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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Seeing What We Can’t See

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.

Living with a family member who has a brain disorder, I find myself focusing on the problems too much. Sometimes it’s his refusal to take his medications when he should or to deal with his alcoholism. Sometimes it’s just his attitude toward those at the behavioral facility who are trying to help him.

Some days feel like they last forever. But Paul reassures me that in the grand scheme of things, these “pains” in my life are very short.

photo by Zereshk

I tend to have it backwards in viewing my situation. I see the actions and hear the words of those around me, but fail to see God’s hand in my life and the things in my spirit that He is accomplishing. Life and its problems are temporary. Spiritual aspects of my life are far more permanent, for God is in the business of creating good out of those problems, things that build me up and glorify Him in the process.

Let’s put on our spiritual glasses so we can see beyond the difficulties and distractions of this life into the future beyond life here on earth.

Nothing on earth can compare with what He has waiting for us in eternity.

See what you can’t see.

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My Forever Life

John 11:25-26  I am the resurrection and the source of all life; those who believe in Me will live even in death. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never truly die. Do you believe this?

My mother died one year and my father the next. They were both 93. When your parents reach their nineties, it seems like since they’ve always been there they always will be there. And then they’re gone.

Their deaths left gaping holes in my heart. Did I grieve? Of course. But underneath my grief – or maybe hovering over my grief – was the knowledge that it wasn’t the end.

They were Christ-followers, and I believe what Jesus said to Martha in the above verse, that if you believe in Him, you never really die. So I’ll see my parents again, along with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and friends who have gone on to be with Jesus.

photo by Jozef Kazimierz “Meaglin” Sokolowski

That’s what Easter is all about. It’s an empty cross and an empty tomb. He took care of our sin on the cross, then He took care of death itself by His resurrection.

Living with a mentally ill family member can be frustrating and discouraging when dealing with a seemingly unending list of problems. On those days I rather envy those who are already enjoying life with Jesus. Someday I will, too.

In the meantime I live with hope. Hope for my stepson’s healing, but also hope because of the preparation this life is providing to prepare me for my forever life.

My forever life with Jesus.

So just as Jesus asked Martha, he asks you, “Do you believe this?”

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Weak But Usable

2 Corinthians 4:7 But this beautiful treasure is contained in us – cracked pots made of earth and clay – so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.

photo by Einsamer Schutze

Do you see yourself as a beautiful treasure? I have to admit that sometimes I see myself as something less than a treasure. Especially when I haven’t handled things well with my stepson, who has a mental illness – bipolar disorder.

This verse comforts me because it reassures me that God can use me even though I have flaws. Mental illness is a bumpy road, as is life in general. The Apostle Paul goes on to say that we get chips and cracks but aren’t destroyed, and we’re never abandoned by God.

I like to be in control of my life, to make plans, to keep to a schedule, to complete my to-do lists. The problem with that is that God doesn’t always go along with my plans, which seem so well-thought-out but don’t allow for those God-interruptions or, even more important, those corrections He speaks into my spirit. His way is always better. Why is that so hard for me to learn?

My power is weak and flawed. His power shines through when I let Him have control. If I try to do everything on my own, how does that reflect His character?

It all boils down to trust. Do I trust God with my life and with my stepson’s life? Can I quit trying to “fix” circumstances and people and just let God handle it? Is my faith in my own ability or in God’s love and grace?

Embrace your flaws because it’s the only way that God can use you and let others see that it’s Him at work in you.

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The Comfort of God

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. (VOICE)

For a long time I had trouble seeing any good coming from my struggles with a bipolar stepson. Nothing in my life had prepared me for dealing with the kind of behavior I was seeing in him as he went through phases of mania and depression.

photo by Alex Proimos

I was a little bit mad at God for dropping me into a situation I didn’t understand. But once my stepson had been diagnosed and as I gained some steady footing, I went about the work of learning as much as I could about this illness. Books, support groups, internet research all contributed to a clearer picture of mental illness in all of its forms. Somehow just taking the unknown and giving it a name and learning that many others are dealing with the same thing made it less threatening.

Scripture was an even greater source of learning for me. I love this verse from Corinthians because it assures me that God knew exactly what He was doing by placing me in this family. Already I’ve had a chance to share with others about my struggles and what I’ve learned. The comfort God has given me I have been able to pass on to others and let them know that they’re not alone.

You know, God never wastes anything that He allows us to go through. Whatever you’re facing in your life, God can use to make you stronger, to help you learn to rely on Him, and to share His compassion and comfort with others.

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Guaranteed Grace

Psalm 30:4-5  Sing, all you who remain faithful! Pour out your hearts to the Eternal with praise and melodies; let grateful music fill the air and bless His name. His wrath, you see, is fleeting, but His grace lasts a lifetime. The deepest pains may linger through the night, but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning.  (VOICE)

Well, here I am again, admitting that too often my pouring out to the Lord takes the form of complaints. But I’m gradually learning that praise and gratitude are the keys to a better state of mind. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal, and it has made me look for the blessings and graces of God rather than looking too much at my circumstances.

Why does everything look worse at night? So often in the dark hours my mind goes to those troubling things we experience with my mentally ill stepson. I worry about his drinking, his friends, his compliance in taking his meds.

photo by Bigroger27509

But here the Scriptures say that even though things look bleak at night, joy will return in the morning. I’ve found that to be true. In the light of day things don’t seem quite so bad. You see, God’s Word also tells me that God’s grace “lasts a lifetime.”

We recently bought something that had a lifetime guarantee. Even so, it’s only made out of stuff that will never be able to last forever. No so with God’s grace. It has a guarantee that lasts for eternity. And that’s a guarantee you can count on.

I made a pact with myself that when I get those nighttime blues I would “count my blessings” as the old hymn goes. Try it the next time you can’t sleep for thinking of the maze of mental illness you are traveling through.

God’s guaranteed grace will carry you when you feel you can’t make it one more step.

Guaranteed.

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Rescued from Fear

Psalm 34:4  When I needed the Lord, I looked for Him; I called out to Him, and He heard me and responded. He came and rescued me from everything that made me so afraid.  (VOICE)

My stepson was in a full-blown psychotic episode and my husband was out of town. I took the dog and went into the bedroom, closed the door, and sat on the edge of the bathtub. Too frightened to even pray, I said, “Jesus, Jesus,” over and over until I finally heard the front door slam.

photo by Kecko

That was life before my stepson’s diagnosis and medication. He has few episodes now, and when he does, it’s much less severe.

Fear was a constant companion in those days because I never knew what benign comment could send him into mania.

Gradually, I learned something important. Even that prayer of desperation that could find no words was a prayer that God hears and answers. And an even more important thing is that even though He doesn’t always rescue me from a specific problem, He rescues me from crippling fear.

Fear keeps us from doing dangerous things and that’s a good thing. But the kind of fear I experienced clouds the thinking. Extreme fear can be paralyzing. That’s when I need to remember that God is right there in the middle of whatever I’m dealing with. His love and grace are enough to lead me through to the other side.

The kind of fear I let control my life was non-productive, but I learned how to focus on God instead of focusing on the circumstance. I learned how to remind myself that God is sovereign and He will rescue me from my fear.

And so, my friend, when fear seems to crowd in, remember that God has never abandoned you no matter how chaotic it seems. His attention is not dependent upon anything you do or don’t do or can do. Our hope is secure, and He won’t allow you to be overtaken by circumstances. Instead, He can overwhelm you with His love and care just when you need it most.

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