Posts Tagged: devotional

Adjusting My focus from the Grave to Christ

When I took this picture I was frustrated that my kids were blurry; the camera focused on the headstone.  But, the image reflects my grief. The grave looms large and it difficult to concentrate on anything else. What looms large in your life? How do we bring into focus the truth of God’s love for us which in turn brings into clear focus those we love, his plan for us and the needs of others?

Focus on Christ as my Center through:

Scripture: But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:.. Lamentations 3:21

Prayer: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition . . .Philippians 4:6-8

Witnessing: . . .you will be my witnesses . . . Acts 1:8  (no one else can share your story)

Fellowship: Do not stop meeting together as some are in the habit of doing . . . Hebrews 10:25

As I struggle these past two weeks with Jonathan’s birthday I realize that I have pulled away from these four foundational truths in my life. So today I renew these verses in my mind, and open myself to a clearer view of God, my husband and  children, and others. Yes, the grave is concrete in my life right now, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot bring into focus God’s will. I just need to adjust my lens.

Living Among the Dead

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Today is my daughter’s heart check up. She has had them since birth, and in fact, before birth. We knew that she potentially could have had a heart defect and the ultra sounds looked for any problems with her developing heart. If they had found any, they could have done surgery while she was still forming in my body!

Depression, suicidal thoughts, can lay deep within our hearts and, because man looks at outer appearance, we often miss the pain and anguish within. But God, he knows our anxious thoughts. He searches within our minds, our souls, the core of who we are and is able to help us in ways that no one else can.

We all need regular heart checks, from the God who shaped our hearts and knows the things that we try to hide, or may not even be aware of. I was not aware of the rage I had stored up as a child. God brought it to the surface, exposed the monster within so that it could be removed and I could heal. Now, I open my heart before him, wanting nothing to hinder his will in my life. I know no better surgeon.

We have to be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to become more deeply aware of who might be at risk for suicide. Think about this. Jesus knew that the disciples were going to betray him, and he knew that Judas would turn him over.  David in the Psalms asks, “Where can I hide from you?” Psalm 139  God knows our children, what is happening inside their hearts, their rooms, their wallets, their school, the church, with friends and at home. Wouldn’t it be great if he reveals the spiritual battle going on? But clearly, from scripture, we see that he does! Again and again to the prophets. Again and again to Jesus and the disciples. I promise you that he does it still today! He loves us, and he wants the best for us. Lets pour out our hearts to him, and prepare our hearts to minister to all who need hope.

Finding One Little Lost Sheep

Luke 15: 1,7 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.. . .Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Natalie was missing for 45 minutes. A late afternoon trip to the zoo turned into a nightmare, as one instant she was beside me, and the next she was not. I wish I could claim that my faith held me together, but God was not the first thing I ran to. Fear was my companion for the search. I realized in an instant that I have come to expect loss—that is a story for me to figure out another day.

Daniel and I hunted for five minutes, but to no avail, so we flagged security who confidently assured me that they would find her. The young man who stayed with me had barely shaken the dust of his teens, he was way out of his depth with me. He had enough sense to realize that I needed to search rather than stand there and wait.

“Ouch, you’re holding my hand too tight,” Daniel complained. “Is that because your scared for Natalie?”

“Sorry kiddo,” I said, realizing that I needed to find a safe place for him while we searched. I dropped him off with the original staff member we had flagged and the teen-adult and I relayed Natalie’s description around the park. At first there was constant chatter as the net of people spread out to different locations.

Then the drought of silence.

My thoughts threatened to send me over the edge so I began jabbering to the teen-adult. We searched in all of Natalie’s favorite places until I could tell the teen-adult’s confidence waning, and he was running out of ways to keep me hopeful.

“When is it time to call the police.” I asked.

“It is getting close.” he answered honestly.

My husband arrived from work and called to join the search. The staff was starting to look through the parking lot.

Finally my cellphone vibrated again. “I’ve found her.”

She was happily playing, oblivious of our fear, oblivious that she had been missing for 45 minutes.

My husband told me later that staff walked right past her.

How is that possible?
Sometimes we don’t look lost. Natalie was happily playing and there were lots of parents on the plaza.
Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep because the Pharisees were complaining that he was hanging out with sinners. He should be more concerned about those who are staying with the flock. Right? I’ve got news for you Pharisees, not a single one of us is without sin and need of repentance. We don’t know we are in danger, we are going through life believing that we can do it all. We don’t need anyone’s help. It takes a shepherd who knows that we are prone to walk off cliffs or into a lions den. Jesus doesn’t just search, he celebrates when we are found!

There are over 7 billion people on this planet; what’s one little lamb when you have a whole herd of sheep? Who would climb cliffs, face lions, keep searching for just one of us? Only one God will do that!

Independent little Natalie didn’t know that she was lost yesterday. I’m grateful that we have a shepherd who will keep searching for us, even when we are wander away from his love and protection.

Where Can I Go For Help

“Do you have your exit buddy?”–Crush (Finding Nemo)

When I began my healing process my counselor had me create a crisis sheet. Steps to take, people I could trust, ways to protect myself. One of the most important parts of the plan was having the person I could call at a moments notice and they will be there. Dori was that fish for Marlin in the movie Finding Nemo. She was loyal, insightful, an encourager, good listener (even if she had no short term memory) Who is your fish?

When Jesus sent out the disciples he sent them out in pairs. Why? Because this world is going to have obstacles and they are much easier to climb when we are not alone. My kids went to a warehouse that had a floor to ceiling climbing wall. Neither made it to the top the first time. Even though the spotter told them what to look for their fear made it hard to listen. Defeated they went on to other activities. Natalie was the first to go back to the wall and try again and this time she knew that the harness would hold her, so that fear was gone. She climbed higher, but still got stuck and looked like she was going to give up again.

The spotter (without a harness mind you) climbed up the wall beside her and coached her on how to climb. She quickly made it the rest of the way. At the moment she was ready to quit, the young man was her partner to the top. Who is your partner in those moments of depression? Please hear me the other person doesn’t have to be perfect, but they do have to have certain qualities that you are currently lacking. They need to see the bigger picture of your goals when you get stuck in the middle. Who is your exit buddy! ?

Reaching the TopSuccess

Tempo is discipline!: Finding our God given beat

Matthew 11:16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Today I got a lesson on rhythm. I used a metronome to help my son find the beat for his violin lessons. He is learning eighth notes; having to stay in tempo has had him tangled up and frustrated. In an instant he went from haphazard, it sorta sounds like “Can-Can” to it really sounds like “Can-Can”.

Now just to be clear, I love beat when others are creating it, and actually gravitate towards rap music, which emphasizes beat. If you see my minivan windows vibrating, now you know why. You will often see a rapper moving his or her hands in a back and forth motion that are short and long. They are staying within a structured meter.

I struggle with keeping tempo in my writing even though I studied the meter greats for my writing degree. I found trying to squish words into a rhythm annoying! Just let the words have their say was my belief. Unfortunately it wasn’t my teachers belief and this course was my lowest score in English. Beats, whether in writing or music, are discipline and they matter! And I STRUGGLE with disciple! I feel that what I’m trying to say gets lost in the beats, or the beat gets lost in what I’m trying to say.

Obviously it not an impossible task because many talented writers and musicians find the beat. The rapper and beat become partners, singing to and around each other; plotting out poetry that is flexible, alive and active. But can I create a beat myself? Can my writing set a tone in your lives? Absolutely! Jesus’ ministry was Allegro (fast and upbeat), whereas John the Baptist’s preparation was Grave. Why were two God commissioned men preaching so differently? John was the transition from the law of sin (death), to abundant life in Jesus Christ! They both set different tones with the music they played, but both brought repentance, redemption, and restoration to those chosen and willing to follow. It says that there is an order and purpose in each note that we play. It also says to me that each of us will play our own God given tempo. The things that don’t change are Christ provider of our beat, prayer, scripture, fellowship, and witnessing. Every single powerhouse in scripture had these five disciplines as part of their music. Some of us may be playing Ode to Joy and others Visee-Allemande Grave, but both take discipline . . . who knows, with God’s help I may try my hand once more at that iambic pentameter.

Christians, MacGyvers of Faith: Using our God given Resources in all circumstances

Christians are “MacGyvers”. Doubt me? Check out Acts 16 for an action packed escape from prison. PauI and Silas blew up the gates with hymens and prayer.

Today, I started re-watching MacGyver, one of my favorite shows as a kid. He got out of some pretty tight spots and saved the day a lot. I used to wish that I could create things out of gum, paperclips, string and of course, his trusty Swiss Army Knife. As a Christian, I too have to use the resources at hand, to get through trials. Paul says, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:12)​ Sometimes my faith leads me on missions that test the limits of what is humanly possible. The loss of my precious son on this earth, certainly qualifies. Turning the Page on Suicide, my mission, won’t be solved in an hour. I am having to use everything that God has taught me, and acknowledge where I am weak. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

My toolkit includes:

Bible

Prayer

Church

Experiences

Holy Spirit

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

You could say that my Swiss Army Knife is the Bible—useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16) My gum and paperclips are the experiences I have of God’s faithfulness, and prayer is my life-line in all situations. But, unlike MacGyver, I never work alone. The Holy Spirit guides me to the tools that I need, and is currently helping me in the circumstances of being a survivor of suicide. God is proving himself faithful and that he does not leave me to figure out my plan alone.

So no, I may not have to unstrap myself from a bomb that is about to detonate, but I do have some pretty difficult circumstances to navigate, however long I’m here on earth. Some Christians are called to stand in some pretty hot fiery furnaces. That takes all the resources God has to help me and like MacGyver, I must open my eyes to all the possible tools at my disposal.

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Suicide Hotline

National Suicide Hotline

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to the website at  SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.