Help, Hope, Healing
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
Ever since I read Psalm 121 the other day one verse keeps traveling through my mind. In response to the question “from where will my help come?” The Psalmist responds with these words, my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. As these words continued to travel through my mind, I found myself substituting “hope” and “healing” for the word “help”.
My hope comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
My healing comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Help, hope, healing all have the same source – the Lord who made heaven and earth. Think about that for a moment. The Eternal one who is the source of life, who created the heavens and the earth is our keeper…a keeper who never slumbers or sleeps. The maker of heaven and earth is available 24/7! Doesn’t even take naps! When we are looking for help, hope and healing there is no better place to turn than to the Lord who watches over our coming and going now and forever.
Why should we meditate on help, hope and healing? Because it reminds us that all is well with our soul and that the Spirit of God is always with us, renewing and encouraging us. We can put our hope in Jesus because we trust in who God is and believe God will fulfill His promise to be our keeper and protector.
I encourage you to read Psalm 121 every day for a week and let the words sink into your heart and mind. At the end of the week ask yourself if your hope and trust in the Lord has deepened.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time
enjoying one moment at a time
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
This prayer is commonly credited to Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who composed it in the 1940s. According to its website, Alcoholics Anonymous adopted the Serenity Prayer and began including it in AA materials in 1942. Since then many 12 step recovery groups have adopted it as well. What is the secret behind its power? The language is humble and the lessons simple; it is easy to understand yet difficult to execute. In its simplicity this prayer can be underestimated or misunderstood. I offer the following as ways to look at and study this prayer in what might be a new way.
1. Acceptance is not laziness. When we devote inordinate attention to the things we cannot change, we expend physical, emotional, and mental energy that could be directed elsewhere. Accepting that there are some things we cannot change does not make us complacent. It constitutes a leap of faith, an ability to trust, as the prayer goes on to say, “that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.” In other words, we make the choice to let go and have faith in the outcome.
2. We must have courage to change ourselves. One of life’s greatest challenges is imagining how our lives could be different than they are now. Often, our deeply ingrained habits are our own worst enemies, and simply identifying them is half the battle. Since habits gain power through repetition, it takes real focus and perspective to look at ourselves and our habits and ask, “Is this how I really want to live?” As the prayer states, this act of self-investigation is nothing less than an act of “courage” and when we rely on the Lord for that courage we can change.
3. Hardship can be good for you. As the prayer states, we must accept “hardships as the pathway to peace.” Every person confronts obstacles during his or her life. When we view these obstacles not just as frustrations or failures, but as opportunities for growth and learning, we can transcend our circumstances.
4. Surrendering requires courage. The word “surrender” has mostly negative connotations; we associate it with resignation, failure, and weakness. But the Serenity Prayer reframes the notion of surrender as an act of faith and trust. The wisdom of the prayer lies in exchanging a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trust in God’s power.
5. With God, happiness is attainable; now and in the future. The prayer’s ending has something very profound to say about happiness: it asks us to focus on the present, “Living one day at a time” and “enjoying one moment at a time.” It also encourages us to remember the happiness to come when we find ourselves in the presence of the Lord our God.
May the words of this prayer bless you today and always,
“Come on Mom, Daddy wants to take us on a picnic,” the little girl said excitedly to her busy mom, “it will be fun!” Mom shakes her head and says, “Sorry honey, I’m too busy.” The little girl and her father go off, have a wonderful day in the sun enjoying each other’s company and share a delicious picnic lunch. Two days later the girl’s father dies. Her Mom spent the rest of her life regretting not going on that picnic.
This story was told by Juliet Funt, one of the presenters at the Global Leadership Summit a couple of years ago. Funt believes we all need thoughtful pauses she calls “white space” amid the busyness of our work and family lives. Her research has revealed that not only are we living in an age of overload, we are getting more and more uncomfortable with the pause, those unfilled moments that can refresh and reinvigorate us.
“White Space,” also known as a strategic pause, is not meditation, mind wandering or mindfulness. It is a time with no rules, no goals, a boundary-less freedom of experience where the mind can play and follow instincts. Studies of the mind show that the part of the mind that generates insight, introspection, memory, and creativity continues to work during these pauses.
Funk’s research began as a search for ways to help companies relieve their talented work teams of busywork, however, it soon became apparent that the need for pausing from busyness has implications for our home lives as well. She told the above story as the lead up to sharing an experience from her own life; a time when she almost missed an opportunity to join her young sons and husband as they washed the car and each other.
As I continued to think about this idea of pausing, I began to consider what implications it might have regarding our spiritual lives. Do we ever pause and take time to just be with God? Saying no prayers, having no expectations, just being? In Psalms 46 we are told to “be still and know that I am God.” To me it sounds as though God knew the benefits we would derive from pausing long before Juliet Funk discovered them.
As we enter the holiday season, remembering to pause is more important than ever. As your plans for the holidays take shape, I encourage you to begin to find moments in your day to pause and simply be in God’s presence. Pause and be blessed.
Comfort and Assurance
The other day a friend sent me a text asking how she could pray for me. I replied with a couple of generic type requests, but suddenly felt compelled to add I was fighting some depression and really needed prayer around that. Tears spring to my eyes as I type it. Being vulnerable and honest is not something I do easily so I was a bit shocked to realize I had hit send before I could change my mind. My friend, who has known me for a long time, responded by saying “thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this.” That level of knowing and understanding in a friend is a treasure that can so easily be overlooked.
Another friend who was a part of that conversation took time out of her busy schedule to call. Her voice mail message made me laugh with a comment about getting older and then said she would be praying for me. Praying would feel better in body, mind, and spirit and then directed me to Psalm 63.1-8.
1O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6 when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
We are told this is a psalm David wrote when he was in the wilderness of Judah while hiding from King Saul who wanted to kill him; a pursuit that went on for 4 years! I imagine David was tired, hungry, and emotionally fatigued yet here he is proclaiming his faith in God and offering praise for God’s steadfast love.
I must admit that at first, I didn’t take much comfort from these words and yet I found myself turning to them repeatedly throughout the day. And you know what? God’s infinite grace, love and mercy touched me and lifted me from the depressed state I was in and today when I talked to my friend, we spent most of our time laughing about the absurdity of many aspects of our lives and giving thanks to God for watching over us amid it all.
God’s word will always speak to us if only we are willing to listen. May your ears be wide open to hear.
Be Not Afraid
As I sit gazing out the window, I wonder what the world will be like tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
I almost obsessively watch and read the news, trying to figure out which reports can be trusted, and which are other people’s misinterpretation of those reports, and more disturbing, which are outright lies and exaggerations. As my mind jumps from report to report an uneasy feeling begins to come over me. It takes me awhile to identify what that feeling is and when I do identify it, I feel guilty because the feeling I have identified is fear. “You are a Christian,” I think to myself, “you aren’t supposed to be afraid or anxious or full of worry! What’s wrong with you?!”
Can you identify with those feelings? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many, if not all of you have been feeling anxious, worried, and/or afraid of what the future will bring. Please know that if you are feeling any of those it’s called normal. The truth is we are human, and, in our humanness, we cannot avoid the feelings we have. Feelings in and of themselves are not good or bad, they just are.
The good news is there are ways, both practical and spiritual, to help us deal with those feelings. Let’s talk about the practical ways first. According to healthline.com there are four practical ways we can cope with anxiety.
Breathe, just breathe. There are a couple of breathing exercises you can try. The first is to breathe in for the count of four and out for the count of four and continue to do so for five minutes. The second is to breathe in for the count of four, hold for the count of seven, and breathe out for the count of eight. As you breathe out, let your shoulders relax. Imagine the path of your breath as you breathe in. Repeat three or four times.
Use aromatherapy. There are essential oils such as lavender, chamomile and sandalwood whose scent can help you relax and feel calm.
Go for a walk or do yoga for 15 minutes.
Write down what is making you anxious. Sometimes getting it out of your head and onto paper will relieve anxiety. I have found it helpful to write and then destroy the list I made. Sometimes I burn the list (please be careful if you choose this option!) A second way I find most satisfying is to tear the list up into tiny little pieces and throw them away.
The reality of course is that our bodies, brains and soul are interdependent, so we need to address the spiritual aspect of how to deal with anxiety and stress as well. We can start by reminding ourselves that God is greater than all human circumstances…I know, I know, sometimes so much easier said than done however, with a little effort we can do it. I recommend starting the journey back to that reality by looking up and studying the following scriptures:
Joshua 1.5-6, 7, 9: “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous…Be strong and very courageous… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Jeremiah 17:7-9: Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Philippians 4:5-7: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.
2 Timothy 1.7: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
1 John 4.18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
And let us not forget Jesus’ words in Matthew 6.25-33.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
May the Peace of the Lord fill you today and always,