Tag Archives: Philippians

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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God’s Work – A Triolet

The good work that God has begun
He will ensure is completed
In our heart, in our soul He’s won
The good work that God has begun

We are not yet finished, not done
In Christ we are not defeated
The good work that God has begun
He will ensure is completed

 

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV).

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Rejoice – An Acrostic Poem

Rejoice in the Lord always
E
verlasting joy from His heart
J
oy even in the darkest times
O
verflowing joy in my heart
I
n times of want and times of plenty
C
arrying me through trials of this life to
E
ternal life of rejoicing in the Lord

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The Past I’ve Left Behind – A Poem

The past I’ve left behind me
pursues me in the dark
trying to persuade me
I’ll never hit the mark

But I keep pressing forward
to the life that lies ahead
where God has promised glory
my prize for which He bled

The past has no hold on me
for the Son has set me free
my future is eternal life
His child I’ll forever be

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT).

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Bundle of Rights – A Poem

In law school property class
we learned about
our bundle of rights

It’s not much of a bundle
compared to Jesus’ divine
bundle of rights
—His omniscience
—His omnipresence
—His matchless glory

My bundle, your bundle,
is more like a hobo’s bindle
tied up, hanging from a pole

We cling to our rights
as if they were our precious,
our most precious possession

Though he was God,
Jesus did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges
¹

He calls us to give up
our bindle for others
to become as a servant
following His example

And in the process we will discover
faith, hope, and love—and
the greatest of these is love
²

Not a bad trade, really,
a hobo’s bindle
for the greatest love
the world has ever known

 

¹Philippians 2:6-7a (NLT)
²1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

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Knowing God’s Love

I have this great daily devotional called Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The devotion for each day is excerpted from one of his many books. I’ve never been very good at reading it every day, but whenever I do pick it up God never fails to reveal to me something of His great love and mercy.

I tend to read several devotions in a row right before bed. On one such occasion several weeks ago I read three devotions that covered what Lloyd-Jones called ”ten tests that you can apply to yourself to know for certain that you know the love of God to you.” Walking with God, Nov. 28.

I found great comfort in these ten tests, though even before I read them I knew that God loves me, just as He loves you and all mankind. I decided I wanted to share these ten tests, but with the added thought that even if you find you do not “pass” one or more of the tests, you can still rest assured that God loves you. I believe that coming to the point of being able to pass each of these tests is a process every believer must go through. It is by the sanctification of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we learn what we must to reach the goal of full assurance of God’s love.

The moment we believe in the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we are saved. But God loved us even before that; even before the foundation of the world He loved us. His love never changes; it is only our recognition and understanding of that love that changes over time as He draws us closer to Him.

So here are the ten tests (all from Walking with God, Nov. 28, 29, & 30):

  1. “a loss and absence of the sense that God is against us.”
  2. “a loss of the fear of God, while a sense of awe remains.”
  3. “a feeling and a sense that God is for us and that God loves us.”
  4. “a sense of sins forgiven.”
  5. “a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to God.”
  6. “an increasing hatred of sin.”
  7. “a desire to please God and to live a good life because of what He has done for us.”
  8. “a desire to know Him better and to draw closer to Him.”
  9. “a conscious regret that our love to Him is so poor, along with a desire to love Him more.”
  10. “a delight in hearing these things and in hearing about Him.”

Remember, do not despair if you feel you can’t pass them all today. “[H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

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Priorities in Practice

This afternoon I attended a session at the ACLEA conference I am at that was titled “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First.” It was all about taking care of oneself so that we reduce our stress and can then be available to accomplish those things we are called to do and to care for those people we are called to care for. This requires some sort of balance in one’s life.

With audience input, we came up with a definition of balance: “Prioritize things that matter most. Live according to your priorities.”

At the beginning of the session the speaker asked what movies, songs, quotes, or other things people used to reduce their stress. My answer, which he asked me to repeat into the microphone, was to remember Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, bring your requests to God.” This is my go-to quote when I feel stressed.

For me, my priorities are spending time with God and in the Word, spending time with and taking care of my family, taking care of my dog, giving my best when I am at work (but leaving work at the office), giving back to others the blessings that I have received, and staying healthy so I can do all of those things.

As I pondered the goal the speaker set before us—to do one thing differently—I actually came up with several things that I want to do in order to live according to my priorities.

  1. Almost two years ago, I decided I wanted to read the entire Bible again, but in the New Living Translation this time. As I survey in my mind the checklist of verses to be read in a year, realizing it’s been almost two since I vowed to read His Word each day, I see there are many checkmarks but there are also many chapters remaining to read tomorrow and each day. One thing I could do differently is to get back on track with my daily reading schedule.
  2. Something that always makes me feel better is to take my little dog Roman for a walk. It’s good exercise for both of us. I often see him nose his leash and I see the tennis balls lined up on the windowsill where he looks out onto the world. But I seldom take him for a walk. One thing I could do differently is to take Roman for a walk every day after work, even if it’s just a short walk.
  3. There are some songs that just make me want to dance, and I do love to dance, but I don’t do it very often. It is great exercise and always lifts my spirits. When I was younger I used to dance all the time. One thing I could do differently is to turn on music and dance a little while I’m making dinner several times per week.
  4. At work, my office is on the third floor. I know it’s only two flights of stairs to get there, but for some reason in the morning I’ve developed the habit of taking the elevator (even though it drives me nuts when it is so slow). I use the excuse that I’m carrying things, but it’s not really a very good reason to ride the elevator instead of climbing the stairs. Considering I sit most of the day for my job, taking the stairs in the morning would be really good for me. One thing I could do differently is to take the stairs up to my office each morning even if it does leave me out of breath.

So there are, not just one, but four things that I could do differently to reduce my stress level and help me live my priorities without feeling burned out by all that I have to do. What are your priorities and what could you do differently to live your priorities?

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Jesus Christ Is Lord – A Poem

We’ve been on vacation and I haven’t had much access to a computer, free time to write, or ideas for blog posts. This is why I have posted fewer posts in the past two weeks than I have in any other two week period since I started blogging. I must admit that it has been a relaxing break, but I do miss the blogging.

Since I had some time yesterday and a computer with wi-fi access, I decided to write the article I posted yesterday and a poem for today. This poem was inspired by the verse of the day at Biblegateway.com.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV).

Jesus Christ Is Lord

Your name is exalted
on my tongue
It will not falter
when it is sung

Your name is Holy
to young and old
It will not fade
as Your story is told

Your name is Jesus
Christ the Lord
You are Messiah
Savior adored

Your name is glorified
by all You bless
and on our knees
Your name we confess

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Sharing Our Gratitude

This morning in church we learned about the next tool in our Christian toolbox – Gratitude. This seems like an obvious one. We all know it is important to be grateful for the blessings we have been given.

But Pr. Dave shared an aspect of gratitude I had really thought of before – though I do practice it here on my blog every Thursday with my Thankful Thursday poem. It isn’t enough to feel gratitude in our hearts and keep that feeling to ourselves. We need to share our gratitude with others. We need to let others know that we are grateful for our blessings and that we are grateful for the greatest blessing of all, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. We also need to let others know when we are grateful for what they have done for us.

This afternoon we are blessed with an opportunity to let Pr. Dave know how grateful we are that he has come from Fargo to be our lead pastor. We are having a special church service celebrating his installation as our pastor and his certification as a pastor in our denomination, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.

The apostle Paul told us to:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV).

No matter what happens in life, there is always something to rejoice in and be grateful for, and that is the love of God. It is in sharing our gratitude with others that we point them to the love of Christ. This is definitely one of our Christian tools that is so important to take out of the toolbox and use. Some people may not be willing to listen to our theological arguments for believing in Jesus, but if we rejoice in the Lord always they cannot argue with the gratitude that is in our hearts.

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