Where Are You Looking?

Overwhelmed.

That’s how I felt last week. To be honest, I’ve felt that way numerous days since the new year began. For someone who doesn’t have an identic mind (like Sheldon Cooper on TBBT), I’ve been doing a significantly accurate job of remembering every problem and concern in my mind. Frankly, it has consumed me.

It all boils down to a conglomeration of worry about friends and family, relationships, finances, and fear of the unknown. I’ve been researching on Google and speaking with other people in similar circumstances. Wrapping my head around it has been nearly impossible.

I’m back in the ninth grade, standing at the chalkboard during Algebra 1, stuck in an equation. My stomach hurts. I’m having performance anxiety. The fear of failure is pervasive. Every time I try to solve, it is clear that I am just not equipped to do so. Then Mrs. Randleman gently takes the chalk from my hand, looks me in the eye and smiles. AT THAT MOMENT, I know that she KNOWS the answer and is going to help me find the answer. And she does.

God is waiting for me to “turn over the chalk.”

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

I HAVE TAKEN MY EYES OFF GOD!

I’ve trusted in myself and forgotten to trust in the One who is always trustworthy. I’ve convinced myself that I’m smart enough to figure these things out and ignored the One who is Omnipotent. I’ve chosen to stomp through the high grass, hacking away at the underbrush, and crawling through uncharted territory, even though God can make a way when there seems to be no way (Philippians 2:13-14).

If you’re there with me in that “I can do it myself” mentality, let me ask you to just lay the burden down. You don’t even realize how heavy it is. If it helps, you can cry all the frustration out. I did, and when that was over, I cried out to God and confessed my sin to Him.

Don’t be surprised if you get tempted to pick it all up and try it your way again. That’s the urging of the devil. He will come to you in your weakest moments and say that you can handle this all on your own. Remember that the devil is a liar and the father of all lies. (John 8:44).

I am praying the promises of Psalm 121 and claiming them. For everyone who has lost sight of the Source of our strength, I’m praying for you and I ask that you pray for me.

Psalm 121:
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.

6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

shr

Don’t Worry. Trust Jesus!

Photo Credit:  http://capubianco.wordpress.com

The Beach Boys sang, “Don’t worry, Baby.”  Stevie Wonder sang, “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing.”  Bobby McFerrin (and Bob Marley) sang, “Don’t worry.  Be happy.”  These are only three of 3, 473 songs that came up when I did a Bing search for “songs about worry.”  While all those may be well and good, my Savior has a few things to say about not worrying that mean a lot more to me than any pop song ever could:

“Don’t ever worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Everyone is concerned about these things, and your heavenly Father certainly knows you need all of them. 33But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.  So don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34 (GWT)

Bobby McFerrin Photo Credit:  www.pacificmozart.org

How I fail at the “not worrying” directive!  For the last twenty-four hours, I’ve been holding on to some fear and worry about a situation that simply cannot be changed by my worrying.  My thoughts about it have been incessant.  It’s left me with a queasy stomach and a lack of appetite, which might be good for my diet (which I will be giving an update on next Wednesday, by the way) but it’s not doing too much for the increase of my faith and belief that God is in control.

So, I’m giving it up.  I’ve had a little cry and begged God’s forgiveness.  I know that my doubt goes against the whole of my “Believing God” Bible study that is coming to a close next week.  Perhaps Satan is trying to make me believe that I’ve been wasting all of my study time with Him and Beth Moore, but I’ve decided to throw it back in his face.

Image Credit:  www.barnesandnoble.com

If you don’t know the five-statement pledge of faith about believing God, here it is:

  1. I believe God is Who He says He is.
  2. I believe God can do what He says He can do.
  3. I believe I am who God says I am.
  4. I can do all things through Christ.
  5. The Word of God is alive and active in me.

So, take that old devil.  I will not be shaken anymore.  I will not spend anymore time in fear.  I will concentrate on how God is going to take care of the problem without any need of my worry to help Him along.  He’s got this all by Himself.

shr

Ten Commandments: Idol Hands

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.  But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  Exodus 20:4-6 NLT

A survey conducted by www.couponcabin.com caught my attention.  They asked 2,685 people some questions about the Super Bowl.  Here are some of the results I found interesting:

  • 56% said they planned to watch/attend
  • 20% said they would miss work or vacation to watch/attend
  • 19% said they would miss the funeral of a loved one to watch/attend
  • 15% said they would miss the birth of their own child to watch/attend  (obviously these are all men — women are always present during the births of their children!)

In my own little survey on www.facebook.com  and www.twitter.com, I asked another question:  Without looking up the information, can you tell me who played/won the last Super Bowl?  (Thank you to all my friends who answered!)  Seventy-five per cent (75%) of the respondents answered “No.”  Most of the respondents were women.  (And in total disclosure, 100% of the men who responded answered “Yes.”)  Part of my point is, I watched the game myself and still couldn’t remember who played! (By the way, the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.)  I was just amazed at the answers these people gave.  There is definitely some “idol worship” going on.

I’m not picking on sports events.  There are millions of other “idols” to which we give our allegiance.  I want to share something from my past that I’m not very proud of, but it will show just how far the Lord has brought me.

In May 1984, I graduated from Fayetteville State University with my Bachelor of Science in Intermediate Education and was hired at Beaver Dam Elementary School to finish out the year for one of their teachers who was sick.  The children and parents were wonderful but it was a fourth/fifth grade combination class.  I was green and I worked hard to give these kids what they needed.  (In a combination classroom, you are teaching two grades.  You have the help of a qualified teacher’s assistant, but it’s double the work when you’re making lesson plans.)  I am grateful for the things that my fellow teachers and Mr. Hendon, the principal, taught me.

In fact, the job I did at Beaver Dam was part of the reason I was hired at Eastover-Central Elementary School for the 1984-85 school year.  Mr. Hendon recommended me to Mr. Ray, the principal at Eastover-Central.  Over the years that I taught there, parents openly requested that their children be put in my class.  I was voted Teacher of the Year in 1987, after only teaching three years.  (I initially injured my back on the job in the fall fo 1988 but was only out of work for two weeks.)  I was able to take a position at J. W. Seabrook Elementary School, which is only one mile from my home.  My mother worked as a teacher’s assistant there and I knew many of the teachers.  (In fact, I did my student teaching at Seabrook under Francis Piland, one of my teaching heroes.)  In 1991, I won the Cumberland County Educator of the Year Award, sponsored by First Union National Bank.  I was able to bring a large grant to my school that helped fund many programs for the students.

Can you imagine the huge ego I had?  My head was so big…think the “Great and Mighty Oz” head that was projected on the screen for Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion.  My head was bigger than that!  It was my entire identity.  I revelled in the praise of man.  I proudly displayed my plaques and trophies.  I espoused my wonderful attributes to everyone I could corner.  In hindsight, I know that when God looked at me during this time of my life, He was so disappointed.  I, on the other hand, was oblivious.

Then came the fall…or should I say the crack of broken vertebral disks in my back.  One crisp January morning in 1990, I was erasing the chalkboard when  what sounded like a thousand people cracking their knuckles at the same time filled my classroom.  I couldn’t move.  My students panicked.  Surgery followed and I was back in the fray in about six weeks.  Life continued to be wonderful.

On March 16, 1992, I just couldn’t get out of bed.  I couldn’t stand up straight and the pain took my breath away.  After x-rays and an MRI, I was told I needed more surgery.  Two more disks were broken this time.  I expected to bounce back in record time, but it just didn’t happen.  More surgeries — no change.  In fact, it was getting worse.  When my doctor told me she’d never clear me to go back to teaching, I was despondent.  I was approved for medical retirement and I resigned.  I was nobody’s darling anymore, and I lost sight of anything that God was trying to show me.  He gave me two wonderful children just eight months later, and although I was thrilled, I wasn’t happy about who I was — or rather who I “wasn’t.”  Over the years, God blessed me with a daughter, but I lost confidence and I definitely wasn’t listening to God.

In 1999, we got a laptop computer and the internet.  I found some discussion groups and got involved with a fan group for the daytime drama, “The Young & The Restless.”  I had begun watching the soaps in the afternoon.  I escaped into a world of televison fantasy.  Then, what seemed like a wonderful opportunity followed:  I was hired by www.soapoperacentral.com to write synopses for the show.  My editor at SOC encouraged me to be detailed.  So, we bought a better VCR (remember those dinosaurs?) and I taped every episode, watching them over and over so that I could tell the story for my readers as if they were watching the episode themselves.  (At this time there wasn’t a Soap Opera Network on which you could catch a re-run of your favorite show.  You either taped it or found a synopsis on a soap website.)  Had God sent me another platform on which I could, once again, be great.  (Can you say “idol worship?”)

Everything and everyone took second place.  I stopped doing anything but watching that soap opera and writing daily synopses.  I was angry at God and I listened to the devil’s lies:

  • “God doesn’t care about you or He would heal you.”
  • “God has abandoned you.”
  • “You don’t need to read that Bible or pray.  He’s not listening.
  • “You can only rely on yourself.”

I’m happy to say that God saved me from “me” nine years ago.  I found joy in my relationship with Him, my family, and my friends.  I found that I can be useful in His Kingdom.  I still struggle with “idols” because I live in a world that makes them attractive.  Satan still finds ways to try and convince me that the idols to which I’m attracted are harmless.  Sometimes, I fall for his seductive speech, but I’m close enough to God that I can figure things out before I get too far gone.

I would like to recommend one other piece of scripture to read.  It’s long, so I won’t include it in today’s post, but if you’ll go to www.biblegateway.com and input the reference in the “Passage Search” tab, you won’t even have to leave your computer.  Read Jeremiah 10 in its entirety.  It’s eloquent and to-the-point.  If you suspect you’re  having trouble with idol worship in your life, just ask God to show them to you.  He will give you the strength to rid them from your life.  More than anything, He’s waiting to “lavish you with His unfailing love.”

shr