to keep up.

When we finally got to the end of class, I commented to one lady, “Wow, this water aerobics isn’t for sissies, is it?” She just shrugged and smiled. She was there every day. To her, it was no biggie. To me, this was more than a struggle. It was a matter of life and death.

We live in an age of modern medicine that often causes us to take life for granted. Even serious, life threatening illnesses are often treated casually. “Oh, my sister had that and she’s just fine now,” someone will say. Another friend may comment, “They have so many new treatments for that now. Really, it’s not as bad as it used to be.” And let’s not forget the well-meaning people who tout natural cures and “mindful meditation” as the way to handle any type of medical malady that comes our way.

As annoying as it may be to encounter others who don’t take chronic illness seriously, it is a much bigger problem when we ourselves aren’t willing to tackle our diseases head on. Denial is a powerful coping mechanism, but it can also be deadly. I saw that firsthand this past month, as I attended memorial services for several friends who left this world too soon, a direct result of their diseases that went untreated for many years. They just thought they could “handle it.” Unfortunately, no matter how much they wanted to believe it, that just wasn’t the case.

With multiple chronic illnesses, I know what I need to do to take care of myself. From diet and exercise to support groups, there are ways to ensure a healthier me. They won’t cure my diseases, but they help me manage them, and in some cases, I may even be lucky enough to go into remission. Nevertheless, I won’t stay there unless I’m willing to stay on top of my self-care routine. It isn’t selfish; it’s self-preservation.

When you find yourself face-to-face with death – whether it’s a close call of your own or the loss of a loved one – you suddenly get a new perspective. You realize that all you have is today. What you do with that day is up to you. Will you live in denial about the unmanageability of your life, or will you get help with that out-of-control habit? Will you let a conflict fester or will you find a way to make up? Will you let those words of love go unsaid or will you speak up? Will you continue to ignore the needs of others, or will you reach out and help? It’s amazing how different our lives look when we consider we may only have today.

Death also brings with it a sense of profound gratitude. It is easy to become discouraged when dealing with multiple health issues, not just of my own, but also those of family members. I can find myself angry that I can’t do all that I used to, or despairing over a new set of symptoms that won’t go away. And yet, I am still here.

On days when I have a hard time getting going, I am profoundly grateful for the love of my sweet husband and the cup of coffee he brings me every morning. Even though I can’t do all the physical activities I would like to with my daughter, we can still take time to snuggle on the couch and watch our favorite TV show together. And while I initially felt “too young” to go to a water aerobics class, I’m finding that it’s actually a lot of fun and a decent workout too! Even picking up the phone to call a friend can sometimes feel like work, when I'm more prone to isolating, but wow, how good it feels when that connection is made. I become grateful all over again.

Life is too short to live it being miserable. Yes, it can be hard. It really can be! Whether we are struggling with health issues, financial struggles, relationship woes … there will be times of trouble in life. But when we fill our hearts with love and gratitude, fear and resentment don’t have room to grow. And when we face those trials with confidence that God has our back, we don’t have to live in denial. Just as David didn’t beat Goliath by running away, so we can be victorious by facing up to the giants in our lives.

Today, I am committed to living the best life I can, for as long as I can. That means I don’t take my diseases for granted. Why should I let them rob me of my best years that have yet to come? As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. As long as I have breath, I will fight for my life! Yes, no matter how much effort it requires, it is worth it.

Wherever I am today, I will make the most of every day. I will do what needs to be done, carrying an attitude of gratitude and a heart full of love – not just for others, but for myself.

Life is short. Make it count.

Do you live with an attitude of gratitude, or do you take life for granted, letting fear or resentment rob you of joy? Are you willing to do what it takes to live a healthier, happier life? Ask God to show you what steps you may need to take in order to successfully tackle the challenges in your life.

What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Finding Hidden Treasures (aka Arthritis in your Armpits!)

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” – Isaiah 45:3

A few years ago, while on a camping trip with my daughter, I learned a new game called geocaching. Similar to a scavenger hunt, you use a global positioning system (GPS) to find a hidden “cache” of treasure. The difference between the two games, however, is that with geocaching, you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. All you know is that it will be in a container of some kind, and that it will be located at certain coordinates on the GPS. The treasure itself is a surprise.

I have noticed, in my journey with God, that life can sometimes be like geocaching. We are looking for something – our purpose, a new direction, or perhaps a specific answer to prayer – but we aren’t sure exactly what we will find.

When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I began searching for answers. Why did I have this disease? How would it impact my life? What ramifications would it have for my family, now and down the road? I knew that with any illness, the answers vary from person to person, and so many of my answers would not be found ahead of time. I would simply have to experience them.

Most of my initial questions were filled with dread. Would I have to give up the things I love, like hiking and kayaking? Would I have to take those medications I had heard about? Would I still be able to work? As I learned to live with RA, I learned the answers. Yes, I could still work, just not at the level I used to. Yes, I would have to take the drugs. But no, I would not have to give up my favorite activities. Not yet, anyway.

As time has gone on, I have begun to ask different questions. Instead of asking, “Why me?” I have begun to ask, “Why not me?” I have traded my dread for hope, and moved the focus away from what’s wrong to what’s right.

Don’t misunderstand me, there is not a lot to like about having any chronic illness. I’m not going to downplay the seriousness of rheumatoid disease and the significant pain it can cause, especially to those who have more severe cases than I do. But I do believe that in every cloud, there is a silver lining, if we choose to look for it.

Just as I found some unusual little prizes when I went geocaching, so I have found some unexpected surprises with RA. For instance, I recently discovered a new trick to differentiating my disease from the stereotypical “old person’s disease” of osteoarthritis (OA). How many people with OA can say they have arthritis in their armpits? Ha! None, you say! And you would be right!

Never in my life did I ever expect rheumatoid disease to manifest itself in my armpits, but voila! Nope, those swollen lymph nodes that showed up on my recent mammogram aren’t breast cancer. They are due to my RA. Now I don’t have anything to worry about with those little lumps. In fact, thinking about them gives me a little laugh!

And what about community? So many people come together when they are in pain, and end up finding collective joy. Whether it is connecting over an illness or a life circumstance, God can give us “hidden treasure” through relationships with other people. I have been blessed beyond measure in this way.

Of course, the greatest treasure we could ever find is a relationship with our heavenly Father. He shows us how to find it. The GPS navigation is clear. Jesus is the way.

Jesus himself said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” (Matthew 13:44) All of God’s goodness is a treasure, wrapped up and waiting for us to find. It is hidden, tucked away in a secret place.

We can look at the big field of our circumstances, and miss it altogether. Or we can search with all of our hearts, digging deep into the rich soil of God’s Word and leveraging the power of the Holy Spirit, to find what our hearts truly long for: peace, joy, love. God’s hidden treasure. Seek and you will find it … in Him.

Can you hear God calling you by name, calling you to seek out the hidden treasures He has for you? Can you find His goodness – peace, love and joy – in whatever circumstances you find yourself? Don’t miss out on God’s loving kindness. Open your eyes to His goodness and mercy, and find the treasure He has for you today.

Finding Hidden Treasures (aka Arthritis in your Armpits!) originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Confidence Crisis: Two-step or Trust?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

I stared at the article in front of me. The photo of a kayaker gliding across smooth open water towards the setting sun caught my eye. It wasn’t the beautiful picture holding my gaze, however. It was the words. The utterly…beautiful…words.

Every month, I look forward to the day Texas Highways magazine arrives in my mailbox. Unlike the numerous other magazines I subscribe to, which end up largely unread in stacks on my coffee table, this one almost always gets immediately devoured. I want every detail of its content…where to go, what to do, and how to get there. If the stories involve nature or food, even better. And if there is anything at all on kayaking, well, you know I’m going to read it!

Opening up the pages of my favorite travel magazine yesterday didn’t generate the usual excitement, though. In fact, reading it didn’t make me happy at all. Right there, in the middle of the page, was the most beautiful, poetic writing I had ever read. Its effect? A crisis of confidence. One as strong as the one I felt when I changed my college major, after comparing my high school art project to that of the art teacher’s protégé. If I have to compete with artists like that, I concluded, I will never make it!

If I look back at my career, I can see that every change I ever made began with a crisis of confidence. Can I manage to make these advertising deadlines, or should I become a teacher instead? Am I really inspiring these students, or should I go back into advertising? Can I make it in this job, or should I go out on my own? Can I make it on my own, or should I go back into the corporate world?

Two steps forward, one step back; back and forth, forth and back. Embarrassingly, this two-stepping pattern has been going on for decades.

Fortunately, most of the moves I have made over the past 15 years or so were ones that did indeed push me forward. But what about the moves that pushed me back? The ones in which I had dreams I cowered away from out of fear of failure? The ones in which I tiptoed into new territory, only to be frightened away by giants in the land who were bigger than me?

Even worse, how about the ones where I moved boldly in a new direction, staking my claim, announcing my new identity, only to be found floundering a few months or years into it… Then someone asks, “Hey, didn’t you say you were going to …?” Oh yeah, that. Um. Nevermind.

At church over the last few weeks, we have been studying the life of Abraham. What a man of faith. I wish I could say I was more like him. Unfortunately, I suspect I’m more like his wife.

“Ha ha ha, yeah, a baby at my age?? Mmm hmm … right,” she scoffed.

God didn’t like that too much.

I imagine he probably doesn’t like it too much when I scoff at His plans for me too.

“Ha ha ha, yeah, you want me to scale back my corporate writing to write more about You?  Mmm hmmm … right,” I scoff.

Just like Sarah had all of her facts lined up about why she didn’t need to get pregnant at age 80-something – uh, hello God, I already had a son through my maidservant, and in case you didn’t notice, I’m waaay past menopause and am not even sure me and Abe are up for “making it” happen! – I have all of my excuses ready for God too.

Um, hello God, don’t you see those other writers out there? Look at them! They are artists – I’m just a techie. They’re young, while I’m in the second half of life. And did you not notice my busy parenting schedule? Like I have all this extra time and energy to invest in a brand new career track…and did I mention needing income? C’mon, Lord, how is this going to work, anyway?

So often, we hear God calling, telling us how He wants to work through us. But just like Sarah must have felt when she was told she was really, finally going to bear a child, sometimes the prospect of God’s big dream-come-true plan is as scary as it is exciting. And so we scoff.

The longer I live, the more I pray to be less like Sarah and more like Abraham. He may have laughed when God told him he was going to have a son with Sarah – and no doubt, he was as shocked as she was – but he didn’t scoff. He had journeyed long enough with God to trust Him, and as a result, was able to laugh with delight at God’s promise.

It’s not as if Abraham had never had a crisis of confidence. Just as I zigzagged along in life, as a result of my own hesitations and lack of patience, Abraham too had moments where his faith waivered and he took matters into his own hands. And just like me, he found those decisions didn’t always end well. But God is good. He gives us second chances. This time, when God asked him to trust, Abraham decided to actually do it. If God wanted to use him, even with all of the limitations he and Sarah saw working against them, he would do what he was told and let God do the rest.

It comforts me to know the Bible is full of stories in which even the biggest heroes of the faith were used by God, despite their lack of confidence in themselves. They didn’t believe they could be used by God because they only saw themselves through human eyes. But God saw them through a much bigger lens.

God didn’t care that Sarah and Abraham were old, or that Moses had a speech impediment, or that Peter was just a fisherman. God used them all – ordinary people – for big, wonderful, God-glorifying things. A great nation. A freed people. The foundation of His church. All they had to do was trust His lead … and follow.

I heard someone once say that God doesn’t call us to the possible; He calls us to the impossible. Why? Because if it were easy, we could do it all by ourselves. God assignments are always bigger than we are.

Scoffing isn’t the answer. God is going to do what He is going to do, regardless of our attitude. It’s a matter of whether we’re going to go along with him kicking and screaming, like Jonah (we know how well THAT turned out) or if we’re going to go along like Abraham did, laughing with delight. We may have no clue as to how we are going to get to where God is taking us, but we might as well just get on board, buckle our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

I have a ways to go before my words look as beautiful on paper as the ones I read in Texas Highways. It may also take me awhile to reach all the people I’d like to share my God stories with. But that’s OK. It will happen. One day. And in between here and there, if I have a crisis of confidence, I’ll choose a different response than I have before. I may not fully believe in myself, but I can trust Him to believe in what He is doing in me. No more zigzagging down the journey of life. My two-stepping days are gone. Instead, I’ll just be trusting God to move me forward in this dance called life. He can lead. I will follow.

What are you trusting God for today? Do you believe in yourself? If not, can you trust in God to believe in you? What is holding you back from following where He is leading you?

Confidence Crisis: Two-step or Trust? originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

When Flood Waters Rise

“Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won’t collapse, for it is built on rock.” – Matthew 7:25

It is day three of Houston’s Great Flood of 2016. The TV newscasts look the same. Picture upon picture, video upon video, of water. Everywhere. In the streets. In houses. In cars.

Flooding. It’s not a pretty picture.

Living on the Gulf Coast, we get used to it. We know, if we live near a bayou or creek, which roads will flood first and which will be the last to reopen. We know which highway underpasses to avoid. We also know, when we are looking for a new house, to ask whether it is in the 100-year flood plan.

We think we know it all. What to anticipate. What to watch for. Where to go and not go. Where to buy and not buy. What to do and not do.

Then it happens. The flood we never anticipated. No, not the 100-year flood event. The FIVE-hundred-year flood event. Uh, yeah, that one. THIS one.

This year, in this flood, I’m turning on the news and hearing stories I’ve never heard before. Stories that begin with, “It’s never flooded here…” coming from people who have lived in the same home for four or five decades.

After 40 or 50 years in the same place, people are being caught unaware, unprepared. They never thought it would happen to them.

So here I sit, surrounded by swollen creeks and water logged streets, pondering how similar this flooding is to life.

We never think it will happen to us, do we? That chronic illness. That job loss. That addiction. Whatever it is that we think only happens to other people.

And yet, here we are.

There is a reason Jesus shared the story of the house built on the solid rock versus the one built on sinking sand. He knows us too well.

Jesus knows that we most often go for what’s easy. What’s beautiful. That beachfront property on silky white sand, warm and wonderful to sink our toes into, just steps from the cool splashes of the ocean tide. It’s close to the action there. We can just breathe in everything around us. It’s so … mesmerizing.

We build the houses of our lives when the sun is shining and soft breezes feel refreshing on our skin. We aren’t thinking about the storms of life. Those won’t happen to us, we tell ourselves, and so we go ahead and throw our cares to the wind. We make choices based solely on the moment, instead of looking into the future and asking ourselves the all-important question, “What if?”

What if I get sick?
What if I get in a car accident?
What if I lost my job?
What if I do it once, and I can’t stop?
What if this relationship doesn’t end in marriage?
What if …?

One of my friends sells insurance, and I bet she asks people “What if …?” a hundred times a day. And I also bet she hears “That’s OK, I’ll take my chances” and “Aw, I doubt that will happen” in response more times than she can count.

But don’t we all say that, at one time or another?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Despite not knowing a single person who says they plan to fail, I know many of us have great testimonies of failures in our lives that are due to a lack of solid planning.

And yet, how many times do we encounter the truly unexpected? How do we plan for those times? Even the Bible, in Psalms 2, it says that all of our planning is sometimes for naught, because God is ultimately in control.

So, if we can’t really plan, what are we to do? The answer is simple. We prepare.

Even in the absence of evidence that we will face a hardship, preparing for one can mean the difference between damage and devastation.

Just like insurance can protect us from financial ruin, being spiritually prepared can protect us from personal ruin. If we’re smart, we won’t bank on a foundation of sand. Instead, we trust in a more solid foundation: Faith in Jesus Christ.

When I am prayed up and grounded in God’s Word, I can be fully prepared for whatever comes my way. Why? Because my Bible doesn’t leave my “if” questions unanswered.
If I lose my job, then I will not panic because I know God has a plan for me and it is good (Jeremiah 29:11). 
If I become ill, then I know that God can restore my health in this life (Psalm 41:3) or the next (2 Corinthians 5:2). 
If I suffer a financial loss, then I will not worry about going hungry because I know that God is my provider (Psalm 147:9). 
If I encounter temptation, then I can stand firm knowing that God will provide an escape from it (I Corinthians 10:13). 
If I am faced with a hard decision and need wisdom, then I can pray and know God will give it to me (James 1:5). 
If I make a mistake, then I know I can find forgiveness and I am covered by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). 
If I am rejected, then I can still hold my head high knowing that God has an even greater love for me (John 3:16). 
Even if I am facing death, then I will not need to be afraid because I know that nothing can separate me from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).
None of us know what lies ahead. No one can “plan” for the next 500-year flooding event. From what I have seen this week, however, I bet more will be prepared.

I want to one of those prepared. Not just for floods. For life. I’m building my house on the Rock. How about you?

What events in your life have hit you unexpectedly? Were you prepared to deal with them? How can you shore up your spiritual foundation so that you’re better prepared to face any future storms that come your way?

When Flood Waters Rise originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart,  and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace.


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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

At the Crossroads: Go This Way!

“Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: ‘Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go’ whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.” – Isaiah 30:21 (VOICE)

It was a rough night. I tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable. My head was aching and my heart was pounding, as the thoughts continued to whirl around in my mind. “Give me peace, Lord,” I prayed, but peace wasn’t to come. Deep inside me, a battle was raging. A battle between truth and deception. A struggle to discern what was right, and ultimately, which way to go.

Crossroads in life are rarely comfortable. I’m not talking about the easy, yes-no decisions we make every day. I’m talking about the hard ones. The ones that come with a cost, especially if you make a mistake. The ones that can be gut wrenching and keep you up at night.

There I was, at a crossroads, again.

I don’t like these places. They scare me. I want the facts to be clear, the decision cut and dried, the answer to be easy. But that’s rarely the case, is it?

So often, those crossroads moments sneak up on us. A sideways glance. A nagging feeling here and there. A piece of evidence that doesn’t add up.

Pretty soon, though, those little pieces of evidence start to pile up in front of us. Like a jigsaw puzzle coming together, we start to see a bigger picture.

The problem is when the picture we are seeing now isn’t the picture we saw before.

Did the puzzle pieces come from the same box? Did I get it wrong from the start? Or did I jump into an unfinished canvas, and the artist changed course midstream? 

“Give me wisdom,” I prayed.

I knew God would answer that prayer. 
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:15
As the sun arose over my sleepless night, I got up, determined to validate what I knew in my heart. I searched for knowledge and found it readily. I prayed for discernment and was able to sift fact from fiction. I prayed for wisdom, and found confirmation and validation for all I had been seeing and hearing and feeling for weeks, months, and possibly years.

But the crossroads was still there in front of me.

What do we do with knowledge and wisdom, once we have it in hand? How do we know which way to go?

One of the truths I was reminded of recently was that prayer was never designed to be a speech, but rather a conversation. Yes, it’s a time to share our hearts with the Lord. But it’s also a time to listen.

The prophets knew what it was to be at a crossroads, to be facing big challenges that required big decisions. At one of those crossroads, the prophet Elijah discovered something remarkable. 

As he stood on a mountaintop, weighted down with despair and trying to decide whether to live or die, hide or fight for his faith, he waited for the Lord. Scripture says that when the Lord passed by, there was a raging wind, a powerful earthquake and a blazing fire.

After Moses encountered God in the burning bush, Elijah probably expected to find Him there in one of those big, obvious signs, just as we want Him (and His answers) to appear to us in neon lights. There would be no mistaking it, then! And yet, the Bible says Elijah did not find Him there.

After the wind, after the earthquake, after the fire … came a still, small voice. Elijah was still. He was listening. And he heard it. The voice of God. Telling him what he needed to hear: which way to go.

Two hundred years later, God told Isaiah to remind the people of this truth.
“Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: ‘Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go’ whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.” – Isaiah 30:21
He reminds us to listen for His voice.

His voice, the passage says, lines up with His commandments. We can find His still, small voice through scripture.

His voice was heard through the mouths of the prophets. We can find His still, small voice through the wise counsel of biblically grounded Christians.

His voice was heard in the quiet. We can find His still, small voice through prayer.

His voice is sweet. We can recognize it by the love it conveys and the peace it brings to our hearts.

Today, my path is clear. I am no longer at a crossroads. I have heard the voice of the Lord saying “Go this way!” and I am traveling in that direction. I don’t have all the answers, and don’t know the final destination on this particular avenue of my life. But I know I am going the right way. All the signs point in that direction. And I have peace, knowing the Lord is behind me, charting my path, whispering “go!”


What big decisions are you facing? Have you prayed for wisdom and discernment? Have you sought out God’s still, small voice? Where is He calling you to go today?

At the Crossroads: Go This Way! originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart,  and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Praying Through the Fear

“Cast all your anxieties upon him, for he cares about you.” – I Peter 5:7 (RSV) 

It was a first for me. I was not one of those people with “dentist phobia.” Growing up, our family dentist was also our family friend. I had my teeth filled with only a minimal amount of anesthetic. I was awake for oral surgery and watched the procedure with fascination. No, going to the dentist never scared me. Until yesterday.

A bad experience and fear of the unknown can be a powerful cocktail, and I was drinking it up. I felt woozy from all of the thoughts swimming around my head. My mind wandered back to the last major dental work I had, a disastrous event that resulted in gum ulcers, an infection and a complete redo on the crown itself. What if I have to go through another awful experience? With TWO teeth needing crowns today, will it be even worse?

I had also been reading about dental work and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a diagnosis I didn’t have the last time I had a crown, and I was seriously questioning my decision to have the procedure without talking to my doctor first. I’m already experiencing an RA flare – should I prepare for even more pain? I didn’t think about being on an immune suppressant drug. Should I have asked for antibiotics?

With my anxiety increasing as the appointment time grew closer, I wondered if my blood pressure would shoot up and knew that heart palpitations would follow if I didn’t calm down.

I groaned when my name was called and reluctantly sat down in the chair, hastily expressing my concerns to the dental assistant. As she left the room to go check the X-rays and get the dentist, I did something I’ve never done before in a dental office. I folded my hands, bowed my head, and prayed.

Lord, help me trust. Help me trust in the dentist and help me trust in You. Calm my heart, Lord, and give me peace. Take my fear, Lord. Give me the confidence I need to know it will be OK. Guide the dentist and help me feel Your love. Please, Lord, just help me trust.

Gone were the palpitations. Gone was the anxiety. I closed my eyes and pictured Jesus in my mind, His kind eyes and loving smile beckoning me to trust. It will be OK.

An hour later, with the left side of my mouth numb and two temporary crowns on my lower back molars, I was on my way home.

I reflected on that hour in the dentist’s chair. With one invisible touch from the Master’s hand, my fear had simply melted away. With my focus on Him, all I could feel was love and peace and joy. The sound of the drill was just background noise, the occasional twinge just a minor interruption. Before I knew it, the procedure was over.

The dentist had said at the end, “You were great!” But I knew different. I was not great. No, not at all. If he had seen me beforehand, he would have known that. God was great. Jesus carried me through.

How many times in my life has Jesus had to carry me through circumstances I couldn’t manage on my own? Situations that had me confused and bewildered, in fear and doubt and uncertainty? So many, I can’t count. But here’s what I’ve realized: While Jesus has carried me through many difficult situations, He is often carrying me kicking and screaming!

So many times, I have worked myself up into such a tizzy of emotion that I may be saying “God help me!” under my breath, but I am still fighting my circumstances with every ounce of energy I have. Jesus is trying to rescue me out of the burning building, while I am still trying to put out the fire myself!

That hour at the dentist showed me that when I really and truly let go and let God, my circumstances immediately get easier. I still had to have the two crowns put on my teeth. The dental work didn’t just go away. But it proved that the words of one of my most beloved hymns are true:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Every day I have a choice. Will I keep my eyes on my circumstances and allow fear to rule my life, or will I keep my focus on Jesus and allow peace to reign in my heart?

In Isaiah 41:10, God implores us to trust. He is with us. We do not need to be worried or anxious about anything. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.”
What we need is not a change of circumstance. What we need most is communion with Him.
And in case we still doubt, He assures us, “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Regardless of our past experiences, our current situation or our fear of the future unknown, God wants us to know He is there. He will not let us go. He is worthy of our trust.

Do not worry about anything; instead PRAY about everything. Tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. (Philippians 4:6)

Praying Through the Fear originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart,  and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace.


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