Tag Archives: Smile FM

Treasure Hunting

I haven’t written a lot in the last year.  Why not?  Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.

But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday.  Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.

It started in 2014:  Moment by Moment  (all that junk – yep, Jesus redeemed that)

It continued in 2015:  Through Heaven’s Eyes  (what does God see when He looks at us?)

And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive.  Let’s start here.  This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”.  That title intrigued me.  Can we really live every day better than before?  Really?  What if this is as good as it gets?

I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life.  After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet?  Why am I medicated?  What is there to be anxious about?  I know my identity:  I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31)  So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life?  What am I missing?

CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)

Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church.  That’s what got my attention.  Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working.  And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something.  What am I searching for?

Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption.  I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:

  1. The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
  2. As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
  3. When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven.  It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven.  And why would I want to?  Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God.  Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.

Deception?  Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth.  But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do?  If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.

Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface.  Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good.  If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together.  Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:

“Maybe you know this.  When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word:  Whatever.”

Yes, we are being lied to.  If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck.  It’s an effective tactic.  It works.  And our job is to fight against it with truth.  The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe.  The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’  -Acts 17:28 (NIV)

Offspring.  Yes.  We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him.  We are children of God.  Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven.  And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?

Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father?  That’s what he wants for us.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  -Matt. 6:10 (ESV)  If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.  And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.

The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia:  “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Stay connected.  Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle.  Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged.  And be a treasure hunter for others too.  Help them to see the gifts all around them.  Life is hard and we need each other.

That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth.  No church is perfect.  How can it be?  The church is made up of imperfect people.  But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope.  And that’s why I love my church.  That’s why I go every week.  Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not.  None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.

A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives.  If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity

Towards the end of the service, Chris Zarbaugh reads Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”, Danielle sings “Out of Hiding, Father’s Song”, followed by a video called “Identity”, by Dan Stevers.  It was so powerful with each piece building on the other.  And the words of the video tied it all together:

Before Christ
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
With Christ
I am in
Christ
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old patterns
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
And then
I
Will
Move on
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Holy
Pure
Unstained
Without blemish
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
For me
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Therefore shame
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
Well pleased
This is my identity

–Dan Stevers, “Identity” preview video (click the red words to see the video)

In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:

“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”

Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago.  He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.

I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God.  A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together.  Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight.  We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:

keep going
keep treasure-hunting and
keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.

We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.

Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994?  Here’s my story told through the story of my son:  Joshua The Prophet

And those meds, why do I take them?  Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters.  They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together.  We’re blessed to be a blessing.

“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook

Want to know more about the power of community?  Check out Heart & Soul: Community

Redeemed – Part 2 – He’s Greater

Here’s Part 1, in case you’re just joining us.

That was Monday, September 15th. All day long, as thoughts came into my head, I kept saying out loud, or under my breath if need be, “Jesus redeemed that!”. I felt lighter and lighter each time I said it and I was struck by how often I was saying it. I had no idea I was carrying so much guilt and shame. It reared its ugly head, I spoke, and the Cross wiped it away. Over and over and over again, all day long.

The morning of Tuesday, September 16th was not what I had expected.  I had hoped to get a few things accomplished and checked off my list, but that was not to be.  Nothing bad, just constant, one thing after another, and I was getting frustrated.  I knew that “Jesus redeemed that” frustration, but it was getting a little nutty.

Facebook chimed that I had a message.  It wasn’t a good message.  My friend was very upset.  I tried to encourage her and let her know that Jesus had redeemed everything that she was dealing with and all of the emotions that were screaming at her.  I hoped that my words were encouraging, but I didn’t know if she believed me.  I had to move on to my next task.  I needed to make an on-line donation for Joshua’s homeroom classroom. If we donated by September 17th and included the word “Inspire” as a coupon code, a matching donor would double his donation. I put in the coupon code and this popped up:

“Redeemed! INSPIRE: $9.00 match activated.”

I screamed and almost jumped out of my chair!  I couldn’t believe it said “REDEEMED”!  Instead of jumping out of my chair, I jumped back onto Facebook to chime my friend’s iPad with a message, straight from Heaven, just for her.  It’s all going to be okay.  Jesus redeemed it all!

Then came Wednesday, September 17th. I had dropped off both kids at school that morning and was driving home listening to Smile FM. “God of Wonders” by Third Day was on and I sang along, remembering them singing it at the concert on Saturday. I pulled in the garage and was about to turn the car off when “Greater” by MercyMe came on next. I’d never heard this song on the radio before, but they played it at the concert Saturday night. I turned off the car, but left the radio on and listened to “Greater”.

From the first word to the last, I sobbed like I have never sobbed in my life.  But these weren’t tears of guilt, shame and self-pity.  These were tears of gratefulness with no strings attached.  And when the song was over, I didn’t feel that awful “I just cried and now I need to take a nap” feeling.  I felt clean.  Really clean.  All that “ick” was washed away.

I have so much more I could write here, but instead I will leave you with the words of “Greater”.

“Greater” by MercyMe

Bring your tired
Bring your shame
Bring your guilt
Bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not you’re name
You will always be much more to me

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world
In the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

Bring your doubts
Bring your fears
Bring your hurt
Bring your tears
There’ll be no condemnation here
You are holy, righteous and redeemed

Every time I fall
There’ll be those who will call me
A mistake
Well that’s ok

There’ll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn’t matter
‘Cause the cross already won the war
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

I am learning to run freely
Understanding just how He sees me
And it makes me love Him more and more
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

Crank up the volume and dance! 🙂

Click here for Part 3

 

Robin Williams & (Not so) Helpful Advice

I found out about the death of Robin Williams just moments after writing and posting “Look Up“, a commentary on my own struggle with depression and anxiety.  The timing was uncanny.  A couple days later, in one of the ABC News reports about Robin’s death, they quoted a tweet from his daughter, Zelda Williams:

“I love you.  I miss you.  I’ll try to keep looking up.”

Gave me chills.  “Looking up.”  How do we keep looking up when life drags our eyes to dirt?

I was on Brian Craig‘s Facebook wall a couple days after Robin Williams’ death.  Brian had taken a picture of Joshua that he graciously allowed me to use for my “Joshua the Prophet” post.  On Brian’s wall, I found the “Helpful Advice” picture that I’ve included below.  Thanks to Brian’s friend for posting this.  Powerful message, but obviously not helpful advice.  Here are some things that I have found to be helpful over the years.  I hope you find them helpful too:

1) Find good news.  I don’t watch the news and that’s why I didn’t hear about Robin Williams’ death until the afternoon of August 12th.  I learned about it from a Twitter digest email, which also included some good news of the birth of rare panda triplets.  I’ve always said I’m not watching the news until I find the “good news channel”.  The kids and I started listening to Smile FM this summer.  The first time we heard one of their news reports, Joshua said, “Mom, that was all good news!”  Finally, we found it!

2) Laugh!  I’m thoroughly convinced that God gave me my children to help save my life.  God knows how important laughter, music and movies are to me and He gave me children who not only perform, singing, dancing and acting, but they also make me laugh.  Here’s a video of Joshua’s first stand-up comedy act from 3rd grade.  Their performances keep me focused on moving forward with creating something beautiful.

3) Watch uplifting movies and TV shows.  Even though I loved the movie “Dead Poets Society“, it was too depressing to make my “top 10” list.  My 3 favorite movies of all time, “When Harry Met Sally“, “Tootsie” and “Working Girl“, although not family-friendly (they’re all rated R), they’re hilariously funny, and more importantly, they end well.  Call me a sap, but a good, happy Hollywood ending is medicine for the brain.  Same thing for TV.  One of my favorite pastimes is watching “The Waltons” with John and the kids.  Great life lessons, very much family-friendly, uplifting and inspiring.

4) Make time to visit inspiring places.  We’ve had a membership to “The Henry Ford” for over 2 years and have visited Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum countless times.  Greenfield Village is my very favorite.  Calm, clean, peaceful and definitely inspiring.   Leisurely exploring, chatting, eating, walking and riding around in a world so much simpler than our current world feels like a little bit of heaven on earth.  I feel like I can breathe when I’m there, especially when I’m riding in a Model T.  I often say it’s the next best option to Disney World.

5) Chose uplifting music.  As I’m writing this, Jordan is in the bath, listening to music shuffling on her iPod.  She’s been listening for over an hour, and the song “Oceans” just came on.  That’s the song that I included in the “Look Up” post.  Coincidence?

6) Notice the “coincidences” all around you.  I call them “God-incidences”, a term I learned from Gwen Shamblin years ago.  I believe God is trying to get our attention.  And when He gets my attention, it’s like finding the finest jewel on the treasure hunt.  

7) When you find the treasure, share it!  We have the ability like never before to share what we’ve found.  If you find something inspiring and uplifting, you can take part in someone else’s “coincidence” by sharing exactly what they needed at precisely the right moment.

If you find any of what I’ve written here, in the past or in the future, to be inspiring and uplifting, please pass it along.  I would be honored if you would share what I’ve written.  For me, the ultimate “cure” for depression is the thrill of connection, the sheer joy of knowing that someone who needed something was connected with someone who had something to offer.  That’s what “DreamSpace” was all about.  And if you do share something and one of those wonderful “coincidences” occurs, please share your story.  Don’t let the story end with you.  Pay it forward and watch it grow.

(Not so) Helpful Advice
(Not so) Helpful Advice