Freedom From Anxiety

Lilies

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

In Matthew 6:25-30, Jesus taught his disciples not to be overly wrapped up with concern about their daily needs, because God is watching over them and knows what they need. He never said they could just loaf around and everything would be provided, but constant preoccupation with needs is a menace to a person’s mind and spirit.

I’ve written these verses in my own words for anyone who’s interested:

Don’t obsess over the things of this life, like what you’re going to eat or what you’re going to wear. Your life is about more than food and clothes.

Take a look at the birds: they don’t spend a lot of time laying up food supplies, thinking of deprivations that might lie ahead. But God, Who sees all things that go on in this world, knows they need food and provides for them in whatever season. And you people are so much more precious to him than birds. Trust him.

Tell me, can any of you, by worry or scheming, grow a few inches taller? And why spend a lot of time dithering over what you should wear. Consider the lilies, they can’t buy nor sew nor weave, but God has provided them with such intricate attire that even Solomon, with all the glory his riches could buy, couldn’t hold a candle to their beauty.

So if your Father in heaven has provided so well for insignificant wild flowers and the grass that grows in the field for a season, then is gathered and used as fuel, how much more can He look after your needs. Have more faith.

Those who haven’t learned to know him will chase after these things, but you should rather focus your attention on matters of the soul and trust your Father to look after the other.

Lily bloom

Another response to the Ragtag community prompt word: FREEDOM

A Burn Under Control

Oh, lovely springtime, what is so fair! But…

So many things show up once the snow is gone. We have a lovely, tree-filled yard, which means we need to walk around before mowing the lawn and gather up odd branches the wind has brought down. Some trash often drifts in and catches in the tall grass, too.

A controlled burn can be a very useful tool to clean up all this debris. This spring, however, our RM has put on a burning ban because of dry conditions. We heard in the news a few weeks ago how one town in Sask suffered loss when a “controlled burn” got away and consumed half a dozen homes. (Thankfully most of these were unoccupied.)

Last night when I went out for a walk the air was hazy in spite of a strong wind and I caught a faint whiff of wood smoke. Sure enough, a look online shows a forest fire raging out of control in the northern part of the province. It’s hard to picture any benefit coming from an inferno like that, yet scientists say an old forest needs a good fire. It does for the forest what a clean-up fire does for our yard: gives the land a chance to rid itself of dead wood and breathe again; lets the forest get a new start. Otherwise there comes a time when a forest chokes itself.

Between our yard and our neighbours, there’s an “old” woods. The original trees, planted a hundred years back by the first settlers, are dead and ready to fall down. A lot of new growth has sprung up since, but so many young trees are twisted or crushed when their elders drop thick branches on them. And when those big old trunks hit the earth, it takes many years for them to decompose.

It would be so beneficial if a fire could sweep through and consume all the dead wood, but leave the living. And more importantly, leave our and our neighbours’ homes intact! Since we know that isn’t going to happen, both of us couples hope and pray no lightening strike or careless cigarette starts our woods on fire. There’s so much ready fuel, none of us could control the damage.

The Bible talks a lot about fire, both in a destructive sense, where God destroys the enemy as if by fire, and in a purifying or enlightening sense.

“Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.”
Deuteronomy 4:36

Thoughts of God’s fire tends to scare me, though, because it’s not a thing I can control. I can’t tell him, “Yes, I’d like to get rid of this bit of attitude, burn this fault out of my life, but leave the rest of my habits alone.” He sees all the trash that needs to go, not just the little bit that’s causing me embarrassment. He sees all the dead wood in the heart of the forest, not just the bit I can spot from where I stand.

Though we can’t govern what God’s fire will consume in our lives, the good news is, HE can. He may select trash (like bad attitudes) that needs to burn out of our lives, but our God is merciful. He leaves all the good wood to keep on growing. He may burn the wood, hay, and stubble, but he leaves the silver and gold.

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12: 28-29

In every life some matches will fall. Trials come to those who believe in God and those who don’t, to those who choose to live a Christian life and those who don’t. Living in this world along with other human beings guarantees that flames will pop up from one source or another. Unkind words or discrimination may burn, health or financial woes may flare up.

These troubles aren’t always the result of a direct action on God’s part, sent because we have need of major refinement. But God can use any fire to purify us. If we give our lives into his keeping, He can control any burning so that it doesn’t damage us beyond hope of restoration.

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…” Isaiah 43:2-3

A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

Wishing You A Blessed Easter

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Who Is This?

by William Walsham How
1823 – 1897

Who is this so weak and helpless,
child of lowly Hebrew maid,
rudely in a stable sheltered,
coldly in a manger laid?
This the Lord of all creation,
who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting
and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
walking sadly life’s hard way,
homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
over sin and Satan’s sway?
This our God, our glorious Saviour,
who above the starry sky
now for us a place prepareth,
where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘Tis our God, who gifts and graces
on his Church now poureth down;
who shall smite in righteous judgement
all his foes beneath his throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying
while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
numbered with the malefactors,
torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis our God, who ever liveth
‘mid the shining ones on high,
in the glorious golden city,
reigning everlastingly.

Set to music by John Ambrose Lloyd the elder.

What Do I Have to Lose?

One day as I was mingling among the multitudes at the mall a passing T-shirt caught my eye. In bold black and white it declared, “Compromise is for Losers.”

I eyed the bearer of such anti-diplomacy. Was this his life’s philosophy, the rule he lived by? No doubt he thought he was making a statement, “Don’t mess with me.”

Losers of what, I wondered?

Truth? We should never compromise the truth, nor our honesty, our integrity, or our purity. Did the young man wearing the T-shirt have these in mind?

If I were to compromise with sin, I’d lose my self-respect. I’d feel degraded and guilty. If I fudged around with the definite “Thou shalt nots” of the Lord, I’d lose His blessing in my life and gain an uneasiness in my soul. If I say “okay” when in my heart I know the real answer should be “no”, this can be compromising with sin.

Or was he thinking of principles? Possibly. But whose principles? Would it be so bad if I lost some of my own understanding about how things should be done, my own sense of right and wrong? Does it hurt to be a little bit flexible on these at times?

So what might I gain by a compromise?

In the areas of my life where opinion, understanding and preference hold sway, a compromise could well benefit me. I’d lose my rigidity as I bend to someone else’s methods. In doing so I might well learn a better way, see things from a new perspective. Discover why a certain approach works when I was so certain it wouldn’t.

I’d lose at least a little of my pride and admit I might not have the best light on the subject. I’d have to abandon the “My way or the highway” attitude if I wanted to reach a compromise with someone.

I might have to abandon self-righteous indignation and gain better relationships. If what this person said or did was an affront to me and my nose is out of joint, I’d have to snap it in place again before I could reach a truce with her. At times I’d have to admit I was wrong and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve seen where a “No compromise” philosophy of life means “No real friends.”

Yes, it’s true. Compromise is for losers — and there are some things we really could stand to lose in order to gain something better.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…”
I Corinthians 1: 26-28

Our Father the ATM?

One morning as I knelt down to pray, my mind was occupied with all my shortcomings. The cup was definitely half empty; I felt so needy, so deficient in the virtues a Christian wife and mother should possess.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” I began, “please grant me more patience and more wisdom in dealing with situations that come up. Help me to understand Your will, Lord, and grant me the grace to do what I know is right. Bless me with that ‘meek and quiet spirit’ a Christian should possess, as I relate to my family. Help me to be more cheerful and encouraging.”

And the Lord answered me too clearly. He said, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”

That shocked me out of my ‘poor and needy’ mood. I realized that, yes, that’s exactly what I was saying. I was calling God my Father, but instead of talking to Him sensibly, affectionately, as a child would talk with a parent, I was treating Him like a spiritual-virtues ATM.

How would I feel if my child would come to me and say, “Mom, give me my dinner… and buy me some new clothes… and do my laundry… and clean up my room, and…”

These are all very legitimate needs, but wouldn’t I long for some more meaningful conversations with her? Don’t I enjoy hearing about her day and listening to her ideas, hopes, plans? Wouldn’t I also appreciate hearing a “Thanks, Mom, for everything you do” now and then?

Is my Heavenly Father any different?

Since then I’ve tried to keep in mind as I pray that He is my Father, not my ATM.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100: 2-4

A Morning Prayer

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Heavenly Father, am I too satisfied with what I’ve already
learned of You? Am I too content to rest in the knowledge
I’ve already gained? Bless me with a thirst to know more
of Your will, to gain yet more understanding of your ways.
There’s so much more for me to learn
of the depths of your grace.

“Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven…The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”
Job 11:7-9