You are not alone

Lynn’s gone AWOL. Another Wonderful Overseas L’Adventure. Wow, that was a stretch. But it’s Wednesday. Whattayagonnado?

He left me for Africa.

Wait, no.

Lynn went to Africa leaving me alone.

No, that’s not good either.

Lynn’s on a ministry trip to Africa. There, that’s more appropriate.

Jax and I have a routine when he’s gone. It’s not as pleasant as the routine when he’s home, but it works and we manage. (My hat is really off to you single Moms out there, it is NOT easy.) We have breakfast, drive to school, I drive to work, then back to school, then home for the afternoon and evening stuff, we eat dinner, say prayers, and start all over the next day. Both of us wish violently for the weekend and for Dad to hurry up and get home. We love it that he’s a minister and gets to go to these amazing places, but of course we miss him.

Lynn and I are not strangers to this life, we’ve both had many a tearful airport goodbye and many a happy reunion with hugs and surprises from far-away lands. But it’s very different when you’re 40 than when you’re 10.

One thing Lynn’s travel gives me the opportunity to do is combat FEAR. I will not have it in my house! You know, just because you’ve obtained victory in an area in your life doesn’t mean the devil won’t come knocking at your door again and try to get in. I struggled with fear for many, many years and in the early years of my marriage when Lynn would be out-of-town it was pure torture. As I have studied the Word of God and learned to confess it with my mouth regarding fear, I have beaten the devil many times over and have conquered fears and insecurities in lots of areas: fear of being alone, fear of being in the house at night; fear of those insane noises that make no sense whatsoever, fear of someone breaking in, etc., etc.

I could go on and on telling you all the silly fears I’ve had to battle, and it’s embarrassing to see it in black and white, but I know I’m not alone in these fears. I know that the devil doesn’t have any  new tricks and he’ll use the same old crap on anyone who will fall for it. Well, I’m wise to him. I don’t fall for it anymore. And if I do, it’s only for a moment before the Holy Spirit points it out to me and I get a hold of it.

Just this week I had 2 very unsettling dreams. That’s just a more grown-up way of saying nightmares. Yeah, I’m a 39-year-old-woman, wife, mother, etc., and I had a nightmare. Two, actually. And it made me MAD. I am still mad at the devil over it. It’s just torment, it doesn’t mean anything! It doesn’t mean something bad’s going to happen, it doesn’t mean I’m in danger or Lynn’s in danger, it just means the devil is the devil and I refuse to let him win.

I got up, I rebuked him, I prayed in the Spirit, and I went back to sleep. Twice.

And tonight, you can rest assured I will be on the offensive with a thorough preemptive strike before my head hits the pillow. And that will be in a very few short moments, as it is 8:45 and I can’t keep my eyes open.

The Bible says rebuke the devil and he will flee . . . you can bet I’m going to sleep sweetly tonight. Proverbs 3:24 and Psalms 127:2 will be my weapons of choice.

Make no mistake. I win this battle.

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How do you cast your cares on Him?

(Alternately titled, Casting your cares on Him . . . for dummies, but I just thought that was a little too snarky, even for me.)

So I did a quick Google search for casting your cares on Him. In 0.28 seconds, it brought up over 5 million hits. That’s a mightylotta hits for one short phrase.

My question is, why do so many people talk about it and so few actually know how to do it? What’s the problem? Why does it seem to be so difficult to let go of our worries? We all know the scriptures, but it sure is easier said than done.

I think we need to go back to Kindergarten on this one. I enlisted the help of my dear friend and my son’s former Kindergarten teacher, Elaine Barber, to weigh in on the subject. I asked her how she would teach a child to cast their cares upon Jesus. And here’s what she said:

In Kindergarten, it has to be simple and it has to be to the point.  I guess I would start with the definition of what a “care” is. What causes a care and why do we have them?  A “care” can be something that bothers us or makes us feel worried and upset.  What makes a Kindergartener worried?  Usually, a concern in Kindergarten deals with how others are treating us.  Are your classmates being kind, making you feel loved, or are they hurting your feelings?  Are you invited to birthday parties?  Do your friends play nicely with you during recess and include you in playtime?  If the response is negative, then all of these are major cares in Kindergarten!

Next, we talk about how these situations make us feel.  They make us hurt.  We feel sad.  We want to cry!  We feel like no one else understands us and wants to be with us! And then I am able to tell them that we do have someone who deeply understands us and longs to spend time with us.  It is God.  He created us and gave us the ability to have all these feelings!  He knows exactly how we feel and wants to make it “all better.”  He wants us to remember how much He loves us and longs for us to talk and pray to Him when we are feeling down or hurt.

Through prayer, by simply talking or crying to God, we tell Him how we feel.  We tell Him everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Then we lift our hands up to Him and pretend to play catch with God by throwing all those hurt feelings His way. We take those sad emotions and wad them up (use hand motions to wad it up) and then throw our “hurts” up to God! (pretend to throw!) God gladly catches them and throws them even farther away from us!  Then He reaches down into our hearts, wraps Himself around it, and replaces all those yucky, hurt feelings with His love, grace, mercy, and joy. He reassures us with His comforting, loving whispers.  His words of encouragement feel awesome.  He gives us a warm, gooey, fuzzy feeling deep down inside our belly.  When we walk away from our prayer time, we know we’ve been in His arms because we no longer hurt and the peace we have is deep and satisfying.

My friend, brilliant teacher, woman of God, and special guest-contributor, Elaine Barber.

Isn’t that precious? I knew she would explain it so well. So here’s what I’m going to work on. When I pray, or when I cry, or more often for me, when I want to scream and say ugly words, I am going to tell God how I feel, then I’m going lift up my hands and play catch with God, wadding those cares up and throwing them far away from me. Then I’m going to allow His sweet presence to fill up that hole in my heart and I’m going to tell God that I trust Him.

And then I’m going to do it all over again tomorrow!

Kick fear in the rear

Things that make me see red: Someone cuts in front of me and steals my parking space that I have painstakingly waited for, the manicurist nicks me and draws blood while trimming my cuticles, or the trash men leave my upturned cans in the middle of the driveway and I back into one.

These things have happened to all of us . . . perhaps a smaller percentage of you men have experienced the manicure part. But there are a thousand things, even little things that can take us from zero to sixty in 2.8 jigowatts.

Personally, I admit to having minor bouts of road rage. I am a careful and relatively slow driver. I usually have children in the car with me and even when I don’t, I’m just not that aggressive. But when someone cuts me off, or runs me off into the shoulder, or tailgates me, I am like a cornered bear. I can feel the heat surging up inside me and a string of really ugly words threaten to hurtle out of my mouth. I think the real reason I get so mad on the road is that I get scared. And I think fear may be the reason that many of these issues make us see red.

My first thought when I hit that trash can is, “Oh, Lord Jesus, I have hit a child!” Or when I’m on the road and someone gets aggressive with me, I feel the danger of a possible accident and I get scared. The manicure part, well when that pain comes, it hurts and it ticks me off and I get scared she’s going to gouge the rest of my fingers. So each of those instances boil down to fear.

We get in a big fight with our spouse . . . fear that it will never be reconciled and that we’re stuck with this person who has so many flaws. Money pressure . . . fear that there won’t be enough money to take care of our needs. Job pressure . . . fear that we can’t get the job done or fear we’ll get fired or overlooked for promotion. Depression . . . fear that life will never get better and things will always be bad. I could go on and on.

Fear is a killer, fear is a four-letter word. Fear can cause heart attacks. Fear can make your hair turn gray. Fear can destroy your family. Fear can destroy your marriage. Fear can worm its way in and before we know it, we can find ourselves totally paralyzed.

Fear won’t fix anything. Fear won’t soothe a wound. Fear won’t heal a hurt. Fear won’t mend a fight. Nothing good will ever come of it.

Kick fear in the rear.

I used to struggle with really bad dreams and I said and did some weird things in my sleep. It was just the devil trying to torment me and mess with my head. Over the years I have developed an arsenal to fight back when fear comes; which is still tries to do. It’s not a battle you just win one time and then the devil leaves you alone. It’s a constant battle. But it’s one that we can and must win.

My choicest weapons were these: I wrote down and memorized every scripture about sleep and rest and peace that I could find. Then I swung those words out there like a sword. I prayed in the Spirit, and spoke those verses over myself before I went to bed. And if I awoke in the middle of the night, I would do it again until I’d fall back asleep. Eventually, I had that battle licked.

With daily stresses in life, I was prepared with scriptures that reminded me of God’s promises to never leave me nor forsake me, Hebrews 13:5, and I would cast my cares on Him because He cares for me, 1 Peter 5:7, and I would say that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13, and the big mama, the mack-daddy fear buster, God has not given me the spirit of fear, but love, power, and a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7. I had Jaxon saying that one when he was just a little tiny guy.

I encourage you to recognize fear when it tries to come against you in its many forms. Understand that it’s the devil and it’s not of God, and know that you don’t have to put up with it. Read The Manual; develop your arsenal, sharpen your knives, don’t go into battle naked. Suit up and kick fear in the rear!

Jump or dive

My sisters and I used to love this game called Jump Or Dive. It was a hilarious game that our Dad played with us when we would go swimming where ninety percent of the time, someone would end up doing a belly buster . . . or five.

Dad would sit by the pool and one of us would stand on the diving board, all the way at the back. We would take our running start and spring into the air, and at the moment we would get airborne, Dad would yell either Jump! or Dive!

You can imagine the myriad of disastrous entries into the pool we would achieve.

It was nearly impossible to not try to guess what he was going to say, and no matter how hard you tried, you would have your decision made by the time you got to the end of the diving board and bounced. You were either going to jump, or dive, or land flat on your face, or a combination of the three.

I was reading a blog today, (imagine that!) Actually, it was a blog about blogging and knowing your audience, and providing them what they want, and all that jazz. It was a little “selly” for my taste, but it had a winner of a one-liner that has stuck with me all day. This blogger encouraged writers to, “Be willing to zig, even if you are 100% certain you are going to zag.”  I immediately thought about this game.

It’s a question of commitment! You have to be totally committed to obeying a command with only a split-second warning. You are literally in the air and the water is coming up to meet you quickly, and you have to hear the instruction and do it. It’s kind of like being a minister. And not just the kind that stands in a pulpit or travels the world preaching the Gospel, but a born-again believer who knows the Lord and shares Him when the opportunity arises.

The Bible instructs us to, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) We need to be ready to move if the Holy Spirit tells us to We never know when our paths might cross someone who desperately needs what we have. The Jesus we show that person with a smile, a kind word, a hug, might be the only Jesus they ever see. (I try to remember this concept when I run to the grocery store with no make-up on.)

So I’m reminding myself as well as you, be ready to jump or dive. Be ready to zig or zag. Be ready for the open door to share the love of God. The more you are ready and willing to be a blessing, I believe the more opportunities will come your way. People can sense when you’re open to sharing with them, they can also sense if your door is closed and your blinds are drawn. Keep yourself in ready-position in the spirit and in the natural. You never know who God may use you to influence for eternity.

Fun with my prayer language

Sobrecita basha talonga de sit ova leshioto masheco. So londia sabrecata tera le no vio satamon dego.

Have you ever prayed in your prayer language and tried to type it? It’s wild. Kinda fun, actually. This was a first for me. I don’t know why I’ve never thought about it before. I mean, I’ve been praying in tongues since childhood, I use a computer all day long, I am a writer… why have I never put all three of these together to see what happens?

I tried it by saying some words in the spirit, and then typing them, phrase by phrase. It was hilarious! And I didn’t know where to break up the words so I just kind of hit the space bar every few syllables. I totally think it looks like a real language, like someone could read it and tell me exactly what it means. I’m thinking a mixture of Spanish, Greek, and Sioux. (Although, that might be because I watched a little of Dances With Wolves last night. Ta-tonka!)

I realize I am freaking out about half of my readers with this. Either you think I’m a nut-job for trying to get my prayer language down on paper, or you think I’m a nut-job because you and the Holy Spirit aren’t on speaking terms. Or, you just think I’m a nut-job but you read my blog for laughs anyway. I tend to agree with you, I am a bit of a nut. But my relationship with the Holy Spirit is serious business to me and I pray in my prayer language all the time.

OK, back to my little experiment. Have you ever then taken that sentence you wrote and run it through a translation program? That’s very interesting too. I ran it through a program that detects the language and it came out a lot like Spanish. I actually said the phrase, “So you did not see,” at some point in there.

Now, I am not naïve and silly enough to think I could translate my prayer language though my brain or through a computer program. But I do believe if I want to know what I’m saying, I can ask the Holy Spirit to show me and He will. I can ask Him to reveal the mysteries that my heart is speaking to my natural mind. That fascinates me. I’ve just recently starting asking that question. For many years, I was content to just pray and know that my spirit was saying whatever needed to be said. But now I want to know what I’m talking about. Enquiring minds want to know!

So when (and if) you talk to God in your prayer language, ask Him what you’re saying. I believe He wants to show us.

Mistakes and onions

What do you do when you screw up; I mean, really step in it? That’s what I did recently. I made a big mistake, a whopper. I wasn’t thinking, I just had a brain fart. I blanked, I spaced out. I screwed the pooch.

The first thing I wanted to do is literally crawl in a hole and hide from everyone and cry. Guilt overwhelmed me. I felt like a giant jerk. And my brain went a hundred miles an hour trying to figure out how I could have been so stupid as to make that mistake. I mean, come on! I’m a 38-year-old, mature, responsible woman. I have a job, a family, I’m a relatively good person, but I SCREWED UP. Now what?

Well, I have a “this is how it ought to be,” and a “this is how it actually is.” Here’s a little of both. This particular time, I happened to have realized my mistake during a phone call. You know when you get that phone call where the person calling makes it abundantly clear that you screwed up? Yeah, it was that phone call.

It was in the morning, during my coffee ritual. And I was simultaneously making a pot of French onion soup. (Long story.) I had just chopped up 4 ginormous onions for the soup and had thrown them in the pot to start caramelizing when the phone rang. When I read the caller ID, I knew it. My heart dropped to my toes. When I began to appreciate the gravity of what I had done, I had to sit down.

So by the time I hit the red “end” button on my phone and locked the keypad frantically so there was no way anyone could hear me scream, I yelled a little. And then I smelled burning onions, and I yelled some more.

I had tears from onions and tears from the phone call.

After I collected myself and repented for saying a bad word (or 5) I salvaged the soup, put it on simmer, put the lid on it, and went upstairs to get dressed. It was silent in my bathroom as I was putting on makeup, but my thoughts were screaming.

The truth of the matter was, there was nothing I could do. I had apologized, I was truly sorry for the mistake. I had done all I could. But as we all know, that doesn’t always set us at ease and make it all better. The mind will replay it again and again: what they said, what you said, what you should have said, what you should not have said. And that’s when it hit me. I have an attorney. I have an advocate. I have someone who does have the ability to make it better. And that is the Holy Spirit.

You can’t rationalize your way into peace. I tried. I’ve tried many times. But asking the Lord for help and praying in the Spirit does bring peace. Always.

So I prayed . . . Lord, I really screwed up. I’m so sorry. Please help me to fix this. Please go before me and smooth this over. Please let the ones who were affected by this see that I made a mistake and I’m sorry. Please help me get through this and make it better.

And then I prayed in the Spirit for a few minutes, off and on until I finished getting ready and headed out the door. Within that time frame, I began to feel better. I began to feel my heart crawl out of that hole and my confidence began to come back up. The beating myself up stopped, the brain squeeze let up. I could breathe again.

I know that all sounds too easy . . . over-simplified, but it works. God wants to help us, but He won’t come unless He’s asked. He’s a gentleman.

I’m a simple girl. I mess up, I ask God for help, and He helps. I ask the Advocate to intervene on my behalf, and He does. I pray in the Spirit, and peace settles down on me. Try it. It’s a good feeling.

Handbook for crappy days

What do you do when the day really sucks? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a handbook? Do you ever wake up and just have that sense of dread hanging over you? Do you ever just think, “I am over this day before it has even begun?”

I know this feeling, and whether or not people admit it, I know I’m not alone.

How do we combat it? Well, first of all, we have to recognize that it is the devil. The devil comes to steal our joy and our peace.

From there, it becomes an act of obedience, an act of our will. This is the hard part, this is the part for mature Christians, the part that’s even difficult for mature Christians. But the good news is, we have a helper. And we can ask for help. We are not alone. We have a teacher, and not just a teacher who is way up in front of the class, but like our own personal tutor right beside us, speaking right into our ears. IF we will ask him for help. He doesn’t help if he isn’t asked. The Bible says we have not because we ask not. I for one, am asking!

Lord, help!  I need help!

And after I’ve sent out the SOS, I thank Him. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

I think it’s also important to recognize natural things that can affect our mood and disposition. I honestly have struggled since we changed our clocks back! When I look outside at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and it’s already dark, that just rubs me the wrong way.

And finally, help someone else. “Pray for one another that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) Nothing gets our eyes off ourselves like seeing someone else’s need.

And if you’ve tried all that, you might go ahead and run through Starbucks. This kind of day could definitely be helped by a pumpkin spice latte.

Notes from the back row

Remember when we used to sleep on the back row of Humanities class? I’m so sorry Dr. Sexton, we were total jerks. And now when we watch “The Tudors,” we wish we had stayed awake.

So I’m taking classes again, only this time I’m not taking a bologna sandwich wrapped in foil and writing “Juli loves So-and-So” all over my Trapper Keeper. Not that I did that in college . . . but I did eat Saga, which may have been worse.

No, these classes are about the Holy Spirit. The one I want to flow freely through my life, the one I want to keep me soft and repentant, the one I want to saturate me until my hearts is full.

The one that points out any sin in my heart, even the sin I have not yet committed, but that could take root and grow. The one that chastises and prunes me because He loves me.

The one that brings His Word to my remembrance. And the one who helps me forget what needs to be thrown in the sea of forgetfulness, and walk in forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit that teaches, comforts, enlightens, and guides me into all truth. Do you know Him? Because He wants to know you.

These classes are not dates and facts, they are not filmstrips and essays. They are not credits adding up to a diploma. They prick my heart, they drive me to the Word, they stimulate my brain and my spirit. And that, my friends, is a great combination.