Friday, April 29, 2016

Let's Talk Anxiety

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 
~Philippians 4:4-7


At our house, we deal with a lot of anxiety. I wish it was not so because sometimes the anxiety can be worse than any real problem that comes about. Anxiety and worry try to create problems that are not even there yet. They are imagined possibilities, which are not yet real, may never be true, therefore, they are not thoughts we need to let our minds dwell on.

If you are not an anxious person, this shifting of the mind seems easy but it is not. The anxious person with anxious thoughts are like those that play on a broken record. You know the ones that have a "skip" on them. Instead of the record going round and round with new sounds, it gets stuck on that same line that creates the same sound. The mind does the same thing with thoughts in the anxious person.

God has answers that with practical help. The passage above walks us through one answer He has. First, we cannot make our selves just walk this out. It is not a willpower kind of thing.  However, as we pray to God who made us, He is pleased to move and change our hearts to walk this way. We will grow in belief and confess the unbelief we have in our hearts toward Him.


The very first line in today's passage points out, twice to rejoice, then instructs us to let our gentle spirit be known, comforting us finally with the Lord is near. Think about these things for a minute. If rejoicing is a command and mentioned twice, it means we need to be reminded of it. It is not an automatic response. We are reminded that the Lord is near! And isn't it true that we have lost sight of God being near when we are anxious? So practically Paul is telling us, "The Lord is near! Rejoice! And in that let your gentle spirit be known to all." A gentle or mild person is one who willingly accepts what the Lord is doing in their life, and in that God is good and in control.

We often need to stop our minds from talking to us and take the time to talk to our minds. We can speak truth and the good news of what Christ has done for us to our anxious minds, taking back control. As we do this we must cry out to God to help us believe that.

We then learn what to do with those anxious thoughts. All of them need to be talked through with God. We are instructed to take them to Him. He is the One and Only true person who can take them away exchanging them for peace which then guards our hearts and minds. Isn't that incredible?

So again, practically. Cry out to God about the anxious thoughts, confess sin, remember who Jesus is and what He did for us. Take control of your mind by renewing it with truth. Let God's tranquil peace sweep over you. It sounds easy but it is not always easy to do this. Growing in grace is a process and the more you are able to walk this out, the more it will seem to become natural, but it takes time. The most important thing is to not forget God. We must make our minds remember what He has done and that no matter what comes our way, He is for us not against us. May we believe it.

Father, thank you for your word that comes with such practicality to it. Thank you for not leaving us alone to try to figure things out. Help us to be patient with our sanctification process and continually look to you to mold us and change us and make us more like you. In Jesus Name. Amen.
~Angela


* Recommended Resource: Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry by Amy Simpson

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Don't Add to Your Child's Disability: Teach them to Work

Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23 Amplified

Summer is "just around the corner". I'm planning some fun activities; library days, going to the pool, camping, and of course, friend days.


But all play and no work, makes children lazy and unfulfilled.

Especially for kids with intellectual disabilities- WORK is crucial to our kids well being and sense of purpose. Our mantra and example to our kids should be:

Work is FUN!  Work is SATISFYING!  Work is REWARDING!

WORK is not a dirty, four letter word.  We were all created to work and God said it is good!

From the time Bethany could walk and move about, we began having her help us. I'd sit her on the kitchen counter and I'd help her unload and separate the silverware in the right spots. We would make a game of taking out the laundry and throwing it in a pile so I (we) could fold it. She loved to help take napkins and silverware out to the table.  Did it slow me down??? Yep.  But it was worth it because I wanted her to learn to love to help and that she was a valuable part of the family.


Work produces dignity, self-respect, and satisfaction in life: Show me a kid who does video games, TV, computer, and playing all day, and I'll show you a bored, unfulfilled child.

I'll admit, I find it much more difficult to parent in 2016 than it was when I began parenting in 1981. What scares me is that electronics and visual stimulation is offering a mesmerizing alternative to work.  I'm afraid it not only robs time and creativity, it steals our productivity and satisfaction. Sure, there has to be "down time" but the stats say kids spend 75 hours/week tethered to social media outlets!  (that's more hours than working a full time job!!!) 


Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for daily needs and not live unproductive lives.  Titus 3:14



I don't want to add to Bethany's disability by not guiding her and providing her opportunities to work and be productive!

Bethany's 15 now, and this summer, here's some of the things we're doing together to build her
skills and satisfaction of being a productive, contributing, member of our family- and eventually society. :)  

Work is FUN!  Work is SATISFYING!  Work is REWARDING!



Cooking 2 meals a week.

Helping with the groceries: from making the list, to adding it on the calculator, to paying for it and putting it away at home.

Doing her own laundry and helping me fold the towels.

Cleaning her own room.

Running the vacuum.

Unloading the dishwasher.

She also loves to help me with projects around the house; organizing closets, painting, cleaning out the garage, etc.

I didn't realize our approach might be unusual until I've talked with many parents who seem shocked that Bethany is able to "do so much".  

Why are they surprised?  Are kids with special needs unable to comprehend the simplest of tasks?



If we don't teach our children to think work is fun and to love being productive, we are setting them up to fail in their adult lives.

This Summer- don't forget to add WORK to your kiddos to do list!  Celebrate each achievement for work produces fruit in our lives.  


Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.

Our Prayer: Father, thank you for giving us the desire and ability to live productive lives. Thank you for giving us the example of working and resting and that you said it was good! Help us delight in the work You have given us to do!  In Jesus Name- Amen.

Cindy Barclay

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Under His Wings

He will cover you with his feathers,

    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4 NIV


Not long ago, I found a nest in a bush near our driveway. The day I found it, there were two eggs inside. When I checked the nest the following day, I found three eggs instead of two. The mother bird was on the nest when I went over, but she flew away when I approached. For a while, I caught glimpses of her out of the corner of my eye, but then I lost sight of her. She didn't lose sight of me. As soon as I stepped away for a few seconds, she settled right back on the nest, snuggling down on the eggs. I have no doubt she would have put up a fuss if I had posed a serious threat to her babies.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered that God is described as having us under His wings. When it seems that we are left vulnerable and alone, He is really right there, just like that mama bird. He is watching over us and protecting us, even when it doesn't look or feel like it.
I'm going to have to trust that is true for our situation too, and I need to remember that He is sovereign, and that His ways and timing are best.
Pray: Father, thank you for reminding me that even in the dark and difficult places, you are right there with us, protecting us and loving us through it. Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Holy CPR (or Just a little faith)

Photo credit: pixabay.com
 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31-32 (NLT)
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
Romans 4:18-24 (NLT)
I woke up yesterday morning feeling my familiar slightly numb self. Things weren't exactly bad. Just ... bleh.  I started about my morning routine and a thought flashed through my mind: "Why are you avoiding me?"  It didn't take me long to determine the source of that thought.  A quick review of the past few weeks showed prayer only in response to prayer requests from others (and right there on the spot).  When I'm by myself, with no demands, I just blanked out with Facebook or TV. Lord, what's there to talk about? All the same things I don't want to think about?  It's hard to avoid things when you are talking to God.  
It was a dead end conversation, but I decided that when the God of the Universe taps me on the shoulder, I should take heed.  Leaning into a thought a friend shared recently (pray as you can, not as you can't), I emerged myself in my favorite worship music and trusted that God would help me.  And He did.
It so happened that one of my favorite online speakers was talking about faith that day, and read Romans 4.  I noticed that Abraham kept hoping (in spite of laughing when God spoke and a few bad decisions).  He faced his reality (he was 100 and Sara was 90!) and he believed in the resurrecting power of an amazing God.  God reminded me that the things I see right now aren't necessarily the reality.  Gigantic mustard trees do grow from infinitesimally small seeds.  Walls do crumble when we shout and hand sized clouds create floods.  God is busy executing His plans, actively working on my behalf and on behalf of my loved ones.  He's got it.  The Word created another new day inside me. It was as if He has held my nostrils and blew His breath into my lungs, like He did to Adam on that first day.   I got up, dusted myself off and decided again: It's time to believe, time to hope, time to fight to agree with God.  It is as He says it is. Period.
Dear God, Thank you for your Word, so powerfully alive, able to correct us on our insides, to heal and make us new.  Please remind us about what You have said about the situations we face today.  Remind us to agree with you. Move the clouds of apathy that cover our disappointment and despair.  Help us to speak and walk in faith today.
Amen

Monday, April 25, 2016

For Those Who Walk Through a Spiritual Wasteland



"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6 NIV


"Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'

 'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread every day.'

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. " John 6:32-35 NLT

/////

There are days when life can leave you feeling like a wrung-out dishrag, used up and dried out. Spiritual and emotional nourishment are non-existent, and you're left empty, starving for sustenance.

When You Find Yourself in a Spiritual Wasteland

I've always loved the story of the Israelite wanderers in the desert. Their constant complaining in spite of the blatant physical manifestation of God's presence is such a real-life picture of humanity.

It's easy to judge them, isn't it? With the blessing of hindsight, we shake our heads and wonder at their spiritual blindness. 

But 40 years is a long time, and deserts are dry and barren.

We've all walked our own wastelands, haven't we?

When we're navigating a special needs journey, life can feel parched and dry. We stretch ourselves a little further, push to keep trudging through the desert sand--just one more mile--but we question if we will make it to the Promised Land. We find ourselves doubting if such a place even exists. Where will we go to feed our hungry souls?

My son is considered 'high-functioning,' so I sometimes feel guilty. I try to trick myself into thinking -- since so many have it much worse -- that these conditions are normal, that this aching dryness in my soul and tired body are just par for the course.

But then we have a night like we did last week, when all hell breaks loose, and I have to stop and remind myself. . . this is a hard place. 

We special needs parents wander in circles in this desert of ours -- like the Israelites in the wilderness -- searching out different options for treatments, medications, behavioral programs, diet, supplements.
  • Maybe today is the day when the miracle pill will land on our doorstep.
  • Maybe today the light switch will flip unexplainably to "on" and will stay put.
  • Maybe today the stars and planets will align just so and it will turn out to be an easy, normal day.
We can't see God's face in all of it, and we sometimes doubt if there's a purpose. So we throw our hopes and dreams -- and a good chunk of cash -- into theories and sales pitches, like jewels tossed toward a cowardly Aaron. Then we cross our fingers and hope that when it's all thrown into the fire, a golden calf will emerge to fix our problems.

But instead we end up eating our own dust. We're back at square one.

Because the desert is a hard place.

Blessings in the Desert

But it can also be a place of blessing. 

The desert is where God met the Israelites and guided them with a pillar of fire. It's where the people sang and danced, lifting praises to the miraculous God who delivered them from their oppressors. In the wilderness they learned who Jehovah was, and looked upon the radiance of Moses who knew God face to face.

The desert is where God gave manna, the strange honeydew substance that left the people shrugging their shoulders and asking "what is it?" The bread of heaven, descending upon the desert floor each morning, abundant food available for gathering.

But there was a catch to manna. 

Manna had to be gathered daily, just enough for each day, or it would spoil.

The manna was there for the taking. But the people had to go outside and get it.

Years ago when studying Exodus, a picture formed in my head of starving people lying inside tents with food just outside.

Because you see, the Bread of Life is ours for the taking. It's free and it's grace and it's more than enough to fill and satisfy. But if we don't actually go to the trouble of gathering, we can starve our souls while lying inside our tents.

The key to life in the desert places is going outside the tent. 

Maybe you've been wandering down this road a long time. Your soul is weary and your body is spent. You've read helpful online articles about 'self-care' and have every intention of following through, but desert life is too demanding. The scorch of the sun never lets up, and there's no oasis in sight, no Jacob's well to quench the intensity of your thirst.

But this is where you're wrong.

Because there is still manna.

Manna is truth from God, the Bread of Life, the reminder -- like the Bread of Presence in the holy tabernacle -- that God is near. And He rains down mercy from the sky for those who will go outside with their buckets and collect it.

But we cannot lie down inside our tents and quit. We cannot give up on this arduous journey.

We must go and gather. 

Grace is drifting down like manna, but you'll never know if you don't step outside.

I challenge you, special needs parents. Don't let another day go by without crying out to the God who made you. Life can be oh-so-hard, but our God is oh-so-much-greater. He has mercy and wonder to offer you today. He has peace and joy and yes -- even rest -- for the weary. He gives comfort and strength and endurance when we think we cannot walk one more step.

He alone will meet your needs on this journey. He is handing down blessings for you in this moment.

So what are you waiting for?

Go and gather.

/////

Father, how I thank you for being Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides. Life can feel like a dry desert place at times, but you offer Living Water and the Bread of Life, to nourish our souls and fill us to overflowing. Help us not to turn our eyes away from You. Strengthen us for the journey and remind us of your presence. May we have the courage to walk bravely into the sun, gathering your grace for each and every day, and choosing to abide in You. Help us to go and gather.