Confronting Worry: My Story (Part 1)

I quickly wove the fingers of my left hand into my husband’s and gripped firmly. My right hand clutched the airplane seat arm rest. The lights flickered a few times and then went out. The hundreds of other people on our plane were tensely quiet, as was I. I watched as the long row of overhead storage running down the center of the cabin rapidly shook back and forth. Then we plummeted. I felt weightless for a moment, and then like someone was forcing me back down into my seat.

My grip tightened as I imagined what could possibly be happening to cause our giant double-decker Boeing 747 to be tossed around like nothing more than a feather. My tension redoubled as I thought about the fact that we were over the vast Pacific Ocean, with no place for an emergency landing, just the fierce water below.

Thoughts of my five young children potentially facing life without their parents swarmed in my mind. About the difficulties they would encounter that we might not be there to shepherd them through. And I wanted nothing more than to be home.

But the most terrifying realization was that I was helpless – at the mercy of our pilots and the sky.

Nothing could distract me from these frightening thoughts. Not a book, not the myriad in-flight movies available, not even the comfort of my husband. My senses were heightened to the extreme and aware of even the slightest jostle.

The intense turbulence continued off and on for the first three hours of our 11 hour flight from Taiwan to San Francisco. To say I spent the flight worried would be a gross understatement. Panic probably comes closer to reality.

The irony of my circumstance was that I had taught on overcoming worry just days before, during Shorebreak (camp for military High School students living abroad). God was reminding me that the victory over worry I have experienced in my life didn’t necessarily ensure no further struggle. It was time to practice what I taught.

I knew I needed to stand against this worry, whose root was my physical safety and life. I must “be anxious for nothing,” and “let my requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). So I prayed. And I relied on the fact that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, because I certainly couldn’t eek out a complete sentence to God, such was the fear and anxiety.

But my feeble attempts didn’t bring the immediate rush of spiritual peace I longed for in that moment. Even so, I knew I had to keep resisting. Just as I had taught days before, I took hold of the command to think about what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, etc…. (Phil. 4:8). The only way I was able to do this was to sing songs full of God’s truth. I racked my brain for hymns and choruses to focus on, rather than my fear.

As I was nearing the end of my repertoire, I remembered a little tune that I had made up for my oldest daughter when she was afraid.

You don’t need to be afraid,

There’s no cause for alarm.

You don’t need to be afraid,

When you trust in God above.

 

Have I not commanded you,

Be strong and of good courage?

For the Lord Your God

Is on your side!

 

You don’t need to be afraid,

There’s no cause for alarm.

You don’t need to be afraid,

When you trust in God above.

It’s such as simple little song, but for some reason God used those words to bring me the most peace in the midst of fearing for my life. He used them to remind me of His sovereignty. That my life was His, to do with as He pleased.

As difficult as it was for this mother to face, God reminded me that if He did choose to bring me home at that moment, He would care for my children. And perhaps, that was the plan He wanted to work out in their lives (though it cuts me to the heart to think about it).

Thankfully, it was God’s plan to leave us here with our family a little while longer! But, I emerged from this encounter with a bigger perspective of life. People come and go, they are born and they die, and yet God is in complete control. And more importantly, He can take tragedy and transform it into triumph.

Through the study of God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I can confidently say that I am more of an ‘overcomer’ of worry and anxiety now than I have ever been before. I’m sure more circumstances will arise to put me to the test, but with God’s help I know it’s possible to be victorious.

There is much more I plan to share from my study of this topic. It is my deep hope and prayer that anyone else bound up by worry and anxiety might experience the true peace that God has to offer us all!

If You’re Feeling Tired Today……..

……..me too. I probably stayed up too late last night and I think I’m coming down with a head cold – a perfect recipe for one tired mama! On top of that, our family life hasn’t recovered its pre-trip stride yet. Many activities and changes to life have left us all a bit on the worn side.

I planned on sharing one of the devotions I wrote for Shorebreak today, but completely forgot which one was next. Then I opened my file and just had to chuckle, of course it would be this one! I needed to be reminded of this truth today.

Remember, it’s written with the context of High School camp in mind, but God’s Word is beneficial no matter our circumstances. So if your’e feeling a little worn and burdened today, I hope you might experience a moment of encouragement here.

True Rest

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)

Camp sure is fun, but staying up late, getting up early, and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed; all these things can collide to make one tired camper! As nice as a good night’s sleep in our own beds will be, real life is waiting for us – all the burdens it brings too. All the sleep in the world can’t solve some problems. Maybe you are going back to a very tense home situation. Maybe you are drowning in school work. Maybe you will have to go face the consequences of a bad choice. Maybe it’s loneliness, or fear, or anger, or addiction. The list could go on and on.

It’s tempting for us to try to solve all these problems on our own, in our own reason or logic or strength. But we need help. We all long for deep peace and renewing rest in our souls, and that is exactly what Jesus wants to give to us. He is powerful enough to handle any problem, He is compassionate and loving to heal the deepest wounds of our soul, His wisdom surpasses all, and He willingly offers to teach us. Be encouraged as you face what lies ahead; you have a loving, tender, strong, empathetic Savior who is desperate to carry your burden for you.

  1. What burdens are you trying to carry with your own strength?
  2. Do you trust Jesus to handle these things?

Pray – Thank God for the experience you have had this week and give Him praise for how you have seem Him at work in your life and in the lives of those around you! Pour out your concerns and fear to Him. Approach Him honestly about what burdens you. Then give that burden to Him and thank Him for the rest He will give to your soul.

Light and Dark

There are bright and dark sides to ministry, but in both God is completely present and effectively working. Half way in to camp we experienced both sides in one day.

We started Wednesday with worship through music and devotion time, and then headed to a nearby beach for some fun and fellowship. It was a bit chilly for Okinawa standards, but to us Oregonians it was still lovely!

After a few team competitions we witnessed one of the bright sides of God at work – six students were baptized! What a beautiful manifestation of the Lord moving in the lives of these young men and women. I get teary eyed every time I’m present at a baptism, even if I have no idea who is being baptized! It’s a glorious thing!

IMG_0568 The Baptism Crew!

The baptism time was followed by bento box lunches – yum! – and free time on the beach. Cyrus and I had a chance to chat with students and take a quick stroll down the beach. We found some cute little hermit crabs. We also picked up some beautifully bleached coral to bring home for the kids. We wished we could have stayed longer to explore, but we had to return to camp to prepare for the evening session.

IMG_0575 A Hermit Crab 🙂

One aspect of our Corban group’s ministry (which I have failed to mention until now) was to take turns sharing our testimonies. Each testimony gave a glimpse into the dark places we all have been and how God has worked and is continuing to work to heal and mature us in those various areas.

This night, though, one of the college students took her testimony a step further, sharing in more detail the trials and temptations she has faced. She shared about being sexually abused and the tremendous toll it has taken on her life – spiritually, physically and mentally. She shared about her subsequent struggles with eating disorders and self harm and how God has been healing her. Not only that, she opened herself up as a resource and listening ear to those facing the similar struggles.

The response was overwhelming. Dozens of students approached this college student seeking someone who understood their trials, and admitting to someone for the first time their incredibly private struggles.

Much darkness was beginning to be revealed. And it was a heavy sadness to me to become aware of tremendous amounts of pain buried inside the lives of some of these students.

But there is a Light to shine into those dark places. God is our great healer and I believe many students took a step in the healing process. They took the risk of brining what had been hidden in the dark of their souls into the light of Christ and His Body of believers.

It is a process that I hope and pray will continue in each of their lives.

Our dear Corban student, because of her vulnerable testimony, spent the remaining days of camp hearing story after story of pain, hurt, sorrow, despair, and darkness. This was a heavy burden for her to bear alone and I did my best to be there to ease the burden in any way I could. It was a challenging time for her, but I know God is working in her life as she seeks to pour in to others’ lives.

All of this was a poignant reminder of God’s ultimate purpose: to bring light into the darkness. And in serving Him we must go into the dark places to manifest His light. He is using us to accomplish His will and it isn’t always pleasant. We need His Light in every dark place. In the despair of death and loss. In brokenness and abuse. In the mess of divorce. Even when suffering for the sake of righteousness.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you 

out of darkness into His marvelous light!

1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

The Day I Remembered I Am An Intovert

Time to continue with our adventure in Japan!

Day two of camp arrived. I already shared the devotion I wrote for the students a couple posts ago. In addition, it was seminar day. Students had the opportunity to attend two seminars of their choice. The offerings ranged from Identity in Christ to Preparing for College. Cyrus taught a seminar focused on answering some tough theological questions. I taught on overcoming worry (I plan on sharing more about this later – maybe as a series). We were both privileged to be used in this way!

After the devo time and seminars we broke for lunch and then some afternoon free time.

And that’s when it hit me. I was exhausted. Not physically tired but emotionally and mentally drained. Since we stepped foot in Japan I had been caught up in a whirlwind of introductions, remembering names, and get-to-know-you conversations. I know for some people this is exciting and energizing, but not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy people, but after a while I need a relational rest. I need time for introverted introspection and reflection.

Fortunately, I was able to nab a bit of that time before we were on to the next activity; but I also was reminded of my need to rely on God for strength in the areas of my weakness. It was only by His power that I made it through the next several days with very little introvert time!

And His power at work in me brought joy to my heart. That evening I once again jumped out of my comfort zone and into a post evening session small group. It was an amazing opportunity to witness a small group of High School girls open up with each other about their hurts and convictions. One girl even shared her desire to make a u-turn in life and start living in a way that pleased God – she wanted to recommit to Him!

I absolutely love seeing God moving in people’s lives – no greater joy!

I’ll close this post by sharing Wednesday morning’s devotion with you. May you be encouraged!

No Longer a Child

Bible Reading- Eph.4:14-32

In the world’s eyes you are on the brink of adulthood. Many of you have already made decisions about what you are going to do after high school. You have spent time preparing and growing academically, physically and mentally for what lies ahead. But where do you measure on your Spiritual Growth Chart?

In our reading today we are reminded that it’s time to grow up – spiritually. We all need to grow by being rooted in God’s Word (not swept away by every new idea), by loving others, and by becoming Christ-like. But this growth is not accidental. God works in us as we respond to His Spirit and pursue His Truth.

  1. Just as you purposefully do certain things to grow physically or academically, you can purposefully take action to grow spiritually. What can you start doing, even today, to contribute to your spiritual growth? 
  1. Sometimes we all feel confused or have doubts about God, but it is important to continue to pursue the Truth. If you are confused or doubtful about God, the Bible, or Christianity right now, have you given up pursuing the Truth or are you continuing to seek it? What would it look like for you to pursue God?

Pray – Be honest with God about any doubts you have and ask Him to help you find the Truth! Ask Him to convict you of any areas in your life that you need to start obeying Him.

words and The Word

I had the privilege of writing morning devotionals for the students at Shorebreak. Every morning after breakfast we gathered for a time of music and then everyone got a copy of the devotion for the day and went to find a place of solitude; a place where they could spend quality time with God, without distraction from others.

This was the first devotion of camp and I wrote it to supplement Cyrus’ teaching on the G.O.S.P.E.L. (see the last post for the meaning). I wrote it for a High School audience, but God’s truth surpasses the generational gaps! Oh, and by the way, the theme for the camp was reversal, so I tried to sneak that in there too 😉

May these words and The Word be an an encouragement to you today.

    Once Upon a Time                

Bible Reading – Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Once upon a time mankind was at peace with God. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. But then they made a decision which caused humanity’s spiritual separation from God. From the moment they ate the forbidden fruit, humanity took a turn down the path of sin and death. So instead of following God, our passage points out that we have been obeying our fleshly desires, the course of the world, and the deceptions of Satan.

But there is such good news! God is rich in love and brought us life in His Son Jesus! We can now walk and talk with God the way He always wanted. We don’t have to go back to obeying the world, our lusts, or Satan. He has given us a great gift and prepared wonderful work for us to do to bring Him glory. Jesus has reversed and for all time demolished the power of death and sin in our lives.

  1. If you have not trusted Jesus as your Savior, will you take time to consider this passage more carefully? Read it a few more times and look for God’s tremendous love for you and His desire to bring you life!
  1. If you are a Christian, are you living in the life of Christ? Are you obeying the world and your own desires, or relishing the gift of God and seeking after those good works that He created and saved you for?

Pray – If you are convinced that you need Jesus as Savior, pray and tell God that you accept His free gift of grace! For those who are saved, ask God to convict you of areas you may need to choose to follow Him instead of your own desires. And ask for His help reverse the sinful directions you are going.