Archive for Trusting God

I imagine most, if not all, of you have had some contact with serious drugs, but have you seen them cause death? That’s where the shock hits home. Yes, it is that fast. No, he almost surely didn’t know the last hit was too much for him. Always, it’s a surprise ending. Never does anyone get to say goodbye.

I started writing this blog a while ago. It began in the shock over Glee actor Cory Monteith’s death. When his autopsy came out, there was the awful truth: heroin and alcohol did this. I remember how my eyes filled up for the unfinished life.

Unfortunately he’s only been one of many. The needle – and its ugly companions – has done its damage over and over again. It has not only made headlines, it has come much closer in my life. Two of my young friends nearly lost “life as we know it” to bath salts. And a dear friend of mine has lost her great-great nephew to some kind of drug overdose, or bad batch, or – no one really knows why, only that he is gone. His family struggles now with a grief beyond words or reason.

That is why I am dedicating this blog to that young man, Eric Oliver, who lost his life before he had a chance to enjoy being an adult. Because as tragic as the Cory Monteiths and the Amy Winehouses are, the person we all want to save is you, the one we love and care about, the one we live with, or work with, or see all the time in our daily lives.

My son came very close to dying from drugs in 2010. It was a terrifying time. And just think – I got off easy. My son lived, and he’s clean now. Eric’s family and loved ones are never going to have the consolation of saying that.

At the time my son told me, “The only person who can stop me from doing drugs is me.” If you’ve ever seen an intervention you know how badly the family wants to make a difference. But it’s true: only the user can stop the chaos. Amy Winehouse singing, “No, no, no,” is a chilling omen of how it would all end because she rejected help.

The Bible doesn’t say specifically, “Thou shalt not do heroin.” So why not take a few drugs? You’ve doubtless been told some sound reasons from society at large: you can get in trouble with the law; you can dim your thinking and derail your education. Those reasons may seem remote. After all, not everyone gets caught by law enforcement. Not everyone loses their way or has addictions take over his or her entire life.

Honesty – Not to Mom and Dad, to Yourself

For starters, when you take drugs, or overeat, or bury yourself in video games, you’re not being honest about what’s bugging you. In the reports about Cory Monteith’s death, drug counselors have said over and over that one month in rehab was not enough to reach down and confront the pain he covered with drugs. How very sad.

God is big on honesty. Jesus even said that He is the Truth (John 14:6). He also said that if we held onto his teaching,

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32

We need to leave behind drugs and other addictions because the hiding has to end – and drugs hide the truth about ourselves.

We’ve All Got Something Else to Do

Then, think about this:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2

This gives us two things to do. First, we’re to leave the “pattern” of the way the world (adults as well as teens) deals with life, fears, and worries when they chill out with drugs. And of course, we need to leave a lot of other bad patterns, too – hate, arrogance, anger, and revenge, for instance.

But people who only focus on thinking, “I can’t do this, or that, anymore,” don’t really succeed because their minds are still on that Thing I Shouldn’t Do. God didn’t want to leave us there. We’ve got something positive to do to lead us away from the old pattern: renew our minds thinking about the life God has for us. The way God thinks about the world turns our view upside down, and as we catch on, it’s going to transform us. We can trust God with our past and present hurts in a way we never knew existed before. We can be honest with God and with ourselves. And we can be healed.

I don’t need to tell you that people on drugs aren’t transforming themselves. That dulled and warped thinking and the increasingly sad and scary behavior isn’t a transformation that anybody wants. And it’s like quicksand. When someone finally realizes they’re in it, they’ve already been pulled way down.

The apostle Peter says to be self-controlled and alert (or, in older translations, be sober and vigilant). You can’t have that self-control and alertness when you’re on a mind and mood altering drug. It’s standing in the way of you being honest with yourself and becoming healed and transformed.

And Somewhere Else to Go

You might be saying, but sometimes I just want to run away. We all feel like that sometimes. Peter points to the One you can run to instead, and why:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. – I Peter 4:7

Jesus is ready for you to come. Click on the song: Arms of Love

You’ve got a place to go so much deeper than any drug. It’s not only a place of hiding; it’s a place to get help.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. – Psalm 32:7

Don’t hide in drugs. Hide in Him.

Jul
02

One Day

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A Special Letter for Janice

Around Easter I asked for prayer for my friend Janice who is recovering from a serious car accident. She is paralyzed from the chest down, and she’s been in Boston learning how to function in her new life. She’ll be coming home soon to start the next chapter in this unexpected set of circumstances. This is a letter for her that I hope will touch others, too.

Dear Janice,

Every time I think of you I have such a great feeling of thanks that you are alive and with us. “In all my prayers…I always pray with joy.” (Philippians 1:4) Joy comes first, and then concern about the things you need to start afresh.

I’ve thought about you in this recent hot weather, and hoped very much that you are comfortable and in air conditioning. Here we are relying mainly on fans and I have often tossed and turned looking for sleep in vain. I realize that I have so many options like turning on my side, throwing the sheets off, going downstairs for a cold drink. They seem like luxuries now because I am not confined to bed. And again, I hope that you are completely comfortable and sleeping well.

It got me thinking. There was, in fact, one day when I could not go anywhere. It was only one day but it changed my life, and what I learned lying there has stayed with me even to this day. I arose from that bed a different person. I wanted to tell you about it. I bet you are learning these same things, too, and many more truths that are giving you insight and wisdom.

My One Day

Three years before my son Jonathan was born, there was another baby. At 4 ½ months I was happy, round and expectant. What no one knew was that I myself had been born with a major defect of the uterus. There was only half the room in my uterus as there should have been, and on August 1, halfway through the pregnancy, my water broke. Though I didn’t know why this happened I knew this meant real trouble. We headed to Women and Infants Hospital in Providence where they told me nothing could be done and the baby would not live.

One Day


This is where I was put to bed and had to stay there. I had a hospital johnny on (which I hear you didn’t like much, either). But since this was a birth process nurses kept coming to look at my bottom and I felt distinctly unclothed, modesty tossed to the wind. I could not leave the bed until the “miscarriage”, which was really the labor and delivery of a stillborn, was completed. Because of my hidden deformity what should have been a simple matter took 21 hours in all. I had a lot of time to sit there undignified. The huge sense of failure, while not logical, was overwhelming. This tiny charge of mine had died on my watch, as it were. No amount of intellectual knowledge that this was not my fault could allay that.

Three things still in my power

That one day I felt I had lost everything. What did I have left? I couldn’t bring this baby to a point where it could live. What could I still do? I began to take stock.

I could still pray. While arguably I was having a worse day than anyone I knew, there were still people facing struggles I could pray for. Two of my friends were heading to interior Africa that day in what was then Zaire to be Wycliffe missionaries. Not a task for the fainthearted. In the adjoining room to mine a woman was having premature labor and it seemed to be a struggle to make the contractions stop. I prayed for her labor to stop so she could go on and have a live baby. (I would have to confess that any prayers I prayed for myself took on the tone of a bargain. I knew God did not take bargains, but – well, desperation got the better of my spiritual knowledge. Of course, there was no bargain to be had. I was better off praying for someone else that day.)

I could be kind. I could always show kindness and concern for the other people around me and perhaps bring some dignity to myself, too. It was something I could still give, just as I was by myself in the bed. Even if no one else perceived my thought that “Look, I am giving you a gift of kindness in the midst of this horror,” the gesture changed and dignified me as the giver.

And I could try to make people laugh. I have always had a kind of dry, darker humor. I could still try to point out to people the ironies of this cockeyed world. The way you see things is often the way you choose to see them, and it’s a fallen world, and sometimes the imperfect or inadvertent outcomes are pretty funny.

There were, of course, other things I learned from the experience I had, but those are other stories for another day. These three things really shaped me. I still believe in standing behind others in prayer, perhaps in a way I hadn’t before. With each person I meet I try to be kind, and this attitude has become a real part of me. I still try to see the humor in the situations that come up. People don’t always get my jokes, but at least I laugh.

Maybe you will write at some point and add many more, and more profound, thoughts. This is what I learned and what kept me feeling like I still had something to offer in my one truly bedridden day.

When it was over and I could leave the hospital, we named the baby the Hebrew name that means “God is good.” We named her Jan.

With Jesus’ great, surpassing love,

Anne

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Jun
28

Sweet Sustenance

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Got Honey?

Last time I said how hard it was to have my friend Kristin move out of state. There’s another story to that which is actually funny. It includes what Fly Lady calls a “God-incidence” – one of those coincidences you know the Lord has His purpose in. This time I think God was laughing a little.

On the Friday night before the graduation/going away party, I told this recollection to my daughter: Not long after I graduated from college I was not making much money, and my mother asked me if there was any food I’d especially like to have. I said, “I’d like some honey.” I prefer honey in my tea but as you likely know already, it is expensive. My mother snapped, “That’s not a necessity,” probably because she preferred sugar in her tea. “Well, you asked me what I wished I had,” I countered, but I was still feeling rebuked and as if my feelings had been negated. She did, in fact, include a jar of honey in the groceries she bought me, but by then the sweet treat came with a stinging taste.

We went to the party at Kristin’s, and she gave me the food items she could not take with her on the move. It seems that sometimes Kristin forgets and buys things that she already has. In the bounty she sent home with me were three jars, all half full, of honey. It was as if Jesus was winking at me and saying, “Oh, you want honey? I can supply you with honey and you can forget the sting of the past. I can take care of all your needs.”
honey in jars Pictures, Images and Photos

Honey, Oil, and a lot of Spaghetti

Later I was struck at the particular items I ended up with in abundant duplicates. There was the honey, famously promised to the Israelites:

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – “ – Exodus 3:7 & 8

Milk and honey become the symbols of the affluence that will follow the rescue from their time of need.

Then there was olive oil. A lot of olive oil. I am not going to want for olive oil for quite some time to come. And oil was the blessing Elisha gave to a widow in 2 Kings 4:1 – 7. She had a creditor she could not pay, and he wanted to enslave her two sons as his payment. Elisha sent her to her neighbors to ask for empty jars, and she filled them all from the little bit of oil she had left in her house.

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” 2 Kings 4:6 & 7

The miracle of the oil became the means for the widow to pay her debts. What a comforting account of God’s provision.

Finally, there was a lot of spaghetti, nearly nine pounds of it. Evidently I was the beneficiary of some recent sale. I found that the prophet Elijah, too, had multiplied both oil and flour (from which pasta is made) to save another widow and her son from a drought. Elijah asked her for bread, but she told him she had none, just a little oil and a handful of flour for a last meal, after which she expected she and her son would die of starvation. But the Lord had another plan for her.

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:13 – 16

It must have taken great faith to make that first bread for Elijah, when just before that she had seen it was the end of the bread and oil. But they did not run out until the drought ended! God gave the right provision at the right time. Jesus asked,

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? . . . how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.” – Matthew 7: 9 & 10b

Kristin gave me her groceries, but God gave me His promise. I’m trusting in Him to provide and protect me in the tough times.

Jun
25

Broken for Hope

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June has brought some emotional experiences with some special high school graduations and the departure of one of my dearest friends, Kristin. Kristin and I have been friends for some 18 years, but her family is heading south to Texas. We’ve been getting together over afternoon coffees and catching up on each others’ lives for a long time. Now we are headed to cyberspace in order to keep our friendship on track. Quite a difference from the in person meetings at Dunkin’ Donuts that always ended with a hug and a promise to get together again soon.

The last of the going away parties was combined with the high school graduation party for Kristin’s oldest daughter. There were some people there who I hadn’t seen in years. One was a close friend who had moved to the Midwest. She hadn’t seen me since 2006, when I had gotten divorced, and then only briefly. I told her the truth about how things had been these last six years, and it hasn’t been pretty. She didn’t know how I had fared. My son, who had gone through severe drug addiction and rehab, she remembered only as a young boy. There were so many stories to tell from these hard years.

When I got home that night, I felt the sorrow of all that had gone before and had not gone well. And I felt the burden of those things that still await God’s timing and God’s answers. The words of the song, “Revelation” by Third Day, really hit home:

My life has led me down the road that’s so uncertain
Now I am left alone and I am broken

Roads that never lead me home


“I am broken” resounded within me. All the experiences that had hurt and not yet healed had left me a broken person. Now I believe that I am someone God can heal and use; we all are. But the enormity of all that had gone before hit me so hard that night. Perhaps I had gone from patching up this disaster and that calamity without realizing the whole effect: I had become a broken person in desperate need of God’s help and rest an healing. I needed to understand where I really was before I could arise and act upon His answers.

This time I know that you are holding all the answers
I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances
On roads that never seem
To be the ones that bring me home

So I’m wondering, has this ever happened to you? Have the hurts piled up without your really knowing it? Have you realized the depth of the wound? Before I could bring everything to the Lord, I had to know what “everything” is. I think we all do.

The song verse above talks about losing hope in the plans we make that don’t have God’s blessing. Proverbs 13:12a tells us that a hope deferred makes the heart sick. But false hope is not God’s hope.

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him….” – Romans 4:18

Abraham had been promised a son, but not only a son. This is what had been said to him in Genesis 15:5

“[The Lord] took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Now this would have been quite a promise under any circumstances, but Abraham had before him a very broken situation to assess:

“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” – Romans 4:19

In other words, neither Abraham nor Sarah were young enough to have children any more. Not one child, let alone as many as the stars in the night sky. But he did not weaken in his faith:

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” – Romans 4:20 & 21

Abraham’s promise was from God, and he knew God had the power to fix his broken situation. Do we believe God has that power for our own broken situations, or do we worry that we are going to live on, broken forever in this life? I know I could certainly remember His power more and practice remembering it more often than my past or present “breaks”.

This is how the song ends, too. “Revelation” is the singer’s prayer – not to dwell upon the past, not for the strength to do what I think needs to be done, not for me to find my own way, but to ask for the revelation of Jesus’ way.

Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
‘Cause I’ve been trying to find my way
I haven’t got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I’ve got nothing without you
I’ve got nothing without you

May
17

Into His Eyes

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Last Sunday my church took communion. One of our elders, Rick Bringhurst, challenged us beforehand to examine our hearts in this way: what if Jesus were sitting across the table from you? I had to smile. It was this very concept that had started my journey toward a deeper spiritual life over twenty years ago.

I’d been at a retreat, and the leader had suggested we close our eyes and imagine a peaceful scene – so far so good – and then Jesus coming and sitting with us in that scene. My reaction was sheer panic. Although I’d been a Christian for some ten years, the thought of Jesus actually being there, sitting right next to me, looking into my eyes, made me want to run. Of course I knew He knows all about each of us, “and even the very hairs of your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30). But to confront Him face to face? I knew this was totally the wrong reaction. My day-to-day life with God needed some major work.

Into His Eyes


Have you ever heard the word intimacy described as “into me see”? I was really not open to that. My innermost thoughts were strictly my own. That’s how I dealt with people, and that’s how I wanted it with God. But God is not satisfied with that answer. He wants to dwell in our hearts, including the parts we don’t show. And more than that, there were some feelings I had locked away. I was trying to forget, and in trying, was not being honest with myself. God wouldn’t have that dishonesty, either.

Over a period of time, I returned to this idyllic imagery gone wrong. I had to be able to let my Savior see my eyes, and thus, my soul. Those eyes penetrate so deeply! At first I thought he was looking for all my sin, and hence the terror. Eventually I realized that He was looking deep into the good in me. Yes, God deals with our sin, but there was a deeper purpose for the deep intimacy that was not for accusing me. I did not realize in my heart that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

You may want to know why this path thinking was not based more in Scripture, or in searching the Scripture. I knew many passages already that said God loved me, that He was good, that God would never leave us or leave us comfortless. But they hadn’t come off the page for me and into my real life. I knew many of the passages telling of God’s intimate knowledge of us. But would I let Him see into me to that depth? Could I let Him “search me and know me” (see Psalm 139:1)? I certainly haven’t arrived. Even if someone spent hours and hours in deep meditation, with the vastness of the love of God one never could come to full understanding. But it is much better than the young woman who wanted to run away all those years ago.

I am so glad that I was challenged to go deeper with God, to look “full in His wonderful face” as the song says. If this story challenged you or left you startled at the thought of facing Jesus, I encourage you to take the journey, too. Start having the thought of “going to the Lord in prayer” becoming a time to actually sit and be with Him so He can show you who He is – and who you are, too.

May
04

Mystery Revealed

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The Unknown about the Lord and Being Known Ourselves

Last time I blogged I looked at some things which we just don’t understand about God’s ways, and the reasons that things happen in our lives that He doesn’t reveal. Although some things remain a mystery, on the other hand we are completely, utterly known to God.

Is that always comfortable, that God knows absolutely everything about me while I cannot begin to fathom Him? In Psalm 139 King David is completely comfortable with this and finds it beautiful and wondrous.

“O Lord, You have searched me and you know me…You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.”(Psalm 139:1,3b, 4) David contrasts his thoughts about how well God knows him with verses about how the full knowledge of God is beyond him. And more than that, he rejoices in it. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”(vs.6)

David says that wherever he goes, God will be there, and moreover, He will be there for David. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? . . . If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” (vs.7,9&10)

If I settle on the far side of the sea

If I settle on the far side of the sea


After David explains how completely the Lord knows his soul, he tells of God’s perfect knowledge of his physical being: “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Vs.13&15c)

But within these thoughts he again turns to how miraculous and unfathomable God’s works are. “I will praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”(vs.14)

As this section of the psalm ends, David’s praise for God’s immensity and for His closeness to David combine: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with You.” (vs.17&18)

What a promise that is – He is still with us.

The Secret of Living with the Mysteries

What made David so comfortable? He never directly, but I think between these lines is a deep trust of His Lord. Although God reaches beyond that which David could know about or comprehend, David is sure that He can trust His loving Father with all the intimate details of his life. Does trust like that come easily? Not to me. It grows with time, with experiencing God’s love and provision, with reading passages like this that show me David’s utter trust of God. For me, the more I know of God’s care for me, the easier I can live with my unsolved mysteries.

A Prayer of Trust

Finally, there is the well known ending prayer of Psalm 139 verses 23 and 24. It is a prayer of such trust and such an open heart to the God of the universe.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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