You can build on the truth

Life is nuts. Or is it just me? Maybe I only spend time with super busy people, but it feels like everyones’ lives are spinning out of control in the chaos that is our world. We have less time to produce, less time to rest, less time for family, less time for friends, less time for everything in our lives, yet somehow, in spite of working harder and longer than any other civilization in history, we get less done.

The American Dream? Right. It’s a Ferris wheel, spinning around and around and going nowhere. That’s how life feels most days. I don’t mean to be a downer, but can anyone else identify with this feeling?

Chaos. Futility. Constant exhaustion and the overwhelming certainty that you’ll amount to nothing but failure at the end of your life, regardless of how hard you work.

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

When I find myself sinking into that mindset, it’s time for a walk. I need to get away from my computer, get out of my own head, and go somewhere else, a place where I can recognize what’s really true and what really isn’t. For me, that’s outside on our patio with a kitten in my lap. For you, it may look different (although you should never discount how soothing the interaction with an animal can be).

Regardless, you have to stop moving. You have to stop thinking. You have to be still. Only when you’re still can you truly let your brain process, otherwise it’ll keep running in the background.

Once I’m still, then I can think. Then, I have to go back to basics.

What do I know for sure?

So much of what I worry about and stress over are unknowns. They’re the things I can’t control, the outcomes I can’t manipulate, the opinions I can’t change. No, none of that is my responsibility, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. And once I start thinking about all those things, I wind myself up into a ball of nerves and frustration, and before I know it, I’m snapping at people and just feeling generally angry. Then, whatever productivity I might have had goes out the window.

If you can’t identify things you are sure of, there might be something else going on. But I’m willing to bet that everyone knows the grass is green. Everyone knows the sky looks blue. Everyone knows gravity is constant, or at least constant enough to keep us from being flung off this spinning dirtball into the void.

Basics.

The sun will set tonight. It will rise tomorrow. And you can’t do anything to stop it either way. In one minute, sixty seconds will have passed. You need to drink water, or you’ll end up dehydrated. You need to eat, or you’ll starve. And everyone needs hugs, even people who don’t think they do.

What are the basics you know?

ps46-1-3I also know that God is in control. I know God is good. I know He has never promised to leave me. He’s promised to work all the crap in my life out for good, to bring glory to His name and to provide a beautiful future for me. I know He has my best interests in mind and that He’s the only one big enough to weave all the disjointed strings of my life into a masterpiece.

Maybe you don’t know all that. And that’s okay. But I do. There’s no promise that God has made to me that He hasn’t kept. He’s always there. He always keeps me on track. And everything I do, I want to do for Him, because He’s the only one who can make everything work out.

Those are my basics. Those are my certainties. That’s bedrock, where I start building again. Life and the world and people and circumstances can knock down everything I’ve built (and they have), but nothing can touch that foundation. Lord willing, nothing will.

There are several times in the Bible where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He says it so many times, and I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget. But if we can just remember to be still—to stop moving and thinking and running ahead—and remind ourselves who God is and what He’s promised, life won’t feel so chaotic anymore.

Because once you know one truth, you can build on it. Because rock is solid, storms won’t move it. Because storms won’t move it, you can build on it. Because you can build on it, you can restore what you lost.

Because God is God, we can trust Him. Think about what you can build on that truth.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

Life is nuts, but God is good. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, He’s got it all under control. So stop chasing your tail. Take a minute. Remember who He is, and if you don’t know who He is, learn. Then, ask Him for help. He won’t turn you away, and He won’t ignore you, not if you truly come to Him for help. He may not give you the answer you want, but if you really trust Him, you’ll do what He says.

Sunrise after freezing fog at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Fight discouragement with truth

Life has seasons, much like the weather, but many times I swear life’s seasons are more like the weather in Kansas–unpredictable, volatile, harsh, though somehow still beautiful and abundant and vast. You’ve heard the saying that it never just rains, it pours? Whoever said that probably lived in Kansas. Because in Kansas it never just rains; it storms. Or we don’t have a dry spell; we have legendary drought. Sort of like we don’t just get ice and snow; we get blizzards and thundersnow and freezing fog. With the weather here, it’s never just one thing and it’s never small, never just a slight inconvenience.

Life is like that too. Maybe not in every circumstance but especially recently. There can’t just be one thing wrong. Six things have to go wrong at once. There can’t just be one person upset. Ten people have to be upset at once. We can’t even have one calamity at a time; literally everything expensive that can possibly break or need replacement has to break or need replacing simultaneously. And most of the time I’m pretty good at keeping my chin up. Most of the time I can stay focused and remember that God has everything under control. But the rest of the time I just keep marching like a good little soldier, not really feeling it, just trying to put one foot in front of the other and not think about everything that’s going wrong.

Maybe it’s the weather. February usually starts to be pretty depressing because the real heart of winter sets in, which can certainly turn your perspective dark if you let it. But that’s not my problem today. Winter doesn’t bother me, not really. In all honesty, I’m just tired and I’m weary and as much as I don’t want to admit it, deep down inside, I’m extraordinarily discouraged. And much like every other emotional issue I ever have, I rarely face it; I bury it. I pretend it’s not there, and I keep marching forward and hope some day it will go away.

But is that the way we’re supposed to face discouragement? Ignore it? Deny it? Is that the “good Christian” thing to do?

Sunrise after freezing fog at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise after freezing fog at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 59:16.

But as for me, I will sing about your power.
    Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
    a place of safety when I am in distress.

Discouragement is a strange thing. It’s not ostentatious like fear. It’s not sickening like jealousy. It doesn’t burn like anger. It just sort of creeps up on me and quietly makes a nest in my heart and whispers lies in my ear until I get used to hearing them and start believing them. So when life events seem to confirm what Discouragement tells me, it’s easier to accept the lies, whether they’re true or not.

Discouragement is dangerous. It’s a paralytic. Other feelings can spur you to action, but discouragement slows you down, feeds on your insecurity, and mocks your efforts to fight back. It’s that voice in the back of your head that says: “Of course, you failed. You always do.”

Well, no more.

Discouragement has been hovering around me for a long time, and I’ve really just been putting it off. I’m really good at living in denial, but denial doesn’t work with discouragement. That’s what discouragement needs. Deny that it exists so it has time to sink its claws into you and drain your life and hope and dreams away.

So how do you fight it? How do you uproot the discouragement that’s so deeply entrenched in your heart? How do you combat the lies and the black whispers? I believe it starts with finding a safe place. Not literally exactly. More figuratively.

The chief lie that discouragement tells you is that you’re alone and that nobody cares about your problems. Discouragement requires isolation so that no one can set you straight. The best way to fight discouragement is to find someone you trust, someone you love, someone who loves you enough to help you challenge the lies that have convinced you that you’ll always fail. And the best person to help you do that is God.

Yes, you need a friend who can take you by the shoulders and shake some sense into you. You need a friend who can hug you after they’ve told you brutal truth. You need a friend to make you laugh. But the best source for strength to fight discouragement comes from God because no one knows you like He does–and He loves you anyway.

So when you feel discouraged, start by talking to God about it. Tell Him. Tell Him what you’re feeling. And then–praise Him. Even if (especially if) you don’t feel like it, just start listing the awesome things about Him. Tell Him your troubles, your cares, your worries, and leave them with Him while you take a moment and remember who He is.

That’s the first step. Get your life in focus again. Don’t deny that you’re discouraged. Take it to God and let Him help you see what is true and what’s not. Then, hold to what’s true.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t be afraid of trouble

Do you ever feel like life is just too much for you? Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed with the task God has asked you to do? Or have events in your life become so heavy and difficult that you wonder if God is still listening?

If you haven’t and you’re a Christ follower, it’s just a matter of time. If the things in our lives didn’t overwhelm us, that would mean we’re not doing things for God. Living for God is always outside our reach alone; we need His help. And honestly, life is just too much to handle without Him.

Troubles come. That’s just life. But I’m not a good enough Christian to say I look forward to the trouble. Granted, a part of me welcomes it because trouble means (sometimes) that you’re on the right track. Trouble brings growth. Trouble brings eventual joy. And even the things we see as trouble often turn into blessings. So I always try not to judge trouble when it arrives and see it for what it can be.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

But when trouble after trouble after trouble comes pounding at the door, I get tired. Yes, each trouble is interspersed with great and joyful things, happy things, wonderful things, but it’s like the roller coaster of life never really ends and I can’t help but feel like the ride is just starting. For every exciting hill we crest and coast down at top speed, there’s another mountain to climb. And climbing up is always harder than coasting down.

I don’t do this very often, but Psalm 46 just encouraged me this morning. I have so many things going on, many good and the rest frustrating. It’s good for me to remember that God is always there, especially in trouble. I want to be thankful for trouble. I want to be thankful for the difficult things in life because they always help me in the end.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

If you’re going through trouble today, don’t be afraid of it. God hasn’t left you. He’s working behind the scenes to make sure events unfold the way that’s best for you.

He knows what He’s doing. It may feel like we’re trapped in the middle sometimes. It may feel like He’s dropped the ball. And it’s absolutely tempting to give up. But resist the urge to strike out on your own and trust Him.

And when life gets to be too much, just tell Him. Run to Him. Let Him remind you that He’s still there, that He hasn’t forgotten, that He hasn’t gone anywhere, and that He still has everything under control.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

No wonder my heart is glad

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have so many good things. Even on our worst day, even when we are experiencing stress, even when we are overwhelmed with all the tasks we have to accomplish or our responsibilities, we still have more than enough good in our lives that we should be thankful.

So why are we grumpy? Why are we focused on the negative? Well, it’s human nature. But if you follow Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature. You have two natures now, and you also have a choice which one to listen to.

I love the Psalms of David because so many times they speak to me in a way regular Scripture doesn’t. Whether it’s because they are mainly about praise or maybe because David was a fellow artist, I don’t know. But the Psalms incorporate statements that rock my world.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s passage is Psalm 16.

Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

So much of our attitude comes from our perspective. If you focus on the negative in every situation, you’re going to have a negative attitude. Granted, if you only focus on the positive, you’re going to annoy the crap out of anyone you talk to and you won’t be realistic or relevant to anyone. Why? Because we don’t live in a positive world. And being falsely happy and cheerful all the time isn’t helpful or encouraging. We can’t ignore the negative elements in our world, but we don’t have to focus on them.

David had issues. He had troubles in his life. Where do we even start with the troubles in David’s life? Even this Psalm starts out with him asking God for protection, asking God to be his refuge. But then it quickly moves into praise. David talks about his relationship with God, who God is to Him, what God has done for him.

And that’s what we need to do too.

Recognize that God is our refuge. He is. He’s our shield and the One who protects us, and as the days grow darker that protection will be very much needed.

But He’s more than just our refuge. God is our joy. Every good thing we have comes from Him. He is our future and our heritage all at the same time. And the good things He has given us now pale in comparison to what’s coming. And as we wait for that day, He won’t leave us. Ever.

No wonder David’s heart was glad. And our hearts should feel the same way. If they don’t, stop focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t like or what has made you unhappy and focus on the God who is both your protection and your light. Think about what He’s done, think about what He’s doing (because He’s never still), and even if the day is dark and your life is full of struggle, you’ll be okay because as long as we can see Him, we can remember what we’re living for.

Tree growing between two mountains - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Choosing to act in spite of fear

Our world is full of fear. It seems like almost everyone is driven by it, whether they realize it or not. It’s so easy to give in to fear because it’s so sneaky all the time. It can just creep up on you in any circumstance, and before you know it, you’re making decisions based on it. But Christians aren’t supposed to make decisions based in fear.

Tree growing between two mountains - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Tree growing between two mountains – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 46:1-2.

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.

The Psalms are full of instances where David talks about fear and being afraid and having courage, but Psalm 46 is one of those Psalms that stands out. If you have an opportunity to read it, you should.

What I love about this passage is that it identifies that God is our refuge and our source of strength. Not our abilities or our talents or our family members. Not our jobs. Not our homes. Not anything in the world. Not even our financial stability. God is our refuge. God is our strength.

That alone blows my mind. Because God made everything. He made the universe. He made the world. He made me. He knows how everything fits. He knows how everything works. He knows — well — everything. And not only does He provide a safe place for us to go when we’re afraid, this verse says He’s always ready to help.

I’ll be honest. I love people, but I’m not always ready to help them. I want to be. But I’m human enough to sometimes care more about my own comfort than someone else’s. I’m working on that. But God isn’t like that at all. He’s always ready to help.

But what I love about this verse the most is that it says “we will not fear.” Not “we do not fear” or “we can not fear” and not even that “we should not fear” but that “we will not fear.”

Maybe I’m a language nerd. Well, I am a language nerd. But that one little helping verb makes a huge difference in how we’re supposed to handle fear.

Fear is not something we should be ashamed of. Let’s be real with each other here. Everyone struggles with fear. It’s a universal problem. If it weren’t a problem for everyone, the Bible wouldn’t talk about it all the time. So if you’ve been afraid or if you are afraid or if you expect that you will be afraid again sometime in the future, don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t hide it. Don’t ignore it. It’s normal.

And I guarantee, if the earth starts quaking or if the mountains start crumbling into the sea, you’ll be afraid. You’re going to feel some fear. I would. But the beauty of the statement “we will not fear” indicates choice.

You can choose to be afraid. And likewise, you can choose to give that fear to God and let Him handle it.

Fear isn’t always voluntary. It comes on me unexpectedly at times. It surprises me more often than not because I don’t consider myself a timorous sort of person. But I do struggle with fear when it comes to trusting other people. And I’m learning that when I feel afraid I can actually choose what I do: to act on the fear or to act in spite of the fear. And the only way I can act in spite of fear is to give that fear to God and trust that He can take care of the details.

Giving something like fear to God is difficult because once you’ve given it to Him you have no more excuses not to act. You can give prayer requests to God all day long. That’s easy because in many cases those are circumstances where you can’t do anything. You can’t fix it, so just give it to God. Easy peasy. You can trust the future to God all day long. That’s easy too because we can’t see the future, and it’s not that difficult to turn over something you don’t understand to Someone who does. But fear?

Fear is my control mechanism. Fear tells me when to stop pushing. Fear tells me when I’ve gone too far. Fear tells me what other people think of me. And if I give that up, how will I have any control over my life?

But am I supposed to have control over my life? Is my life even my own?

No. It’s not. My life belongs to God.

So I can choose to live by fear and let it dictate my actions and my choices and my thoughts about people and my thoughts about myself. But if I do that, I’ll never live up to my potential. I’ll never get to do the things that God has for me to do. And if I don’t get to do the things that God has for me to do, why has He put me here? Why am I here if not to live for Christ?

Fear is a choice. God offers us the strength to face fear by relying on Him for the courage to act even when we feel like nothing is going to work. So the next time you encounter fear — the next time you feel afraid — stop. Recognize that you are afraid. Identify what’s scaring you. And make your decision: to either act on that fear or to give it to God and act in spite of it.

He won’t let you down.

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Fear doesn’t always roar

Fear is our default. Do you ever think about that? People don’t have to learn how to be afraid. Granted, I think some of it can be taught, and others learn it better in some instances. But generally speaking, we are all born with fear inside us. It’s part of being human, and it’s diametrically opposed to the kind of life God wants us to live.

But fear doesn’t always roar. Most of the time it’s a lot quieter, like a whisper that you can’t stop listening to no matter how much you try.

I struggle with fear. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that because I come off as a very strong, independent person. And I am. But just because someone is strong and independent doesn’t make them brave. Sometimes it just means they’re compensating.

Fear is a sneaky little problem that can creep into every area of our lives without us even knowing it’s there. For instance, I’m not afraid to die. I’m not afraid to be uncomfortable. I’m not afraid to be rejected or abandoned or emotionally hurt. And maybe it’s because I’ve experienced all those things and have seen how God has worked through them in my life, so I know without a doubt that He can use them.

But I am afraid of success. I am afraid that people will expect more from me than I am capable of giving. I am afraid that I won’t live up to my potential. I am afraid that I will disappoint the people I care about and the people who look up to me as some kind of leader.

Maybe it’s a quiet fear, but it’s still fear. And any kind of fear — when it’s fear of the world or fear of our circumstances — cripples us.  It prevents us from living the kind of life God has planned for us. It keeps us from doing the things He’s designed us to do.

God wants to use us. He’s got awesome plans for us, and He wants to work in our lives in miraculous ways. But if we give in to our fear, we aren’t going to seize the opportunities He sends our way. And if we aren’t willing to walk through the doors He opens for us, He can only take us so far.

More than anything, God wants to bless us. But we have to let Him. And we can’t let fear be our guiding light because if we do, we’ll end up wandering around in the dark.

But it’s one thing to tell yourself not to be afraid. It’s something else to actually achieve it. And there are so many ways to combat fear, but what works for me is reading the Psalms. I’ve really been trying to deal with some of my fear issues for a few months, and whenever I think about not being afraid Psalm 46 always comes to mind.

If you ever struggle with fear, tuck this one away somewhere where you can find it when you need it.

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.

The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.