Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Life is a But {This Day Thursday- Peace}

As I sit to compose today’s This Day Thursday on peace, only 4 feet behind me a toddler composes her own masterpiece on our piano. Dissonance, cacophony, and “poopy diaper” belted full force assault my ears. The irony is not lost on me.

Peace- Halloween is tomorrow. All Saints Day on Saturday. And with all this focus on death and fear, perhaps it seems odd to ask this day for peace. Perhaps that would be better addressed during Christmas when Peace on Earth induces warm fuzzies and songs of praise.

Maybe, but peace seems easier to come by when it seems the majority of our society is on the same page- goodwill toward all and such. Even in the hustle bustle madness, there is something to be said for radio stations that exude melodies of peace and joy and charity drives brimming over with gifts and donations.

But what about today? Where is the peace when your kids tell you they had indoor recess that sunny afternoon and you find out later it was because a boy was apprehended in a nearby town after making shooting threats at his Christian school . When you find out they were on the brink of lockdown.

Or when the bullies barge. Or when the neighbor kids reveal how much they know about things of which they should have no clue at this age. What about when I have absolutely no control over issues that could cause serious pain in my family’s life? Where is the peace?

The truth is, I chose peace first because that is what I have most recently struggled with, but also because peace lies at the root of so many of all those other things we ask for. When we ask for peace, we ask for faith. With peace comes joy, contentment, wisdom, and so much more.

But it is hard to have peace when we don’t know what comes next in the story.

The disciples felt it. In their greatest moments of faith, they thought they knew what came next. Jesus, the man they knew, the man who performed miracles no one else could do, the man they were building their whole lives upon- He would be king. And they would be rewarded. Their arguments over who would be first in His kingdom make sense when you realize they were thinking earthly stuff. Sure, He said weird things sometimes- things no one really understood- but that was part of His charm. And when He promised there would be trouble it was easy to see how He was just giving His friends a pep talk before He delivered the kingdom of Israel from their oppressors.

But then He died. And it wasn't as though they knew the end of the story. It wasn't as though they acted heroically in His defense. It wasn't as though the rulers of their people and their neighbors would be able to just forget this all happened without seeking some sort of punishment for those who followed this man Jesus. Peace was the farthest thing from their minds.

In fact, I can imagine that at every attempt to gain peace and confidence there was always a “but.”
But what if they find us?
But what if they take our families?
But what if they bankrupt our business?
But what if they hold this against us?
But what if they take our lives?

Those words of peace Jesus spoke to them before His death died with Him. His peace? If they remembered it at all what would it matter? He was dead.

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, 
he will teach you all things
and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you. 
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:25-27

There was one thing they didn't take into account. Jesus was alive. And after they learned that they still needed the Holy Spirit because without the Holy Spirit we have no help.

If you are like me, you know the Holy Spirit lives in you, but that doesn't always help you shake the fear or restlessness. The but's get in your way. You still don’t know what the future holds and you know so many things are out of your control. Well God has a but of His own...

But the Helper, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

But God- the whole Trinity- is involved in teaching us all things. Teaching us peace. It's not something you just get and you are set. It is a life-long learner deal. When the but's coming knocking at the gate, we can answer them with But God. And He never stops teaching. He never stops giving His peace. Then Jesus says- 

Not as the world gives do I give to you…

We have such a Gracious Giver, and He functions nothing like the way the world does.

The world expects results in return- God gives without needing.

The world can be easily disappointed in best efforts- God gives without strings attached.

The world could coldly sacrifice the happiness of one person if it meant benefiting the greater good- God gave His Son for you and will not make decisions regarding your life or the lives of the ones you love apart from His great love for you. That is important- Nothing that happens in your life, no matter how painful, comes from an indifferent part of God. Every. single. thing. is bornHe
 out of His love for you and others.

This post could go on forever… Peace is such a wonderful thing to ask this day. And to know that the whole Trinity is working in your favor to give you this peace is overwhelming. God bless you all today, tomorrow, in the days and weeks to come. Peace.

A little testimony for all us people with peace deficiencies- 

I am totally aware that it takes more than a one time, or every day, devotion on peace to get to the issues that plague us. I am also aware that there are very physical stress-inducers that keep perspective on the horizon. No matter how much I prayed, read, acted on my lack of peace- I never felt I could get a handle on it. I knew what I should do and think and believe, but felt physically incapable of doing it. The pressure of every day life was enough to rob me of joy and confidence. I am telling you this because in the society we live in, we are surrounded by stress and pressure and schedules and work and media, and as a result our bodies can't keep up. I talked with a chiropractor/acupuncturist and she said I was in the majority of Americans that suffer from adrenal fatigue. You can read about adrenal fatigue here. Basically, the stress of life was wearing my system down, which started a vicious cycle I couldn't climb out of on my own. Honestly, I suffered with it a long time and didn't even realize it. I didn't go to the acupuncturist for my stress- I just wanted to give it a shot. (Pun intended)

There are supplements (notice: not drugs) that help your adrenal glands function the way they should so they don't spaz out or run low. They don't fix your body- they give your body the tools to heal itself, which is what I really need. If you feel you might want to explore supplements to help your adrenal glands, talk to a medical professional that takes the link between nutrition and hormones seriously- usually chiropractors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and others that look for whole body health. There are different types of adrenal supplements, so it would be good to talk to a professional before ordering anything online. 

There is nothing wrong with needing extra fuel for your body. It is a broken world and I thank God for the people who care enough to help our bodies deal with the results of it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Daily Bread When Bullies Barge {This Day Thursday}

"Mom, were you ever bullied?"

I racked my brain. "I don't remember" was the best answer I could come up with for my daughter. Her father had stories to tell of being bullied. I really didn't. Maybe I was the minority. I was a Navy brat who moved every three years. I didn't have time to be bullied. I hung out with decent kids, was active in sports and music. Maybe I avoided the bullying issue.

Then I remembered. It was middle school. There was a verbal skirmish on the bus. I don't remember exactly what was said, but I made it home in tears because a boy dared to insult my mother. To which my mother responded, "But, Honey, why are you upset? He doesn't even know me." A phone call was made to his mom and he had to apologize to me.

Then there was the boy who tripped me on the soccer field. I was humiliated and he was standing over me laughing. I knocked him over, a fight started and we both landed in the principal's office. It was this kid's third strike. I was a good kid just sticking up for myself. I was released. He was suspended.

I'm sure if I thought hard enough I could recall other fights and cruel words, but I don't have the energy for that.

Because this day I need wisdom. Because this day my daughter is talking to her guidance counselor about her own bully.

Because this day I ask the Father for my daily bread, and He supplies.

I was so excited to start this series: This Day Thursday. Wasn't planning on bullying starting the subject matter, but that's how things happen and in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

We've all been bullied- if not by physical human beings then at least by the lying devil. And when that happens, there is a part of me that rebels against Sunday School answers. Not because they are wrong. Not because they are not applicable. Some are actually really wise words and to be considered carefully. But because formulas for life don't always work the way we think they should. When people tell you that if you pray enough and read enough and thank God for Jesus enough then everything will be sunshine and roses, but that just doesn't cut it. Not from my experience. Those things are all good, but "enough" is the question mark that leaves us with uncertainty. Maybe if things are going wrong, then I am not doing enough.

I prayed and pondered the other night about why I am so rebellious against textbook answers, and I think it is because there are so many examples in the Bible of righteous holy people having a really really hard time. They made the cut to appear in the Bible, and they couldn't even keep it together! They prayed day and night and still struggled with insecurity, infertility, grief, exhaustion, marital problems, parenting issues, frustration, etc. They talked with Jesus face to face and still struggled with doubt and fear. You name it- someone in the Bible dealt with it.

Life was hard then and it is hard now, and if we are relying on being "enough" we're screwed.

As I prayed, Jesus' words came back to mind:

"Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil."
(Matthew 6:9-13, emphasis mine)

Even Jesus prayed for the Father's provision. Some people see it as just another formula, but it is so much more. It is a prayer that confesses aloud, I am not. enough. I need you. "Give us this day our daily bread..." I need you everyday. Not just every day- this day.

I need strength this day. I need energy this day. I need patience this day. I need joy this day. I need peace this day. I need ________ this day. I need the Bread of Life this day.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls.  
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

This day I need wisdom and patience in spades. Maybe you are in the same boat. Over the next months This Day Thursday will address people in the Bible who struggled with the same things we do. People who would have responded to my poll in the same way you did on Facebook. And we will watch how God delivers. How He heals and helps and loves and cares. 

Because when we are not enough, He is always enough. And He invites us this day to ask Him for all we need. Praise Him for His amazing grace and love. We have such a fantastic God!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

There is More {to the Story than a Good Samaritan} {GratiTuesday}

A Jew and a Samaritan walk into an inn. Ok, well the Samaritan walks. The Jew is carried. And the familiar parable in Luke 10 tells the rest. So often I relate to the Good Samaritan. And honestly, that seemed to be the main point of Jesus’ parable. At the conclusion of the tale, He asks the question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (verse 36) And we all receive a very poignant message about the lifestyle of generosity.

Then there are those days when I may look like the Samaritan, but I feel like the victim. In fact, one of the most common struggles a chronically ill person encounters is that they don’t look sick. I can tell you that from experience, as well as from countless conversations with chronically ill buddies of mine.

And sometimes you even fool yourself into thinking maybe the outer appearance is telling the truth and you don’t need any help. You should be able to handle this. I’ve done that too.

Well this past summer I made an additional trip to see my rheumatologist. For the past 18 months or so, my wrist had become gradually more swollen and it was time to get that taken care of. So I went in for an ultrasound and a shot of steroids to reduce the swelling.

It was there that I looked into the eye of the monster that was slowly destroying my body. It is hard to explain, but up until that point I had never really seen evidence that my body was deteriorating. I had painfully swollen joints in the past, but even to myself I looked ok. And there were moments where I really felt ok too. But I was still sick.

In the ultrasound, my doctor showed me the literal, undeniable deterioration of my wrist. When I asked what caused the inflammation and fluid buildup her response was, “ That’s just your disease.”

“Oh, JUST my disease.” And we chuckled at the flippancy with which we now referred to my rheumatoid arthritis.

But something changed that day. When I felt my wrist, looked at it, I just couldn’t shake the knowledge that under that skin there was something toxic eating at me.

I went to pick up my children whom my friend had been entertaining at the zoo. God bless her. She prayed for me and over me. God bless her. The swelling went down. In a few days my wrist was tip top. And God and I had a little conversation about helping others. Did I want to be healed completely? You know it! But I had it in my heart that there was something larger at work than a miraculous healing. There was a ministry here.

Hurt people sometimes hurt people. But helped people also help people.

I wanted to be healed, but more than that. I wanted to be helped. Healing would come eventually one way or another, and maybe not on this earth. But the helping, that could happen immediately. And if that was God’s intention, then that was sufficient for me.

My disease is a constant reminder that there are a whole lot of people out there that look ok, but they aren’t ok. Not on the inside. And they need help too.

So what do the Samaritans do? Love. Serve. Help. Notice the Samaritan in Jesus’ story never healed the robbed man. He cared for him. He helped him.

None of us have a call to heal. Take that off your shoulders right now.  You were never meant to carry the burden of healing- only the Great Physician can handle that. But you were called to help and be helped. Not because God needs a hand, but because in helping others you get to join in the marvelously detailed process God uses to care for His creation. You get a front-row seat to the unfolding of His plan for His people. It is a blessing to bless.

But here is one more important note: Maybe at this point your head is spinning because you can’t even conceive of helping anyone else when you can’t even help yourself.  You are the Jew left for dead. You have been through the wringer of illness, betrayal, grief, or any number of tragedies. And for that there is no condemnation, only know this: you are being helped. Even when you can’t see or feel it, God loves you enough to endure your struggle right there with you. You are not encountering, in fact you CANNOT encounter, anything God hasn’t already overcome in your stead.

Read these words for you. In fact, make it personal. Read it aloud twice and substitute the parenthesized words the second time through.

“For we (I) do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our (my) weaknesses, but we (I) have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are (I am)- yet was without sin. Let us (me) then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we (I) may receive mercy and find grace to help us (me) in our (my) time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

Sometimes you are the Jew. Sometimes you are the Samaritan. At all times you are the beloved child of God. Even in helping you are being helped to help. You have a God who carries every detail of the ways of man, and you will not slip through His fingers.

God, bless us and open our eyes in thanksgiving for Your almighty and all-merciful help today. May it give us joy that bursts the bonds of our struggles and frees us to serve others in Your name. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lord, Help Me... {When Pain is a Gift}

I’m in the middle of reading 3 parenting books right now. Sounds a bit desperate, I know. Well, I’m really only technically “in the middle” of one of the books. Which happens to be fabulous and changed my perspective on princess parenting. The others (also awesome) I’m about a chapter or two into. I tell myself I just need to sit with those chapters and let them settle in my mind and life before I move on. Don’t want to rush these things, right? Truth is, by the time I get back to reading them, those things I learned in the previous chapters will have settled so far down I will have to reread them just to stir them back to the surface, if ya know what I mean…

I'm also "in the middle" of Lysa TerKeurst's new book, The Best Yes.

And 3 autobiographies.

And 2 fictional books. One of which is the second book of the second series I am "in the middle" of. The other series I need to complete... well I got the second book of that series at the library a couple days ago and I am so excited to start reading it...

I need help. 

What I really wanted you to know is just that. That is why I'm reading 3 parenting help books and a "self-help" book. Those other books are just fun facts to enlighten you on the type of person I am.

And when this morning I explained (quite loudly) to my two-year-old that no, I was NOT going to get her toast because Mommy needs to sit and read the BI-BLE... yeah. I needed a bit of help this morning.

What about you? What do you need? Help? Physical, emotional, spiritual? No, I"m really asking. Seriously I want to know. Here. On my Facebook page. On my Twitter handle @LJensensational. Shoot me an email at sljensen0129(at)me(dot)com.

If God could give you an extra dose of something... what would it be?

Why do I ask?

Because today I woke up painfully aware that I needed help. My wrist was killing me. I've been given a disease that at best is annoying. At worst crippling. And the arthritis affects my right wrist more than any other area.

So I thumbed through Isaiah "randomly" searching for what I needed to hear this morning and I just knew that Isaiah 41 had that something I needed to hear. So I skimmed it just make sure it wasn't a lot of wrath and foreboding. (I was pretty sure it wasn't, but didn't want to get through it and wonder why I read it... I know that's not a good attitude, I know.)

Then I read these words in Isaiah 41:8-10: 

You, Israel, my servant, 
Jacob whom I have chosen, 
the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 
you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, 
saying to you, 
"You are my servant, 
I have chosen you 
and not cast you off"; 
fear not, for I am with you; 
be not dismayed, for I am your God; 
I will strengthen you and help you, 
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

(emphasis mine)

There are sooooo many goodies in these verses. Pages and books worth. But this morning I needed strength. I needed my right hand. I had neither. And God said, "You are mine. I chose you. I called you. Stop being afraid. I will be your strength. Stop trying to do it all. Your right hand is weak. Mine is strong. I will hold you up with my own hand." 

God knows I tend to rely on my own hands. Which is at best annoying. At worst crippling. So He gives me the only thing He knows can get the job done- His own hands.

And I think you might do that too. Rely on your hands when God's are the only ones that can do the job. That's why I want to know what you need. Because I want to write about that. I want to dig into the Word and search for God's hands of help... with you. Let's do that together. They are there. Let's grab them and never let go.

He has called you. Chosen you. You are His. He promises strength, help, courage, and far more. Let's take Him up on the offers. 

Praying God blesses your day, and that He leads you with His amazingly righteous right hand!


On a side note: a prayer of Thanksgiving! God helped me spiritually and physically yesterday (right after I wrote this post). This morning I woke up with almost no pain in my wrist and I am just sooooo thankful for that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let's Get Busy! (With the Good Stuff) {GratiTuesday} {Three Word Wednesday}

I don't do laundry because I want to or because I like to, or even because my family will go naked if I don't. Honestly, they have grown accustomed to trekking down to the basement and digging their clean clothes out of one of several filled laundry baskets, or the ever mounting heap of clean laundry in the middle of the cold cement floor.

I do it because if I don't, the mess of spiders and other nasty basement bugs that I find exploring the cotton blends and such could decide to move in permanently and I'll never get them back...

Am I the only one?

We are also doing a somewhat major eating overhaul of sorts around here, and laundry has gradually slipped back down to the bottom of the list. Especially with the family trekking and enabling all the way...

So where is the balance? Juggling laundry and cooking and cleaning and writing and praise team and little people and and exercising and bathing and more, all with a happy heart? All while trying to give God and my husband more than just the left overs?

Maybe the balls I'm juggling are different shades of chaos than the ones you are tossing up, but without balance don't they all come crashing down eventually?

And don't we all tend to juggle more than our hands can handle?

Well, I have some beautiful women who are taking a walk through Ruth with me (enter another projectile to keep aloft) and I have to tell you we are all busy. All of us. With stuff. And Ruth has been reminding me that we are all going to be busy and busy is not bad. Really busy can be really good. Ruth worked day and night. Gleaning and threshing day after day (save the Sabbath) for months on end to provide for herself and Naomi. All while grieving.

Was she worn out? You bet. Yet when Naomi told her to go, get up and head to threshing floor to lay at Boaz's feet and ask for marriage, she went. (Ruth 3) She responded, "All that you say I will do." She got dolled up and performed another task.

This was a super-woman to me.

She was busy for the Lord, and I couldn't be more grateful for it. The whole world was blessed by her obedience. She blessed her children and all the children that would come after her because her continual obedience to the Lord in the little things paved the way for the Savior we will welcome here again in a couple months.

So I look back at the laundry, at the meals, and the children, and the husband, and the praise team, and the Bible study and I am forced to make some choices as to what busy-ness to get busy with. Because when God calls me to obey, I don't want to be too worn out with the stuff that doesn't matter to actually heed His call.

We are coming upon busy days. Something like 10 or 11 Fridays until Christmas. I'm holding off on the Christmas lists and starting with a priority list. December leaves my head spinning every time. So this time I'm seeking wisdom and peace before the crazy to store up and draw from on the hard days. So that when I feel robbed of my time and energy, I can remember that none of it was truly mine to begin with.

Maybe we could do this together? And all those bits of peace and wisdom I collect, I will put right here for you and you can dish it right back out to me! Sound good? Great.

And the best part of all is that God promises to get in the busy with us! Love it! And love you all. Really. I'm so excited for us!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Diary of a Wimpy Parent

"Hey, Mom! I know! There should be a book called Diary of a Wimpy Parent; Kid Fever!"

Not sure exactly what prompted that except that we took a family walk after a very loud, very eventful supper, which was after a very loud, very eventful library snack time. And I was dra-gging.

"Good idea, G. You think I should write that book?"
Oldest always-knows-the-right-thing-to-say-daughter chimed in, "But, Mom, you're not a wimp."

I literally did not have the energy to laugh out loud on that one. I forced out a half-chuckle as I mustered the muscle to open the door to the house that I was only walking into because if the neighbors saw me sleeping in the driveway they might get a little concerned.

Diary of a Wimpy Parent felt just a bit autobiographical at that moment.

And you should see circles under these eyes today... could be the detox eating program I am doing. On. Day. Three...or the kids... or...anyway.

But the conversations I have been having lately have been circling around strength a lot. What makes you strong? Not letting the chaos out? Not letting the stress overwhelm you? Or is it admitting that this life is hard? Sometimes really really hard. Confessing you need help- and not the "pray for me" alone help, the "I need to talk to someone" help. The "I can't do this job alone" help.

As Christians, it's easy to get into the mindset that if we have God, we really don't need anyone else. But while God is obviously the most important, most faithful, most fulfilling partner we have in this life, to stop needing others is to reject the means by which God serves us.

God created Adam, and while God supplied all Adam's needs, He knew that Adam needed a partner, a helpmeet. God gave Adam the gift of a friend beyond his own friendship with God. Linked to his friendship with God. He gave Adam family, Eve. So when those perfect relationships were corrupted, Satan snuck in that little lie about self-sufficiency. Autonomy. Which is why God wrote into the laws how His people were to help and provide for each other. He knew our tendency to turn inwards in self-service and self-destruction.

God knew our propensity to believe that we could do it on our own. Without each other. Which meant without Him.

He knew we would be confronted with our own weaknesses and be tempted to despair instead of giving others the opportunity to fulfill their calling to help us. He knew we would rather rob someone of the joy of serving us in the name of the Lord than appear weak.

So I've been considering this when others have offered to help. Saying yes. Every time. (Ok, almost every time.) Because my reasons for saying no usually have less to do with my needs, and more to do with my pride. I don't enter this lightly with a diva attitude, but with a humble posture. I do what I can. I really do. But maybe if we stopped trying so hard to do it on our own, we would give joy to those who want to help us, and find the joy in helping others as well. Maybe that means talking to someone who has chosen to help people as a profession. Maybe that means scheduling in a much needed coffee time. I don't know what it looks like for you, but I do know this:

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31

He does it still. All the time. He uses the world's wimps to defeat Goliaths every day. To bring glory to His name. So we can look at our lives and say, "Wow, I was way too weak to handle that, but God provided. He sure did provide."