Face like Flint

I just got kicked out of an eczema support group on Facebook.

I was acting as sort of an awareness raising vigilante for the dangers and prevalence of topical steroid addiction amongst those who suffer with eczema.

Like, “LOOK!  Guys I have the answer.  You can get completely better!!  Your steroids have been causing your worsening condition all along.  Now you just need to go through this hellish withdrawal!!”

Obviously I wasn’t met with much enthusiasm.  The people who administrate the group are familiar with TSW and for whatever reason, have decided against it.  Not only that, but because of the suffering associated with it, they label it as “dangerous” and “misguided” and the people, like myself, who try to sound the alarm, are promptly booted from the group.

My reasons for wanting to warn people is simply that I wish someone had warned us before our level of dependence on steroids got as bad as it did.  We could have avoided so much pain and suffering for our son.

But the road is a hard one, no doubt.  And many try for a time, before going back to steroids and concluding that TSW doesn’t work.

I’ve gotten some unexpected feedback sharing my blog within my TSW support group.  People commending my husband and I for doing a good job.  It is great, in a sense, mostly because it’s vindication.  When we entered into this, it was going against medical advice.  It was going it alone.  It was entering into some pretty bleak and abject suffering.  We felt very defensive about our decision because while we knew we were doing the right thing, we felt a lot of heat over it.

But at this point it is finally paying off.  My son is getting better.  There is a spark of vitality and health that strengthens every single day.

23472799_10159682046900074_6533435632338179710_n
He was thrilled to get a McChicken before school~

In our case we found the answer to our prayers, to our searching, but it meant pressing through a whole lot of pain and difficulty.  “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51  Another version says, “He set his face like flint.”  Jesus knew full well what he was getting into and he pressed into it.  He was resolute.  Because he knew the joy set before him.  He knew the end game.

 

My husband and I never wavered, not once.  We knew that God had led us to this point.  We knew Gabe had to go through this withdrawal.  We were of one mind, and there is so much power in that.  Gabe, young as he is, he understood and was 100% on board too.

We’ve gone through a pretty extreme trial, but, we all go through stuff.  We all deal with pain.  That’s why we need hope.  We need to know the end game.  We need to know our Shepherd.

Often, the only way out is through.  We have to be resolute.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2-3

I know there are those who don’t get their healing.  At least, not here on this earth.  But we know the end game.  We know in whom we have believed.  We know this life isn’t the “be all, end all”.  It’s like a cosmic waiting room we bide our time in until we can get to the real deal.  And hardships help to wake us up to the eternal consequences and weightiness of how we live our lives here while we wait for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19

Advertisements

Conviction vs. Condemnation

Last Sunday I had a really great day.  My daughter and I met up with my mom and her husband at the Mall of America.  I have so much fun with them.  We walk around and giggle and act silly.

22814359_10159617349975074_6452226001347868145_n
Shiloh had my mom in a death grip!

We bought chocolate at Lindt and had fresh guacamole and chips.  It was just a really great day and a much needed break from the daily grind.

As I lay in bed that night thinking about the day, I started feeling guilty.  Why?  No good reason.  I just felt almost like the day had been so fun and easy that I must be missing something.

As I lay there thinking, I felt like the Holy Spirit reminded me that God is the source of every good and perfect gift.  I shouldn’t feel some weird, misplaced guilt over having a light-hearted day.  “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

Yes we should be fighting the good fight and fight against the desires of the flesh.  But it’s ok to laugh and have fun and enjoy the gifts that God richly provides.

I was folding laundry the other night when condemnation struck again.  I dump all my family’s laundry on my bed and sort and fold my way through the giant pile every night.  For whatever reason my mind always wanders to dumb things I’ve said and done in the past.  I was going over those same stupid mistakes and feeling the familiar waves of condemnation rolling over me and weighing down on me.  So much so that I just layed my head, somewhat pathetically, on my bed and buried my face in the clean laundry.

The voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted this little condemnation sesh with an abrupt, “You could have joy right now.”  Like, HELLO, you need to reclaim this time.  Stop falling into the old trash heap and letting the enemy beat you down.

The condemnation I was feeling was not from God at all.

Another instance happened today.  I had responded a bit snippily to a woman on my TSW support page.  It was a post from a woman who was only a week or so into topical steroid withdrawal and wailing about “when will this end?!?!?!  Give me at time frame and it better be days!!!”  I was incredulous and irritated because most of the people in the group have been suffering horribly for a long time and yet maintain a positive attitude.  Then she promptly responded even more snippity-ish (yes, I’m making up a word!) and back and forth it went.

Later that day when I was singing worship songs when I got the feeling I needed to apologize to this woman.  “Hmm….  That’s an interesting thought.  noooLet me file that away for later.”  Then later then day when I sat down to read my Bible and pray, I closed my eyes and BAM! “You need to apologize to her.”

I knew it was conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Did I want to apologize?  No.  Is it something God would want me to do?- Humble myself and be gracious..?  Yes.

I sucked it up and wrote her a quick message to apologize for being harsh and that I wished her well on her TSW journey.  I let it go and went back to praying.

When God convicts it is not to bury us alive in feelings of shame and worthlessness.  It is always quick and to the point and it comes with a solution to make it right.  In this case I just needed to apologize for my part.  Because that’s what I responsible for.

The good news is that when we do respond quickly to conviction it brings us closer to the heart of God.  Conversely, when we recieve the spirit of condemnation from the enemy, it does absolutely nothing to help us become more Christ-like.

We all need to be aware of the thought patterns we have in our lives that may be building us up or bringing us down.

       “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

Proverbs 23:7

500 Years

It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther95theses-808

As a girl in Minnesota I grew up going to a Lutheran church, of course.  If you live here, chances are that you’re Lutheran and you go to potlucks. 😉

What is sad and ironic is that my church was very dry and I came away with a sense that if I followed certain rules I was accepted by God.  Ironic because that was the very thing Luther was revolting against.  I was given a Bible after I went through confirmation which I kept on my bedside table at all times and occasionally attempted to read.  I remember trying to slog my way through Leviticus before I gave up.

Of course a system of rules just isn’t very compelling especially as you grow up and your world view gets very much expanded.

When I did come back to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible came to life for me.  I read through the New Testament for the first time and was blown away.  This wasn’t dry or boring at all.  It was alive and exciting.

To me, the reformation freed the common believer to experience God firsthand.  It gave the people access to the previously inaccessible- the Word of God in the common language.  It seems shocking to us but 500 years ago the church didn’t want the Bible translated into the common tongue.  They actually rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them.  I guess they wanted to be the people’s only access to God and salvation.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

There aren’t certain believers that are elevated above the rest.   “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism…”  Acts 10:34  Titles and positions are bestowed by people, not God.

Any believer, anywhere can go directly into God’s presence through our High Priest, Jesus Christ.  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

This verse is saying that we all have Jesus as our perfect priest, and therefore we can commune directly with God.  We don’t have to go to “middle men” or settle for some kind of second hand experience.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9  It doesn’t say if we confess and then jump through a bunch of hoops to earn what God has already freely given through his shed blood on the cross….

The Bible says that we are heirs of God and Co-Heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:17  Jesus was a priest, and if we are filled with his spirit, we are a part of a royal priesthood.  It’s our spiritual inheritance and it comes from God himself.

I think it is human nature to elevate the spiritual superstars of our times.  I remember doing just that with my favorite Bible teacher.  I could tell she was an amazing godly woman and such a talented writer.  I didn’t think I could ever live up to that so I read all her books and blogs and put her up on a pedestal.  I can just see God shaking his head and saying; “child, don’t you realize I love you every bit as much as I love her?”

There aren’t any rules we can follow to make God love us more than he already does.

He doesn’t want great things from us or even steadfast obedience so much as he wants our hearts.  He wants us to know him and love him the way he knows and loves us.  Consider the prayer Jesus prayed for us before he was crucified; My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21-22

There are many traditions and denominations in the church but none of us are saved through church membership.  We aren’t saved by communion.  We aren’t even saved by baptism.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” Ephesians 2:8

My fear is that so many people are missing it.  They may warm a pew occasionally but they have no real, living relationship with their Savior.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23

Martin Luther was not a perfect man, not at all.  But God doesn’t use perfect people.  The reformation was an important step into bringing us common, everyday people into the very presence of God and obtaining the gift of salvation, unencumbered by extra-biblical traditions and rules.

 

Hands and Feet

I’ve been pressing in to God through my pain and finding him in hew ways.  Yesterday morning I told him quietly, with tears in my eyes, that I was coming to the end of myself.  At that moment I felt a burden lift and a rush of joy.  Almost as if he was showing me that by coming to the end of myself I can finally come to the beginning of HIM.

I had run through the whole battery of treatment we do to get Gabe up and on his feet every day.  Lotion, ointments, vitamins, calf massage, pep talks… and I drove him to school and he couldn’t go in because his legs were still too dry to fully extend.

We came home and I had a bit of a temper tantrum.  “why is this so hard?  I do everything I can and it’s still not good enough…!”

But I pulled it together and took Gabe to Costco to get some groceries.  On days when he can’t walk I just carry his 50 pounds around until I can put him into a cart.  Yes people stare but I give zero f%#^s.  All along the game plan has been that he’s going to get better so we have not even considered buying a wheel chair.

I’m living in this state of being stretched and praying that God would work in my life.  I’m right there.   So when a woman approached me in the parking lot asking for cash I didn’t hesitate.  She was a single mom, she needed gas money, she was so, so tired… I wrapped my arms around her and prayed.  It didn’t even seem weird to me at all.  I just put my arms around her and prayed for her how I’d want someone to pray for me.  I gave her all the cash I had, which wasn’t much.

As I went back to lift Gabe’s broken little body out of the cart he said, “Mom I prayed too.”

Tears fill my eyes because I am grateful that Gabe gets to see Jesus breaking through in every day life, maybe much more so because of the state that he is in.

I’m absolutely not going to end on any sort of sanctimonious note….except to say that God wants us to remember that it truly isn’t all about us.  Our purpose here is to know him and make him known.  And we can do that even on the hardest days.

Enduring through Trials

I was thinking yesterday of the things that have helped me weather the toughest thing I have ever gone through- my son’s extended and very difficult skin condition.  A quick rundown- he was on very potent steroid creams (black box label kind of thing) and we realized that they had basically destroyed his health.  Now we are trying to help him heal from the damage.

God taught me a lesson years ago about the importance of gratitude.  I had heard a radio program where the author Ann Voskamp was interviewed about her book, One Thousand Gifts.  She talked about how gratitude had pulled her out of depression and totally changed her life.  I didn’t even read the book but I was deeply impacted by that one hour interview.

It totally remolded my approach to life.  Every day I do look for the good and offer up thanks and praise to God.  It’s so ingrained in me that it’s my automatic “go-to” response.  There’s been many, many times where my son was crying in pain or just being negative about his (admittedly, terrible) circumstances.  I comfort him but am quick to guide the conversation back to the things in his life that are “good and perfect gifts”.  I truly, firmly believe that thankful attitude has helped us both get through this- and with a good measure of joy.  21557760_10159385235250074_8017605279174650947_n

The biggest battle we face is between our own ears.

We need to take in the truth and renew our minds every single day.  I don’t always have time to read the Bible but I do play the local radio station, Faith Radio 900, every day.  It’s got great biblical teaching that really helps me stay on track.

God is also speaking to me about taking every thought captive and casting down vain imaginations.  When a thought enters our mind that shouldn’t be there, we take action to cast it down.  That’s much easier to do when you are actively filling your mind with the truth of God’s Word.

I also pray frequently about the other battleground- my heartWordly wisdom would tell you garbage like “follow your heart” or “the heart wants what it wants”.  The Bible has this to say in Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  If we blindly follow our whims, impulses, desires AKA our “hearts” we are setting ourselves up for disaster.  We can’t always trust our feelings or even understand them.  Not only that, but feelings are so fickle and quick to desert us after leading us into a mess. 

I pray often that God would give me a soft, malleable heart.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

We especially need to pray over our own hearts during times of testing.  The 3rd chapter of Hebrews talks about how the Israelites hardened their hearts in their time of wilderness testing, and the tragic outcome; “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.”‘

What this says is that our times of testing and trying are our times of refinement.  We all come to God and are completely accepted, however, we all have junk that needs to be dealt with.  Junk that would surface at the worst possible time and destroy or hinder our testimony.  If we are faithful to soften our hearts and work with God through tough times, there is a promised period of rest on the other side.  God’s rest- which includes blessings, peace, joy, etc., but this also means that if we don’t cooperate we will never reach these “green pastures” that God wants to lead us too.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

So, whatever you’re facing today, don’t give up.  Press in.  Follow hard after God.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

The Empty Tomb

Yesterday was a real let down for me.

See, it’s been raining here for dayyysss.  Our back yard is a soggy marsh!  But yesterday was beautiful.  Sunny and 65 degrees.  I was really hopeful that we’d be able to get out and hike and have fun as a family.

But Gabe went downhill really quick.  By the time we got to the park he was already frantically itching.  He shredded up his legs and feet.  We had to go home where I spent the rest of the day caring for him.

As much as I love him I have to admit that being a caregiver to a very ill child is incredibly draining.  It hasn’t just been weeks, or months, but years of this.

But what also happened is that we had a really rich spiritual conversation.  Gabe’s suffering has made him very sensitive to the things of God.  That and all this time I’ve spent with him has made our bond so close.  ggcici

Sometimes I just stop and thank God for giving me such a great kid.

I think about how when he was so little, the times his father and I knelt down next to his little toddler bed and prayed over him while he slept.  We dedicated our child to God and asked that he would use his life in powerful ways.

I was praying a few weeks ago and feeling very discouraged and hopeless even, but God reminded me of those prayers.  He told me, “Just keep dedicating him to me, every day.”

I woke up this morning and prayed and petitioned God with tears. for his healing.

I got this image in return of the sun rising over the empty tomb.

It’s our faith, it’s our life.  The empty tomb is the hope of humanity.

By his stripes we are healed. 20171008_074619

Suffering and pain may come knocking at our door.  They may even stick around far longer than we’d hope.  But the empty tomb gets the final say.  Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes with the morning.

The Choice

Lately I’ve been watching a rather iffy show on Netflix called Paranormal Survivor.  Guests on the show recount their brushes with “ghosts” (*ahem*demons), often with tears and visible emotional scars.

My husband is more skeptical than I but we both see the element of truth to these stories.  These people are not actors.  They are regular people who, for whatever reason, had these unexplainable experiences with forces of spiritual darkness.

I’m inclined to believe them because of my own experiences.

As a young woman I came to God from a place of intense spiritual darkness.  I had opened myself up to all kinds of junk.  I think at various times I had been all but taken over.  I was plagued with feelings of intense paranoia and rage along with audible manifestations.  I was diagnosed with depression but prescription medicine couldn’t come close to curing the spiritual tomb that was my heart.

When Jesus called me out of that darkness there was an intense struggle.  I felt those forces trying to keep me in their grip.  I threw myself deeper into the things of God.

In those early days I had a lot of demonic nightmares.  Dreams I’ve never shared.  I would wake up soaked in sweat and terrified.  There was one time where I was being suffocated and in my dream I was trying to call out the name of Jesus and I couldn’t because it felt like my face was being smothered.

I finally broke lose from that and the effect it had on me was to further solidify my faith and push me even closer to God.  I believe that is why the nightmares stopped.  Satan saw that it was backfiring.

Also, around that time my husband and I started praying together every night.  We always pray for protection over our family and our home.

There are these very real forces that I believe attack every single believer.  It may not be something as frightening and blatant as what I experienced, but real, nonetheless.

More often we get hit with a spirit of complacency.  We’ve heard the gospel a thousand times.  We get numb to the horrifying events that seem to occur with ever greater frequency.  We get bogged down with daily life.  We get lukewarm.

But when we encounter evil- whether it’s a mass shooting or a spiritual attack on our family- we have to make a choice.  Are we going to be ambassadors for Christ in this dark world?  Are we going to let the Holy Spirit sanctify our hearts?  Are we going to live lives worthy of our calling?

20171007_095950
My daughter, because it’s so cute but also because this is how we need to operate.

 

The Bible says that we are all slaves.  We are either slaves of God, leading to righteousness.  Or slaves to the forces of evil.  While we are technically free moral agents in that sense we don’t get to choice.  Why?  The Bible says are hearts are desperately wicked and we can’t begin to understand.  We deceive ourselves.  We fall under a spirit of deception.

“The coming of the lawless one will be accompanied by the working of Satan, with every kind of power, sign, and false wonder, and with every wicked deception directed against those who are perishing, because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them. For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,…” 2 Thessalonians 2:11

This is a powerful warning.  If we aren’t allowing the spirit of God to work in our hearts and minds we will fall into this great deception.

I believe we are standing at the end of the age.  The man of lawlessness will soon be revealed.  The choices we make now matter.  The prayers we pray in faith matter.  Our daily walk with the Lord matters.

“Lord Jesus, help us to shake of any spiritual complacency and follow you fearlessly in this dark age with passion and holiness.  Work in our hearts to make us worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus.  Give us discerning hearts.  We thank you that in you, we already have the victory.  In Jesus name, Amen.”