Is Fear En Vogue?

It seems as we don this season’s fashions, a new trend is afoot. It has gained wide popularity not just among the trendsetters, but nearly everyone these days is seen sporting “an abundance of caution.”

At first glance this seems wise and even prudent, but is caution just another name for worry or fear? Did David use an abundance of caution when he set out to meet Goliath? Did Mary weigh the pros and cons before she broke open her alabaster jar anointing Jesus before he entered Jerusalem?

In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not worry about our lives – for who by worrying who can add a day or even an hour to their life? Are we allowing the worries of this life choke out the life God has poured into us? In my own paraphrase, I urge you not to let what could happen keep you from carrying out the daily assignments or divine appointments God has for you. Don’t let caution be an excuse for disengagement – for discontinuing the activities you enjoy or for not maintaining connection with people significant to you.

I wonder if believers in Nigeria remain in their homes as they consult growing trends and statistics of the numbers of believers captured and executed or churches burned. Do believers in China exhibit an abundance of caution as they decide whether to meet secretly with others, or do they wholeheartedly entrust themselves to God who knows exactly how many days He has given each of us? Are we being wise stewards of the time he has given if bury this time in fear of what could happen? Nothing that happens is a surprise to God. Nothing is outside of his protective power.

The psalmist in Psalm 91 recognized this declaring, “The Lord is alone is my refuge and place of safety, He is my God and I trust Him. He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease… His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness nor the disaster that strikes at midday, He delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence… If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you. “

Instead of shrouding ourselves beneath an abundance of caution, we can boldly wear our shields of faith and cover our minds with our helmets of salvation. While these do not make us impervious to the evil and harm surrounding us, we are reminded not to fear that which can destroy the body but to take care to guard against that which can destroy our soul. Our Lord reminds us in John 16:33 that although this world is filled with tribulation, we take courage because He has overcome this world.

Photo by Jakub Novacek on Pexels.com

Dear Friends…

Friends are the flowers in the garden of life

Thank you to Priscilla, Linda, Maria, Ellie, Ashleigh, Miki, Debbie, Adela, Denise, Jill, and Carole for consistently reading my blog entries over the last year. For anyone else who takes time to read what is on my heart, I appreciate you! For this is a place where I express who I am and what is important to me.  

For most of my life I have kept my thoughts to myself by thinking I don’t have much to say that has not already been said. Although I still believe this, now I share the things I ponder in this blog. Even though in conversations, I am reluctant to talk a lot about myself, I find I enjoy processing my thoughts though writing. 

Maybe we are all like this – icebergs- in the sense where only 10% is exposed and the other 90% dwells beneath the surface. I want to be known and perhaps because I realize I am keenly known and deeply loved by Jesus, I have courage to publish my words and expose my struggles. I want others to fall more in love with Jesus as we follow in His footsteps together.

Recently I was challenged to come up with a purpose statement which I had no intention of writing because I thought, “My life is the Lord’s and He can choose for me anything He determines best.” However, after reflecting on John 1, I decided upon this:

To know the Living Word (Jesus) thought his written Word (the Bible) so my life becomes a picture of the Word expressed in order that others may also long to know and be transformed by the Word of God.

I am so grateful for each of you and your encouragement to keep writing and for the privilege of sharing life with you. Love, Lynn

Isolation

In spite of how we have been told that our world is shrinking and becoming interconnected, more and more people are experiencing deep isolation and loneliness. Yes, we negate this by tallying our likes or followers or by engaging in mind numbing activities, but this allusion of connectedness is not true intimacy. How many of us have someone who will regularly hear the thoughts of our heart? 

The author of the Little Prince narrates his journey of searching for someone who can understand, yet everyone he encounters is focused on their own goals and interpretations of life to the extent none were able to step into his world to understand him. This loneliness, felt even in the midst of people, can feel like being stranded in the Sahara Desert without water.  Although you learn to learn to engage in superficial conversations, a part of you inside is untouched and fading because no one will step into your story.

He asserts that most people do not have a single true friend because friends cannot be bought in a store (or ordered on-line).

Even in the midst of people, a spirit of isolation pervades.

Isolation is produced by what we are thinking as much as our circumstances. The more I believe the lies that “I am unlovable; I am insignificant,” the greater isolation I will experience.

Sometimes the heaviness and darkness of this world seems overwhelming, and the enemy may tempt us into believing we are all alone in this dark, cruel, and uncaring world- that is a lie! Psalm 34:18 tells us the Lord draws near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Hebrews 13 says Jesus will never, ever leave or forsake us. Romans 8 assures us that nothing in all of creation can ever separate us from the deep love God has for us.

Recently, I read about an amazing feat in World War 2. My husband, the history major, was of course familiar with this, but I was not. The Germans had stranded the British forces at a coastal French town called Dunkirk. They were isolated with no way out until England called for a day of prayer. Then every small and larger boat was appropriated for a rescue mission to bring the isolated back. It wasn’t done by the huge naval vessels but by individuals who were willing to see a need and meet it with the resources they had. 

Let us unite in prayer to come against this stronghold of isolation perpetrated by the forces of darkness. The light of Christ shines into the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome.  Consider how you can use your small vessel do what you can to reach someone who is isolated. Like the boats at Dunkirk, thousands of vessels bound by a single cause rescued the isolated and returned them to safety.

Unexpected Destinations

Many of my friends are experiencing empty nests as their adult children move out of their homes.  While I understand some of their sadness since our daughter lived in China for 3 years and our son in the Air Force is stationed almost 2000 miles away,  I don’t think we will ever have an empty nest because Joshua will continue to need care and live with us. The opportunities my friends are able to pursue once their children no longer need care seem like closed doors to me.

Before Joshua was born, I thought I knew where my life was heading. However, Jesus had another destination I had not I imagined or chosen. I was surprised to come across a similar situation in the gospels. In Mark Chapter 6, the disciples entered the boat to begin crossing the lake to Bethsaida. While they are in the middle of their journey, a storm arose, and the disciples struggled against the wind and the waves. Jesus came to them and said, “DO NOT BE AFRAID. TAKE COURAGE. I AM HERE.” The Lord entered the boat with them, and the wind stopped. Then they crossed the lake and landed (not in Bethsaida but) in Gennesaret.

Jesus is not always leading me where I think He is leading me. 

So what now? How do I live in this different reality without losing my mind or my faith? I have to learn to manage expectations. I had hoped for exotic travels with my husband. Instead, we make the most of a night or two getaway as a threesome.  I imagined long meals exploring restaurants of varied cuisine but instead find myself searching Google for outdoor seating and family friendly options.

Life may not turn out how we anticipate. No one can foresee their future or their children’s. When storms arise and I am tossed by the winds and waves, I remind myself God is not surprised by what I perceive as insurmountable difficulties. When the Lord drops the anchor and states, “This is our destination,” I take courage because He is with me, continually guiding me along His path to reach the destination He designed for me.

Along this path, He provides streams in the desert to refresh my spirit.  I am able to enjoy intimacy with My redeemer as I await the fulfillment of His promise when He will give me beauty in exchange for ashes and strength to replace despair.

Knots & Tangles

I enjoy discovering tangible visible pictures which are able to point us to spiritual truth, so sometimes I worry I fill my blog with these too familiar analogies that have been heard over and over. The image to which I am referring, I first encountered in a book by Corrie ten Boom. She was sewing an intricate needlepoint design. When she worked, if she looked at the back, it was a bunch of knots and tangles that made no sense. When she turned it over, varied colored threads and stitching were interwoven to create a beautiful picture.

In this present life, we may only see the tangles and knots, but God knows how everything will appear once the tapestry of our life is turned over. The black grief and trials that crisscross and obscure our understanding of the here and now are merely the background of our eternal future where the gold thread of grace and the red thread of redemption triumph.

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him. – Author Unknown

(In Absence of) Gratitude

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. Romans 1:21

Praying Hands

And here begins the decent into darkness and depravity. It is easy to gloss over this phrase as I read further into the chapter about exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for a corruptible image of men or animals, exchanging the truth for lies, and committing indecent acts. This progression culminates as God gives them over to a depraved mind and they are filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, and greed while lacking understanding, mercy and love.

This terrible downward spiral results from neglecting to honor God and give Him thanks. Ingratitude is the gateway sin opening the door to darkened hearts, futile thinking and the pursuit of ungodly passions.

And of this is I am guilty: a hundred plus times every day, I miss the opportunity to honor God or give thanks.  This is my wake up that gratitude is not optional if I want to choose life and not death.

I stumble thinking I have to FEEL grateful. Some days I do, but on other days I have to purposely write down a few things to acknowledge as gifts (not entitlements) from God. For example, a hot shower, electricity, sight and a delicious cup of coffee frequently make the list, but these things are temporal. I thank God that my name is written is His book of life and He is returning to take me to be with Him forever.  I thank God that He has sealed me with His Holy Spirit and hears my prayers (even if I don’t see an answer) and that His peace is my fortress in the storms of life.

Like love, giving thanks and expressing gratitude is an action not a feeling.

I once heard someone ask, “What would happen if you wake up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?” What would I have?

In Romans 7, Paul asks why he doesn’t do the things he knows he should. This is how I feel when I fail to be grateful, and yet each time I recognize my lack of gratitude it presents an opportunity to remember the gospel and allow the kindness of God to lead me to repentance. For His unfailing love and unending mercy I am grateful.  

Poiema

Poiema is my favorite Greek work.  The depth of the word was the reason I chose it for the name of this blog. Similar to our English word poem, poiema signifies workmanship, masterpiece, a poem or work of art. It is only found in 2 places in the Bible. In Romans 1:20, creation reveals the invisible attributes of God. In Ephesians 2:10, we do!

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned out for us long ago.

I had been feeling like a sloth because I wasn’t doing anything notable for God, so I decided to meditate on this verse…

God is the artist, not me.

The good works of my life will flow from who He is, not from my planning or striving.

Others will notice and be filled with gratitude and awe toward God, not me.

I am an amazing, one of a kind piece of art and so are you! As you read this blog, I hope it helps you to remember you are treasured and loved by God and that He is using you to manifest His grace and truth to a lost and hurting world. You don’t have to figure out what to do for God as I was trying to do. Long ago, He planned your works and His plans and purposes will stand for all eternity.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

The heavens declare the glory of God.  And your life, dear friend, is also a declaration of the glory of God!

Life as an Introvert

I was excited to find a new book written by Holley Gerth entitled The Powerful Purpose of Introverts. It reminded me of when I was in school and I was able to sit in a desk made for left-handed writers. While I am used to adapting to what seems like an extroverted world, I feel like this book was written to describe me.

Using these labels to categorize everyone in one group or the other seems too restrictive since most people fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum. However, for the sake of clarity, I will use introvert to describe people who generally are recharged by solitude and extrovert to refer to those who are primarily energized by being with others.  Here are a few interesting things I learned. Introverts and extroverts tend to use different words to describe feelings of happiness. While someone else may be enthusiastic or excited, I may feel calm or content. This was validating to me because I don’t often feel “happy” in those extroverted ways, but when I examine my moods, I frequently feel cocooned in the Lord’s peace which is my version of happiness.

Introverts’ nervous systems are differently wired than extroverts.  Overall, they are more like to also be “highly sensitive people” which means over stimulation in the environment may overwhelm. This could result from loud noise in the background, clutter, continual binging of cell phone notifications or busyness.  However, the positive aspect of sensitivity means we are also sensitive to perceive unspoken hurts or needs. Our schedule may not be as busy, but we are present and deeply connected to those closest to us.

There is such a thing as an “introvert hangover” which explains why I want to take a nap after church. According to the book, I have overindulged in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is released when spending time with people. As much as I enjoy seeing familiar people and hearing about what God is doing in their lives, I reach a point of overload and need time alone to de-compress.

Reading this book helped me to reframe what I perceived were the more desirable traits of extroverts to examine strengths I have inherent in the personality the Lord has created in me. I am a good listener, resilient and patient. While I may not be good at small talk and quick responses, I am a deep thinker who enjoys pondering what to write about in my next blog 😊

Nothing

When we were first dating, Mike would ask me what I was thinking about and I would say, “nothing.” He would get frustrated because he rightly suspected there was something going on as the wheels were turning in my mind. Well, today I have been thinking about “nothing,” specifically how the word appears in the Bible.

For NOTHING is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes NOTHING. John 6:63

Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do NOTHING. John 15:5

Be anxious for NOTHING. Philippians 4:6

If I do not have love, I am NOTHING. 1 Corinthians 13:2

For NOTHING in all of creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of ours that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39

Since God says it better than I ever could, I will end here to leave you thinking about nothing.

Complete in Christ

Our ladies Bible study was discussing Colossians 1 where Paul states in verses 28-29 the goals of his ministry “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose, I labor striving according to His power which mightily works within me.”

I love this idea how we all work together for the common goal of presenting every man (or woman) complete in Christ. One of us may present the gospel, but another shares teaching, another wisdom, and another encouragement. We are working toward the same end – to come along side one another to help others grow to spiritual maturity. We are unified in the desire to see the gospel bear fruit.

Perhaps when you think of the gospel bearing fruit, you think of new believers and sharing with someone who does not know God’s way of salvation through Jesus. Although evangelism is a significant role of the body of Christ, consider the birth of a baby. After about nine months of gestation, a new life is born with the help of doctors and nurses who care for the infant. In a day or two, the baby leaves the hospital and except for well-baby checks, shots, sickness and emergencies, the role of the physician moves to the background. The primary responsibility of helping this child grow safely to maturity is in the hands of parents, teachers, family members and friends. This baby will need care, nurture, and supervision and support for 18 or more years.

I am writing this to anyone who has not been given the gift or calling of evangelism. By using your gift of serving, teaching, mercy, administration or encouragement, you are still bearing fruit for the gospel and enabling believers to become compete in Christ. Yours is the day in and day out child training, sleepless nights and countless prayers that don’t end with a new birth but merely begin there. You are helping to establish, strengthen and equip fellow believers to walk in a way pleasing to the Lord.  Let us not grow weary or diminish this role.