God’s Flowers

Psalm 104:30  When You send out Your breath, life is created, and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.  (VOICE)

We ate at a Chinese restaurant the other day. While we were waiting for our food, the waitress created a rose out of the paper sleeve from a straw. Something you usually wad up and throw away became a flower.

Living with a loved one can be stressful, to say the least, but I am thankful even for that. It is making me more resilient and more patient (hopefully).

Even though more high-profile people have been open about their struggles with mental illness, it still carries a lot of stigma. Those with a brain disorder are ignored or avoided. Even in the church, the one place where they should feel safe.

photo by Gila Oren

God doesn’t see mentally ill people as throw-aways. Like the waitress, God can take imperfect people (and aren’t we all imperfect), and create something beautiful. He sees the flower in us before it is there.

I need to begin to see all people the way God does, as beautiful and renewed. It happens when His Holy Spirit breathes life into us.

Join with me as we resolve to have God-eyes. When we go through rough places with our mentally ill loved one, we will ask for Him to help us see that person the way He sees them.

After all, every one of us is an unfinished flower, being folded into a gorgeous bloom, part of His eternal bouquet.

 

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The God Who Is Trustworthy

Psalm 112:7-8  They will not be afraid when the news is bad
because they have resolved to trust in the Eternal. Their hearts are confident, and they are fearless,
 for they expect to see their enemies defeated.

Discouragement and fear might come easy in these days of violence, whether it is from extreme natural disasters or from the hand of a human being such as we saw in Las Vegas yesterday. Sometimes it seems as if God has lost control of His creation.

photo by Alex on Flicker.com

But He hasn’t. I can’t explain why He allows such things to happen, and I am suspect of anyone who claims they can. How can we know the mind of the Almighty, the One who created the universe out of nothing?

Here’s what I do know: He is trustworthy.

Even on a smaller stage in my own family when our mentally ill family member has a crisis, I can be confident that God is in control. He sees and knows everything, and I can shake the uncertainty that can roar into my heart at such times.

My enemies can be defeated, my enemies of fear and confusion and doubt, my perennial opponents worry and anxiety.

So have I achieved perfect peace? Not by a long shot. But I’m better than I used to be. I have scriptures on little notecards around the house. I turn to God in prayer more quickly. My close friends will pray for me when I ask them.

Prayer, God’s Word, and Christian relationships can be your lifelines, too. Resolve ahead of time that when stuff happens, you will still trust in our holy and loving and perfect God.

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Inventions in My Mind

Proverbs 3:5 Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on Him completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions.  (VOICE)

The other day I invented a complete conversation with someone. Everything I said was so intelligent, and even brilliant. That person changed his ways because of my words.

Of course, that conversation only happened in my mind.

Photo by Ainali

We who belong to the IWC (International Worriers Club) are good at inventing things. We invent scenarios that could happen, might happen, should happen. Of course, they seldom do.

Come on now. I know I’m not the only one who does this.

I am currently trying to give up my membership in the IWC and joining the OTG (Only Trusting God) group. It’s not easy. Worry is a habit, easily obtained and not so easily lost.

Living with a stepson with a brain illness (bipolar disorder) has often led to worry. I’ve worried about whether he’s taking his meds. I’ve worried about his choice of friends. I’ve worried about when his next outburst is going to be. But I’m slowly changing from a worrier to a truster.

You see, God is sovereign. He’s ultimately in control of everything in my life in the sense that everything that happens is filtered through Him. Even the bad things He allows because He always has my best interests at heart. He loves me.

He loves you, too. Drop the IWC and join the OTG bunch. The club is big and is growing. You are not alone. Read the Bible regularly. Go to church and make relationships with other believers. Pray about everything.

But the only requirement for joining the OTG club is a heart full of desire to change.

Let God do the heavy lifting.

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Changed in His Presence

Ezekiel 46:9   When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed festivals, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate.  (VOICE)

Today this verse was in part of my morning devotions where Ezekiel is talking about God’s plans for the temple. I am not a Bible scholar, so some may not see what I saw in this verse.

God gave specific instructions to the people about how they were to approach worship. They were to leave the temple through the door that was the opposite of the one where they entered.

It made me think about how I enter into God’s presence. Sometimes I’m angry or sad or discouraged. And I’ll admit that sometimes I really don’t even want to be there, but I do it out of some sense of obligation.

God wants me to go to Him no matter what my state of mind is. When I go to Him with all of my raw but honest emotions, He loves me. And that love changes me.

So when I leave His presence, I leave in a different way.

Life with a mentally ill family member can go from peacefulness to World War III in an instant. Can you relate to that?

There is hope. Hope that somewhere down the road there is healing for our loved ones, and hope that God will sustain us throughout the storms. That’s what He has promised in the Bible.

Don’t avoid God when you are in the throes of a crisis. Run don’t walk through that door into His presence. You will leave changed.

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The Valley of God’s Glory

Ezekiel 3:22-23  Then the Lord took hold of me, and He said to me, “Go out into the valley, and I will talk to you there.” So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the Lord.  (NLT)

Our life journey consists of mountaintops, valleys, and the occasional flat plain. Lately it seems like I’ve spent more time in the valley than I want to. Living with a mentally ill family member sometimes feels like taking up residence in a valley. But when I look back at my life, it’s in those valleys where I’ve made the most progress in my faith, where I’ve seen the glory of the Lord, and those valleys are never permanent.

photo by photographersnature

Valleys can seem like dark places because the sun is blocked by the surrounding mountains a good part of the day. But here’s another thing about being in a valley: You can’t help but look up, and when you look up you see God’s glory.

What does the glory of the Lord look like?

It’s strength when I feel like I’m done. It’s peace when I feel agitated. It’s comfort when things look overwhelming and I feel alone.

So being in the valley isn’t all bad. And the road through the valley will eventually lead you out either into a spacious plain or on a road that takes you up to the mountaintop.

If you’re in a valley, look up. God’s glory is there.

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Endurance

James 1:2-4  Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. (VOICE)

Long distance runners I’ve read about say that there comes a point when it seems too difficult to finish the race, but by powering through they get a “second wind” that takes

photo by Joshbdork at English Wikipedia

them to the finish line.

Never having been a distance runner (and never desiring to be one) I don’t know that aspect of running to be true. However, in the verses above James says the same thing concerning our spiritual journey.

I’ve been in a discouraging place lately, especially concerning my bipolar stepson. I don’t see him making any progress or doing positive things that would help him navigate his illness.

My joy was all but gone, and I felt like quitting the race.

But James tells me to persevere through these times, “as difficult as they are,” and God will help me get to the other side.

I volunteered one time at a Special Olympics event in the town where I was living. My job was to stand at the finish line and cheer on my particular runner. What fun it was, and those kids weren’t particularly disappointed if they didn’t win. They were just excited to cross the finish line and get a hug.

Guess who’s at the finish line of our race: JESUS!

When we cross that line we not only get a hug, we get a forever life with Him.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When we stick it out, our reward is maturity, completeness, and fulfillment.

And Jesus is cheering us on at the finish line.

Keep your eyes on Him.

 

 

 

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Training for Life

1 Corinthians 9:25  Athletes in training are very strict with themselves, exercising self-control over desires, and for what? For a wreath that soon withers or is crushed or simply forgotten. That is not our race. We run for the crown that we will wear for eternity. (VOICE)

Here’s a confession: I love watching American Ninja Warriors competitions. Their extraordinary feats of strength and coordination aren’t just a matter of chance. They don’t just show up and compete, but what they do is the result of planning and training for months and even years.

They train in gyms, and they even build things in their backyards to use for training. They train hard and they train consistently. It is all about preparation, physically and mentally.

When we found out my stepson has bipolar disorder, I prepared. Here’s what I did:

  1. I read books about mental illness.
  2. I researched online about brain disorders generally and bipolar disorder specifically.
  3. I attended the Family to Family class offered by NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). It’s free and they provided us with a huge notebook of information and helps. (Check out their internet site at NAMI.org.)

See anything missing on my list?

I have to admit that when we initially found out about my stepson, turning to God wasn’t the first thing I thought of. Actually, I was a little miffed at God that my life wasn’t turning out to be the wonderful thing I thought I deserved. (Ouch! Did I really say that??)

I didn’t turn to anyone in my church family because, to tell the truth, I didn’t know if they would understand our struggle. The church has been silent concerning the mental health issue for far too long. (It’s getting better, however. That’s for another blog post.)

Watching the Ninja Warriors inspires me but also embarrasses me. Am I as committed to things in my life as they are to their chosen sport?

Am I that committed to God? Do I train spiritually as hard as they train for their competitions? Do I spend time daily with God in prayer and in the Scriptures? Do I attend church and develop relationships with other Christians who can support me in the struggles of life with mental illness?

Do I support others who have the same struggle? I’ve noticed that whenever someone is competing on American Ninja Warriors, the other contestants are all on the sidelines cheering. What a picture of how the body of Christ should function.

So I train, not for a trophy, but for an eternal reward, which is much more important.

 

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