Posts Tagged 'Faith'

Quote of the Day: Faith

Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”


Guilt is a Sin

Guilt, according to the American Heritage dictionary is

  1. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
  2. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

It’s a sin because it’s adding to the work of our Lord on the cross. If He took all the punishment for all our sins — and He did — then why would we feel we need to punish ourselves?

1 Jn 1:9 says, “If we confess, [name, cite] our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jeremiah 3:13 says, “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God…”

Acknowledging that you have sinned carries no merit. You’re just agreeing with God that what you’ve done/said/thought is a sin, and at that point He forgives you the sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness. The cleansed vessel of the soul is then suitable to be filled or controlled by God the Holy Spirit and fellowship is restored.

Guilt — beating yourself up for what you’ve done — has no place in that. It’s human works, human effort to atone, to make sure you’ll never do it again… I struggle a lot with the guilt function so I’ve had ample opportunity to consider it in all its ramifications and it really is quite arrogant. After all the word of God says our hearts (the way we think and perceive the world and ourselves) are deceitful and desperately wicked, that from the tops of our heads to the bottom of our feet, there’s no soundness in us, that we are stubborn and willful and none of us in ourselves is good. Not even one. (Ro 3:10)

We were all born in sin, we still have the sin nature after salvation. We are going to sin. We are going to make mistakes. We’re stupid sheep, we are easily entangled in sin and deception… guilt assumes that we can do better. Guilt assumes that somehow our sin is an aberration, a shock, something we should very well be able to avoid. If only we’d work hard enough or hurt bad enough, then we won’t do it again. It’s the flesh’s mode of self-improvement, and like all else the flesh produces, God finds it disgusting.

Guilt is something that has motivated me almost all my life, something carried over from my first 21 years as an unbeliever.  I’ve talked about it on this blog before… that feeling that I must do X or something bad will happen. Usually the “something bad” is that “they” will think poorly of me. But who is they?

At first I had no idea, but gradually I realized it’s something in my own conscience. Not something based on the word of God, but on stuff I picked up as a child and internalized. It doesn’t matter if God says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, if my conscience says I should do or be a certain way, then that’s all that matters. If I fail to toe the line, then my conscience will punish me.

Because, apparently, Jesus didn’t do enough. Because, apparently God really didn’t mean it when He said there is nothing good in us, and that the only way to actually live the Christian way of life is the same way as we received it… by grace, through faith.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing (the Gospel) with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?   ~ Galatians 3:1-3

What About Task Four?

Last week, in detailing my experiences with coming back to a habit of working on a novel, I mentioned I’d come up with five tasks for myself to be completed in fifteen minute increments. I told about tasks one through three, but left out four and five.

Task Four was to spend fifteen minutes answering fan mail, a practice I have been seriously remiss in pursuing for probably close to a year now. Every once in a while I would come in and do a spate of answering, but as the numbers of unanswered emails mounted so would my guilt and self-recrimination. The whole thing got too hard, especially given all the other stuff going on.

Now, I would tackle that mountain, once more in baby steps. Reading through the emails has the added benefit of reminding me that God really can use the gift He’s given me (duh) and I shouldn’t be letting it idle in the closet. Reader responses are tremendously encouraging. In fact, the very day I embarked on this new system I received an email from “Sandi,” which was one of the most encouraging I’ve ever received. She graciously consented to letting me post an edited version of it here:


I cannot thank you enough for writing the Legends of the Guardian-King series. It has profoundly impacted my life.

I discovered your books during one of the most painful times of my life. The stories were so captivating and the spiritual insights so rich that the books actually helped me work through the intense emotional pain and spiritual struggle I was going through.

I loved the way you depicted life as the constantly challenging spiritual journey that it is — fighting the shadow within and the shadow without, trying to be steadfastly faithful to God down to the most subtle of levels of the heart, etc. You described it all so powerfully in LGK!

I have read the series through twice now and will probably read it again. I “soaked” in it and did not want the story to end. Oh how I would like to see the series made into films! Meanwhile I have tried to tell as many people as possible about the books to keep the word of mouth about them going. I hope this amazing series stays in print forever.

Sandi Shelton
Franklin, TN

Cool, huh?  Thanks, Sandi! Your timing was exquisite.

Wednesday: It’s Never What It Seems

For one thing, my Mother was not discharged today, and we did not go to the oncologist’s office. I did manage to talk to him on the phone, however.  Turns out when they did the ultrasound for the lung tap, the lung doctor asked the technicians to look at the liver for cancer spots and they had found them, larger than they’d been in January, so they know it’s reactivated.  Dr. Schwartz also said the edema in the legs is the result of the liver malfunctioning, but that the disease can be treated.

Meanwhile the hospitalist ordered an official ultrasound of the liver. Those results will not come until tomorrow. But we did get back the results of the test of the fluid that was taken from Mother’s lungs: no tumor cells. Which means there’s no cancer in the lung.  Hooray! Dr. Clements said there can be tiny holes in the diaphragm allowing fluid from the abdomen to enter the chest cavity, and in fact, he thought it did seem like there might be a fair amount of fluid gathering in her abdomen. Turns out they can extract that pretty much like the lung fluid was. In fact, if the ultrasound shows there is in fact fluid there he’ll order what they call a paracentresis — basically the same thing he did with the lung done to the abdomen. It’s possible that could significantly reduce the swelling of her legs which would be awesome. They don’t hurt her, but with the skin splitting and the fluid and blood dribbling everywhere they would be very difficult to deal with at home like that.

It’s probably unrealistic to expect results that dramatic, but still it would be nice to do something to lessen the edema. The primary means of treatment, though, is to go after the source of the problem which is the liver. Right now we’re waiting to see if mother can get back to eating and drinking and sitting up, able to move on her own again. Turns out that the fluid in the abdomen can cause the stomach to feel full and discourage eating, contribute to an acid reflux sort of effect and cause the patient to swallow a lot of air that will in turn be burped up.  So it looks like we might have an explanation for all the burping and so-called indigestion… We’ll know more later. But who woulda thought?

It is sooo cool to see God’s hand in all this, to see the way He’s got things orchestrated. In addition to all that, I got up this morning and went searching for my Thieme booklet, The Faith Rest Life, which  think I first read 35 years ago. It’s amazing to reread it and see things I never saw before, because my perspective has changed. But the coolest thing was that it really is true that I’m to do nothing. I keep fighting that. But if you’re going to give a problem over to God to solve, why would you keep trying to solve it yourself?

There’s more — he talked a lot about patience and how hard it is for us to wait on the Lord. And of course there has been a LOT of waiting these last few days. And the more I have to wait not knowing, the harder it is to stay relaxed. I even was griping to one of my friends about it… what’s the point of all this sitting staring at walls, waiting? I don’t understand. Well, there it was in the Faith Rest book — a very specific answer. And then tonight, live back in Massachusetts, Pastor McLaughlin taught  on … Patience!

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” 

I love it.

Temporarily Moving

Starting Sunday I will be moving in with my mother to care for her while my sister returns to her home in Santa Fe for three weeks or so. This has been a big struggle, a daunting potential, something I felt averse to, didn’t want to do, was advised not to do, but rather put her in some sort of facility or get 24/7 in home care.

The thing is, her situation keeps changing. No one really can pin down what’s causing her problem, which is no longer high blood pressure but low. She’s been fainting once or twice a day for several days now, even though she’s doing better on keeping hydrated (drank 8 glasses of water yesterday). Yesterday we visited the doctor and he cut both her blood pressure meds in half. He said he was more concerned with the low blood pressure readings (which some nurses and helpers have considered “good”) than the 175/80 readings. My sister’s been taking her blood pressure throughout the day and the low readings account for about 90% of them. And then, after the visit, as we were consulting with the nurse, my mother fainted.

My sister leaves, as I said, on Sunday and I take over. I have no idea how it will go. I signed up for some in-home care if I need relief, but turns out they have a four-hour minimum. I was hoping for a two-hour minimum, which is more in line with what I’d see myself needing. The home care agency also don’t operate on the immediate “as needed” basis I was given to understand it did. To get a good match they need not only several days notice, but want us to commit to some sort of regular weekly schedule. Right now, that doesn’t seem quite what we need.

 On Monday I’ll take Mother for a PET scan. On Tuesday, we go to a local hospital for an ambulatory blood pressure monitor that she’ll wear for 24 hours, then return to the hospital. Meanwhile the physical and occupational therapists will continue to visit and work with her.

She’s way better than she was last week. Except for when her blood pressure drops, she’s quite alert and mentally sharp. Still gets tired easily and naps several times a day, but that’s to be expected after her hospitalizations.

For me, the picture ahead is a big blank. I have no real idea what to expect, but I’m seeing it clearly as God’s will and an opportunity to trust Him to handle things rather than driving myself crazy trying to project possible scenarios and solutions. I’ve been in this situation countless times before, especially when writing. Abramm’s experience in the desert (in Return of the Guardian King) where he had no idea which direction to walk in, only that he had to walk, is a good parallel.  Plus, more and more I’ve been aware of the fact God’s been leading me to do things, of how He orchestrates things down to the second, and how, even though I have no plan for how I am going to get something accomplished, somehow it ends up happening.

It seems like I’ll suddenly “get an idea” to do something and do it and only afterwards see that it’s exactly what I was supposed to do. But I had no preconceived idea that I would do it. No plan that at 9am I would do such and such. In fact, sometimes I’ve got an entirely different plan for 9am… So really this is a tremendous opportunity to trust Him and relax.

And last night, after all the drama of yesterday and continuous conversations with my sister about why Mother might be fainting — all speculations, since no one can say for sure and though, the doctor advanced several possibilities, he also added that trying to get the blood pressure to stabilize in situations like these is really tricky  —  last night, in going through earlier entries in my journal I came upon this statement from Pastor McLaughlin, who of all people has had abundant experience in dealing with medical crises:  “Give up worrying about medical stuff! Like, ‘Did I eat the right thing? Take the right meds? Am I doing the right thing?’ God will handle it.”

And further, we’re told to “cast all our cares on Him.” We’re told “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (system of thinking) and do not lean on your own understanding (human viewpoint, human good, worldly medical practitioners’). In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

The best way to bring glory to God is to trust Him. And it’s in situations that challenge us in this regard that we have to ask ourselves, “Do I really believe what the Word of God has to say, or do I not? Because if I do believe, there is no place for worry; and if I am determined to solve the problem and fix the situation on my own, then I’ve shoved “believe the Word and trust in Him” right out the door of my soul.

Going to Egypt

Yesterday I started out relating the story of how I’d received an email from a friend who is facing a crisis, and was laying the background of how for weeks I’d not had words to reply to earlier communications from her. And it was okay, because other friends had words of comfort and encouragement to offer. But Sunday  night, I suddenly had words and wrote them down. She replied Monday and again I had words, and after getting the go ahead from the Spirit I wrote them down and sent them. They turned out to be just the thing. Then, as I went about my business yesterday I kept getting the thought that what I’d been given to say would be of interest or encouragement to my blog readers, so I set out to write a post. Which immediately led me off in a different direction than I’d intended.

That’s okay. That’s how it works. And since, once I’d finished I still had the sense that the words to my friend could be helpful to others, I’ve come back to set them down — with a bit of editing, of course. For one, I’m leaving out the details of the situation to protect her privacy, and because I don’t think they’re needed. The doctrine is always what’s needed, because that we can apply to our own details…  Thus, here’s more or less what I said:

You do have to balance the idea that God will not violate free will with the concept of His overruling will, in which He doesn’t allow people to go in the direction they wish to. I don’t know that I would go with the statement on that tape declaring that suicide is ALWAYS the exception to God’s overruling will, because I’m sure you’ve read of the suicide attempts where the person jumped off the bridge and just broke their legs, or shot themselves in the head and the bullet ran around the skull under the skin, or passed cleanly between the brain’s hemispheres, leaving them alive and relatively undamaged.

The operating truth here is, your child is going nowhere until God takes her. Period. He’s the one who ultimately decides — not you, not her. If He takes her by allowing her volition to function, it’s for her blessing and yours. But really, how do you know what’s truly going on in her soul and with her volition right now? She may not even know herself.

Second thought: it is not you who is going to make or break this situation. You are not superwoman to the rescue. Whatever decision you make, it’s not going to matter in the end. Do you really think God is up there wringing His hands, just waiting to see if you make the “right” decision and if you don’t, hell descends?

 We get way too fixated on making the “proper” application, thinking that it all depends on us, when we should be fixated on the fact that it doesn’t depend on us at all. It’s no accident your child is out of your reach right now. But God knows EXACTLY what is happening with her, EXACTLY what she needs and He knew it in eternity past. He provided a solution in eternity past, too. Thus the solution is already in place. The plan is His, not ours, for His glory, not ours. And we have no idea what that plan looks like for any given day.

Here are a couple of verses that are coming to me, ones God used with me awhile back when he finally made it clear to me that I was to rely on Him and not the world with regard to my writing “career”…

Jer 17:5  Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes people his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…

Is 30:1  Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, And make an alliance, but not of my Spirit… who proceed down to Egypt without consulting me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh.

vs 6 -7  They carry their riches on the backs of young donkeys and their treasures on camels’ humps to a people who cannot profit them, even Egypt, whose help is vain and empty…

vs 15  For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel has said, “In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

 If you have the very Trinity dwelling in you, why in the world would you go to a person to solve this problem? If you’ve asked the creator of the universe for help, one who is your loving Father, why would you go ask a man? Because your Father isn’t coming through in your timing? Because there’s a wrong here you think He’s unaware of and cannot handle? Pastor was just talking about that yesterday. Our God is the creator, the maintainer and the judge of the universe. He knows what’s going on. He’s not sleeping and He’s not off taking a potty break. He KNOWs.

 And one final thought. Do you really think that if you just give it over to Him, let Him handle it, rest in Him and trust Him as your loving father, knowing that whatever the outcome, it will be good and perfect because He is perfect. If you really trust Him completely with this, do you think He’s going to say, “Oh no.  That’s it! You made the mistake of trusting me and now you’re going to pay for that. I really wanted you to work and get your hand into the mess because I was counting on you to make the right decisions to fix it, but you blew it. I am really displeased with you because you trusted wholly in me.” Do you really think  He’ll say that? I don’t.

Okay, that wasn’t the final thought. This one is, I think. Other doctrinal Christians can give you advice, but you have to do what you think God is leading you to do. Maybe He’ll use a person in authority to resolve this situation, but I don’t think He’d do that as a result of you deciding you need to go to a man for help. Now, if after you’ve slammed the whole thing on God and the guy suddenly shows up at your door, or calls you on the phone, with no imput from you, that could be God — or another rabbit trail. But one thing I think is certain — you can NOT go wrong trusting the Lord and standing by until He makes it very clear what you’re to do.

When I get in these situations where my thoughts are skittering back and forth like mice and I don’t know what to do and the emotions just twist tighter and tighter, I give it up. I don’t have the power or the information to decide. I have no idea what to do. So I just give it over to Him and tell Him to handle it. Whatever I’m to do, I ask Him to lead me into it, because there’s no way I can decide just now. And lately I ask Him for help in calming my mind and taking my thoughts away from the subject if I’m not able to do it myself.

Then later, somehow and I never quite know how, I find He’s led me… It’s a relationship between you and Him. Trust Him. Trust what He says to you and not what people say. Even doctrinal believers. Job’s three friends were doctrinal, but what they said to Job did not apply. They didn’t have all the facts…

Energy Conservation

Yesterday I wrote to a friend regarding a crisis she was going through. For days — weeks, actually — I’ve been virtually wordless when it comes to responding to emails, writing blogs, and especially writing Sky. I have managed to put a few words into my journal, but nothing for others’ consumption. It’s been too jumbled. For awhile I could do little more than try to list what I’d done in a day and wonder why I felt that would somehow validate me. In fact, two weeks ago this same friend had written at length regarding the crisis, not just to me personally, but to a circle of friends. I read of her trials, which are great, and felt for her, and prayed for her, but I had absolutely no words of response. I sat there, staring at the screen, and nothing happened.

It wasn’t my time to answer.

I spent last week following the advice in the  books on introverts I’d recently acquired (finished one, almost finished with the other) about conserving personal energy — staying out of contact, resting, reading, napping, puttering, talking to the Lord. Resources are something He provides, even energy, and what I learned from reading was that sometimes He doesn’t allow you the time and solitude to recharge. Or maybe He does, but I just didn’t see it.

One thing for sure, I didn’t realize how important it was. We’re all given a certain amount of resources… time and energy being among them. I already knew that as a writer I need to guard my time, though that’s not always as easy as the Advisors of the World make it sound. Sometimes I can’t just give one thing primary importance in my life (well except for my relationship with God and the daily intake of doctrine), because I have many things that are important. They all “need” to be done as far as I can tell. And when I’m doing one of them, I find the energy to do the rest is being drained away. So if I decide to do the housework first and write second, too often the housework gets done, but not the writing. If I reverse the order, then the writing gets done but not the housework. I’ve done it both ways.

This whole issue of energy is what I hadn’t really considered. Or rather, while I’d noticed it, and gotten frustrated over my inability to manage it, I hadn’t really thought about managing it. I hadn’t thought — didn’t know — that there were ways to gain more energy apart from just going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning. The funny thing is, many of those ways were things I ended up doing anyway, then castigating myself because I was so “distractible” or so “lacking in self-discipline.”

But even as I’m writing this, I see that I’m making it more clear-cut, more “me in control” than it actually is. I’ve been told all my life that a routine is important, that self-discipline is important. I’ve been told a lot of things. I don’t disagree that establishing a routine is a very useful practice. But sometimes God doesn’t allow that. I’m coming to think that sometimes God brings us to a place where He wants all our attention. This morning I was reflecting on the fact that, so far as we can tell, Jesus didn’t really have a routine. Moreover, when people came to Him with a problem or a crisis (Jairus comes to mind) instead of dropping everything and rushing to the dying girl, the verb indicates he meandered. He stopped to heal a woman.  He took His time. Or perhaps I should say, He followed the Holy Spirit’s timing.

Pastor Bob has taught in recent years that he no longer believes that all of the “miracles” that Jesus performed were based on His deity… for example, the fish with the coin in its mouth that He sent Peter to get to pay the tax. I guess I’d always thought that He made the coin right then and put it in the fish’s mouth for Peter to find. Pastor suggested that He was simply so in tune with the Spirit’s leading, that He knew a fish that had picked up a coin in the sea would “happen” to be there at the same time as Peter was. I like that. It makes sense and it fits more with God’s ways as I know them than just to create a coin and stick it in the fish’s mouth out of the blue. If He was going to do that, why didn’t He simply draw the coin of out thin air? And how many times does God lead us into the exact right place at the exact right time?

We’re to be imitators of Christ and being in tune with the leading of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis is one of the ways we do that.

Which, it seems, is how I wrote this post. I had intended to write about some of what I finally had words to express to my friend yesterday and somehow… never quite got to that. So I’ll have to save that for tomorrow.


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