“Jesus came to free us from the fear of the shadowlands – of being swallowed up by the darkness of discouragement, doubt, and depression. He is Light, and He banishes darkness” (Ruthless, Stern, p.127). I’m so thankful we serve a God who is Light and who shines His Light into our dark places. This year in particular, I have been experiencing some intense attacks from the evil one. He doesn’t fight fair and attacks me in my weakest moments and in my weakest places. On one particular day last week, I awoke early, as is my practice, to spend time with my Heavenly Papa. To my surprise and delight, I soon discovered that the lesson our team was focusing on for the day was on spiritual warfare. This helped me remember what I’ve learned over the years about warfare – praying Scripture, the armor of God, praying in Jesus’ name and such. Then, I had a new thought. I know I absolutely hate warfare; it doesn’t feel good. It’s human nature to want to stay away from things we don’t like or cause us pain and discomfort. I want God to take it away, to save and rescue me. I believe He will. But what if warfare is so much more? What if spiritual warfare can draw us to the heart of God? I think I tend to cry out to Him in my neediness way more than when life is good. My heart’s prayer is to know God. What if spiritual warfare draws me even closer to His heart, His love, His care? Maybe, instead of asking for deliverance (which I don’t believe is wrong, just secondary), I need to ask Papa God to bring whatever He can into my life to push me towards Him, even if it is spiritual warfare. So, even though I hate the warfare, perhaps it’s being used in my life as a powerful reminder of how much I need God. This perspective helps me endure the battle. “Thank you, Jesus, that you defeated the darkness. Thank you that I can use the battle I sense around me to remember Your presence and Your heart. Thank you for your love, care, and protection from the evil one. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Thanks for continuing to pray for us. The battle is real. God is up to amazing things!
I’m afraid! I’m afraid that in all my planning for the trip I might have forgotten some little item or some minuscule detail. Did I really remember to pack my passport or my toothbrush? And how about my house? Will it be okay? Will the house sitter remember to water my plants or feed my cats? Did I pay all the bills, charge all the electronics, wash all the dishes so they won’t have hard-to-remove grime on them when I return? Does my suitcase really weigh 48.7 lbs or are my scales broken and I will be scrambling to find homes for things at the airport? Am I crazy to give up my routine life for a few weeks to have my world totally turned upside down and my heart softened by the team members I come to know better, the Slovakian people I go to serve, and a God, who will do anything to get my attention? Perhaps this is my greatest fear – that I will not return to my plain, ordinary life in quite the same way. I will return a different person than when I left. And then, I remember. What is the antidote for fear? It’s love. First John 4:18 tells me that “perfect love casts out fear.” Isaiah 43:1b reminds me, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, YOU are MINE” (emphasis mine). God has called me to follow Him to Slovakia to teach me new things not because He is mean or cruel, but because He is love and wants me to know and display His love better. He understands fear and has provided the answer to it. He calls me to be open to His love, filled with the trust that no matter what happens, He is in control. Today, tomorrow, and over the course of the next few weeks, when I’m tempted to fear, I pray I can remember how much I am loved. And all the little fears as well as big ones seem not quite to matter so much….
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life…. Recently, I was on vacation to my childhood home where there is a piano I am able to practice on. As I was playing through a song book, I was encouraged by this old hymn, “Wonderful Words of Life.” Words have such power both to encourage and to wound. Nothing helps one practice speaking life-giving words more than living within the context of a family. As a single woman, I don’t often have the chance to practice this skill, but when I do, what words come out of my mouth? Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life. Am I building people up around me with words such as “I’m proud of you!” or “Continue to trust our Heavenly Papa” or “I love the way you___!”? Am I wounding folks when I fail to listen, become impatient, or criticize faults? Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life. I think about going to Slovakia later this week. I will have chance after chance to practice living in community. Will what comes out of my mouth be “wonderful words?” Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life. I pray that the words I and others on my team chose to speak will reflect Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.