Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Earlier this year I heard Paul Moser teach us that the most authentic prayer we can pray is 'Help'. I tend to agree. What eloquent prayer can I offer to make God more effective or willing to invade my brokenness? The Psalms are wonderful prayers because they give us a voice; another person to connect with who understands both our pain and joy. But really all those prayers are just prayers of 'Thank You" and 'Help". I encourage you to read them because if you need to cry out for help, you have a companion to cry out with you.

In my own prayers, I pray through the Lord's prayer and the Shema every morning. Giving thanks, confessing my failings, and asking for help.

I was struck by the simplicity of the Lord's prayer but how it covers everything we need; The Lord's will on earth, daily provisions, forgiveness, and deliverance. I was also struck by the simplicity of the Shema in how we are to love God fully and love our neighbor fully as well. The two portions pretty well capture the essence and totality of what it means to pray in the name of Jesus.

That's all I got for today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A discovery in brokeness and learning how to live with it.

This past week was one of the worst in my life. After having been on a prescription for 5 days that caused nausea and vomiting, I had a full blown allergic reaction that resulted in tremors, an inability to speak or stuttering speech, and a host of other unpleasant side effects that the ER blew off as a major panic attack. I was relieved when my new doctor (shout out to Pastor Jeff for the hook up) affirmed the allergic reaction to the generic form of the drug. What I was not expecting was his diagnosis, " You're OCD, and your OCD is causing your anxiety." What? Are you serious? But when he said it, it made sense. He said your OCD doesn't result in obsessive hand washing or locking the door all the time, its repetitive thoughts that get trapped in a loop and don't go away, causing anxiety.

Not too many of my friends and family seem to be all that surprised.

Joline and I sat on the front porch and discussed where we have seen this in our relationship: checking the stove and windows multiple times before leaving on a trip, re-locking the door to the coffee shop several times before leaving, checking the doors of the church several times before setting the alarm, checking weather reports on an hourly basis, and so on. Actions that I thought were just being thorough were actually manifestations of my desire for control and making sure I hadn't made a mistake. I was terrified of making a mistake, especially if it reflected poorly on me. While claiming and teaching a faith of total surrender, I was practicing a life of total control. I was trying to live in two worlds.

Through this allergic reaction and diagnosis the veil is beginning to be torn. I do not label myself as a possible OCD person, but a person who might happen to have OCD and is learning to live with it. This is all very new to me; the understanding of it. I know what it looks like because I have lived with it. I just don't know what moving forward looks like yet. Each day is a step in faith.

The thoughts I have all seem very real and plausible and realistic, from my perspective, but when brought into the light of reality they become less so. Many friends and loved ones have reminded me of the past 4 years (particularly the past year) and tell me to chill out and allow myself some grace, but my mind says otherwise. It tells me to be vigilant. It tells me to keep watch. It tells me to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The temptation is to just look at the physical treatment (Meds). What about the spiritual dimensions? I know that many of you have been in prayer for me. For that I am grateful. I too continue a prayer regiment. I begin each day with prayer that begins with the Lord's prayer, moving through the Shema, and then into intercessory prayer for friends and loved ones. I read scripture and journal. I make time through out the day to listen to the Lord. These discipline are essential, not only for myself, but for every believer who desires to know the Lord and his goodness.

Many of you have followed my blogs on anxiety, and have offered some great insights and transparency. For that I am grateful. Connection is a great tool against anxiety because anxiety isolates. I chose the picture I did above because we often find Jesus alone in the garden. Here we see Jesus ministered to by an angel in his time of need. I can tell you, Jesus has sent angels to me in my time of need. They have been neighbors, church members, pastors, family, phone calls, emails, texts. Thank you for being my angels.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Power and Suffering: Can they Coexist?

Philippians 3:10 (New International Version)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

The actual text from which the portion pulled for the poster above may not capture all that the text shares. While I want to know Christ, its not always beautiful sunsets. There are storms in the midst of knowing. There are deserts in the midst of knowing. There is pain in midst of knowing. And, there is healing.

This passage for years has haunted me. It has followed me like a nagging ache or pain. I have read through this portion of scripture so many times, asking "Who would want to know this? Who would sign up for this? This sounds spiritually sadistic." If Paul had simply reversed the ideas, I may have been quicker to agree and accept his approach. Ending on the power of the resurrection sounds hopeful and empowering. But, the portion doesn't stop there. It goes on to discuss the struggle of pushing forward; the staggering forward to know Christ, and suffering is a part of that.

Here is how I have come, not to rationalize, to understand Paul. When you enter suffering the only people who can comfort you are the ones who know suffering. The only God that can calm your heart and mind is one who suffered. The shared experience of suffering draws people closer together. Paul wanted all of Christ, not just a little bit. He wanted to know Christ fully and be fully known. He wants to embrace the risen Jesus, but before he can get there, he has to go through the cross.

How can we call Him Lord if we don't first understand Him as Savior, and how can we know him as Savior if he doesn't know us.

Hebrews 2:17-18 (New International Version)

17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

This is a God who knows us, and wants to be known. This is a God who made himself knowable by becoming like one of us. Can power and suffering coexist? They did in the person of Jesus. Do they exist in the life of the believer? They did in Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (New International Version)

10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Are they able to exist in my life, when all that seems to be present is the suffering? Yes. But you are not able to get there through inner strength or intestinal fortitude. They exist together through surrender. They exist together through seeking the Kingdom.

In my own struggle with suffering I have experienced God's power through my weakness. I have been moved to do and be in ways contrary to my natural inclinations to hide and escape. In moments of despair God has shown up. Even as I type this, I can tell you that I am being carried by the Holy Spirit through God's word to trust and obey.

Dr. David Jeremiah, in his wonderful message about discouragement encourages us when we feel like stopping, running, and hiding that we need to press on and keeping pushing forward because if we don't then we miss out what God has in store for us and miss His provisions. But, it is not us who push forward, but Christ in us.

1. Cry Out to God, first, not second.
2. Continue the work you have been given.

Cry Out today, and keep moving forward. Keep being faithful and obedient to the ministry you have been given.

Next Post: We Have A Winner: A discovery in brokeness and learning how to live with it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can you say Answered Prayer?

Read this post from a year ago.

I think this was answered in a big way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Forecasts, Predictions, and Prophecy #2

I love to garden. I look forward to certain seasons of the year because I can predict, or anticipate when certain plants will bloom. I can predict change and movement. Not so much with people. Not so much with the character of God. Ministry is hard to predict. It's hard to anticipate results because we are working with humans, and how they choose to acknowledge God in their lives. There is also the character of God. Not a formula, but a personality. A personality that we can learn about through scripture, the person of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but also beyond predictability. I can not predict, but I can trust.

We love predictability. We worship it. ( This is sounding like a similar post to mine . . . ) We want to know how things are going to turn out. The followers of Jesus wanted to know how this was all going to end, and when Jesus would tell them they would just get angry or not understand.

This past summer has been void of predictability. Each day I have begun with a sense of " I have no idea what today holds for me, other than I know I am loved by God, family, and friends." That seems to be a lot closer to the Biblical perspective (Matt. 6:25-34).

Now, I know I will "probably" have lunch outside, go home a little early, help clean the house, enjoy dinner with my family, and enjoy the evening with a guest from out of town. Those things are fairly certain. But, then again, things may change, and I need to be prepared for accepting that change. Jesus tells us " Don't be anxious for your life . . .can you add a day to it? . . why be anxious for tomorrow? Today has its own troubles."

I have read and listened to so many sermons on anxiety from people who have no clue about it. They want to give a formula for how to overcome anxiety. They don't want me to be anxious because I may be proof their formula may be wrong. They're formula is well intentioned, but I don't need a formula. I need healing. I need freedom. I need Jesus.

The closest message I have found to comfort my anxiety is from John Piper. This message has been a real blessing to me, Battling the Unbelief of Anxiety. Why? Because he acknowledges that fear and anxiety is part of the Christian life. If it weren't, why would it be addressed so often in the Scriptures. Whether it be David, Jesus, or Paul, all address it continuously. Piper suggests that because of the battle we have entered into by choosing Christ, we will be attacked. We will stagger in battle. Anxiety, acute or not, will exist in the life of Christian.

Piper acknowledges the reality that there are those of us who would love for the anxiety to go away, but it lingers,and so we have to do daily battle with it. That battle involves the truth of God's word, and the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes both working in tandem to bring us the peace God intends for us to have.

I would push Piper to include the community of saints. We overlook the power of community. The modern evangelical world has pushed the mantra of a "personal faith" in Jesus to the point that we have lost, in many arenas, the role of communal faith. Was this the intended purpose by the authors? No. I believe the idea of communal faith was implied because they understood that the primary strategy of Satan is isolation.

As an INTJ, I enjoy being able to sit and think about things, but I have also found that in the isolation of my own thoughts I become anxious. Therefore, against my personal inclinations, I have been focusing on building intentional relationships and working on staying in better communication with friends and family. These relationships, unlike a formula, are not predictable. . .in the best sense. I have been surprised and blessed by them in moments of need (shout out to Martha).

God has brought new people into my life that I know several years ago I would not have been ready to receive. He has also brought things into my life that several years ago I would not have been ready to handle. Given those two truths, the new people and the anxiety have come together in an amazing way that I could have never predicted. The anxiety, while I still pray for healing, has forced me to rely on relationships (with God and people) in ways that were foreign to me before, but are now indispensable. Sins that I would run to for the sake of saftey and distraction have disipated, being replaced with prayer, meditation, and relationship. I hang on God's word. I pray continously. I interceed for others. If that is what anxiety has produced in me let it have its perfect(intended) result.