Sometimes We Feel Overwhelmed. Like Every Day.

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You; when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”   Psalm 61:2

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, and yes, I cried out to God and he lifted me to stand on the rock, Jesus. I often wonder how people manage life without Jesus.

My mother is 92, and has been living with us for around 4 years. There have been many ups and downs in her health. We have called for an ambulance at least 5 times. She broke her hip, had an operation, got an infection, was diagnosed with colon cancer and had heart attacks. She sleeps a lot, but still eats (not very much) and enjoys watching TV, playing Yahtzee and reading magazines. Her short-term memory is gone, so she has had to stop reading books.

Two or three weeks ago, she started coughing a lot. It wasn’t a cold, so I took her to the doctor. It turned out she has acid reflux so bad that she had burned her throat. She had had no symptoms of acid reflux, so I was surprised. But the doctor was right, after giving her the new medicine she got better. She started sleeping through the night again.

As soon as she was a bit better, her sciatic nerve went wonky and she was in terrible pain one morning. She would scream at the slightest move. It was so hard for her to get out of bed, go to the bathroom – just everything.

But I thank God for the internet. I looked up sciatic pain and one of the things an article said was it can be caused by slumping in your chair. Well, Mom was slumping lately. She said she was comfy when she was doing it, but I told her it might be causing her sciatica to give her pain. I started watching and having her sit up straight when she was up.

It worked. I gave her pills for the pain too, of course, but she has needed less and less medication. She can move around easily now.

All this time I have called out to God for help because I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Night after night being woken by my poor mom was making me feel exhausted. (Like new parents with a baby – very difficult, I know.) But believe me, God came through, like he always does and I was able to take care of my mom. I’m so grateful to Him.

This morning, I was thinking about my grandson, who has had an off and on addiction to heroin. Actually, I think about him every day and pray for him. His life has been so sad it just brings me to tears to think of him. We all love him so much and it has been so painful for everyone in the family to see how he has suffered.

Thinking about him makes my heart sink and I knew I was thinking too much because I was getting depressed. Maybe because I’ve been so tired too. I was feeling overwhelmed. So, I prayed and went to do my Bible study. I’ve been writing out the Bible in my own words, hoping to put the words deep in my heart.

What I read really encouraged me and I want to share it with you. It is from Philippians 3. The whole chapter is beautiful, and I will share that some other time, but these are the words that helped me the most this morning:

Paul writes, “I want to know Jesus, yes, I want to know the power of his resurrection and also participate in his sufferings.”

This stopped me cold. Do I want to participate in his sufferings? No, I don’t. I am weak and a whiny baby. I want everything to be great and to not have any problems and I want to see everyone in my family to be well and happy with no problems.

Jesus suffered, but not only on the cross. He suffered when Lucifer and a whack of angels turned their backs on him. They were his children. He suffered when he saw the grief around him as he walked this earth. He suffered when his brothers made fun of him. He suffered when his earthly father, Joseph, died. He suffered when Judas betrayed him. He suffered when the church of his day rejected him and called him demon-possessed.

He suffers now. When I think someone in my family will not be saved, my heart melts from pain. He has to see those on earth, through the thousands of years we have been here, who reject his offer of eternal life. He loves them. He died for them. They are his children too. He says he was there the day they were born, hoping for them that they would have faith.

Do I want to participate in his sufferings? No, but I will pray that I will. I will pray God will give me the strength, because I have none. I will pray for the mind and heart of Jesus. I will pray he will fill me with himself, and I know he will do that for me, simply because I asked.

What's in A Name?

Philippians Chapter 2: 5-11: In my own words.

“In your relationships with others, have the same mind that was in Jesus. Even though he was equal with the Father, he did not consider grabbing hold or keeping that equality. But he made himself into nothing by taking the form of a servant and becoming a human being. When he was born here, he humbled himself by being obedient to his Father, which included his death on a cross.

Because of this, God lifted him up to the highest place and gave him the name above all names. So that at the name of Jesus, everyone will eventually bow down, those in heaven, on earth and in the entire universe. Every mouth will say Jesus the Messiah is I Am, to the glory of the Father.”

I once read, I wish I remembered where, that when Lucifer and other angels rebelled against God, they at first only had God’s word that he was all wise and all good. They knew no other life than the one they were living in heaven. Isaiah chapter 14 explains to us what was in Lucifer’s heart. He wanted to have the power and authority of God. I am sure God warned him what would happen if he went off on his own, but God, believing in complete freedom, let him go.

Without God’s Spirit in his life, Lucifer became evil. His thoughts were bent on revenge towards God. If he couldn’t be master in heaven, he hoped to become master of this world. Adam and Eve also doubted God’s love, and when they sinned they handed their rulership of the world over to Lucifer. They wanted knowledge God had not given to them. They chose this new king who would give them the knowledge of evil.

But the plan of God was to send Jesus to save this world. He couldn’t save Lucifer, or he would have, but he could save some of humankind if they would change their allegiance from evil to good. And so, the plan of salvation was begun. When on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant the plan was concluded. He had done all he could to show man and the universe that God was a God of love, sacrifice and compassion.

Now all of us can look upon good and evil and make a clear choice. The Holy Spirit brings light to every man, the Bible says. Even if someone has never heard the gospel, if they follow the light within them, they can be saved from the power of evil in this world. The plan of salvation is for everyone in every corner of the earth. One day, those who follow the Spirit of God will be together in heaven praising the name of Jesus. The name above all names.

Jesus, the Bridegroom.

Psalm 45 is a song about the Messiah. On the surface, it speaks of a king. But this king is too glorious to be just any king; it is about King Jesus. So, I thought I’d write it out that way.

Psalm 45

My heart is overflowing with admiration when I think about Jesus! I pray my pen will do him justice.

You are the most excellent of all humans! Your mouth is anointed with grace; God has blessed you forever.

Strap your sword to your side, Mighty Warrior! Clothe yourself with splendor and majesty! Ride forth in victory! Defend the cause of truth, humility and justice. May your hand achieve awesome deeds.

May your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of your enemies. May the nations fall beneath your feet.

Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever. Your scepter is one of justice.

Jesus, you love what is good and hate what is evil. That is why your Father has lifted you above all angels and human beings. He then anointed you with the oil of gladness.

All your clothing, Jesus, is fragrant with the best perfume. You came, and then returned to the ivory palaces where the music of strings makes you glad. Your women are daughters of the King. At your right hand is your royal bride (those who follow Jesus) decked in gold.

Listen, royal bride, forget your people and father’s house. May the King be in rapture by your beauty. Honor him, for he is your Lord. His bride is all glorious; her gown is interwoven with gold. She is led to the King and her friends follow her into the palace. Everyone is filled with joy. Her sons will be princes in the land.

I will remember you Lord and praise you forever and ever!

We Must Drink Our Cup.

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“The LORD is my inheritance and my cup; you support my lot.”   Psalm 16:5

When I read this, I wondered what inheritance and cup might mean in a spiritual sense. After looking up some Bible commentaries on Bible Hub, I could see how significant and wonderful these words are.

An inheritance is of course, what you receive from your father or mother when they die. The Bible tells us God himself is our inheritance. Through the death of Jesus, we can become one with the trinity. As Jesus said, “I in you and you in me.”    

“The LORD is my portion (inheritance),” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”   Lamentations 3:24

As for the cup, it is an important image strewn throughout the Bible. Jesus used it when talking about his coming death.

Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”   John 18:11

This expresses both the feelings which struggled in the Lord’s breast during the Agony in the garden—aversion to the cup viewed in itself, but, in the light of the Father’s will, perfect preparedness to drink it.   Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

A cup is also a symbol of the lives of the wicked.

For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.   Psalm 75:8

The reader will observe, that this expression, the portion of their cup, is a proverbial phrase in Scripture: God’s gifts and dispensations, whether pleasing or painful, consolatory or afflictive, especially the latter, being ordinarily expressed by a cup, poured out and given men to drink.   Benson Commentary

Jesus used the cup to represent the lives of the cruel priests of his time.

“Now then,” said the Lord, “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.   Matthew 23:26

The cup is, “…a synonym for “condition in life.”   Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

“The condition in life.” In other words, what happens when we are alive on earth; what illnesses we will contract, what family we are born in, how we look, our genetics, our strengths and weaknesses. Our “lot in life” so to speak.

How many of us hate our “cup?” How many hate what happened to us in our childhood when we were weak and vulnerable? How many hate their jobs, their spouses or their struggles? How many resent the “cup?”

I started hating my life when I was in my mid-forties. I felt cursed, foolish, a joke, embarrassed by my mental illness and unloved by everyone. I was angry at God for my life; angry he let terrible things happen to me and others; angry at what I saw as his injustice. I was terrified what the future held for me.

I have written before how God, “drew me out of the mire and muck;” how he has filled my life with happiness, so I won’t repeat that here. What I want to tell you is how fast I can descend back into my old way of thinking and not trusting God about my “cup.”

I got up one morning this week, and as I stood in front of the microwave to heat my coffee, I couldn’t remember how to work it. I stared at the buttons and drew a blank. It finally came back to me and I heated the coffee, but now I was frightened. I’m 69, so I know it is possible for me to have dementia or alzhiemer’s disease.

To me, I would rather die than have those two things happen to me. My sister and I have talked about this subject and we agreed how horrible it would be and how we don’t want people taking care of us, even family members. My sister said she would kill herself. Stupidly, I said the same thing, knowing God wouldn’t like it.

I talked with God that morning, pleading with him not to let me get that way. (My old style of praying.) Instead of leaving it with him, I began to think of ways to handle this, none of them good. I knew what I should do. Accept whatever came into my life. It took awhile. Then I told God I would accept anything that happened in the future. If it happened, then fine. Maybe he could use me even in that mental condition. Trust is the real issue. Do I trust God? I want to, and I pray I will for the rest of my life on this crazy planet. There is a good reason Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow.

Here are some more verses on the “cup” we are to drink. We have Jesus as our example on accepting the cup of our life.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.   Psalm 23:5

I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.  Psalm 116:13

We're Caught in A Trap.

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“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he can release my foot from the snare.” Psalm 25:15

When I read this today, I thought of a wolf or fox caught in a trap. It is such a sad image. But of course, David was writing about sin and the death it causes.

We all get trapped by sin; we are born having sinful and selfish desires that will get us into trouble. We need the Lord to free us from that. We cannot do it by ourselves.

I remembered when Jesus said to his friends, “Without me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5 Until we reach that conclusion, we are tilting at windmills. Only God has the strength needed to free us from our sinful nature. That is why David said, so many times, “The Lord is my strength.”

This doesn’t mean we will be perfectly good here in this world. As James says, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes.” James 3:2 And John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8,9

Psalm 25 is so beautiful. I wrote it out in my own words this morning. I’ll share it here with you.

I want to put my trust in you, Lord. May Satan not triumph over me. I know that the one who hopes in you will not be ashamed. But utter shame will be the lot of the wicked.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth, for you are my God and Savior. I hope in you all day long.

Don’t forget your love and mercy, but do forget the sins of my youth and all my rebellious ways. Remember me according to your great love, for you are good.

Yes, you are good and wise; that is why you can teach us the right way to go. All your ways are loving and faithful. Forgive my sin, though it is great.

Who are those who fear the Lord? God will teach them; they will inherit their own land in heaven. God confides in those who fear him. He makes a contract with them. My eyes are always on the Lord, for only he can release my feet from a trap.

Come to me, dear Lord, for I am lonely and afflicted. Please relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from mental pain. Guard my life and rescue me, for I take refuge in you. My hope, Lord, is in you alone.

We Dine with Him.

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“I love the Lord because he has heard my voice…”  Psalm 116:1

This verse has been important for me. These words have brought me joy, peace and trust. They have touched me in ways I deeply need.

If you feel no one hears your voice, if you feel ignored, and if you feel unknown by all people on earth, you are wrong. God hears your voice and knows you like no other. When you feel depressed, and you know that when you share those sad feelings with others, it upsets them; know that it doesn’t upset God. He has broad shoulders and he can take it.

He doesn’t only take it, he feels it, welcomes it and enters into those feelings. “Come to me, all who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

In Isaiah, Jesus is called a, “wonderful counselor.” I can attest to that, after I learned to bring my troubles to him instead of family members. If I was angry at someone, I ranted about it to God. If I was sad, I shared my sorrow. If I was happy, I thanked him over and over. If I felt in despair, sometimes all I could say was, “God, help me.” Through this time with God, I have found him to be the strong shoulder I needed to lean on.

 “Look, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, I will come in to him and we will dine together.”  Revelation 3:20

Dining together is an intimate occasion. There is usually communication of a personal nature. Notice we have an invitation to hear his voice also. We listen to each other.

And how has God spoken to me? In different ways. A Bible verse might come into my mind. A story of a person in the Bible might flash into my mind to help me see I wasn’t alone in having troubles. And sometimes, I hear words in my mind that encourage and strengthen me. Usually, they are words I would never have thought on my own, so I know it is him. Sometimes, I feel his loving presence.

It is a tremendous thing to realize you carry the Triune God in your spirit. The Father. The Son. The Holy Spirit. They live inside you, if you ask them to come in. They know how much you need them and are happy to join with you in walking this life. “The Lord delights (takes pleasure) in his people.”  Psalm 149:4

I Don’t Know What Title to Give this Post.

In my last post, I quoted from a book by Eugene H. Peterson. I usually quote from books and authors that have helped me. I know that when I read posts like that, I sometimes buy the book. But now I feel I should not have encouraged anyone to buy one of his books.

After reading good things about Pastor Peterson and his translation of the Bible called, “The Message,” I bought three paperbacks written by him. I started reading two of them, but was put off by his attitude towards non-Christians. He wrote of them, not in terms of love and pity, but with unkind judgement.

I did not finish those two books, but started “Life at It’s Best.” I thought I might have judged him too harshly myself and decided to give him another try. I did like the opening chapters, as I said previously, but when I came to chapter 14, I came upon that same unloving attitude.

He tells a story of his life when he was in the hospital to have surgery on his nose. The surgery was over and he lay in bed in pain. A new patient entered the room who was to have a tonsillectomy. He was in his early twenties, nice looking and friendly. I will now quote from the book leaving some sentences out for brevity:

“He came over to me, put out his hand and said, ‘Hi, my name is Kelly. What happened to you?’ I was in no mood for friendly conversation, did not return the handshake, grunted my name and said that I had had my nose broken. He got the message that I did not want o talk, pulled the curtain between our beds and let me alone…

Later in the evening the young man asked Peterson, “Well, what do you do?” Peterson writes, “I’m a pastor.” ‘Oh,’ he said and turned away; I was no longer an interesting subject.

In the morning he woke me, ‘Peterson, Peterson wake up.’ I groggily came awake and asked what he wanted. ‘I want you to pray for me; I’m scared.’ And so, before he was taken to surgery, I went to his bedside and prayed for him.

When he was brought back a couple of hours later, a nurse came and said, ‘Kelly, I am going to give you an injection that should take care of any pain you might have.’

In twenty minutes or so he began to groan, ‘I hurt. I can’t stand it. I’m going to die.’

I rang for the nurse and when she came said, ‘Nurse, I don’t think that shot did any good; why don’t you give him another one.’ She didn’t acknowledge my credentials for making such a suggestion, told me curtly that she would oversee the medical care of the patient, turned on her heel and left. Meanwhile, Kelly continued to vent his agony.

…he began to hallucinate, and having lost touch with reality began to shout, ‘Peterson, pray for me, can’t you see I’m dying? Peterson, pray for me.’ His shouts brought nurses, doctors and orderlies running…’”

His story ends there but it is how he would not shake hands with the young man and be interested in him that bothered me at the very beginning. You may say, “Well, he was in pain.” Yes, but Jesus was in pain on the cross and he spoke with love and mercy to the man hanging beside him. He saw there a man he loved and was dying to save.

Peterson next makes a conclusion about the young man in the story. He seems to wash his hands of him. I will quote what he wrote here:

“The parabolic force of the incident is this; when the man was scared, he wanted me to pray for him, and when the man was crazy, he wanted me to pray for him. But in between, during the hours of normalcy, he didn’t want anything to do with a pastor. What Kelly betrayed in extremis is all many people know of religion; a religion to help them with their fears, but which is forgotten when the fears are taken care of; a religion made of moments of craziness but which is remote and shadowy in the clear light of the sun and in their routines of every day. The most religious places in the world …are not churches but battlefields and mental hospitals…”

Peterson goes on to say how much better Christians are:

“Nevertheless, we Christians don’t go to either place to nurture our faith. We don’t deliberately put ourselves in places of fearful danger to evoke heartfelt prayer and we don’t put ourselves in psychiatric wards so we can be around those who clearly see visions.”

He goes on to say Christians have stability etc. Really? All Christians? Well, stability would be lovely to have, but I’ve met many Christians who are not stable and I am mentally ill so stability in my feelings is not normal for me. I have to pray and work hard on having stability.

Also, yes people pray when they are in danger. God uses that all the time. For the first time in their lives, some people may face death; and it makes them stop and think about eternity and God. That is a wonderful thing, a blessing from God! He will gladly take us just as we are, in that very moment when we are frightened. The criminal who died with Jesus probably had heard all about him and what he taught. He saw how Jesus treated the soldiers who crucified him. He saw how he took care of his mother. He heard the shouts of people who hated Jesus and said, “He said he is the Son of God.” So, he turned and looked on Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised him he would be with him in Paradise.

Jesus looks on those who are lost with the greatest pity and love. God does everything he can to save them. We should look on each person in the world as a person with a spirit and soul that Jesus longs to save.

As I said, I don’t know what title to give this post. I’m sorry I sort of recommended Peterson and his books. I rarely agree completely with every Christian book I read; but I’ve never felt like I had to apologize for encouraging people to read something. I do this time; I’m sorry.