Don't avoid them or get angry or get even--but rather welcome them. They will help us crucify the flesh.
This is a hard thing to be sure. Jesus was straightforward about what discipleship was and is about. He wants us to understand that becoming his disciple and taking up our cross will shatter us, change us, and revolutionize us to our very core. But one more thing He wants us to understand is that there is a way to bear our cross--The same way he bore His.
And how is that? He looked beyond His cross and saw the joy that awaited Him. Now He has the joy of victory over death and the grave. He has the joy of knowing that he was completely obedient to his Heavenly Father. He has the joy of a glorified body and reigning forever as King of Kings and Lord of lords. And He has the joy of knowing that He has made a way for all those who will believe to come to Heaven with Him.
Now He has the joy, but not before the cross. The same is true for usthe joy awaits us but first What is it about that word that sends all kinds of emotions flowing through our veins? To each individual it mean something different and often the definition can change in an instant depending on circumstances. Webster defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens us or strength in the face of pain or grief.
Many struggle with fear and I put my own name at the top of the fear list. However I'm beginning to see that the only time a person can show courage is when they're afraid. Fear and courage are brothers! Many think it takes courage to do some adventurous thing, like high dive into a pool or drive a racecar at a ridiculous speed,but the truth is that sometimes it takes more courage just to live life, day after endless day. To face what life may give at the particular moment and still choose to step forward into that day.
Those things, those hard can't believe this is happening things, those are the ones that take courage. Everyone is looking for the magic-The adventure, including me. I imagine myself sitting on a beach looking out into the beautiful water and yet that's not where life happens. It takes more courage to stand up and move away from the dream and go in the opposite direction. Dreams are fantasies not realities-dreams are not life. Dreams are fluffy-they always seem to have a happy ending and they tend to make us believe that we can attain heaven on earth! Life on the other hand can at times appear stark and even brutal.
Which do you think needs more courage to face--The fluff or the reality? True it takes courage to step in to something new, however it takes the same courage to move out into each mundane day. The world wants us to believe that courage will help you find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This philosophy tends to breed discontentment and causes those of us who can't even see the rainbow, let alone the end of it, to somehow feel like failures or losers who have never experienced life.
After 66 years of life, I find that I have had to dig deep down within myself to pull up the courage that has been needed to carry-on. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other has taken more guts than running a marathon. And as someone who has lived life for a while now, I have this desire to tell the younger generation the truth!
The truth that life comes in all sizes and shapes--ups and downs--ins and outs. And that courage will be needed to face each turn. Sometimes you can identify the curve ahead, while other times it will be totally unexpected. One moment you will be skydiving out of an airplane and the next moment that same plane, will come crashing down at topspeed! You will need courage to face the jump and the crash.
So what is the answer to this perplexing problem? Well, it's been my experience to take your eyes off of the road, whether adventurous or mundane and focus them instead on the cross. And believe me that in itself takes courage! Everyone wants to walk a path of fun and adventure, but as I said before most of life doesn't happen there.
When your path takes a turn into heartache, financial loss, unexpected sickness or whatever the Lord may place along the way, that's when your courage will be put to the test.
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Can you walk this path that only a moment ago seemed so bright, but now appears dim and hard to maneuver? The only way it can be done is to stop looking at the road and start looking at Him-at Him hanging on the cross and hear Him say, " will you follow me until the end?
Of course you will, but at that moment if you say yes, you will experience genuine courage and understand what it truly means. You'll realize that courage is less about adventure and more about moving forward toward Christ day by day until the end. And when our path leads us into his presence, our trials will be ended, our fears will vanish and we will never have to have courage again! For many of us Father's Day does not fill us with sweet memories or happy thoughts.
Often the mere mention of the word father can cause our hearts to ache. No matter what our age, each one of us has a strong desire for a father that holds us close in his heart and rejoices over the fact that we are his child. But unfortunately that is not the case for everyone. On Father's Day while every one was celebrating and praising their godly fathers, my eyes looked around the church auditorium and saw many who could not join in the festivities-those who have suffered greatly, physically and emotionally at the hand of the one whom they should be able to trust the most.
There are many things beyond my understanding and the older I get the more I realize that's OK. I don't need to understand everything and truthfully I cannot. And most importantly I can let go of my need to know! So when certain holidays begin filling my mind with "if only" thoughts, I find I am faced with two choices- either I let God be God or I can sink into the miry clay of self pity.
Looking back at the past without trusting that God was there with me, sentences me to a life of regret, remorse and bitterness. She was sexually assalted by her half brother Amnon. One of her first responses was to take her colorful robe, the one reserved for the King's daughters who were virgins, and tear it in two. Through no fault of her own, she could no longer wear it.
Her brother Absolom told her to remain in his house and tell no one. So there she sat in ashes and ruin, locked out of life by abuse. I am sure she wondered if anyone would ever want her or if she would ever feel whole again. Many of us can identify with Tamar's pain. Probably more than we can even imagine. But healing must begin somewhere and the starting point is at the foot of the cross. Because there is One who does want us, the precious Lord Jesus Christ.
Think of it, He actually desires us to be His bride. With everlasting love, mercy, and acceptance, He takes the torn virgin's robe and replaces it with a white robe of righteousness. In that very moment He begins to redeem our loss, our pain, and takes the ashes of our life and gives us beauty. Who else but the Lover of our souls could take ashes and make it beautiful? Not only are we a bride, but we are adopted into a Heavenly family as well. Now we have a Father who is everything and so much more than we could have ever longed for in a dad.
Loving, meriful, good, kind, forgiving-the list is endless. I especially love the part that He will never leave and that none of His tenderness toward me is conditional. He truly does love me just as I am, now and forever. And because of Jesus I am brought into this precious family, full of brothers and sisters. People I can make this journey to Heaven with, people I can put my arms around and say I understand and I care. For me that makes it all worth it.
My Father is restoring the years that the locust have eaten. Now as I look around the room, I thank the Lord for the rare opportunity to identify with such precious brothers and sisters, who like me have had painful pasts. They inspire me-they refuse to let anything hold them back from moving forward toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Accepting without answers is a special way of loving our Heavenly Father that not everyone has been given except those who have known this pain.
Phil Everything it seems has an end, a song, a basketball game, a church service, a life. What does the phrase "the end" mean to you? And doesn't everything that has an end also have a beginning? Somewhere there is a starting point that finds it's way to the finish line.
There are times we can not wait for the end-if the preacher is going too long, if the movie is scary, if the class is boring. Other times though we don't want something to end, like a good book, a happy day, or the life of a loved one. So when it comes to "the end", we can't seem to make up our minds.
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The Lord Jesus Christ had no beginning and He has no end and yet when He willingly came to earth He experienced both on our behalf. Human life for our Savior began in a stable and ended on a cross. There where many times throughout His earthly life when others attempted to hasten His end, but were not successful. Although we are not told perhaps our Lord was ready for it all to end and yet He knew His time had not come.
Let's be honest, I'm quite sure that many of us have longed for the end. When we are sick or weary or afraid, the end can appear to be the best solution. Trying to manufacture the end is never the answer. Didn't David once say,"Oh that I had the wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest. A few verses down he admits that if he could, he would hasten or hurry his escape from the windy storm and tempest.
I do not believe it is abnormal, wrong or unspiritual to long for the end. We Christians know where the end is leading. Paul says it best, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But while we are still here on planet Earth, we cannot dictate the end. Christ is our example and all the saints who have gone before us. Whatever the circumstance they found themselves in they trusted their Heavenly Father to light their path and they learned to leave the end up to Him.
That way they could move through each day accepting His grace moment by moment. It kept their focus where all our focus needs to be, and that is on Him and off of searching for the end. When the Lord Jesus went to the cross, He suffered unthinkable, unimaginable agony and yet the end came. He cried, It is finished" and then He willingly died.
The pain and torture ended and what remained was our redemption. He was obedient unto death and Hebrews tells us that He endured the cross by looking not at the end but rather at the joy that would come from it all. You and i can walk through each trial with hope and victory as our eyes are fixed on Him and not our desire for the end. Our peace amid the storms of life only comes when we stop resisting and fighting, searching for the end and release it into His able hands.
Just like Satan wanted everyone to think, that the cross was the end of Jesus, he wants us to believe that what we are being called upon to carry will be our end as well. But the truth is that the cross was not the end, it was the beginning. The end we search for is the end of the trial, the end of the hurt, the end of the heartache but Jesus is saying, if you are looking for an end, let it be an end to self.
And when you and I come to the end of ourselves, that is our beginning as well. Remember the three little pigs singing so merrily, "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Fear can wear many faces, but truthfully it's the most formidable giant I do battle with. When David went out to fight Goliath he was prepared to take on the giant's siblings as well. Well when fear comes to my door he brings along two of his brothers, worry and control, to help him divide and conquer.
Although it is true that most of my fears tend to be unwarrented, at the time they certainly seem real. Now I'm just like the rest of you, I love to announce to all that I have come a long way in this area, but the distance between where I am and where I should be is what I believe they call a blind spot. I am blind to it, however others are not. This results in them not being overly impressed with my progress mostly because they know that God has so much more for me.
There are so many layers to fear. It begins with a thought. For me it is usually a "what if" worry thought. You know- what if something happens to my loved ones- what if my health gets worse- what if there is trouble in the church. The list is endless, you fill in the blank. If I do not take the "what if" thought captive, then big brother fear comes in to help worry out. This is when I lose my focus for today, fearing about what might happen tomorrow.
And it's not just my focus that is gone, but my joy is lost as well. It's as if a huge vacuum cleaner comes in and just sucks the life right out of the here and now. Worry is something going on in my mind, but fear makes me want to step up and do something. From my vantage point this is never a good idea! Now big brother control comes calling. If I do not turn my fear over to Jesus, I begin to try and manage it-it and everyone else around me. Now for those of us who struggle in this fear area, it may seem easy to hide the control from our friends and family, but we know and it is not a pleasant "knowing.
Looking at worry's progression, we all understand that the end result can move us into a dangerous place. So how are we to defeat such a huge giant?
Well certainly not in the energy of the flesh. There is no human strength powerful enough to fight such a foe, but we have Jesus Christ in us, the hope of glory and there is no one who can stand against Him. We gain the needed strength to face the fear giant through the truth of God's Word, our sword.
The particular formula is found in Paul's writtings on our thoughts in Philippians In one short paragraph we are given an exact list of things we should be thinking about and at the top of that list is truth. Paul is telling us to make sure our thoughts belong to the nature of reality. God wants me to function according to the truth, not my feelings or fantasies. When I do not stop the "what if" worry thought, I give that one tiny thought permission to grow into all kinds of fear-generating questions about the future.
And I don't know about you, but for me that process moves at lightening speed. Here is the heart of the matter. Paul said to think about things that are true-right? Therefore I must acknowledge that all these so-called future events that my "what if" fears can produce are not real, only guesses at best. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew not to think about tomorrow, in fact He said NO, not even one thought should be given to tomorrow.
How kind He is to put a time limit on what I can handle in a day hours. We have today-that is true-that is real. We do not reach back, we do not reach forward, but rather we deal with what has been given today. That is real, that is true, and that is where our thoughts should camp. So when the "what if" worry thoughts come again, and they will, I have two choices. Behind door 1 is worry and his brothers fear and control and behind door 2 is Jesus with truth and peace.
As my husband would say, "that's a no-brainer. I suppose a person much younger than myself might say, chill out! Some of us are high strung and bringing it down a notch or two can prove to be an extremely difficult task. That may be the case in this world, but we are not of this world and learning the process of being still is much easier then we all might think.
How is that even remotely possible? With that list of devastation, my problems pale in comparison. Truthfully though, there have been times when I have felt as if the very earth beneath my feet was being removed. What to do? The answer is found in Psalms , not just for David, but for all of us. It means to cease striving, stop fighting, and let go. How does that work? Say perhaps we are called upon to face a situation we never expected- a health issue, a financial problem, a relationship that begins falling apart.
These things can cause us to feel as though flood like waves are overtaking us and throwing us off balance. Our natural instinct is to fight for control, to steady the boat. We might give all the outward appearances that we are peacefully trusting the Lord and yet our spirit is striving with God and is anything but peaceful.
We can perhaps fool those around us, but our Heavenly Father- not so much. He loves us so greatly that he wants us to experience genuine peace, not the kind that we all too often manufacture. He also knew that if he failed to obey he would begin trying to do damage control and manipulate the circumstances.
In so doing, he would miss the most important part of the situation and that is- deepening his relationship with his Heavenly Father and growing his faith. The Lord is not taken by surprise by melting mountains, rising flood waters and shifting sands. In fact, He whispers in our hearts that we are exactly where He wants us to be. The outward problems are no problem to Him. What can prove to be the problem though is if we, out of fear, begin to hang on in every possible way trying to make things better-better that is in our way of thinking.
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The Holy Spirit tells us to loosen our grip and sometimes it's as if He is gently prying our fingers lose one at a time. And although this may hurt, the Lord knows it is the only path to real peace and freedom. All of us must come to that point when we realize that none of our own efforts can bring security or advancement.
We do not relax our tight grip because of self- made confidence nor because we consider ourselves to be one of the most composed people in the face of disaster. That is exactly what happens, when we relax our grip and let go. Some might say that our faith is like a leap in the dark and perhaps it may seem that way.
There have been many times throughout my Christian life, when I have clung to one particular verse of Scripture. I am right in the middle of one of those times. Wait a minute, did I just say middle? However for me there comes a point in each one of my trials that I know I must stop trying and start trusting. I would like to say that I have grown enough spiritually that this point comes at the very beginning but I am not going to lie, not to myself or to you or most importantly to God.
If only. My cardiologist transferred to England to take up a position there in the January but in February my heart started to trip again. Ferb, my beloved assistance dog, was going absolutely crazy every time it happened. So I listened to my super-pup. As the NHS were not helpful, Aeron had funded my heart op and treatment and funded me seeing a new cardiologist. By this time, I no longer bought that approach. The second rhythm was a ventricular one. I could feel the difference. I sought a second opinion from the man who took over from Hero-doc. Imagine it. You are paying them to ask for help because your heart is not doing the right things; you have experience of what it feels like because you have already undergone an operation and know there is a possibility of having more.
He then offered me anti-arrhythmic medication. I was confused why if I had no issues he wanted to give me this medication. Needless to say, I ignored him and found a female cardiologist. I explained my situation, what had been said and gave her my test results. She was incredibly thorough and kind.
She went through every test to check my physical structure because she listened. She sent me to a trusted friend a guy and expert who ran another test and… guess what… he thought I was crazy… without ever even meeting me. Back to square one, right? There are some things that can be seen, like a humped P Waves, a slurred delta wave, R wave morphologies etc. They can have a good idea, but an electrical study is the key. So in June, I travelled halfway across the country to be implanted with a recorder in my chest.
By August, two different SVTs had been picked up. Then, in October I was stressed. And guess what… the nasty rhythm tripped. Two days later my cardiologist calls me and says that she really wants me to have another EP study… soon. With no structural cause, mid-to-long term prognosis is that it will deteriorate to VF. A heart attack. It may seem real because it is. So where am I now? I have to travel half way across the country again to see a new man that specialises in electrophysiology.
My cardiologist is a pump girl and complex electrics are a highly specialised area. I have to find the ability to trust another doctor. I would like to say to my dear medical friends that unless you have experienced full force arrhythmias of any kind, do not act like it is a trivial matter. It is real. It is terrifying.
It is not okay to make me feel stupid or neurotic for being concerned. It should not matter what my age, gender, lifestyle or size of my wallet, I should be listened to. You might have done a medical doctorate but I live in my body. I have to do that because that is the only way I can get help and be listened to. Do not just accept being fobbed off if you are worried. If you are concerned, you should be listened to. Heart problems are the second biggest foe for women. More women are lost to heart problems than cancer and only dementia is a bigger threat.
They are not just problems that only the elderly, obese, diabetic, smokers etc. You can be a fit healthy individual of 19 like I was and still be effected. If you are female or have the genetical make up of one, knowing that we experience arrythmia differently and what our symptoms are is vital. After all, what amount of money is more valuable than a life? You have a right to life. Oh my god Jodie, I knew you were unwell…but I had no idea.
All I can offer is a mental hug to you all. If you ever need anything from me at all, just ask. I read it all. I hear you. My heart goes out to yours. Keep standing in your own space, in your own shoes and stay strong in your demands for the treatment that you need and deserve. Well done.
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