Making a List; Dreading It Twice

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Well, it’s official. We’ve completed the first stage of our moving to move to move process. We’ve set up a temporary home in the basement of my in-laws’ house. So far, it’s been a place to sleep and not much else as we’ve spent the majority of our time packing up the rest of our belongings and beginning the repairs and refreshes on our house.

After talking with two different realtors about the best way to approach the selling of our home, we determined we would need to do some significant updates throughout the property to get top dollar for our home. As the realtors walked through our house, I jotted down their suggestions on a notepad. By the end of the tour, I had nearly a full page of projects like remodeling the bathrooms, putting new cabinet doors in the kitchen, painting all the walls and trim, landscaping, refinishing the floors, and on and on.  

Over the next few days, Jason and I priced out all the items on the list and balked at the dollar signs swimming before us, not to mention the time and effort in store for us. That list has become my nemesis. It keeps me up at night. It runs through my mind on an endless loop. It causes my stomach to churn and my head to pound. So much to do. So little energy. Yikes!!!!

Jason, on the other hand, has pretty much ignored the list. After seeing what needed to be done and what the cost would be, he set to work. He views the list as a guide, a tool—nothing more. I, however, have allowed it to run my life and dictate my attitude. For the past week, I’ve felt as if the world—at least, my world—was spinning out of control. After making my list and dreading it twice (an hour), I went about my work as if it were all up to me. I forgot that I’m not the one in control, and better yet, I don’t have to be.

From the beginning of time, God knew this day would come. He has seen how this will all work out, and He has promised strength to those who wait on Him and trust in Him (Isaiah 40:31). He’s got this! Sure, things may seem like a big mess, but they only seem that way. God has it all control, so there’s no reason for me to dread. Besides, dread and worry only steal the strength and energy I need to accomplish the tasks before me.

Lists are useful and sometimes necessary, but when they become all-consuming, they’ve overstepped their bounds. I’ve given my list to God and will let Him “worry” about the details.  After all, I’ve got plenty to do to keep me busy.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
— I Peter 5:7

Trusting in the Rock

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On Saturday, Jason and I took Barnabas out for a hike.  We hoped to get away from all the stress and decision-making taking place in our lives right now as we prepare to sell our home and purchase a motorhome for full-time deputation. Overall, it served its purpose, but more than that, God used a moment of that hike to point out a hard truth in my life. Allow me to set the scene.

We came to a water crossing. The stream was wide but not deep if one planned his steps carefully. Barnabas crossed first. No big deal. Jason followed, and I was next. I did well until I reached the last step, which was more like a leap to the river bank. I made it across but landed in the gushy sand that sank and squished as soon as my foot made contact. This is the conversation that followed:

Me: “Ew, I stepped in the gushy stuff.”

Jason: “I used that rock just under the surface so I could step far enough to be on the other side of the gushy stuff.”

Me: “I guess I didn’t see the rock.”

Jason: “It wasn’t a rock you would trust.” (He knows I’m very particular about what size and shape of rock I’m willing to put my weight on.)

Me: “Oh, well, I’d rather step in the gushy stuff than stand on a rock I don’t trust.”

At that moment, it was if those words flew out of my mouth then circled back and hit me right between the eyes. How often do I settle for the “gushy stuff” in life because I’m not trusting in the Rock? How many times do I take flying leaps instead of standing firm on the Rock? Why is it so hard for me to trust the Lord? He has come through time and time again. He has proven His power, His love, and His goodness. Yet, I still bypass His way for my way. I step around Him to take the path I see, the one that looks best to me.

As I discovered later that day, my trust issue with the Lord has wreaked havoc in all my relationships. Not only have I stopped trusting God, but I’ve also stopped trusting others. I expect the worst out of people and situations and have fallen for the lie that the only one I can depend on is me. When I realized this, I had to laugh out loud. Not because it was funny, but because it was so ironic. I know I’m a mess. I know me better than anyone, so surely, I understand I cannot depend on myself. Yet, I do. It makes no sense. And all of it began when I refused to trust God with my life.

Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you know what it’s like to follow your own plans and try to solve your own problems. Maybe you, too, live a life of fear, worry, and stress rather than trust, peace, and joy. If so, I will tell you the same thing the Lord recently showed me—it doesn’t have to be that way! It’s a matter of choice. We can choose to stand on the Rock or to make our own way through the gushy stuff. We can choose to trust God instead of fretting over every detail of our lives. We have a choice, so what’s it going to be—the Solid Rock or the sinking sand?

For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.
— Psalm 31:3
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
— Psalm 40:2

What's Holding You Captive?

In my personal devotion time, I’ve been working on a study about the mind and thoughts. It’s been quite educational and has helped me to see things in a way I never saw them before. I doubt I will share every lesson with you (though the Lord may lead me to do so at a later time), but this one was just too good not to pass on.

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
— Mark 5:1-17

It’s a lengthy passage, I know, but you need to get a full view of the story to understand what’s going on here. Before I go any further, though, I want to share with you this humorous anecdote. When I was in college, one of my teachers was a preacher who was as full of humor as he was humility. One night, he preached a sermon in chapel on this passage in Mark. He titled the message, “The Nude Dude in Rude Mood.” I’ve never forgotten that, and his message title always comes to mind when I read through this passage.

Anyway, to get back on point, this poor man was possessed by many demons. The word “legion” implies thousands, so it’s safe to assume that’s how many demons were indwelling this individual. I cannot imagine the fear, torment, shame, and pain he faced daily. What a sad situation!

What’s even sadder is the way the townspeople dealt with him. Not knowing what else to do, they bound him with chains and left him alone in a graveyard. Creepy! But the man broke through the chains time after time, leaving him free to hurt himself and others.

After reading through this passage a few days ago, I wrote this in my journal: “I find it interesting that thousands of demons possessed the man. Talk about dividing the mind (which is the very definition of anxiety). No wonder he was anxious and depressed. Anxiety and depression do feel a bit like being demon possessed. The voices and feelings that pulse through our minds and bodies create havoc and captivity.  The maniac was enslaved more by what was happening within him than by what was happening without. Often the same is true for me. It’s my thoughts and attitudes that enslave me far more than my outward circumstances.”

Isn’t it amazing how God could use the story of a demoniac to help His child who tends to make mountains out of molehills? Think about it.  This man was shackled, but he quickly broke the chains. To my knowledge, there was no fencing or perimeter to keep him within the graveyard. Physically, he was free. But mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he was a captive. Yes, he was imprisoned by what was dwelling within him.

I can relate. I blame my captivity on my health, financial struggles, or other outward circumstances, but the truth is, the thing that’s imprisoning me is my reaction toward these things. Circumstances are what they are, and often we can’t change that. We can, however, change how we deal with them and even how we view them. And in doing so, we break free from the chains of anxiety, depression, self-pity, and so much more.

What’s holding you captive today? Chances are it’s something within rather than your outward circumstances. Give it to God, and like the maniac, you can be free and in your right mind.