Losing Sight Series: Symptoms of “I” strain.

(This is part two in a series about when we lose sight of God.)

How do we lose sight of Jesus or his plan for our lives? We’ve all no doubt experienced at least temporary blindness.101_9341

When I read the scriptures, I am astounded that even those closest to Jesus, those that walked, lived and ate with him…even lost sight of him.

The story of Mary and Martha recounted in the book of Luke chapter 10 speaks of one sister being caught up in details, losing sight of her Savior while the other sister sat eagerly as His feet. Jesus said to Mary Luke 10:41/42

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a]Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What are some of the symptoms that we are entering into tunnel vision where we are focused more on “I” than on HIM.

JOYLESSNESS:  Are we losing joy in our noble pursuits? Martha was stressed. Jesus didn’t say that Martha was distracted by Pinterest or Facebook (zing!) He said, “with much serving”. We need to be mindful that even good and Godly things can become a distraction if we take our eyes of Jesus. When joy seeps out of service we need to ask ourselves some questions. Do our efforts cause stress for us or those we love? More importantly…do our noble efforts replace our relationship with our Creator?time clock

FRUSTRATION: When we begin to question God’s identity in the middle of a crisis, it is a symptom that we are losing sight of who He says He is. When we think Jesus doesn’t care about what we are going through, we need to rediscover who God is.  Martha actually told Jesus to tell Mary to help. She said, “Don’t you care that she’s left me to do all this alone?”. Martha legit thought that Jesus didn’t care about her stress or her feelings. When we sense that God no longer cares about us, we’ve lost sight of Him.

OVERWHELMED: Are we drowning in details or despair? Do we feel that there is not enough room to breathe or enough hours in the day? Martha felt there was not time to get everything done before Jesus arrived. When we feel overwhelmed by doing, we need to stop and reconsider what God has actually told us to do. Has God provided someone to do that task or help with it? Have we recognized that helper or have we insisted on doing it ourselves, our way? When we struggle with the pressure of getting it all done, we’ve lost sight of God’s plan for us.

100_4946ISOLATION: Have you ever felt totally alone or utterly abandoned? When those feelings become your focus, it’s likely that you’ve lost sight of the God that will never leave or forsake you.  Loneliness and despair that sucks your life out is a result of distance or separation between you and your Creator. Some soul searching often reveals – we are the one who moved…God is where he’s always been.

SILENCE: Do you ever feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? Sometimes our prayer life feels like a one-way conversation. Are we guilty of telling God what we are doing and ask for his blessings? Are we all talk…and no listen? (zing!) When we are no longer hearing from God, chances are we quit listening. The silence is often a symptom of us losing sight of Jesus.

If we are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is time for a check up.  Most likely the diagnosis is distance and temporary blindness. Next week we will explore the causes “I” strain and the following blog will address the remedy!

POINT TO PONDER: Are you experiencing any of the symptoms of “I” strain? Have you perhaps lost sight of who holds the keys to your heart or the Light unto your path? What remedy do you seek? We’d love to see your comments here at kissedbythecreator!
Catch us Monday thru Friday at 6:30am EST for #HOPEscope on www.periscope.tv Look for Connie P. Shoemaker or kissedbycreator we are going through the book of John!

 

Frozen : The Lenten Challenge

We drive through the crowded parking lot, mountains of gray snow at the edges hogging up much needed DSC_0277spaces.  Rachel says, “look at that disgusting snow its so gross and dirty. I am so ready for spring. I hate wearing coats, hats and gloves.” 

Quietly I pray for a new layer to cover up the gray.  White to cover the black.  It was Ash Wednesday. I thought of the significance.  It was the ashes on the plowed lot that made the snow mountains gray and dirty.  Ash mixed with winter white.

Our denomination doesn’t celebrate Ash Wednesday but my Methodist roots and the Catholic neighborhood I grew up in filled me with memories and meaning of what that day commemorates.  Like advent…it is a time of preparing our hearts.

It’s been a long winter here in Western PA.  I heard someone say the other day it had been a long winter in her heart. blog heart ice

Ironically one of the hit movies this year is called Frozen.  I pondered all these icy metaphors and thought about the cold heart.

DSC_0260Like the tiny shoots of grass and daffodils beneath the layer of snow, the cold heart harbors tiny invisible seeds of hope.  What does it take to melt a cold heart?

Love. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy.

These are all things we can give or offer to someone who  is frozen

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People ask “What are you giving up for Lent?”  I ponder is it really about giving something up or pouring something out?   What if we use the 40 days to try to thaw the frozen hearts around us? Bathe their hearts in the warmth of mercy. If they are brittle from bitterness … foster them with forgiveness.  Love the lonely and wrap the stumbling with grace.  Take a 40 day challenge to thaw the frozen.  What will you give up for lent?  A bit of yourself?  A bit of your time?

Is your heart the one that is Frozen?  Are you chilled to your soul, unable to pray, seek or ask?  Are you wrestling with the ashy dirty feeling of sin, fear, or regret?  Are you brittle from reaching out and being rejected? Are the windows of your soul frosted up ~ blocking out the SON ?  Do you long to bathe in the warmth of … something…anything?

James 4:8  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Take a 40 day challenge to thaw your frozen heart. Write one thing each day that you are thankful for. Do one small kind gesture for someone else. A smile, open a door, … gratitude will help thaw the edges.

Comment to me or message me and I will commit to pray for you during lent. Let it go.  Allow God to resurrect your life before Easter Sunday.  Are you up for the challenge? Your Creator is waiting to make your story HIStory and your time of testing, your Testimony. Remember, you were worth dying for…that is what Easter is really all about.

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One of my favorite Easter Hymns: For Those Tears I Died.

You said You’d come and share all my sorrows,
You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied;
I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I
died.”

Point to Ponder: Seek out the Frozen. Look in the mirror. Is your soul ready for spring?DSC_1006


 

 

 

What I learned at Camp

Seneca Chapel1.Bring several warm layers even in April

2.The “Heavenly Storehouses Laden with Snow” can pour out…even in April

3.Don’t forget the sleeping bag or the camera.

4.Camp food is tasty –  don’t start a diet before you head out.

5.Women Rock at Paintball.

6.Lack of outward appearing response has no bearing on INWARD Impact – YAY God!

7.A Zipline can make your age 40 + body, feel older the next day.

8.God not only calms the storms in your life, but your stomach as well.

9.Audiences love a good Super Hero story…especially when it involves BAT GIRL!

And the best thing?

10.GOD SHOWS UP AT CAMP!

 

This weekend was the Anchor of the Soul:  Women’s Retreat at Seneca Hills. Anchor Prop I continue to be blown away by the awesomeness of God and how he can take willing and broken vessels who serve and pour into them until they overflow on others.

We explored who God is and How he loves us.  We examined how the hurts we go through grow us. We looked at things that can harden our hearts which hinders our relationship with God and we learned about how essential hope is to our prayer life and how to be a hope giver.

We UNTIED the knots in our lifeline which keep us from being tethered to the Anchor of our souls and we became UNITED with the only sure thing to keep us from drifting in this crazy mixed up world.

Several ladies came to the true and life saving knowledge that they are daughters of a King.

We sang, journaled, prayed, pondered…did zumba, PraiseMoves and Paintball we ate and learned how to eat Biblically…we shared…we cared…we chatted…but most of all…we worshipped.Worship at Seneca

It was a memorable weekend. Thanks be to God!  If you were there comment on what you took away from the weekend.  Hope to see you again soon!

If you missed it.  Learn how you can schedule the An Anchor for Our Souls Retreat for the women at your church by leaving your query below.  We look forward to serving you!

 

Lessons from the Wilderness

(thanks for your continued patience during our do-over of the Kissed by the Creator site)

I am in the middle of teaching a 12 week series on Connecting with the Creator through his creations.  This week as I was preparing my discussion on The Wilderness Speaks, I became keenly aware of the words that describe physical wilderness.  Words like: desolate, barren, lonely, deserted, dangerous, wasteland and void.  Words that at certain times in my life, described my journey through a spiritual wilderness.

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In preparing and reading about the impact of Wilderness(physical) in the lives of people throughout Biblical history, it struck a chord that the physical wilderness journey taught similar lessons that would be valuable during sojourns of spiritual wilderness.

The story of Moses in the Old Testament, leading the Israelites through the desert is fraught with tales of their give and take relationship with God. The consequences of their disobedience, repentance and reconnecting with God read like a travel log. Their time in the wilderness was a time of trial and testing. God met their every need in the wilderness from raining down manna to rocks springing forth with water.  It was also during the time in the wilderness that God issued his Commandments, guiding their moral lives. Basically the only way to have needs met is to be in a position of need.  The Israelites would not have been able to fully appreciate the promise land without first experiencing the desert.

I pondered a recent descent into a spiritual wilderness or valley, where I wasn’t seeing a burning bush or getting messages carved in stone, let alone hearing His still small voice. During that wilderness experience I was both disobedient and repentant and though it didn’t seem like it at the time, my needs were met.  There is no way I could fully appreciate the blessings that came from that valley if I hadn’t walked the barren ground.

Another poignant trip to the wilderness recorded in the Bible is that of Jesus where he fasted for 40 days then successfully endured and withstood the temptations of Satan.  Matthew 4:2-3 says “And after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights He then became hungry. And the tempter came to him and said, “IF you are the Son of God, command these stones become bread.”

Temptations happen in the wilderness. They seem to come when we are at our weakest.  Satan waited until Christ was hungry to tempt him and he tempted him with what HE was thinking about – food.  How often do our temptations come about what is filling our thoughts?

The danger of this temptation wasn’t asking Jesus to miraculously make bread because Jesus did go on to create bread for the multitudes.  The danger of this temptation was that Satan’ proposed this to question Christ’s authority and identity.

Spiritual wilderness can often challenge our identity in Christ because after all we are not “feeling” it right? Satan will use our time in the Wilderness to test “whose” we are and what we are made of.

If our call is to be “Christlike” then it goes without saying that we will not only find ourselves in the wilderness, but we will find ourselves tested and tempted during those times. 

Jesus faced off Satan by quoting scripture. He used a passage from Deuteronomy 8 to refute the first temptation.

 “It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word

that proceeds from the mouth of God.”(Matthew 4:4)

Jesus’ response to Satan was an indicator of what he really relied on.  He relied on God, his Father not a temporary fix – food or bread.  We can’t ever underestimate the value of relying on God even when we aren’t “feeling” it.

Satan continued to tempt Jesus during his stay in the wilderness but what happened at the end is the good part. “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him (Matthew 4:11)

In both accounts, the wilderness was a place of transformation.  Change happened.  The Israelites were free and received their promised land and Jesus was launched into his ministry.

So while in the midst of the Wilderness it doesn’t seem like God is moving, the results are often seen when we emerge – changed, transformed and ready for…

Point to Ponder:

Have you been sojourning in the wilderness or perhaps just returned, what did you learn?

Wind of HOPE

Recently our town was buffeted by winds of more than 40 MPH for several days. As I lay in bed waiting for the roof to be ripped off, I thought when will it tire? How much wind is there?

This wind was relentless it just kept coming as if the supply was infinite.

I looked outside and could not see the wind during the day or night.

The wind was invisible but the results the next morning were tangible. Recycling bins had toppled spewing forth plastics from blocks away. Branches and sticks laden with buds were strewn across the yards  like tombstones marking the death of the tender leaves that would never see spring.

Hope is like that. You can’t see it with your eyes or touch it with your hands. But hope or the lack of it leaves tangible evidence. It is amazing that the presence or lack of something so intangible can be so significant in our lives.

Martin Luther said, “Until a person experiences suffering, he cannot know what it means to hope.”

What does the Bible say about hope? In Hebrews 6:19 the NKJV it says:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…

The Bible refers to HOPE as our anchor, but what’s more, it says that HOPE allows us to enter into the presence of God. Since the Lord’s presence is where all the treasure and life-giving, life-sustaining power is – that is where we need to be. We need to maintain our hope.
Herman Melville said, “Until we learn that one grief outweighs a thousand joys, we will not know what Christianity is trying to make us.”

Worse than whatever pain we are dealing with or crisis we are experiencing is that hopelessness that comes with a sense that there is no purpose or value to the pain.


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Sorrow can cause our prayers to cease. We begin to doubt and ask “How can a good God allow anything so bad?”

Sometimes in these situations, holding on to hope requires that we let go of EVERYTHING else.

The Bible records several examples of prayers that were not answered the way the petioner hoped. First, we have the family of Lazarus who prayed he would not die. He died. But Jesus eventually raised him from the dead, giving GOD bigger Glory and building the faith of many. We have Paul who prayed fervently 3x to have the “thorn in his side” removed. It never was, yet this man went on to have a successful ministry and his perseverance has given countless Christians hope. Then we have Jesus, the son of God, who prayed to have “the cup removed” from him prior to his death. It was not removed. God allowed his son to be tortured and killed which resulted in our Salvation and eternal life.

So when we are enduring, it really might not be about us. It could be about giving others HOPE to endure and believe in a God who’s strength they see lived out as we walk out our grief.

How do we hold on to our hope when the storm comes? I believe it has a lot to do with what we do when times are good. Building our relationship with Christ through daily prayer and study of His Word creates a foundation with deep roots which can anchor us when the storms come.

“In my deepest wound, I saw your glory and it dazzled me.” ~ Augustine

No one could probably relate more to deep wounds than Joseph in the Old Testament. Few innocents endured more pain and suffering than Joseph. He was sold, beaten, imprisoned, falsely accused, and imprisoned again. But his twelve years of trials put him in a position where he could spare a nation from starvation AND bless his own family. There are no pity parties recorded as he faced his trials.

One of my favorite Hymns is “It is Well with My Soul” the story behind it is amazing. Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy businessman who lost his only son to illness and then much of his wealth in a fire in Chicago. He and his family scheduled a trip abroad to recover from their heartbreak. His wife and four daughters set sail before him. The ship they were sailing on was broadsided by a tanker and sunk within ten minutes. The cable he received from his wife said, “Saved Alone”. It was on his way to his wife that he passed the spot in the sea where his four daughters perished – and there above the dark waters during the darkest of his days he penned the words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Why was Horatio able to withstand such tragedy?  He was connected with the Creator. We grow relationships by interacting. The relationship with our Creator is also forged by interaction. Daily interaction in the form of prayers and study of his word, helps us form a foundation that is not easily shaken.

He becomes our anchor and what we tether ourselves to when the storm hits.

Point to Ponder: What are you tethered to? Where do you place your hope? When the storm comes, will you be ready?

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