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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Monday, March 21, 2016

Jesus and the Giant Easter Bunny

“Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.” – John 20:18

If you have kids (or even if you don’t but you have pictures of yourself as a young child), you’ll know what I mean when I say that the Easter Bunny has the power to instill terror or delight.

We march them down to the mall, promising them a glimpse of the rabbit that faithfully delivers basketfuls of bright colored eggs and jelly beans each Easter, and we are even willing to wait in long lines to see him. Oh, how exciting this is going to be, we assure them, as they fidget and squirm impatiently.

The moment finally arrives. Bigger than life, at least 10 feet tall with ginormous ears, Mr. B. stands with arms wide open for the children, who we are now pushing gently towards him. They peer up at his giant eyes, bunny nose and whiskers, as he sits down and invites them onto his lap.

“Say bunny!” the photographer cheers. Big sister gives a toothless smile, while little Johnny bursts into tears, fearfully wailing until he can run back into mom’s arms, safely away from the gigantic white furry creature.

Ah, the Easter Bunny. Giver of good gifts. So much fun to contemplate, but the actual encounters come with mixed reviews. And in the end, just a myth that will have no lasting impact other than on our post-holiday waistlines.

So why is it, then, that so many churches have begun offering up the Easter Bunny as the main attraction during Holy Week? While I am not opposed to fun and traditions during holiday times, when did the Bunny get so BIG and Jesus get so small? Why can’t we leave our Easter baskets at home and the Bunny at the mall?

“Come on, lighten up and have a little fun, will you?” I can hear the naysayers say. “Don’t be such a fuddy duddy!”

Fun I can be. Fuddy duddy I am not. But what I really want to shout back is:
The news of Jesus’ resurrection is the biggest news of all! 
How could anything be more exciting than that?
I get marketing. After 20 years in the business, I really do get it! I know that unbelievers don’t understand what the resurrection is or why it’s important. But we as Christians do. Shouldn’t we feel compelled to tell others about just how exciting it really is? And if we know just how impactful it is, why do we need to wrap it up in a shiny package that looks like … well, a giant bunny?

Do you know what the real story of Easter is, that we should be shouting from the rooftops? Unlike Moses, Mohammed, Buddha or any other great prophet or teacher,
Jesus is alive!!
Jesus’ resurrection is what separates Him from all others. It is what says it all about who He is: the only Son of God, with the very power to conquer death; given as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we would have a way to know the Creator of the Universe personally and to have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Unlike the Easter Bunny, Jesus isn’t a myth. Nor is His resurrection. History books confirm that He lived and died, and more than 500 people gave account of seeing the risen Christ.

And while the Easter Bunny brings colorful eggs and candy to delight us on that one special day, Jesus offers abundant life for all the rest of our days. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness, among other things. Who wouldn’t want that? I’d happily trade more than a handful of jelly beans for the life and hope that Jesus brings.

Finally, I’ll take an encounter with Jesus over an encounter with the Easter Bunny any day. With Jesus, there is no fear and no fake smile. Jesus Loves Me isn’t just a song I learned when I was little. It is what I experience every day as I walk with Him.

Jesus loves me when I am up, as well as when I’m down. He has lifted me up from the pit of despair, illness and addiction, and has given me wings to fly. His peace transcends my circumstances and He has been my comfort in the hardest of times. He is the rock I have built my life on, and following in His footsteps has never led me astray. He doesn’t just promise abundant life; He delivers it!
An encounter with Jesus won’t just make your day; it will change your life.
During this Holy Week, my prayer will be for you to find Jesus, who is bigger than any giant Easter Bunny. He is the one you can count on to be there, not just on Easter, but every day. He is the one who proved His love for you on the cross, and then proved His power to give you eternal life when He rose again.

May you be blessed this Easter and always.


Bible Verses to Reflect Upon This Week
* Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:13) 
* But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
* God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible … And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:40, 42)

Jesus and the Giant Easter Bunny 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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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Get Out of the Boat: RA, Religion and Politics

“Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” – Matthew 14:28-29 (NLT)

“You know, everything would be better if I could just be king of the world,” my husband said with a little grin and a twinkle in his eye.

Ah yes, we all think we know everything there is to know when it comes to politics, right? If only OUR candidate would win the election, then the world would be a better place.

In this particular year, however, there are some of us here in the United States who are scratching our heads, saying to ourselves, “What if none of the candidates represent how I feel or what I think is best for the country?” or “What if we could take some of the best ideas from all of the candidates and use the debates as a learning experience to shape public policy, rather than turning it into a mudslinging contest?”

Frustrating, frustrating, frustrating.

It is the sentiment of people on both sides, I am sure, and even more so for those of us in the middle.

What makes this an interesting election year for me personally is that I am looking at it all with new lenses, through the eyes of a Christian writer and RA blogger. It’s no longer just about me. It’s about you.

You may not realize it, but every time I write a post on Spring Sight, I think about you. 

I think about your struggles with rheumatoid disease and/or other chronic illnesses. I think about the physical pain you have to endure, the uphill battles you fight to find medications that work, and the everyday struggles you face to be understood by others, when you suffer from an invisible illness. I think about how disabling this disease can be for many, and how you struggle with employment issues and all your medical bills. I think about all the doctors you’ve been through to find a good one. I think about the fear you face when the one you found suddenly isn’t a choice anymore.

It’s a quandary, isn’t it? In any political season, there are winners and there are losers. What we want and need may come from two different places, or none at all. What then?

As a Christian, I often find myself asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” 

The Bible is full of God’s commandments and promises, along with stories of followers who learned some lessons through trial and error, discovering in the end (usually the hard way) that God’s way really is best and that He really can be trusted.

If you’re not a biblical scholar, however, it can be difficult to discern the right thing to do in everyday situations if you don’t know where to look. My personal philosophy is to begin with the Ten Commandments and then to jump immediately to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), which describe in great detail the life and message of Jesus Christ.

In His claim of being the Messiah, the one and only Son of God, Jesus puts Himself out there as the one true representation of God Himself. He specifically says He came not to abolish, but rather to fulfill, the Law of Moses. In other words, if you want to see the Ten Commandments in action, just look at Jesus. 

Jesus boils the Law into two main concepts: Love God and Love Others.

God expects us to honor Him – to place Him at the top of our priority list and to seek His righteousness and holiness in our personal lives – and to demonstrate that we are His followers by sharing His love with other people.

In today’s political climate, it can be tricky to choose sides based upon these foundational principles of Christianity. One side of the political spectrum says religious morality trumps all, and the other side seems to say “live and let live” with compassion and tolerance at the top of the priority list.

Guess what, though? Look at Jesus’ life, and if we were to really choose to be like Him, we wouldn’t be able to pick. He represents holiness and compassion. The same One who makes it clear that we should care for “the least of these” and “do not judge, lest you be judged” is also the One who said “go and sin no more.”

As both a Christian and an RA sufferer, there are numerous issues that are important to me, as I am sure there are for you. And like many Americans, I struggle with the right answer. I am counting on God to keep His promise to grant me wisdom* during this election process, as I look to Jesus as my guide and example of a true leader.

Regardless of the issue or the eventual outcome, however, it would serve us well to remember one key fact: God is love. He will not abandon you.**

This fact is illustrated in Matthew 14, where Jesus’ disciples find themselves in a fierce storm out in the middle of a lake. Tossed around by the huge waves pounding their fishing boat, they are understandably scared and unsure of what to do. Then along comes Jesus, walking on the water. Thinking at first they are seeing a ghost, they are terrified! But then Jesus reassures them, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!”

Reassured by the presence of Jesus, Peter then takes the ultimate leap of faith, stepping out of the boat into the waves, in response to Jesus’ calling for him to come join him.

When Peter chose to keep his eyes on Jesus, his fear disappeared and he was able to step out in obedience.

It was only when Peter took his eyes off the Lord and onto his circumstances that he began to be fearful again and then began to sink.

Even then, however, Jesus did not let Peter drown. Jesus saw Peter’s fear. He saw his lack of faith. He even called him out on it. But the Bible says Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, pulling him to safety. And He didn’t just save Peter. He saved the other disciples too, by quieting the storm.

Today, Jesus is calling us to step out of the boat. No matter what our fears of the future, or the realities of what we are facing right now, we have a choice to make. As we head to the polls during the primaries and again in November, will we keep our eyes on Jesus, or will we look instead at our circumstances and begin to sink? Will we trust God to take care of our needs, so that we can focus on serving the greater good of all? Will we vote with an attitude of “what’s in it for me” or will we instead be sincere in our desire to honor God and love others?

There is no easy answer in this year’s election. I will be reminding myself often to pause and pray. But regardless of what happens, we can be confident that no matter what the outcome, God will still be on the throne. His presence is powerful. His love never fails. And He will never, ever abandon you.

*James 1:5
**1 John 4:8, John 14:18

Get Out of the Boat: RA, Religion and Politics 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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