devotional, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

Soul Anchor: Anchor Series Part 1

Life storms are inevitable although no one could have predicted anything like this recent worldwide pandemic, just like we have no way of knowing when life’s storms will hit us. 

But we need to be prepared for when our husband’s boss calls to say he had a stroke at age 52. We need to be prepared for when our child texts us to say she’s marrying her lesbian lover. We need to be prepared for city riots, foreclosed homes, and totaled cars. 

How? By anchoring our souls in Jesus as our hope!

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.

Hebrews 6:19-20

When you’re out on the ocean in a 26-foot sailboat, you’d be foolish not to have an anchor on board. You’d be even more foolish if you didn’t drop that anchor overboard when the clouds started swirling on the horizon. But you can’t just drop the anchor over the side of the boat and hope it holds you. You’ve got to make sure it’s secured to the bottom; otherwise, you’ll still be swept along with the angry tides.

A sailor must have excellent navigation experience, superior communication skills, and a competent crew in order to be prepared for all possibilities. 

As landlubber Christians, we need to be able to navigate our way through God’s instruction manual for life—the Bible, have open communication—prayer—with our heavenly Father, and make sure our crew—community—is in tip-top shape. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at each of these three ideas and figure out why they’re so vital in our lives so that we can drop anchor in a safe harbor when the storms of life assail us. 

Please join us on this journey, so you can make sure your anchor is at the ready! Just sign up to make sure you receive each new post straight to your inbox.

anxiety, healing, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

After the Storm: Part 4, Jesus in the Storm

The question now is, what will we do after the storm is over? Eventually, we will be unquarantined; eventually you’ll hold the divorce certificate in your hand; eventually you’ll find another job, another house, another church; eventually the drama in your children’s lives will settle down. But what lesson will you take away from these storms?

Through the more recent storms in my life, my prayer has been, “Lord, what lesson do you want me to learn? How can I glorify you through this hot mess?” 

My first takeaway has been to attempt to have a positive attitude throughout this whole quarantine business. I’ve had my moments; trust me! But overall, I think I may finally, after 49 years (!!), be learning how “in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). What I’ve learned is that whining just makes it (whatever “it” is) worse. This morning, our pastor reminded us that we should not hear gratitude and complaints coming out of someone’s mouth at the same time (James 3:9-12). 

Everyone is eager to return to “normal” after being quarantined for the past three months or so. While I admit to wanting to ditch the mask and hug my friends in church, I often longed for the merry-go-round of life to stop just long enough for me to catch my breath. Well, the merry-go-round stopped. Sometimes we need to be careful what we wish for! 

Here’s the crux of the matter: Do we really want to return to the rat race of constant activity? Perhaps we’ll be more intentional about our choices for activities. For sure I’m going to be more intentional about how I spend my time! I’m also going to be more intentional about seeking out community.

My second takeaway is this: We need to check on our neighbors and friends whom we know live alone—even after we’re all allowed outside again. Chances are that if they were lonely during the quarantine, they’re still lonely now. Let’s make a plan and not just to keep them in our thoughts and prayers—keep them on our speed dial too! Make a plan to keep dropping off a plate of cookies every few weeks, just because.

Let’s be intentional about going to church and small groups even after the excitement of being allowed to meet again wears off. Don’t let church time get crowded out by sports games, beach trips, and sleeping in.

On the flip side, don’t sign up for every committee just because you feel like you have to. It’s still ok to say no and to realize that family time must be a priority. 

My daughter was in Italy having her dream semester abroad when her school canceled everything, so she had to come home and do her classes online. There is absolutely no online substitute for walking around Rome, Florence, and Sicily. Being locked in a small dorm room alone is no substitute for traveling to Spain and Portugal for spring break. I get that. I really do. And I still feel absolutely terrible about her missed opportunities. She cried. I cried. But, I have absolutely reveled in the unexpected blessing of having her here to help me move and to spend time with her. She graduates from college next year, so this is the last time I’ll have with her just to be together. And it’s so sweet. It’s an unexpected blessing in this difficult time. 

What unexpected blessings have you found during this weird pandemic time? Remember to keep looking for unexpected blessings even when life goes back to “normal”! That’s the third takeaway. 

My fourth and final takeaway comes from looking again at the story of Jesus and the disciples in the storm from Mark 4:35-41—after Jesus calmed the storm with just a few words, he looked at the disciples as if he were disgusted with them (that’s what my attitude would be anyway). 

Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?

Mark 4:40

They had already seen a bunch of miracles and heard some amazing parables. So why did they think that Jesus would not be able to save them in a storm? 

Yet how often do I think the same thing? When my bank account is a big, fat zero and my car breaks down at the post office, I forget that not once have I been without transportation when I needed it. When I scramble around looking for more classes to teach at the last minute to replace ones that got canceled, I forget that God has always provided a way for me to pay every single bill on time.

When my beloved daddy calls to say the doctor told him he has cancer—for the third time—I forget that Jehovah Rapha can do miracles. And if the miracle is that others will come to Christ through his death, well, Jesus will  be the only way to calm the storm within me. 

Yes, Jesus in the boat right there beside us, but he wants for us to experience his peace and his calmness. He wants us to know, truly know, who he really is and what kind of power he has.   

What are your takeaways from your most recent storm (being quarantined or something else)? How can I pray for you during your current storm?

anxiety, devotional, grief, healing

Comfort in the Storm: Part 3 of Jesus in the Storm

My cutie-pie step grandbaby. Photo creds to Reshelle Stockton (both pics).

Oh, how we long to be comforted like a child who cries for her mama in the middle of a midnight thunderstorm! Somehow it’s not as acceptable to carry around a well-worn Minnie Mouse or stuffed puppy for security when we’re 49 as when we’re 4. So, how can we find comfort in the middle of whatever life storm we find ourselves?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 ESV

Turn to Jesus. I know, I know! That sounds like a platitude when you don’t have anything practical to say. But it’s totally the answer (keep reading for a few practical tips, too). Jesus understands loneliness; after all, He was deserted by His BFFs the night before He was sentenced to die. 

So, how do you turn to Jesus when you need comfort? Pray first. Ask specifically to feel comforted. Read the Psalms. David had many hard times, and he found comfort by turning to God every time. I myself find great comfort in reading the Psalms. Turn on some praise and worship music. Let the goodness of God fill your ears and your mind.

God’s a safe-house for the battered,
a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
you’re never sorry you knocked. Psalm 9:9-10

Psalm 9:9-10 MSG

Sometimes we long so much for physical comfort that it hurts. There’s no other ache like empty arms or an empty spot on the couch. During this forced time of quarantine, loneliness has been magnified. Even introverts are itching to see people! 

Ask for a physical hug from someone in your house, a close friend, or even your pet. If that’s not possible right now, FaceTime a friend; even seeing a loved one’s face can help more than just hearing his/her voice. Often just talking about some of our fears with an understanding friend can help us feel calmer (Proverbs 12:25). Cuddle up with a soft, cozy blanket, a cup of hot tea (coffee, cocoa), and your pet.

Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.

Psalm 119:76 ESV

As contrary as it sounds, one of the best ways to feel comforted is to look around for someone else who needs to be comforted. In encouraging someone else, you will feel encouraged and comforted yourself.

Be comforted and encouraged, sweet friend! Drop a line with your prayer request, and I’ll pray for you!

anxiety, devotional, lessons learned

Peace in the Storm: Part 2 of Jesus in the Storm

We all want to experience God’s peace, but we cannot experience His peace until we first comprehend His power. And we cannot comprehend His power without a storm. These two attributes of God go hand-in-hand.

Catherine Segars

Pandemics, large and small disappointments, illnesses, deaths, family troubles—we all have storms in life. So, experiencing fear and anxiety in the midst of any type of storm is understandable.

But the real question we all have is, where is Jesus in the middle of our storms? Where is Jesus now, in the middle of the biggest pandemic our generation has ever experienced? Many of us feel, like the disciples in the boat, that Jesus is ignoring our plight by sleeping through it (Mark 4). And, like those doubting disciples, we tend to jump to the immediate—and incorrect—conclusion that he does not care about our fate.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is, indeed, right in the middle of the storm with us. That in itself is extremely comforting. I find myself wanting to know that I’m not the only who’s been through abusive marriages and divorces, not the only one with concerns over my parents’ health or my children’s choices, and not the only one who’s ever lost a job or a car or a church due to circumstances beyond my control. 

And Jesus does care deeply about our fates. While he could snap his fingers and heal everyone with COVID-19 now, it’s not very likely that he will. That’s not his style. What he wants, instead, is for us to have faith that he is still in control.

He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Psalm 107:29

Without the storm, the disciples would never have realized that Jesus had control over the weather. Without the storms in our lives, we may never realize that Jesus is in control over our life circumstances, no matter what they are, and that when he says, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39) the peace he’s imparting might be into our hearts, not into our situations.

If you’re feeling in need of some peace today, try listening to some praise and worship music while you take some time to read verses about the kind of peace Jesus offers you today. Here are a few to get you started: Psalm 23; Psalm 91; Psalm 107:23-32; Isaiah 26:12; Isaiah 41:10; Mark 4:35-41; Philippians 4:4-9; 2 Timothy 1:7. Which passages would you add?

Pray and ask God specifically for a peaceful heart during your storm. Ask others to pray with you.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

What’s your biggest storm in life right now? How are you finding peace in its midst? Please share with me, so I can pray with you!

anxiety, devotional, lessons learned

Jesus in the Storm, Part 1

A worldwide pandemic is not a literal storm, but I imagine it feels as unsettling as Jonah before he jumped overboard or the disciples before they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them.

While the current COVID-19 panic seems to be the biggest storm on the horizon, it’s not the only one. Parents are still dying of cancer, children are still rebelling in the most heart-rending ways, and divorce is still sideswiping many. 

Jesus told us that we would have tribulations in this world (John 16:33). Not might. Not maybe. But definitely. So it would behoove us to be prepared. 

We need to learn to see Jesus in the midst of every storm. While he did not promise us smooth sailing, he did promise to be with us at all times. 

“How apt is faith to stagger if it is not powerfully undergirded.”

Richard Baxter

When I was a teenager, my brother and I spent a summer sailing around Puget Sound on our grandparents’ sailboat. We had a blast earning our Junior Seamanship Certificates and sailing from island to island. 

Being Washington state, the weather wasn’t always sunny with a light wind. No, there were frequent storms replete with thunder, lightning, strong winds, and heavy rains.

The sailboat would rock violently from side to side as rain lashed the decks. We would lower the sails so as not to be pushed about more by the wind. Walking around, even below decks, was impossible. Sometimes my grandpa would drop anchor, and we would ride out the storm in the relative safety of a harbor. 

A few times, though, we were out in the main channel when the wind whipped up, and no immediate port of safety was available. But I was never afraid, even when we were told to batten down the hatches and go below decks. My grandpa was the most competent sailor and had weathered many storms; I trusted him implicitly to pilot the sailboat and us through the storm to safety. And he did. Every time.

Jesus is even better than Sailor Jack. 

When Jesus and his disciples were sailing one day, Jesus fell asleep and slept through a terrible storm. The disciples woke Jesus up because they thought they were going to die in the storm. Jesus, after he calmed the storm, said, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

Faith is the anchor for our souls. We need to soak up the Word through reading, meditating on, practicing, and passing on the Word of God (Romans 10:17) so that when trials come, our faith may be steadfast (James 1:2-3). 

What’s your current storm? Please share, so I can pray with you! 

anxiety, devotional, grief, healing, lessons learned

Jesus Is Not a Band-Aid

My people are broken—shattered!—

    and they put on Band-Aids,

Saying, “It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.”

But things are not “just fine”!

Jeremiah 6:14 (MSG)

When you fall down the stairs carrying a bag of groceries and rip every tendon and ligament in your ankle, it hurts. A lot. You have surgery to repair said tendons and ligaments, which also hurts. A lot. But you’re still not cured. You have months (at least) of physical therapy to recondition your knee. And it hurts. A lot. Eventually, it hurts a little less when you wake up in the morning. Eventually, you graduate from a walker to a cane while walking. Eventually, you carry a bag of groceries up the stairs and forget the pain caused by that same action. But it takes a long time. Healing is a painful and long process.

Our emotions are even more fragile than knee tendons and ligaments. So why do we try to slap a Sunday School platitude on a deep emotional wound and tell the traumatized to stop crying about it? That would be like slapping a Band-Aid on a broken ankle. 

  • “Don’t worry about it; just pray.”
  • “Don’t be depressed; you have the joy of the Lord!”
  • “God’s with you, so you shouldn’t feel lonely.”
  • “Just turn the other cheek; it doesn’t matter what others say.”
  • “Time heals all wounds; you should be over that by now.”

I don’t know about you, but that triteness just doesn’t cut it for me. Those phrases leave people feeling like if only we were a better Christian, or believed more, or had more faith, or prayed more, we wouldn’t feel so bad. Author Alison Cook calls it “spiritual bypassing.” Christian author and comedian Jon Acuff calls it “Jesus juking” (you’ll catch the reference if you’re a sports fan). We Scots don’t call it anything because we don’t even acknowledge our feelings. 

No matter what you call it, the effect is the same: we’re stuffing our feelings down into the toes of our winter boots and hoping summer is eternal. Reality check: it’s not. Stuffing our emotions is not healthy. It leads to a whole host of other emotional issues (stress, anger, bitterness) and even physical problems (headaches, stomach aches, chronic muscle pain, and the list goes on). Eventually, you won’t be able to keep those emotions stuffed in. They’ll erupt like Mount St. Helens. 

Here’s the thing. Being a Christian does not make us “immune to normal human emotions” (Cook). My favorite example is David. Just look at all the psalms where he expresses anger, disappointment, fear, sadness, loneliness, shame, and a host of other emotions. But he doesn’t stop there. He works through them. Growth only occurs when we go THROUGH the emotions, not around them (thus the term bypass). 

There are no shortcuts in the Christian life. Psalm 23 talks about the valley of the shadow of death. John 16:33 confirms “In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we should not have feelings! Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” It does not say don’t be angry. “You can’t heal what you don’t acknowledge. You can’t transform what you’ve pretended doesn’t exist” (Cook).

BUT, don’t camp out in those negative emotions. Don’t vent to everyone about everything every minute of every day. As Christian author and speaker Lysa TerKeurst says, “emotions are not dictators.” We should not use emotions as excuses to act out, to stay in the valley, to exhibit bad behavior, or to make others feel worse. No! They’re indicators that we need to pay attention to something going on in our souls. 

Yes, Christ helps. Yes, Christ has forgiven me, so I should forgive others, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Yes, Jesus offers his peace when I commit my anxieties to him, but the anxieties keep coming back! Yes, faith is the enemy of fear, but that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid!!

I think we would have less anxiety if we were allowed to talk openly about it. Sometimes that’s all I want—for my feelings to be ACKNOWLEDGED. That’s it. You don’t even have to understand it (because chances are I won’t believe that you do understand it unless I know you’ve been THROUGH it yourself). You don’t have to diagnose it. You don’t have to fix it. Please don’t offer an empty platitude. Just let me express myself. Part of the going-through the process is just acknowledging that those emotions are there. 

Acknowledging our emotions and going through the steps to heal them is just as necessary for a healthy emotional balance as physical therapy after ankle surgery to repair those torn tendons and ligaments. Not acknowledging and working through emotions is like just lying in a hospital bed after the ankle surgery for weeks on end. Sure, you have a new knee, but it’s not going to work very well if you don’t do the hard work of physical therapy. Maybe you think that the ankle should heal up in a few weeks, just like the removed appendix did. Nope. Maybe you think that the hurt should be gone as quickly as the anger (or vice versa). Nope. It takes as long as it takes. Maybe you think you’re all healed, but then a twinge swoops in unexpectedly and leaves you breathless for a moment. Does that mean you need another ankle surgery because you didn’t have enough faith that the surgery and physical therapy you already did was enough? No! It means that healing is a long-term process!!

Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.

Proverbs 19:8 (ESV)

So, if we’re not offering Jesus Band-Aids, what should we offer instead? What do you think? What’s the most helpful thing you’ve heard when you’ve gone through hard times? Drop me a line and let me know what you think. I’ll be posting about it next time.