Finding Peace

Isaiah 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

Right now I’m looking out at a lake from the home that my brother owns. The hummingbirds are busy at the feeder, and last night I watched the lightning bugs do theirdance through the trees.

I’m feeling peaceful.

It wasn’t always this way when we went on a trip. Worry about what might or might not be happening at home with my bipolar stepson almost ruined the time that should have been restful. We had, at various times, received phone calls from neighbors and friends and even the police about trouble he was causing.

photo by Archbob

Finally, after many years, my peace has returned and I can enjoy our times away. It’s not that something won’t happen back home, but I’ve learned to leave my anxiety with Jesus and trust Him with whatever happens.

It’s so freeing.

Jesus knows exactly what is going on, and I’ve come to realize that we can weather any storm that might happen because God’s with us in that situation.

Trust isn’t easy to learn, and my hold on it is tenuous at times. But I won’t let my life be held hostage to my fears. God has better things for me to do.

Let Him shoulder your load. He knows and is ultimately in control. His love will hold you tight when you feel like you’re losing it.

Peace. There’s nothing like it.

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Looking Through God’s Lens

Proverbs 7:1-2 My son, live according to what I am telling you; guard my instructions as you would a treasure deep within you. Stay true to my directives, and they will serve you well; make my teachings the lens through which you see life.

Life with a mentally ill person can seem distorted when I look at it with the wrong lens. Too often I’m looking through my pain, my anger, my disappointment. I forget that there’s a better way to view life.

God hasn’t left me defenseless to battle my own way through the maze of mental illness. He’s given us the Scriptures. The verse above calls it a treasure.

photo by Andre Karwath (Aka)

Boy, can I ever get demanding sometimes. When we went through a difficult time last week, I said, “Lord, show me the exact chapter and verse that will help me get through this! I want specifics!” Don’t tell me that you’ve never asked for that.

The thing is, even though the Word might not tell me exactly what to do, the principles are there to help me, and the Holy Spirit will teach me how to apply them in my life. Like a lens, when I look at my situation through those principles, God’s will eventually becomes more clear.

Notice I said “eventually.” It took me a couple of days of worthless stewing and fretting, but I finally picked up my Holy Spirit camera and looked at what was happening. My heart and mind settled down, and I found I could pray with a bit more clarity instead of just griping to God.

Amazing what the right lens can do.

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The Importance of Remembering

Joshua 4:4-7  Joshua did just as He instructed and summoned the twelve men, who had been chosen from the Israelites to represent the twelve tribes, to give them instructions. Joshua said, “Go back into the Jordan riverbed to the covenant chest of the Eternal your God, and each carry a stone upon your shoulder, (twelve stones for the twelve tribes of the Israelites) so that we may build a memorial of this day. Someday when your children ask you, ‘Why are these stones piled up here?’ you will tell them how the waters of the Jordan parted as the covenant chest of the Eternal One crossed the river, and these stones will fix that memory for the Israelites forever.”

The wife of a friend has advanced Alzheimer’s. She no longer recognizes her friends or family – even her husband of more than 50 years. She has no recollection of the quilt pieces that make up the pattern of her life. It’s so tragic.

photo by Eileen Sanda

Memory is crucial for us. God created us with the capacity to remember, and He taught Israel how to do something that we need to do in our own lives. Often in the Old Testament we see Israel build altars of remembrance so that they’d never forget how God helped them in situations that seemed impossible.

Whenever my stepson starts exhibiting the kind of behavior caused by his brain disorder, I try to remember how in the past God has answered my prayers for him in ways that could only be from God.

I build mental memorials.

Today is Memorial Day. It is all about remembering those who have sacrificed for what we enjoy today and about those loved ones who are already gone. I think we also should use this time to remember how God’s hand has been in our lives all along.

Don’t get mired down in all of the sometimes chaotic times living with a person who has a mental illness. Just remember how far God has brought you, and never forget that you can move on confident  in the knowledge that He will stay with you always.

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His Greatness in My Heart

Psalm 99:2  The Eternal is great in the hearts of His people; He has made Zion His sacred mountain, and He reigns majestic over all people.

God is great in my heart. Spring reminds me of that because to me it represents hope. Life is full of cycles and patterns. The more I learn about the intricacies of creation, the more I’m in awe of God. From the outer reaches of the universe to the smallest particle of matter to the remarkable workings of the human body – God’s plan is perfect.

Everything about God is perfect. His faithfulness is perfect. His power is perfect. His grace and mercy are perfect. His justice is perfect as is His righteousness. Most of all, His love is perfect.

God isn’t present just in a human-built tabernacle anymore. His home is in the heart of those who ask Jesus to forgive them and live with them.

There are a billion reasons why His greatness should be in my heart, even though sometimes it seems that in living with a mentally ill stepson it would be easy to live in anger and resentment. At times I have given in to those feelings, but then I have to remind myself that God is greater than mental illness.

Read that again:  God is greater than mental illness.

So regardless of how you are feeling, keep God’s greatness in your heart.

If for no other reason than this, that He loves you.

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My Jesus Makeover

1 Corinthians 1:30  Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption.

God is so faithful about speaking Truth into my life. Sometimes it’s in His Word, sometimes it’s through the advice of a friend, sometimes it’s through the Sunday sermon – which is what happened to me this week.

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and our pastor’s wife spoke. She used the passage in Luke 6:6-11 in which Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. She said something really profound: Unless Jesus touches us in our withered areas we will never change.

Notas de prensa

All of my own efforts to change my attitudes and actions when dealing with a mentally ill family member have not always proved effective. In fact, they usually are not effective. It’s only when I allow Jesus access to my life that things change.

I needed to hear what she had to say in the worst way.

She also said that God can use us even in our brokenness, sometimes because of our brokenness. He uses us right where we are and not where we would like to be. But His grace helps us to move toward a place of greater fulfillment and usefulness as we rely on His working in our lives and not our own efforts.

What a relief!

So let God speak into those withered areas of your life. He’s more able to touch and heal than you could ever imagine. He is the source, as the verse above says, of any wisdom and righteousness and holiness we need. And especially the source of our redemption.

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Designed by God

Philippians 1:6  I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, returns to redeem the world. (VOICE)

Well, how did you do with the challenge I gave you last week, to begin to develop praise as a habit?

It was difficult, wasn’t it? I know it was for me. Habits in my thought life are so ingrained that it takes a long time to change them. Then, of course, there was a test. The first day. I was just about to get angry about something my bipolar stepson did when I remembered my praise experiment.

I turned my thoughts to God and began to thank Him and praise Him. Before you could blink an eye, my attitude changed and my anger was diffused. So all week I was perfectly turned in to God and my mouth and mind were filled with praise.

NOT!!!!

By Saturday I was discouraged. Lord, I prayed, how long is this going to take? When will I ever learn?

I have a coffee mug on my desk that I painted myself that says this:  His Masterpiece Created for His Glory. Here’s the deal. I was trying all week in my own strength to change myself instead of yielding my heart and mind to the working of my Creator.

photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man)

God is in charge of perfecting me. He has promised to keep on perfecting me until He calls me home. It’s kind of like a caterpillar. While in the cocoon it doesn’t look like anything is happening, but all the while inside is a miracle of change called a metamorphosis.

While I’m on earth, I’m in a spiritual cocoon. Unimaginable beauty is being formed in me. God doesn’t stop working on me, as I was reminded this Sunday in one of the songs we sang. Someday I will be finished, a butterfly with wings to fly to my heavenly Father.

In the meantime, I need to be patient because even though it seems like not much progress is being made, God will never set me aside. He promised to complete what He has started.

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Traveling by the Light of God’s Face

Psalm 89:15  How happy are those who have learned how to praise You; those who journey through life by the light of Your face.  (VOICE)

Do you ever feel like you aren’t making any progress in your life? I’ve been feeling that lately, especially concerning my stepson who’s bipolar. Discouragement has been my companion lately. I’m even having difficulty writing this week because it seems as though I’m going around the same mountain again and again.

The problem, you see, is that I’ve failed to recognize God in my life. My eyes are looking down at my feet and at the rocky trail instead of following the light of God’s face.

According to this verse from Psalm 89, praise isn’t something that comes naturally. It’s something I have to learn. I guess I’ve been playing hooky from class.

photo by reebs

So this week I’m going to experiment. I’m going to start my day with praise and keep practicing it all day every day until I’ve begun to develop a habit of praise.

When I keep my eyes on His light, the path isn’t so dark after all.

Are you trying to walk through your journey with your eyes down or even with your eyes closed? Praise ignites the light we need.

I’ll let you know next week how this week has been. Will you join me in this experiment of praise?

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