Hurts to Breathe

When It Hurts To Breathe

Hurts to Breathe

I don’t get knocked down by sickness very easily; but when the doctor calls and says the X-ray showed Pneumonia, it’s time to stop trying to be so strong. I’m now on the 7th day of antibiotic, and I’ve done pretty well with working on stuff for a while, resting for a while. It has hurt to breathe. Each breath, each cough, seemingly bruising my fluid-swollen lung… more.

The parallel is amazing. Life has sucked the breath out of me lately. It’s been hard to breathe figuratively, and then it became hard to breathe literally. Some days I so want to quit. Stop trying. Just cry. Then I feel like a failure. And cry some more. Just worn down.

Life is hard. Harder than I ever imagined it would be.

So this morning as I was driving, God took my mind to the crucifixion. Asphyxiation. The fact that Jesus endured the most awful hard-to-breath experience. With each breath, He must have felt that He was dying… even though it wasn’t time to let go. He went through the unimaginable for me… for you. He died, but then He came back to life! Who am I to be beaten down by a little pneumonia? Who am I to be beaten down by the cares in MY life?

So here it is. I have hope today. Not because of me or anything that I have done. I can get through this because HE is in me. He is WITH me. He is my STRENGTH.

Does it hurt for you to breathe? Is life so overwhelming that you want to quit? Don’t. Just go to the Savior. He loves you and wants to be your strength! Let Him breathe for you.

Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered itto Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said,

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.

He is risen! He is not here.

See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

Mark 15:33-39 & 16:1-6

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

Psalm 18:2

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Lead me to the rock

The Rock That Is Higher Than I {Re-Post}

Lead me to the rock

This is the fourth time I’ve shared this post in four years. Sometimes scriptures ring so true in our lives. So true that God uses those very scriptures to get us through all kids of difficulties. Psalm 61:1-3 is one of those for me. Today, precious friends of ours are starting cancer treatment. They have been on my mind a lot this morning. Other friends of ours are feeling overwhelmed because of just the trials in life. We… ourselves… our little family, are also walking through an overwhelming time… perhaps a more quiet one.

But God. Two of my favorite words in scripture. But God.

So here’s this post again… meaning something different this time, yet still the same. May it speak to your heart today, no matter what you’re going through.

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Life gets overwhelming. If you’re like me, days just seem to stack on top of each other… then one day suddenly you realize another year has passed. Sometimes, though life is busy, everything seems to flow together in perfect harmony. But other times, the overwhelmed feeling hits like a 95mph wild pitch against a batting helmet.

Maybe you are there right now. The pitch has hit you. You’re feeling overwhelmed… as am I. The harmonies aren’t quite coming together as they should. Sickness… Work… Relationships… Ministry stuff… Perhaps at this moment, you’re looking at the conglomeration that is your life and saying, “I just don’t know how to work through all of this.” Or maybe life is good, but you are facing a task that is overwhelming you. Maybe the complicated nature of your project is paralyzing you, keeping you from seeing how to more forward. If this is the case… maybe you’re standing on the wrong rock.

As I was thinking through my own crazy personal matrix and trying to make sense of it all (in my own strength of course), God brought me to Psalm 61:1-3 (NKJV):

Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.
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.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.

When our FOCUSED ATTENTION stays on our problems or on the paralyzing feeling from the larger-than-life tasks in front of us, we are standing on the wrong rock. We are looking at things from our own ground level, the place where OUR thoughts and OUR ways appear higher. This is the place where we are only thinking about what we can do in our own strength. We are forgetting that God is the One who…

  • Breathed the world into existence
  • Filled the ditches
  • Stopped the sun
  • Parted the red sea
  • Turned the water to wine
  • Raised the dead
  • Provided the sacrifice for Abraham
  • Sent His Son to die for us
  • Provided unlimited food to the multitudes
  • Cast out demons
  • Transformed the persecutor into the devoted disciple
  • Gave us the Holy Spirit

Shall we keep going? We could add so many other miracles to this list. Here’s the point: God is God. He can do ALL things. He is the Rock we need to be standing on. He is the Rock from which we need to be looking at the world… at our problems… at our giant tasks. Our hearts must be so focused on Him that we view life through His eyes… His ways.

When we truly push away from our ground-level perches and stand on the Rock that is higher than I, everything comes into focus. The details come together. The harmonies fit perfectly. The plan becomes clear. The tasks get done. And God is glorified.

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10277550_10203797922457318_4693793142466294428_n

RE:FOCUS – Just Be Held

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism
For two months straight, the song seemed to be playing EVERYWHERE. In the car, at home, in places that play Jesus music. One line specifically kept calling to me… “Your world’s not falling apart; it’s falling into place.” It was literally like God was trying to get my attention. At the time, I had no idea why.

Then came an unexpected opportunity for my life to fall apart. But God.

When the trial hit, I immediately knew why God had placed this amazing song in my path over the past weeks. He was getting me to rely on HIM alone. Only He could fix the broken parts. And I know He is fixing them and will continue to fix them until His plan is fulfilled.

I’ve never been so happy for a year to finish. 2015 is a year I would like to forget, although there are many lessons I’ll take with me. At midnight on December 31st, I welcomed 2016 with much hope and joy.

But I have friends who are not so hopeful about 2016. One precious family in our lives is beginning the year facing cancer. Two other families are facing the reality of divorce… with young children. I know there are many of you who are not so expectant about 2016, but I just want to share what I learned about just being held.

Life is hard and it hurts sometimes. Let’s face it, bad things happen to good people. We are all pieces in God’s perfect plan for humanity, and we are fallen. And sometimes when life hurts, you find out who your true friends are. Those who have surrounded you in good times seem to disappear.

But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

So I come to this song, the one that helped me to realize that I needed to let go and just be held. Maybe you’ve heard it before, but you’ve never really let the words sink in. Watch this video and pay close attention to the lyrics.

So much truth. We try to hold on and keep control, don’t we? But God has something better. If we just let go and be held, He promises to not let us go.

Babies know all about trust. I love this picture of me holding my oldest son as a baby. He was at complete peace, just letting me hold him.

10277550_10203797922457318_4693793142466294428_nThis is what God wants from us. We don’t need to try to control, even though it hurts. We don’t need to try to get people to encourage us that everything will be fine. In the end, all we really need is to just be held. To trust that our lives really are falling into place… because God is in complete control.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me to just be held. Please give me Your strength to let go and let You hold me. I’m so thankful for Your arms that just wait for me to run to them. Take away my need for control, my need for people to approve. You are God alone and I trust You.

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deep breaths of Jesus

RE:FOCUS – Deep Breaths of Jesus

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

It’s Monday morning again. The Monday before Christmas. Life is crazy busy for all of us. No matter what is happening in our lives, we need to slow down and remember why we celebrate. We need to take some deep breaths and focus on Jesus…

We need to take a deep breath of patience… when that energetic 4-year-old has worn us down to the point that our bodies feel numb.

We need to take a deep breath of forgiveness… when our hearts go to the bitter places in our memories.

We need to take a deep breath of worship… when we just need to be reminded that no matter what situation we are in, it is still well with our souls.

We need to take a deep breath of peace… when our kids won’t stop fighting.

We need to take a deep breath of kindness… when we feel overwhelmed by taking care of everyone.

We need to take a deep breath of trust… when we can’t control or understand what’s going on in our lives.

We need to take a deep breath of grace… when we are so angry and hurt that we can’t seem to find a way out of the darkness.

We need to take a deep breath of love… when the day is hard and we have just forgotten how blessed we are… beyond measure.

We need to take deep breaths of Jesus. Just let go and trust.

During this Christmas week and in the coming weeks, may we take deep breaths of Jesus. May we remember why He was sent to us. May we remember how much we love Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Merry Christmas, friends!

holding-hands

RE:FOCUS – The Armored Home

 

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

I wrote this a few years ago and realized this morning that it is an extension of last Monday’s post, so it’s time to share again. This is an area in which I (and I’m sure we all) need to revisit often. Satan is attacking our marriages and families HARD! Let’s keep each other accountable to protect the very gift that God has given each one of us.

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Armored cars amaze me. How they make those vehicles to withstand bullets, explosions, accidents, etc. is beyond my realm of understanding. These specialized cars serve a purpose… to protect what’s inside.

Our homes need to be built with specialized armor, as well, to protect the marriages inside. We live in a fallen, stressful world. Kids, money struggles, out-of-whack priorities, stress, and so many other day-to-day things distract us from ensuring that our Ephesians 6 armor is in place in our homes. But when we put that armor in place, it will change us. It will change our marriages. It will change our children. It will change our lives.

So how can we establish this armor in our homes? Here are some practical tools for protection:

  • Pray “without ceasing” for your marriage.
  • Choose your words to each other carefully. Words hurt and can cause permanent damage.
  • Date nights are a must, but so is “couch time” everyday. Carving out some time for each other everyday, just to talk, is imperative for a protected marriage… an armored home.
  • Ask each other regularly, “What can I do to be a better wife/husband?” This opens up communication and gives more opportunities to meet each other’s needs.
  • Keep your private thought life pure and positive. Don’t let impure, negative thoughts stay in your mind. Have scriptures ready to fight attacks on your mind… and cut out ANYTHING that is affecting you in a destructive way.
  • Avoid close male-female friendships. They are dangerous. When you have a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex, you are allowing someone else to fill a role that only your husband should fill.
  • Most importantly, remind yourself that it’s not about you. Marriage is about self-sacrifice and give-and-take.

Marriage is hard. But when we do it God’s way, we realize that it is a gift like no other. The fact that God chose a life companion for each of us is such a blessing. And by taking measures everyday to protect our homes with armor, we can experience marriages full of joy… God’s deep kind of joy.

Challenge for this week: Start putting your armor in place. Communicate with your husband. Honor him. Protect him. Be selfless. Pray for him and memorize scripture about being a Godly wife. Be careful with your thought life and your words. I believe you will see a big difference in your most important earthly relationship.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:12-13

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please make me the woman, wife, and mother you want me to be. I ask You to guide me to establish permanent armor in our home, so that nothing can destroy it. Your word gives us all the tools we need. Thank you for that. Father, I pray that my marriage will become the companionship that you created it to be… that we will keep You first in everything and that we will love each other the way you have called us to.

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Glowing lights in the dark.

RE:FOCUS – Just Call Me Clarkette

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

I am the light person in the family. It’s always Mommy’s job to “hurry up” and get the lights on the tree so the rest of the family can jump in and decorate it. Just call me Clarkette Griswold.

Well… last night turned into not an easy, calm stringing of the lights… but instead a wrestling match between the bulbs and me! It was just one of those whatever-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong type situations. First, as I walked around the tree stringing up the lights, somehow the plug got caught under the stand and twisted. Okay, back up and un-string. Let’s start again. Then it happened AGAIN! Seriously, I don’t think this has ever happened before. So after the screaming and falling on the floor trying to get the tangles undone, finally the lights were on the tree! Yay! Time to plug them in!

So here’s where it got really interesting. The star at the top lit up, but not one of the 400 or so bulbs on the tree came on. But wait. I KNOW I TESTED THESE THINGS! From there, you know what I had to do. I checked each bulb, twisted some in tighter, tested other outlets, and finally got to a point where HALF of each of the two strands were lit. This is still a mystery to me. :)

Now, if you were on Facebook last night, you probably saw my post about this craziness. But, as always, our lives on Facebook don’t tell the whole story. We paint ourselves to look pretty and perfect on social media. So you didn’t see the yelling I did, or the many times I threw the lights down and kicked them. You didn’t see how angry and frustrated I got with my precious kids who were just waiting patiently for me to finish the lights… the tears from my daughter who didn’t understand why I yelled.

So many times, we let our emotions control our reactions. Instead of putting on the armor of God and trusting Him to give us strength and patience, we allow our flesh to rule. That was me last night. So this morning, our RE:FOCUS time is on this passage from Ephesians. As we start this week, let’s put on the full armor of God and let His weapons destroy the fleshly emotions that so often take over our hearts and minds…

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. – Ephesians 6:10-18

And when we truly let these truths sink in and take control of our lives, we find God’s peace.

Have a great, Christ-centered week!

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>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

RE:FOCUS – Clear the Mechanism

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

Several years ago, we did an every-Monday blog series called RE:FOCUS that only lasted for about 5 weeks. I must have gotten sidetracked with something else, regrettably. So guess what? It’s time to start up again. As I grow older, I’m realizing more and more that going to church and having a regular quiet time are not the ONLY things that we need to be conscious of doing. Important, yes. But there is more. Life hits hard on Monday morning. When we hit the pavement, it’s essential that we have our focus correctly centered on Christ… and that we keep it there.

Focus is a hard concept to master. One of my favorite expressions is “clear the mechanism.”  I love baseball and I love movies, so when the two of them meet, it is pretty incredible!  In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner is a pitcher who has the ability and discipline to get to a place where everything around him is completely blocked out.  Anytime the voices, people, criticism, noise, or even OUTSIDE thoughts get in the way, he reminds himself to “clear the mechanism.”  In this movie, you even see visually how he truly gets to a place of complete tunnel vision. Check out the short scene:

 

In our lives, there are so many distractions.  Our jobs can be difficult and stressful.  Relationships with co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, etc. can be hard.  Even “good” things in our lives can distract us from the true main thing… Our spouses & kids can distract us.  Housework can distract us.  “Church” can even distract us.  TV, facebook, internet, sports, music…. Must I go on?  Anything tangible in our lives can take the place of the One who should be our true focus.  Anything can become an idol.

My challenge to you and to me this week is to “clear the mechanism.”  Really take time every day to spend with God.  Not out of habit… or guilt… or as a chore.  Spend some real time developing the relationship between you and your Creator.  God is so good and He wants a relationship with us.  Not a relationship that is built from “what we have been taught all of our lives,” but a real, growing, thriving relationship with 2-way communication.  And remember, you don’t have to do all of the talking.  In your human relationships, if you do all of the talking, do you ever really get to know the other person?  Get to know Him.  Let Him talk to you.  And when those distractions come…. clear the mechanism.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:2-3

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Silent Who I Am

Rediscovering Who I Am

Silent Who I Am

You know the moment. You suddenly feel the world crumbling in on you and you feel completely alone. What do you do in that moment? Who hears from you?

God has surrounded me with amazing friends and family who are there when I need them. But those wonderful people all too often become a crutch for me. A place to lean. Friends I can see. I can hear. I can touch. This causes me to often turn to them, not to God.

The past few years have been a tough period for my family… filled with transition, pain, and working through thick strongholds that have felt smothering at times. In some of these times, I have felt completely alone. Many of the friends who so eagerly surrounded us before “seemed” to be non-existent.

In this darkness, I’ve pushed away the very tools God has given me to express worship. I’ve left my guitar in its case, even with music being the gift that draws me to Him like no other. I’ve been inconsistent with running, the world where my head gets clear and I can focus on His strength in me. And my fingers have not been striking the keys on this macbook like they have in the past. The writing has been put on the back burner… the very thing that allows me to process life.

I’ve been so distracted trying to fill the ache. Chasing after things that are just distracting me from the true calling in my life. The one I’ve known for a long time. Just feeling these words come off of my fingers and seeing them on the page makes my heart beat faster and makes me desire to feel alive in His presence again.

But God. Two of my favorite words in the Bible.

But God was trying to teach me something through the strange pain and loneliness. No matter how many times I’ve been told to “turn to Him, not others,” I needed to EXPERIENCE the feeling of having no one to turn to when I was hurting.

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. – Psalm 62:1-2

God has been wanting me to stop looking out, and instead to look up. For once, to realize that when it feels no one else is here… HE. IS. So this morning I get it. This morning I accept. This morning I open my hands and my heart and ask Him to fill me with love and trust in Him ALONE.

With open hands & heart, silently hoping in Him… this is where I rediscover who I am.

So although we have a long way to go, I believe things are looking up because we’re looking up. I’m diving into God’s word, truly seeking to learn more about Him, and to learn more about who He wants me to be. And remember the ways I mentioned that I express worship? Music, running, and writing? They will not be kept on the back burner anymore. This girl has finally realized that turning to God is not just the “only thing left to do”…. it is the BEST thing to do.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8

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