Apr 26, 2010

When Tragedy Strikes

I'm sitting here completely emotionally raw. Sometimes I forget how broken this world is. I get wrapped up in T-ball, birthday parties, coffee with friends or dates with the hubby. I dress up and act like a child with my Young Life girls. I'm filled with the carefree, beautiful moments of life.

And I forget.

I forget there's an enemy after us all. I forget our bodies are frail and life really does end. I forget sometimes we are called to suffer.

Lately I have been surrounded by friends in turmoil. To respect their personal fights I won't go into detail, but I have been left reeling by all the tragedy. My whole being shouts at no one in particular, "WHAT IS GOING ON?" I'm flattened by how quickly life can rip the rug right out from underneath you. How rapidly one event can shake your very foundation and leave you feeling like you have nowhere to land.

In the time it takes to mutter the sentence, "She's been in an accident", life can turn from

Teetering. Threatening. Crushing.

What is our response to be when hell breaks loose in our lives or when tragedy rolls in like a September hurricane? I know my natural reaction is to stand in a stupor wondering what the heck just happened. My mind fills up with why's and what if's. In short, I spiral. Down. If I don't watch out, way down.

Thankfully, today God jerked me out of that descent with Peter's words:

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . . " 1 Pet. 5:8-9a

He reminded me that in our darkest nights, whether they come from God, Satan or are just natural consequences of living in a broken world, Satan is waiting like a lion ready to pounce on a defenseless gazelle. To consume us while we're weakened by sadness or confusion. His goal is, at best, to get us distracted from God and, at worst, to get us to turn away from Him completely. But God's script reads much differently:

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Pet. 5:10

We must be self-controlled and alert. Aware of the enemy's tactics, resisting him and standing firm in our faith. The result? Victory.

Alert: Be expecting an attack. Satan ain't fair; watch for him. He's always looking to kick us while we're down.

Self-controlled: How do we control ourselves? By handing control over to God every minute of every day, especially when we're in a suffering season. "God, I can't do this. I'm weak and can't do what I'm supposed to do. You do it; control my every thought and action."

Resist the enemy: Stop running. Turn around, look him in the face, and spit scripture in it. If you do it long enough and often enough, he will flee (James 4:7). A technique I learned from Beth Moore that has helped me memorize some fightin' verses is what I like to call a Scripture Spiral. No worries - this is a good kind of spiral. I buy an index card spiral and on each card I jot down a verse that is a truth that combats a lie the enemy is trying to feed me. For example, when I was battling panic attacks one of my verses was 2 Tim. 1:7: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind." I had a spiral filled with similar verses and when I felt a lie trying to overtake me, I would pull that thing out and start praying out loud. For the Timothy verse my prayer might have sounded something like, "God, I know this fear is not from you because you have not given me a spirit of fear. You have given me a sound mind! You have given me power! Now help me walk in it!" Sometimes the battle was short; sometimes it lasted all day. But I kept fighting. We must do the same to chase off the devil.

Stand firm in the faith: Fight knowing that you are in a winning battle. You can fight with confidence because you know the truth - at the end of your suffering you will be restored, stronger, more firm and steadfast. Like a vibrant rainbow after a treacherous storm, the Christ-light you will shine will be glaring against your previous darkness. You will be more like Jesus and will glorify Him more powerfully.

I wish we didn't have to suffer. I look at my friends and my heart breaks for them. I wish I could hit rewind on their lives and save them from it all. But I can't.

I find solace knowing there is purpose in the suffering. I know He is going to bring good out of this. He's going to fulfill His promise noted in Romans 8:28 to work ALL things together for the good of these girls. He hasn't left them or abandoned them; in fact, He is closer than ever. I am praying that they feel His presence and love, surrender to His control, and fight valiantly alongside Him. I know I'm going to battle every day for them.

Father, oh, my heart is so heavy for my friends, but I trust you. I know you are Love. Comfort these girls in their pain and protect them from the enemy. Give them the strength to fight when the time comes and remind them of your love, your protection, and their coming restoration. Oh, surround them with your peace. And when it's our turn in the dark, please do the same for us. In Jesus' name, amen.

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Apr 6, 2010

Weed War

Aah . . . a boy and his dog. Precious, huh?

As much as I could show off my son to you all day, what I really want you to see is those pretty purple irises behind him. I love those flowers. This pic was taken shortly after we moved into this house a year ago; these things just magically popped up out of the ground one day. I didn't have to dirty one finger in that soil to receive those beauties. Amazing.

Last week as I started to see this year's new iris leaves budding, I rushed over to imbibe the glory of the new growth. "Yey! Green!!!" There is little I love more than fresh, Spring green-ness (Not a word? Whatever, spell checker). I mean, look at those rich, reedy leaves. Absolutely stunning. However, as I looked a little closer, I noticed tiny vines of greenery snaking through my brand-new flora. As cute as they were, I realized they were weeds and by the looks of their abundance, were already threatening to take over the bed.

I wasn't havin' it.

Now, I've never weeded anything in my life, but I figured it couldn't be too difficult. Just grab it and pull it out, right? Right. I grabbed those little babies and plucked them right out, root and all. In a swift 20 minutes I had them all gone. Didn't even break a sweat. As I stepped back and took a gander, I was pleased. "Aaah. . .so pretty. Good job, Misti." Mental pat on the back.

"Wait. Uh, what is that?"

Take another look at the picture above. See those little, leafy, viney things right above Buddy's and Cooper's heads?

Weeds. Sneaky ones.

See, if they would have looked like that, towering over my new buds like a 5th grade bully, I would have noticed them on the first perusal of my garden and yanked them out immediately. But my husband, in his manish sort of way, had taken his 4-foot branch cutters and gone to town on that little plot of land a few weeks earlier. So what I had now were baby bullies-in-training just biding their time for total soil domination.

Still, in my botanical ignorance, I didn't really understand their dangerous plan until I grabbed ahold of one and gave it a jerk. I almost pulled my finger off.

"Uh, excuse me?" Now I was mad.

At a plant.

It was then that I set my heart on exterminating these little creepers at any cost. No weed would have its way on my property! No sir, no way!!! Who did they think they were anyway?

I spent the next 45 minutes pulling out 4 weeds. I have never known anything or anyone so stubborn in my life. Pause. That is a lie. I live with myself, after all. Anyhoo, after repeated twists and tugs -- and a chuckle from my mother-in-law who was in the next garden over pulling out the pleasantly simple weeds I mentioned earlier -- I fetched a spade and began to dig around the roots hoping to loosen the dirt enough to get the little pest to release its foothold. Its strength was ridiculous. Nevertheless, after I dug what seemed to be 6 inches down into the ground, I was able to extract the little villain. I did the same digging, yanking, and twisting until I had saved my babies from all their prospective oppressors. I wish I had a picture of the roots of these suckers. They were at least 4 inches long. Crazy.

As taxing as it was to expurgate those weeds, I'm glad I persevered because I learned so much about life that day -- about our continuing journey to freedom.

Much like me focusing on the first overtly visible weeds, sometimes we focus on our sinful behaviors but completely miss the insidiously deeper issues behind them. It's easy to make our gardens look pretty by ridding them of behaviors like drinking or cussing or extra-marital sex. We can fix our actions and find comfort in it. But there's more to us than surface behaviors; there are hidden villains hiding deep within us wreaking havoc with plans to destroy us. Are we willing to look deeper?

These hidden hurts and sins go deep and are tough to wrench out. It's going to take work -- long, hard work -- to find freedom from sins that we have used to manage our lives for decades or from hurts that have clung to us for a lifetime. There will be casualties. I lost my spade; you may lose a toxic relationship or favorite pastime or hobby. We will get discouraged. Somedays we'll feel like we've got this thing whipped for sure and then, BAM! It's up in our faces again. The question is, are we willing to dive back in? Are we game for whatever it takes to root out the life-long sin or hurt?

The earlier you catch 'em, the easier it is. Two of the roots I dug up had been there for a while. I could tell by their tree twig-like tap roots. Those took me a good fifteen minutes to pull. Their smaller, younger counterparts took considerably less effort. It's the same with us: the longer we ignore a sin or a hurt, the bigger and stronger it grows. If we can get it in its toddler phase, we'll have a much easier go at it.

Who knew you could learn so much from a stupid, little vine? As I left my bully-free flower bed that morning, sweaty armpits and all, I couldn't help but be proud of myself. I had faced down the enemies and come out victorious. My prayer is that the weeding of my soul would be as successful.

What are you doing to weed your garden?

Father, we want to be fertile soil in which You can grow Your likeness. Give us the boldness to work with You to yank out any weed that is in the way of that growth. We surrender to Your work in us. We love You, amen.

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