No possible escape?

Exodus 14

The Israelites found themselves at the edge of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army closing in, certain death approaching, and no escape possible. Their fear birthed blame; first toward Moses, “Why didn’t you leave us in Egypt to die?” Then toward themselves, “Why did we agree to follow him?”

Can you relate to the fear that arises when an enemy is at your heels and there is no way out? God, through Moses, gives aid to the rightfully frightened Israelites, and by extension to you and me.

DO NOT BE AFRAID – When panic arises, get in touch with the fear you are experiencing. Of what are you afraid? What’s the worse thing that could happen? Follow this thread until you arrive at the core, existential fear that your situation touches. God will meet you at that place with a truth that addresses your fear.

My marriage is over. And?  My children will suffer. And? I can’t protect them. And?  I should have been able to. And?  I’ve failed as a parent. (hear the blame) And? My greatest desire is for their well-being and it is impossible for me to keep them safe. And? I’ll need to trust them to God’s care.

This makes it sound much easier than it is, you might need someone to help you through this process. Once you’ve hit bottom, gotten in touch with your greatest fear and God’s truth in response to that fear, the next word of aid God’s offers is: STAND FIRM.

When the enemy taunts and fear and doubt arise in the form of regrets, should-haves, why did I’s? and I’m doomeds, your work is to return to the truth, “God will care for my children.” The hardest thing to do will be to KEEP STILL. But in so doing, you will “see the deliverance the Lord will accomplish and your enemies no longer. The Lord will fight for you.”

The Israelites waited and walked through on dry land, the Red Sea closed upon the Egyptians and their threat was eliminated. God will make a way for your impossible situation.

What enemy presses in on you? Financial debt, serious health issues, relational crises? When doubt and blame reign in your heart, keep still and let the Lord address your fear. Hide from the enemy behind the truth God promises.

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Healing

Restore to Health – Cure the Sick: Relieve hindrances to wholeness (part two of two)

If we plant a flower or a shrub and water it daily it will grow so tall that in time we shall need a spade and a hoe to uproot it. It is just so, I think, when we commit a fault, however small, each day, and do not cure ourselves of it.

– St Teresa of Avila

Sin followed Adam and Eve out of the Garden, ready to pollute humankind and the world. A reading of Genesis 4 shows how quickly and thoroughly sin gained control: envy lead to jealousy, which lead to murder, which lead to toil, which resulted in sore muscles, blisters, cuts, creating sources of infections, disease and ultimately death….you get the picture.

In Genesis 6 we read that sickness and wickedness has so consumed the earth that God decides to start over.

And sin also starts over. Noah and his family are barely out of the ark when sin/sickness resumes. Noah gets shamefully drunk, passes out, exposes himself, and his son takes delight in bringing attention to his fall. It goes downhill from here.

God’s next address of sin’s spreading of sickness and death must be the death of death; and it is. Jesus Christ takes death into himself and removes its sting.

Illness and injury may still be experienced in our world, but it is not the final chapter.

When Jesus heals a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3), he is expressing God’s intention for our healing. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?”  Obviously, a withered hand is not a matter of life or death, the man had survived to adulthood with it. Yet Jesus equates the man’s manageable disability with harm and death. He gives him a whole hand, restoring him to goodness and life.

God’s heart is the same today as it was on that Sabbath in the synagogue. God desires to restore to wholeness and health your every disability, even if it is slight and you’ve learned to live with it. Spend a few minutes speaking with God about your withered hand. To what part of you does Jesus want to bring healing and wholeness?

Healing begins with diagnosis, naming your disease. (Did you ever notice that disease can be spelled dis-ease?) It continues with a specific treatment plan consisting of gratitude, persistent exposure to the light, community support and gratitude, exposure to the light, community support and gratitude….

Gratitude. It is God’s love that makes you aware of the sin that keeps you sick, God brings it to the surface so it can be addressed.

Exposure to the light. Offering your sin/sick area to God, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and correct. Every time you notice a flare up, return to God with a confession of your need for healing, not an accusation against yourself or against God. Maintain a spirit of humility and gratefulness.

Community support. As Henri Nouwen says in Road to Daybreak, “..demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.”

We will not know complete healing and restoration until perfection in glory, but it is God’s heart to begin that process now, that is part of the good news – heaven is near, now.

(This article is based on material from the “Shaped at the Garden” Retreat. For more information about participating in this retreat, contact me or refer to the upcoming events page.)

God’s health care initiative

Restore to HealthCure the sick: relieve hindrances to wholeness (part one of two)

He showed me also the condition of a soul in sin, utterly powerless, like a person tied and bound and blindfold, who, though anxious to see, yet cannot, being unable to walk or to hear, and in grievous obscurity.       St. Teresa of Avila

God continues to tend the garden of your soul by addressing the issues that hinder health and wholeness. (See post “How does your Garden Grow?”)

With Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden, sin was unleashed and its death march began. Its outcome is sickness, disease and destruction. Its intention is separation from health, wholeness and life. It has had untold centuries to advance in its destruction. But hear the good news, with the intervention of Jesus Christ sin can now be turned back.

In sending out his twelve disciples with the instruction to cure the sick (Matthew 10:7), Jesus reveals God’s heart toward the people God loves. God desires to restore us to a vital, energetic, whole and healthy life.

The disciples following Jesus around saw him do this very thing. He touched people and their sight was restored, spoke to them and they were no longer lame. Now with the sending of the twelve, Jesus is initiating God’s plan to continue the work of curing and healing. The Holy Spirit is in the business of restoring you and me to health.

God’s given advances in medicine address a lot of the physical healing that needs to be corrected. (Sadly, not all.)  But in this essay, I’d like to consider the healing God desires for us in our spirits, minds and hearts.

***

After the fall we see sin’s first “sick” outcome – “self-focus”.

Before the fall Adam and Eve’s attentions were focused on God, they knew God’s voice and God’s presence. They walked with God and with each other in the garden with complete ease and delight. (Genesis 2:25:  “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”)

After the fall their gaze shifted, they noticed themselves, they became self aware. They saw they were naked.  They’d always been naked, they just weren’t concerned about themselves previously. With self-knowledge came self-consciousness; shame and fear entered the picture. (Genesis 3:8,10: “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked.”)

Before, God had been the focus of their attention, now self became their primary focus. Self became the reference point of all relationships. Self became the center of the universe. Self had to be protected. Threat was now an option. Mistrust entered the scene.

This process blossoms into pride, an independence from God and others, that leads to a whole series of hindrances to wholeness….in your life and in the lives of others.

In part two of this article we’ll follow Adam and Eve out of the garden and see what sicknesses sin has up its sleeve, ready to unleash.

(This article is based on the material from the “Shaped at the Garden” retreat. For information about participating in this retreat, contact me or look at the upcoming events page.)

Lies are useful…

Lies are sometimes preferred over the truth.

Dear Elle,

In my last few letters, we’ve been talking about the death dealing lies that keep us from the life God created us to experience. These lies have been cast as truth by our culture and our family upbringing. It will be your ministry to uproot these insidious and life-threatening lies. In Jesus-talk this is what he called “Casting out demons!” This is difficult work and only the Spirit can provide the power to accomplish the task. Love must be the tool you use to dig out the false and plant the real.

One reason this is not an easy assignment is because lies are sometimes preferred over truth. Lies maintain the status quo. Lies provide a guaranteed pleasure. Lies deny pain. Who wants to rock the boat? or relinquish the high? or feel the loss? On some level we know that to let go of the lies would ultimately be a good thing. But even though we know that hanging on to these thoughts and habits moves us toward death, we let them linger; they are so comforting, familiar, and momentarily enjoyable.

Think about your own life. A message that informed your self knowledge as you were growing up was that you were too much – too verbal, too curvy, too active, too emotional. “God loves quiet, submissive and demure girls. Boys aren’t attracted to girls who talk too much and have strong opinions.” Lies! Yet believed as true since they were lovingly communicated to you by the parents you trusted. The falsehood that became your governing truth was that you must not be you in order to be accepted and loved.

This lie determined how you felt about yourself, how you related to others, how you experienced God. You became comfortable hating yourself. Hating yourself gave you energy and explained why life wasn’t good. You deserved bad grades because you couldn’t sit still in class. You were attracted to “bad boys” because you were a “bad girl.”  You needed to change so God would be pleased with you.

To trust the Biblical truth that God created you according to his plan for you, complete with your temperament, your inquisitive mind and your exotic looks would cause you to go against your family’s standards and values. For the sake of peace and to fit in with the ones you loved, it was better to live according to the lie.

You get the picture, lies often are preferred over truth.

Elle, your job is to enter relationships armed with truth and with love. Through you, Love’s persistent presence will weed out the lies that choke the garden’s life. Through you, Love’s unremitting whispers of truth will eventually drown out the voice of the demons. Jesus needs you to proclaim the good news – the kingdom of heaven is near. It brings life and truth. We can begin to take God at God’s word. We are the beloved children of God and with us God is well pleased.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Lies that lock us up

Dear Elle,

Jesus continues his mission statement by announcing that he came to bring release to the captives. Jesus is the door through which prisoners walk into freedom. To all who are held captive, he brings the good news that there is release and liberation in relationship with him.

Think about the ways you feel imprisoned. Your captor may be a habit you can’t break, or a relationship that keeps you a victim of sorts. Maybe you are locked up within the consequences of an earlier bad choice, or in a body that houses sickness or disease.

It is death in its many forms that hold us captive. Defeat and despair are the guards that march sentry around our souls, whispering to us that the cell we inhabit is locked forever, don’t even try to escape; the bars that confine us are unbreakable and unbendable; the door is shut and sealed, and there is no key to fit it.

But dear Elle, these are all lies!  Jesus has turned the table – his death took death captive! His resurrection swung wide open the prison door and the bars that formerly held us now melt like the illusions they are, and we can walk into freedom. This is the truth!

Consider this good news – in Jesus you are free to do whatever you want! The wonder is that in Jesus and with Jesus what you want will lead to life and away from death. Freedom, comes not by abandoning rules and laws, but by embracing them; trusting that God has established them for your good. If God has asked some obedience of you, you can be sure it is the Lord’s love that prompts this request. True freedom is experienced when you are bound by obedience.

Unlike you and I, there are some who are literally held captive, through such things as wrongs they have done or because of unjust powers. Does this promise of Jesus hold true for them? How does Jesus, incarnate, bring them release?  First of all, in their spirits.  They are connected to the love of God through Christ Jesus and no other authority can determine their eternal outcome or their present joy. Sadly, some will physically die as prisoners and on that day they will realize in their person what they have experienced in their spirit, the freedom of a beloved child of God. And God’s spirit active in us will encourage us to remember these temporally imprisoned friends through our prayers, our visits to them and our work for justice.

May the freedom Christ bought you bring you joy and abandon.

With you in the journey,

Debby