Reclaiming peace by silencing the clamoring world

I’ve learned to trust that voice when it whispers a suggestion to silence the clamoring of the world. My soul reached a point of fatigue. The constant barrage of fake news and the assault of emotionally charged stories with a sole purpose to incite us persevered.

The prior week, God showed me the word strength repeatedly.

Psalm 84:5 “Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

Psalm 18:39 “You have clothed me with strength for battle.”

2 Cor 1:21 “Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us.”

Psalm 118:14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”

Psalm 138:3 “On the day I called, You answered me, you increased strength within me.”

Here’s what I’d noticed within myself – I was short-fused, quick tempered, irritable, highly anxious, and angry. I found myself reading the news and scrolling Facebook before spending time quietly with God. Then I’d enter my time with God mad that the world seemed to have lost its mind, angry at the state of disunity in our country, sad at the attacks waged on each other, and anxious about what all this means for our future.

I’d become as distracted as ever. Physically I shared the same space with my kids, but mentally and emotionally I focused on all the information my brain consumed around the clock.

Our souls were not created to handle the amount of information we are fed.

I love learning. I love being informed. Both of these became idols in my life.

I need Jesus today more than I ever have before. We never stop needing Him, but it’s easy to live in a way that pushes Him into the background.

I knew what I needed. A fast. A fast is the only way I’m able to break the addictions and idols that attempt to take root.

For a week I listened as God asked me to come back to Him to find the strength my soul needed for the calling He’s placed on my life. My flesh battled for control. I never want anything other than Christ to have control over me. So I said yes to God to come away from the news, the media reports, the documentaries, the constant stream of information, and the strong opinions filling my social media feeds.

As always happens when I fast from social media and screens in general, I feel like a new human. My chest moved out of my throat. My heart rate slowed to a normal pace. My skin stopped itching. I began to feel love and compassion for other humans again. But the best part, I began to hear God with clarity again.

Before the fast my prayer continued to be “God give me clarity.” All the news is so confusing. Who do we believe? What would you have us to do?

I don’t trust a single media source. One publication one day says the sky is falling. The very next day, the same source reports something that is the complete opposite. God is unchanging. He is full truth. He is faithful. He is just. He is good. Always. I simply need to focus on Him.

As I considered a fast, God gave me several dreams confirming a break would bring the refreshment and clarity I longed for.

So I posted a “see ya later” on social media. I deleted the apps from my phone to remove all temptation. And I haven’t read a single thing in the news in days. And I feel AMAZING!!!

I know this isn’t sustainable, but it is necessary.

The morning following my fast, I had coffee with a friend. We hugged, we chatted, we caught up, and I left feeling God’s sweetness poured out. The same night my family had dinner at a restaurant downtown. It was the 2nd time Steve and I ate in a restaurant since they began opening back up. It felt so normal and exciting, and I enjoyed that night more than I’ve enjoyed a dinner out in a long time. Over the weekend, I shopped in a few favorite stores. Again I was so thankful for the reopening of stores and restaurants. To see people, to interact, even to have small talk, which I usually despise, all of it I hope never to take for granted again!

Saturday night we had friends over for dinner. It’s the first time we’ve had people over since all the Covid chaos began months ago. Community is what we’ve missed the most. We hugged, and laughed, and ate, and played games, and stayed up much too late, but we dared not end a moment too soon. One thing I’ve learned in this season is we never know when a moment in time will be a last or a last for a long time.

My hope is to cherish people, relationships, community, physical contact, and freedom with a renewed spirit.

I know it’s likely time for my fast to end, but I’ve found ending a fast from the online world is harder than starting one. Enjoying real life again is so liberating. The joy the world stole was restored. And I’m so incredibly thankful.

During my time of fast, I asked God if I should silence everything or if there was an audiobook I should listen to which would be beneficial rather than informational. He brought to mind a book I’ve stored away on an app in my phone. The title is Competing Spectacles – Treasuring Christ in a Media Age, by Tony Reinke.


Within minutes I knew this was the message God needed me to hear in response to the cry of my heart regarding the state of our media’s handling of Covid and all the conflicting news we receive daily, which leads people to living in states of fear, stress, and confusion.

In a news age when blatant shock is the only surefire strategy for gaining viewers, cable news feeds our collective panic, and outrage becomes good business for the newsmakers who can keep our collective cortisol level, our stress hormone, high enough to maintain a constant fight or flight urgency. Christians must guard against these spectacle tactics that manipulate our senses.”

“We are now more media obese than we are physically obese and we are not happier. We are lonelier. We are more depressed.”

“Creation spectacles also demand a response for our worship. We are all made to experience awe, and God’s creation is eager to magnify the Creator in our eyes.” (We must escape screens to experience this.)

“We redeem time by reclaiming our attention.”

Our attention is ours to give as we see fit. The media has a job, steal our attention and keep it. They will use any and all methods, but mostly fear, shock, and awe. It’s how they keep us coming back. I’m over it.

I have a choice to give them my outrage or not. I’m tired of the news deciding I need to feel outraged, angry, sad, confused, or terrified.

I’m taking back my attention. I’m living out the life God has given me. He has called me to live life abundantly here and now.

I’ve been pondering the various aspects of Ecclesiastes 3, particularly “a time to speak and a time to remain silent.” I’ve asked God to clearly reveal to me if I’m to speak or remain silent as it relates to this Covid season of media manipulation. I want to share one of the ways He confirmed.

First, to clarify, I’m not claiming Covid isn’t real. I’ve been quite vocal on social media about this. It’s as real as any flu strain or other virus. For particular people, it’s extremely dangerous, as is the flu. It’s our media I’m so upset with. And I feel many don’t see what I feel God has revealed to me about the psychological war waged on us.

In Competing Spectacles, Tony Reinke says, “Christians must call out worthless things for what they are. We should boldly stand up and expose spectacles of politics, warfare, entertainment, and social media when we sense they are lies, propaganda, or flesh-driven. In the age of the spectacle, few people can see through the mirage of the spectacle industry to call out worthless things. Christians can speak and must speak prophetically to de-mask spectacles as the powerless things they really are. We are called to pull back the curtain and reveal the demonic forces that stand behind nefarious spectacles that dominate our age…”

Maybe you can relate. Maybe your soul is media-wearied too. Maybe this covid season has really placed a heavy burden of stress and fear and you are ready to reclaim the peace Christ promises. Maybe a fast would be good for you too? I’ve never taken a fast and wished I’d stayed plugged in instead.

 

 

Are we like a frog in hot water

I have a story to share and a point to make. Stick with me.

After 3 months of undergoing a full bathroom renovation, I anxiously anticipated my first bath in the new tub. The tub is much smaller than our previous so it filled quickly. I stepped in and instantly hopped right back out. It was scalding hot! The water didn’t feel terribly hot from the spout. As it filled, the water temperature seemed not a big deal. But enough of that in the tub created an environment I wanted no part of. I realized I’d have a learning curve with our new settings.

By the time I took my second bath, I’d learned my lesson. I adjusted the temperature handle much lower. I stepped in. The water was much cooler than I prefer, but I could sit in it comfortably. Sitting in the cool water, I adjusted the temperature as it filled to much hotter. Because I was comfortable and had accepted how it felt, I could tolerate it. I stayed in while the too hot water was added. As the temperatures mixed, the water warmed rapidly. But I was already comfortable in that water so felt no need to hop out as I did when stepping directly into that too hot water only one short bath ago.

As I soaked, I envisioned the frog analogy we all know quite well. If you want to cook a frog you don’t put him directly into boiling water because he will sense the danger and jump right out. Instead put him in a somewhat comfortable environment. Make him think he’s safe. Then slowly increase the temperature on him. Before he has time to realize he’s in danger, he’s cooked. You trick the frog.

My nature is the opposite of a bandwagon jumper. When I see the masses go toward something, my inclination is to pause and assess. At the same time, I’m not rebellious. I’m very much a rule-follower. Over the years I’ve realized God has given me a strong sense of discernment. It almost feels like an internal alarm that begins to sound. When it sounds, I have learned to pay attention.

I’ve also realized that some people lie. Some people have evil motives and agendas. People are human, so they can make severe mistakes even with no poor intentions.

But what I’ve really learned in the last several years is that spiritual warfare is more real than you can imagine. And if our eyes were opened for 5 seconds to what happens in the realm we can’t see, we’d be shocked silent. Or shocked to the point of being unable to remain silent.

That’s kind of where I am these days. My discernment alarm has been sounding for awhile. God began to wake me up to a few things in 2015, but I got comfortable again and stopped really praying or caring quite honestly about what felt so pressing in 2015/2016.

Do you believe in good versus evil? If so then you will understand what I’m sharing here.

In the commentary of my CBS bible study workbook there is an apply what you’ve learned section which reads:
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). Evil (and satan) must be actively resisted, or it will take over any earthly territory that is not claimed by Christ and His followers. This is true not only in the world around us, but within our own lives. If we do not submit ourselves to God (James 4:7), the devil will not flee-he will hang around harassing and enticing us. We should not allow ourselves to be complacent regarding evil, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs: (2 Cor 2:11).”

Satan has schemes and plans. And part of that is to steal freedom, to make us slaves through this physical realm, but ultimately slaves to his desires.

Christ came that we should be free. God has never shown that freedom should not be a goal. He led His people out of slavery into the promised land. Christ came to set us free from death. Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not be burdened by a yolk of slavery again.”

Until Jesus returns for a 2nd time, which He will, we are called to advance His Kingdom here on earth. To advance His Kingdom, we must push back the darkness. We must resist the enemy. We simply can’t stand still and do nothing.

A call has gone out over the entire world. Repent. Turn back to God.
He is truly our only hope. No doctor, no vaccine, no medicine, no government, no man. In Christ alone. In Christ alone.

In our current situation, our nation is once again divided. Matthew 12:25 tells us “Knowing their thoughts, He told them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

We are in information overload right now. We each bring to the discussion various perspectives and sets of knowledge and experience. We each carry different burdens to bear. My prayer is that we see our national and world situation with a common goal – the absolute best for humanity.

The burden I seem to bear these days is a call out to awaken our nation to stand for our freedoms, our civil liberties, which people fought and died for. Jesus died for my eternal freedom. Americans have died for our national freedoms.

What I see happening is us sitting in lukewarm bathwater, comfortable enough, accepting a new normal, while the temperature is increasing as freedoms are removed one tiny chip at a time.

Remember this famous quote by Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty or give me death”? Why do you think he said that? Maybe because life without freedom isn’t life at all?

Right now fear is leading many of us. We are isolated, which is a common tool the enemy uses. When I started homeschooling, I felt isolated and entered into a depression that lasted several weeks. Satan tormented me. A close friend told me to get out and reconnect with people so satan wouldn’t be so influential in my thoughts.

We are at war, and we must realize it. We’ve always been at war. Satan never stopped fighting for what he wants. He comes to steal, kill, destroy. Why do you think God tells us this in the Bible? Why do you think we are told in Ephesians 6 to put on the armor of God?

I can’t sit back and watch satan advance. Jesus may come today or in 1,000 years. For each breath I have, I want to advance the Kingdom. To advance, someone must retreat or be pushed back.

Repent. Pray. Stand firm. Suit up in your armor. Move forward. Don’t retreat. Advance.

Ask God what your assignment is. He will tell you. We won’t all have the same assignment. Together, united for His Kingdom, freedom wins.

How do we carry a burden well?

How do we carry a burden well?

Every day during this pandemic I’ve asked God why I’m handling this the way I am. Is there something wrong with me? Why do my friends on social media seem so happy and positive? Is my faith weaker? Am I fearful? Do I not trust and wait well?

I open my eyes, and my thoughts begin to swirl. I’m feeling fatigued mentally and emotionally. I hurt when others hurt. I tend to take on the feelings of others far too easily.

Today I began my day the same as I do each day, coffee and God. I sat in the silence lacking the motivation to crack open His Word. I just needed to sit.

We start with prayer

I opened my journal and began writing to God. Side note: journaling keeps me from a wandering mind during prayer. Here’s what I wrote:

Lord, What is it you want me to do in this season? What do you want me to hear from you? Give me ears to hear and eyes to see. Lord, I want to represent you well. Teach me when to speak and when to be silent.

I’d also journaled to God how overwhelmed I felt with burdens from this world and how I wake feeling a racing heart.

We listen and watch for His reply

I then reached for my favorite devotion. I think you know the one (insert wink emoji), My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The day was April 13th, the key verse: Psalm 55:22 Cast thy cares upon the Lord.

“We must distinguish between the burden bearing that is right and the burden bearing that is wrong. We ought never to bear the burden of sin or of doubt, but there are burdens placed on us by God which He does not intend to lift off, He wants us to roll them back on Him.”

We engage in dialogue with God

I stopped and journaled my prayer:

Lord, reveal to me which burdens are right and which are wrong. Teach me to roll the burdens back to You.

I went back to reading the devotion by Chambers.

” If we undertake work for God and get out of touch with Him, the sense of responsibility will be overwhelmingly crushing; but if we roll back on God that which He has put upon us, He takes away the responsibility by bringing in the realization of Himself.”

“Many workers have gone out with high courage and fine impulses, but with no intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ, and before long they are crushed.”

I picked up my pen with a gasp. Lord, I want intimate fellowship with You. Keep me from being crushed by giving me the wisom to stay intimately connected to You.

Back to Chambers.

“They do not know what to do with the burden, it produces weariness, and people say, ‘What an embittered end to such a beginning!”

Back to my journal. LORD! Teach me to roll my burden back to You. Keep me from becoming weary and protect me from an embittered end.

Back to the devotion, which feels as a direct rebuke and letter of instruction from God to me.

“Roll thy burden upon the Lord- you have been bearing it all; deliberately put one end on the shoulders of God. ‘The government shall be upon His shoulders.’ Commit to God ‘that He hath given thee’; not fling it off, but put it over onto Him and yourself with it, and the burden is lightened by the sense of companionship. Never disassociate yourself from the burden.”

Lord, this devotion feels like the most kind and tender gift to me. You desire to carry the burden but I keep picking it up alone. Lord, teach me to pray. Amen.

We reflect on the conversation

As I open-mouth reflected, I realized the burden I feel is given to me by God. The problem is that I forget to give Him the proper load. I trudge along dragging the burden when all the while He has open hands to help me. He is the load carrier. I can be His companion.

As I questioned the burden I feel for our nation, I sensed God telling me He has given me this burden for a reason, not to fling off, but He’s asking me to rely on Him and stay in intimate relationship with Him. The government is on His shoulders, not mine. I can pray. I can share and lead and encourage and point back to the cross.

I share because I trust God speaks to each of us in intimate ways. I share to encourage you to hear God’s voice intimately. I also share because I believe we see our own stories in between the lines of another’s story.

 

 

When You Encounter God in a Dream & He Says Be Ready

When I wake from a dream where I encounter God, I attempt desperately to tunnel back into that place of sleep. Recently, God gave me a dream. It was March 29th, 2020.

It was more like an image. It was the silhouette of a child positioned on a chair in a runner’s pose looking out the window. It was night. The child wore a focused look into the distance. But ready, ready to run. Yet to where? The position was held at the glass window. That didn’t seem to matter. The child was posed ready. The words in the dream were “Chase Jesus.”

I woke and wrote in my journal these words:

The irony of a child posed to run from behind a window while we are self-quarantined.

Chase Jesus.

What am I chasing? What chases me?

My Utmost for His Highest on March 29th centered on Luke 12:40 “You also be ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

The devotion ties beautifully in with the image of a child looking off into the sky, in a ready position. A child-like faith and wonder.

“If you are looking off unto Jesus, avoiding the call of the religious age you live in, and setting your heart on what He wants, on thinking on His line – you will be called unpractical and dreamy; but when He appears in the burden and the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. Trust no one, not even the finest saint who ever walked this earth, ignore him, if he hinders your sight of Jesus.” Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

Oh Father, may we be found looking off unto Jesus. May our life have an attitude of child-wonder.

 

 

When the truth hurts then heals

I remember praying out loud with one of my little boys asking God to develop the fruits of the Spirit. As I prayed I listed them individually. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I also used the term long-suffering, which some translations use for patience. He stopped me mid-prayer, “What is long-suffering?” I responded, “It’s the ability to forebear or endure something well.” Immediately, he exclaimed, “Oh, I don’t have that one. Wait a minute. I don’t think I have any of these.” We closed our eyes and continued praying.

I chuckled as I thought back on this memory. But God brought to mind a story from the Bible that really impacted me several years ago. It’s found in 2 Chronicles chapter 34. In the 18th year of the reign of King Josiah, who took the throne at the mere age of 8, Hilkiah, the priest, found the Book of the Law.

The Law was read to the King. When he heard the Law, he tore his clothes. He grieved over the fact that their fathers had not kept the word of the Lord. Following the reading, Huldah, a prophet, prophesied.

In verses 24-28 we read, ”

24 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people—all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’ 26 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 27 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. 28 Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’”

So they took her answer back to the king.”

I don’t know how this passage speaks to you, but in 2015 God woke me with the word Hilkiah. I didn’t know who Hilkiah was and began searching the Bible until I found this story. For weeks and months between 2015 and 2016 God gave me many dreams and showed me themes of judgement and repentance. Through this season, the names Hilkiah and Josiah would run through my mind. God wanted me to see something in this portion of His Word.

We are sitting in the center of a pandemic right now. I trust God is doing amazing, miraculous work. But I also believe it’s time for the bride to be ready. To light the lamps. To take inventory of our lives, to get about His business.

As this relates to our own homes, where we are basically self-quarantined, let’s begin reading aloud His Word. When Josiah heard the Word, it grieved Him. The truth exposed the wickedness. As I prayed with my little boy, it was the reciting of God’s Word that brought the realization He lacked fruits of the Spirit.

The Word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword. The truth will penetrate, which may hurt deeply, but with it comes healing and restoration.

Maybe in this season where the world is sitting on pause, we take one simple action step that may be the most important step we take during these slowed down days. Open up the Bible. Read it out loud.

Wash your hands and wash your heart

I’ve taken seriously the instructions to wash my hands during this pandemic of COVID-19. Honestly, prior to this outbreak, I’ve not been a major hand-washer. I mean, yes, when I go to the store, the bathroom, etc. But for the most part, I don’t take inventory of the germs on my hands during the day and cleanse them. Until now.

I find myself reminding my boys all through the day as well. We are all washing our hands about 100 times more than we ever have before.

Why? Because we took seriously the warnings to keep clean hands.

What if I washed my heart with the same fervor I’m washing my hands? Like my hands, which carry invisible germs, my heart carries and holds what can live hidden from the naked eye.

Do I take inventory of what my heart holds?

God says if I keep a clean heart, there’s blessings in store.

 

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.

Psalm 24:4-5

What happens when we have a clean heart?

We shall see God.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Matthew 5:8

How do we even clean our heart? Where do we start?

By simply asking Him.

God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

I find it interesting the connection in the Bible with clean hands and clean hearts. Can the outside be clean and the inside filthy?

Luke 11:39 “But the Lord said to him: “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil.” I don’t want to live like a Pharisee.

All this talk of hand washing has me contemplating heart washing. Jesus has always been the King of upside down, inside out. Taking our human traditions and flipping them over. He rocked the world with His grace. While the world preaches to start with clean hands, God instructs an alternate starting point.

“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.” Matthew 23:26

I don’t start with my heart typically. I start outside and somehow think the cleansing action will work its way into the crevices of my heart.

Lord, give me eyes to see the truth that lives in my heart. Show me what needs to be purified.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:8-10

So maybe we pull out an index card, write scripture on it, tape it by all the sinks, and while we wash our hands for 20 seconds 100 times a day, we recite His Word. Maybe as we clean our hands, we allow His Word to wash our hearts at the same time?

He is good. He is faithful. May we honor Him with clean hands and clean hearts.

 

 

 

 

But He Gives Greater Grace

Greater Grace

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my unfaithfulness

Greater than my unbelief

Greater than my looming fear

To you may I adhere.

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my sadness

Greater than my ingratitude

Greater than my anger

To you alone I anchor.

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my impatience

Greater than my selfishness

Greater than my pride

You will never leave my side.

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my misery

Greater than my worries

Greater than my misplaced chase

You give greater grace.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

James 4:6 “But He gives greater grace. Therefore, He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

It’s time to evaluate, confess, repent. It’s time to surrender in humility. It’s time to submit to His Lordship in deeper ways. The time is now. No matter where we fall short, His grace is greater than.