Tag Archives: Peace

Swimming with the Fishes Fearlessly

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took a vacation to Maui. It’s only our second time to Hawaii. The first time we went, I missed out on the snorkeling trip he and our son went on because I was afraid of the water. I missed out on cool tropical fish, octopus, spinner dolphins, and more. Simply because of fear.

It all started when I took swim lessons at the Collier Park pool in Ramona, California in the third grade. I was a skinny little thing back then, with not an ounce of fat on me and pitiful lung capacity due to living with smokers. The instructor told us to get into the 7′ end of the pool, push away from the side, and tread water. I followed his instructions—and a sunk like a rock. I frantically tread water at the bottom of the pool, looking up at the surface of the water where life-sustaining air was in abundance, terrified that I couldn’t get to the top, until someone jumped in and pulled me out.

Ever since then, if I ever got in a pool, lake, river, or even the ocean—and it has been seldom that I have—I always stay in the shallow end and my hair and glasses stay dry.

But as we planned our trip to Maui, I felt a strong desire to snorkel so that I could witness the beauty of God’s underwater creation. I knew it was going to take more courage than I have on my own to overcome a decades-long fear of water.

So I asked several groups of friends to pray specifically that I would be able to overcome my fear and snorkel. I prayed myself that God would give me courage to experience a successful and enjoyable snorkeling adventure.

God is good. He answered that prayer in ways I never imagined. In fact, I realized afterwards that He had begun answering my prayer 29 years ago when I met my husband, long before I even knew it would be my prayer. God knew I would need more than courage—I would need encouragement and someone to hold my hand through the experience.

I started in the hotel pool with rented snorkeling equipment, including prescription goggles so I could actually see. My husband was patience and encouraging as he sat relaxing in the lounge chair by the pool. Once I had mastered the ability to put my face in the water and breathe through the snorkel, we ventured out to Black Rock just down the beach from our hotel. As we first began to snorkel, my husband literally held my hand and we paddled around together looking at the fish. When I got water in my snorkel and became frustrated and wanted to quit for the day, he didn’t give me a hard time but was understanding.

Although it was a short snorkel that first day, we snorkeled three more times during the week. As long as I needed him to, my husband held my hand. Once when I felt a little panic, I recited one of my favorite versesPhilippians 4:6-7and God’s amazing peace did calm my heart. Eventually I was comfortable in the water and was able to snorkel on my own around Honolua Bay and Honokohua Bay. I even saw an octopus, a turtle, an eel, and a ton of colorful fish and coral.

Are you letting fear hold you back from something you would love to do? Are you missing out on life’s abundant blessings because you are paralyzed by fear and anxiety? Ask God to give you the courage—and whatever else He knows you need—to overcome that fear. He is faithful and He will answer, “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.

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God Is Always with Me

At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus says to the disciples, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NIV). When He said this, He was talking not just to those disciples who were present, but to all who believe in Him even today. That includes me. He is always with me. He showed me that in a very concrete way this past week.

On Tuesday I had an appointment that I had been putting off for over a year. It may seem like a small thing to many of you, but to me it was huge. I was afraid to make and keep this appointment. But with God’s encouragement I finally did it.

I went to the dentist to have prep done for a crown. I know, people get crowns every day, but I have since childhood been extremely uncomfortable in the dentist’s chair. It stems from a childhood experience that I won’t go into because it’s not the point of this story. Suffice it to say that I have for as long as I can remember been tense and nervous when I have to go to the dentist, even for a cleaning.

There was no getting around the fact that I needed a crown. I have a hairline fracture in a tooth and I barely chew on that side because if I chew on anything even slightly hard it hurts. A year ago the new dentist I started seeing told me I needed to do this. He was nice about it and understanding about my fear, and he didn’t pressure me to put a crown or overlay on every molar in my mouth as a prior dentist had tried to do. I liked his manner enough that I finally felt like I’d found a dentist I could trust. (His name is Jack Henry in Lake Oswego, if you happen to be looking for a good dentist.)

After praying for God’s peace (see Philippians 4:6-7), I finally scheduled a cleaning one week and the crown prep the following week. Halfway through the cleaning appointment, I realized I was the most relaxed I had ever been in a dentist’s chair. This gave me hope that the crown prep wouldn’t be so bad.

Did I mention that I dislike Novocain intensely? It tends to cause my cheek and jaw to hurt for several days. So in spite of the good cleaning appointment, I was still feeling anxious as I looked ahead to the crown prep because I knew there would be Novocain and drilling involved.

But again, I prayed that God would give me peace and help me to not be afraid during this appointment.

I arrived on time and was escorted to the dentist’s chair. I asked if I could listen to music while they worked because I had brought my iPod and headphones. The dentist not only said I could but said it was a great idea. He likes to listen to music when he has dental work done, too, because he doesn’t like the sound of the grinder and drill. It was very reassuring to know that he understood that this procedure was not at all pleasant and that he was going to do whatever he could to make it better.

As he began to work, I shuffled my iPod on a MercyMe and Jeremy Camp playlist I had created in anticipation of Fish Fest that I am going to in August with some friends. And that’s when God so clearly reminded me that He is always with me. The first song that played was God with Us by MercyMe. I heard these beginning lyrics:

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release from the grip of these chains

I knew that He was mindful of this small thing in my life. I knew He had released me from the chains of fear that had kept me from making this appointment a year before. As that song ended, I felt the peace of knowing God was with me, but He wasn’t done reminding me. The next song to randomly play on shuffle was Here with Me, also by MercyMe, with lyrics that say:

And I can feel your presence here with me
Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty
Caught up in the wonder of your touch
Here in this moment I surrender to your love

You’re everywhere I go
I am not alone
You call me as your own
To know you and be known

Oh, that He would care so much for me; that He knows so well my anxiety and fear and also how to calm that fear. And then He reminded me of why I was feeling such peace in what would have otherwise been a tense and stressful situation. The next song to play was Every Time by Jeremy Camp. The chorus and one of the verses of this song say:

Every time I’m on my knees, pleading for Your strength
I will find You there, find you there
Every time I’m on my knees, reaching for Your strength
I will find You there, find You there

I’m holding on to this hope
I’ve been given, to be always with You
I’m seeing now
That this fullness of faith is, always seeking You

That very morning I had been on my knees pleading God for strength and peace to endure this appointment that my natural self dreaded. I held onto the hope that He would be with me, and He was faithful as always. Rather than be anxious about my appointment, I brought my concern to God, with thanksgiving, and His peace was my reward.

By the time this third song ended, Dr. Henry was done with the drilling and grinding. I was not tense and had not felt a thing. And to top it all off, the Novocain wore off much more quickly than I had expected and there were no lasting effects of pain in my cheek or jaw.

God is always with me, even at the dentist. What an awesome and wonderful God He is!

 

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Comprehending His Power Is My Power

We are just about to finish up my first full year of Bible Study Fellowship, and as a group leader, in the study of Matthew. The experience has been richer than I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed to have been invited to be a group leader even though I had very little BSF experience.

The final two lessons cover the second half of Matthew 27 and Matthew 28, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The lessons coincided with Holy Week and Easter, and what an amazing blessing that was! I’ve heard the Holy Week and Easter stories many times. I’ve attended Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter church services for years. And yet this year, going deeper into those stories through the BSF study, I saw a great truth that I had never seen before in quite the way I did this year.

Throughout this year the Lord has been speaking to me through this study about how in His humanity He faced the same temptations and trials that I do. He resisted the temptations and overcame the trials with the same tools I have at my disposal: prayer, scripture, and the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until we got to the crucifixion and resurrection that it really sunk in.

As Jesus faced the cross in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed earnestly, to the point of sweating blood, for the strength to see His mission through. When I face difficult trials, I can do the same. I have direct access to the Father in prayer because of what Jesus did for me.

But more importantly, I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. After His resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18, 20. The authority He had, and still has, was sufficient to allow Him to lay down His life on the cross for our sake, and to take it up again at the resurrection and thereby defeat death, our greatest foe. Now that’s power! And He will always be with me so that I have that power at my disposal when I face temptations and trials.

If Jesus can overcome death by the power that enabled His resurrection, then by that same power overcoming sin is well within the realm of possibility for me. His power over death is my power over sin.

I feel like Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus and for all believers has been answered in me:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21.

I’ve known for a long time that I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, but somehow the enormity of that power that raised Christ from the dead never quite hit me like it has in the past two weeks. This power will not only convict me of my sin and lead me to repentance, but when exerted in the authority of Christ it can and will enable me to overcome the temptation to sin that I face on a daily basis. I am a conqueror of sin because Christ lives in me and His power is my power!

As if to reinforce this message, just this week I bought the new Mercy Me CD titled “Welcome to the New.” There is a great song on this CD titled “Flawless.” It starts like this:

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do.

Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace

And then the chorus reminds me that:

No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made,
The cross has made you flawless.

No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless.

In the eyes of God I am flawless because He sees Christ’s perfection when He looks at me. Knowing that, and knowing the power He provides, I don’t have to go back and forth from doing right to doing wrong because that’s no longer who I am. If I embrace His amazing grace and His resurrection power, each day He changes me and enables me to be more of who He’s called me to be.

And here’s the video of Mercy Me singing this awesome song. I hope it blesses you as much as it has me, and encourages you to hold tightly to His grace and power, because the cross has made you flawless, too.

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The End – A Poem of Hope

What will you hear
When His coming is near
Rumors of war
Earthquakes galore
Widespread famine
Love of mammon

Don’t be alarmed
Your future is charmed
By the gift of life
That overcomes strife
Peace will transcend
When He comes in the end

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Learning from Disappointment

Earlier this week I wrote this post about my experience at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2014. In that post I said that, for the most part, the conference was not disappointing. Some might have wondered in what way, then, was the conference disappointing? Well, here’s what happened.

The weekend started off great when I picked up my friend Ginger in my new red Honda Accord Sport and we took the back way out to Newberg to avoid rush-hour traffic. The weather was sunny and warm, and we made great time and so we had plenty of time to stop and get dinner. Unfortunately, Siri was not much help in locating a suitable restaurant for dinner and we resorted to just looking for a place that might work. We ended up at Finnegan’s and sat down in a bright, sunny corner booth by the window. I had a Chinese chicken salad and she had a BLAT.

We both had been up since 4:00 a.m. and so knew that coffee was essential if we were to make it until 9:30 p.m. and then the drive home. But again, Siri was no help. So we headed straight (okay, maybe we took a few twists and turn) to the Friends Church in Newberg. We got a great close parking spot and went in to register.

That’s when the disappointment started. At the registration table they did not have a name tag for me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, but still it left me feeling like I didn’t belong, like I was sneaking in, even though I had registered the very first day that online registration was open. I was told they would have a name tag for me in the morning.

Ginger and I (at least I was with someone who had a name tag) went in and found seats in the balcony and then went in search of coffee. Disappointment number two—there wasn’t any. Thankfully the nice women at the registration table point us in the direction of a local coffee shop that sold Stumptown coffee and we had time to walk there and back before the conference started.

The speakers and worship were awesome and we had a great evening. (See my previous posts on speaker topics here and here.) The drive home was a great time to debrief on what we had heard and talk about what break-out sessions we wanted to attend in the morning. I climbed into bed, set aside the little disappointments, and tried to get some sleep so I’d be ready for the early wake-up on Saturday.

We arrived at George Fox University on Saturday morning and went to the registration table to get my name tag and to find out if my essay contest results were available. Disappointment again—still no name tag, not even an extra lanyard to put a handwritten name tag in, and the essay results were not yet available. There were some lanyards still there, but they wouldn’t give me one in case those whose name tags were in them showed up later. They gave me a sticky name tag and in we went to the meeting hall for the morning kick-off session. Thankfully, I sat next to a very nice young woman named Kara who was going to have to leave right after the opening and she gave me her lanyard. Finally, I didn’t feel like an interloper.

Once again, the speakers and worship were awesome. At the first break-out session I attended with poet Phil Long almost made all the disappointments fade away. He was so inspiring and encouraging. Sadly, there were still two disappointments to come that made me feel as though I did not belong, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Just before lunch I noticed a bunch of manila envelopes on the registration table. They were the essay contest results. I walked over and began to scan the names on the envelopes. Mine was not there. Perhaps I had just missed it because some had name then essay title, and others had essay title then name, so maybe I just missed it. I scanned them all again. Nope, no Linda Kruschke. Then I noticed that two essays had the same name but different essay titles, and one of the titles was two words from my essay title. The woman behind the registration table looked at the contents of that envelope and confirmed that it was mine and handed it over.

Now, I’d been looking forward to getting feedback on my essay for weeks. I’d prepared myself for some negative feedback and had prayed the Lord would help me take any criticism to heart and learn from it. But I was not prepared for what I pulled from that envelope. Standing in the middle of a sea of conference attendees, I stared at my score from the first judge: 29/100. I couldn’t believe it—I have never gotten 29/100 on anything I’ve ever written in my entire life. That’s an F by most grading scales, and I’ve never gotten an F. I did get a D once, but it was in P.E., not writing. You might think that the 68.5/100 I got from the other judge would have softened the blow, but it didn’t.

I felt like a fraud. What was I doing at a writers conference? Clearly I didn’t belong and someone wanted to erase my name from the books. Even singing “We Belong” during the closing worship time didn’t help.

Now I could end this little pity party of disappointment right here and conclude that I don’t belong among the ranks of Christian writers and poets. I could discount the fact that I gained 4 or 5 new Twitter followers during the conference, won a book, and learned a lot. But then the whole experience would be wasted. Instead, as I pondered, I thought about what I learned about the nature of disappointment and about myself. Here is what I’ve concluded:

First, it is ridiculous to think that the organizers of this conference were intentionally trying to disappoint and reject me. Putting on a conference is hard work—very hard work—with a great many details to be worked out. Missing nametags and lanyards, a mislabeled envelope, and anonymously graded essay scores are not a reflection of whether and how I am valued as a writer and fellow believer. They are just details that fell through the cracks.

Second, it is important for me to examine my own actions in dealing with others at church, work, or other settings. What am I doing or failing to do that might cause others to feel disappointed and left out? What can I do to make sure others feel valued and included?

Third, I must remember that my value is not in how well I write or whether others recognize me. My value is in Christ alone. He has redeemed me and I belong to Him, always and forever. And in the end that is all that really matters.

By the way, I’m looking forward to Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2015!

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Fewer Words – A Poem

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub yesterday was to write poem about a time or times that influenced our evolution to the poet we are today. I had to really think about this one to come up with something, and here’s what I came up with.

Fewer Words

First it was research papers,
then long-winded briefs

Perhaps just a memo
or letter to a client

but never a poem,
that’s not the sort for me

Expressing in essays
my thoughts and beliefs

No limit on wordiness
to slow me down

Others expressed ideas
great and profound

in simple poetry
of few lines and words

Maybe, just maybe
I could give it a try

Use fewer words to express
the mercy and grace of my Savior

the pain and the darkness
shattered by Light

Turns out a few words
are sometimes all it takes

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Advent Is – A Googlism Poem

This afternoon I was reading the poetry of a fellow blogger who had commented on one of my poems, and learned of a Form for All lesson I had missed at dVerse Poets Pub a few weeks ago. The lesson from Sam Peralta was on writing a poem based on the results of a search at googlism.com (not affiliated with Google, Inc.). I decided to give it a try and typed in the word “Advent” in the search. I then created the following poem out of the results. I decided not to repeat the phrase “Advent is” with each line, but instead to group the results into several stanzas. With Advent just around the corner (it starts Dec. 1), I offer this poem in preparation.

12/3/13 Update: We are 3 days into the Advent season, but I decided to share this for Open Link Night at dVerse today.

Advent Is

Advent is coming

Advent is a season

a holy season

a marvelous season

a season of preparation

not a penitential season

too good a season to waste

the season that begins the liturgical year

an especially lovely season and we can make great use of it

Advent is a time

a time of waiting

a time of preparation

a time of awaiting God

a time of spiritual preparation

a time of preparation for Christmas

a time of expectation and reflection

a time of awaiting a God who loves us

a time when Christians prepare to greet Christ

a time to celebrate Light in the midst of darkness

a time for looking forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus

a good time for us to live like people who are being redeemed

Advent is

for waiting

active waiting

promise of peace

about preparation

rest for the weary

anticipation and hope

about who holds the future

both a beginning and an end

one of those marvelous little jewels

a period of devout and joyful expectation

celebrated by Christians all over the world

a longing and anticipation in the midst of suffering

celebrated as a time of joy and hope as we await the coming of the King

Advent is kind of like that

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Something New

Note: As you read this post, you might ask yourself why I am telling you so much about my hair dyeing experiences. Trust me, there’s a purpose and a lesson to follow my seemingly rambling story.

In early July I decided to color my hair with a box of auburn hair dye that had been in my hall closet for about five years. We were on vacation for two weeks but didn’t go anywhere and I was starting to go stir crazy so it seemed like a good thing to do. The dye was more like a bit of highlighting, only slightly changing the color of my hair. A few people noticed but not too many. Within six weeks the color had faded significantly because it was the kind that washes out in 24 shampoos.

Then over Labor Day weekend I decided I wanted to do it again because I liked the slight red hint to my hair color, so I went to the store to get a box of the same dye. Unfortunately, that brand and color were no longer available (it having been five years or more since I bought it). So I selected another shade of red in another brand, though still the non-permanent kind that is supposed to wash out, this time after 28 shampoos. I took it home and dyed my hair the Sunday before Labor Day.

The color change was much more dramatic this time. I really wasn’t sure I liked it at first and was reluctant to go out in public as a redhead. Even my color blind husband could tell it was a very different color when he returned home from a backpacking trip at the end of that week. Many people have noticed and commented on my new hair color, and a number of them have taken to calling me Red. Even now, several weeks and many shampoos after dyeing it, my hair is still strikingly red. Today at church I had someone I barely know come up to me for the express purpose of telling me she really liked my hair color. Because the many comments I’ve gotten have all been positive, the new color is starting to grow on me and I think I will probably re-dye it when it fades.

On my way home from church I was thinking about how many more comments I’ve gotten with this dramatic hair color change then I did when I just highlighted my hair. It occurred to me that these experiences are a great analogy for the Christian life.

Scripture tells us that faith in Christ will change us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV). But sometimes we are afraid of a bold new creation that God has called us to be. Instead, we allow little highlights of the new to show through. The change in us is subtle and noticed by only a few, just like my first experience of dyeing my hair with a subtle red highlight.

But if we allow Christ to truly change us and boldly allow His light to shine through, others will notice, even many people we don’t know well. People may even comment on the change. As Christians, as we see this new creation in others, we should comment on this change and provide them with encouragement. Just as receiving positive comments about my new hair color has made me feel much more comfortable with this change, the new Christian will feel much more comfortable with the changes Christ makes in them if they receive positive encouragement.

The apostle Paul taught us to encourage one another when he wrote, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12 (NIV). Let us, then, mutually encourage one another to let the Light of Christ shine so that others may see the change He has made in our lives. Let us share the great peace and love He has placed in our hearts. Let us never be ashamed of the new creation that we are in Christ, even when the world scoffs at our faith. Just as I have come to appreciate the nickname Red, let us appreciate and rejoice in the name Christian, followers of Christ, His new creation.

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Finding Peace – A Poem

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to Celebrate International Peace Day. As I read Mary’s post and was reminded of all the places in the world where there is not peace, I was immediate reminded of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Because of Him there is one place I can always find peace — as well as the desire and strength to be a peacemaker — and that is within my own heart where He dwells.

Finding Peace

Wars and turmoil
worry and strife
it’s hard to find
peace in this life

But in my heart
where Christ is found
miraculously
peace does abound

I cannot cure
the world’s great ills
but in my world
foster peace still

I give His love
to those in need
bringing them peace
hearts from strife freed

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NIV).

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My Dear Child – A Letter-Poem

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write a letter-poem. Mary suggested a number of options, but I decided to write a letter from God to one of His weary children.

My Dear Child

My Dear child,

I see that you are trying to be
just as good as you can be
but what you clearly do not see
is you can’t do this without Me

I know that you are wondering why
I do not stop what makes you cry
but if on Me you will rely
every tear that falls I’ll dry

I love you more than you’ll ever know
in you holiness I want to grow
and though your progress may seem slow
the path you walk is the way you must go

I will comfort you when times are tough
I will watch over you when life is rough
I will rescue you when you’ve had enough
What’s too big for you, to Me is small stuff

Grace and peace,
Your Heavenly Father

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