08/05/2013

Turning His Face*

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:49 am by The Water Bearer

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Through these few weeks of suffering the condition I mentioned in a recent post, I have been more focused than ever on bringing more of God’s presence into my day-to-day life. Funny that!

We always stretch further for Him when we are suffering, don’t we?

Last week I completed a 2 week fast. No alcohol, No TV, and did not touch a blog site or any social media. My intention was to meditate, and work on my novel, as much as possible (although my plans are not always His and He had other things for me to deal with).

The foundation of a successful fast, is giving up anything that seeks to control us, anything we enjoy enough to get lost in, or find a pull towards during tough times. Easy distractions or addictions, habits and weaknesses. During a fast we make a 100% non-negotiable promise, to God, to go without which ever thing we are fasting for an achievable amount of time.

Each time the tempting thought arises we acknowledge God and our promise to Him, we reinforce that promise and we ask for His help when it gets tough. By doing this we are making some huge expressions of faith from our softened hearts. (God just loves it when we do this!)

These are some things that speak out of our hearts during a fast like this – God is real, He watches us, We revere Him enough to want to keep our promise. We need his help when we are weak. We are willing to give up the pleasures of the world to acknowledge Him and invite Him in to our situation.

It is the most powerful exercise I have found to overcome the world and my flesh, and witness His presence.

The first thing I noticed during this particular fast, was how much spare time I had to get other things done. I accomplished so much, and after feeling useless for a number of weeks, I felt a great sense of achievement as I ticked off many things on my never ending to-do list.

The second thing I noticed was how much easier it was to discover God’s guidance and to find things to praise Him for. The medication I am on for this condition has exacerbated my mood disorder significantly, I am more emotionally sensitive than ever. It can only take a millisecond for me to burst into tears, or flick on the rage switch, grit my teeth and loose any place of calm. Often, in times like this, I pray. Usually something desperate like “Oh Lord help me, take away my emotions, help so-and-so see how hard this is for me and not aggravate me! I don’t want to feel like this” etc. Then I wait…with angry tears….until He changes things.

However, during this fast I found praising Him was a much quicker way to flick off that unpleasant switch.

I recommend everyone tries this, it is not always easy, but it works every time!

Right in the midst of a full blown attack, when our Inner Enemies are hitting us from every angle, rather than fighting back in anger, we can end the battle then and there. By pushing aside that tidal wave of ammunition,  which fuels unpleasant emotions, just for a second, and find something, anything to be grateful for. Praise God for that, whatever it may be. It could be as simple as the ability to breathe, or the warm bed you are about to snuggle up in… It could be the legs that allow you to walk away from something aggravating. 😉

If there is  anything that will send our Inner Enemies high-tailing it into the distance, it is Praise! Worship! Gratitude! Forgiveness! A sure way to grab onto the face of God and turn it towards you!

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13/11/2012

A Tough 3rd Day*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:17 am by The Water Bearer

On the last day of a recent 3 day blog fast, my girls asked me to watch a movie with them. The movie was a Japanese Anime Film and the boy in the movie had no technology in his home. They only had a dial-phone and lots of books.

My youngest daughter (9yrs) was fascinated by this film, it inspired her to want to take a break from technology herself. She expressed to me her desire to go on a technology fast. This little angel had ideals of lasting a whole week with no TV, no Nintendo DS, no Wii, no computer, no mp3 player, no DVD’s, nothing!

We discussed this at some length, I explained that a whole week is a very long time for a little girl and perhaps it could be something she works up towards. I explained my theory about 3day fasts. They are achievable yet still a trial. We have more chance of hanging in there and keeping our promise, than risk being tempted into breaking our agreement with God. She seemed quite happy with this, wrote out her agreement in her prayer journal and the next morning began her task.

As my fast had now finished, I was sitting in my office replying to comments when her little face popped up over the back of the couch at me.

“Mummy! Guess what I just nearly did!” She blasted at me at top speed.

I gave her an inquiring look “What did you just nearly do?”

“I just turned the Wii on because I am finished getting ready for school. Good job I realised in time hey!” She grinned as she flipped around to turn it back off.

“Well done Honey” I cheered, “Good for you! It’s easy to slip-up, but well done for being strong enough to catch yourself.”

She grabbed her Children’s Bible, curled up on the lounge and read it until we left for school. When she got home she was heading to her room and had to pass the TV, which was on. She got caught up, it was like it reached out and grabbed her, after a couple of seconds she shook her head and kept on her way (Bless her).

This kid has so much faith it astounds me. For the next two days she kept to her word, she read books, drew pictures and played outside. I taught her how to play Gin Rummy, which we played a lot.

On the third day she started to struggle. It was a weekend and the day was dragging, we had tidied up and completed some chores, but she was being tempted with dreams of Mario Kart. I reminded her that this fast was her idea, that she had wanted to go a whole week and here she was struggling on only day 3. I encouraged her to ask God for help and explained that if we can resist something when it is hardest, in those times we really really want something, it gives our faith a huge boost. Plus, we show God how much we really want to keep our promises to please Him, rather than pleasing ourselves and our flesh. She said a prayer and then began reading a hefty novel, which she had been too overwhelmed to attempt before.

As the day turned to night, I was getting ready to head out to a friend’s birthday, and my daughter began yearning again. Snuggling up at the end of a Saturday with a movie is a common practice for our family, and she was itching for it. She didn’t want to just ‘break’ her promise so instead asked me if she could. I told her if she wanted to break her fast it would have to be her choice, and that I wasn’t going to give her permission so she could blame me for not reaching her goal. I reminded her of all the things I had said earlier, that she was so very close now and that is always when it gets hardest. I explained that if she broke her promise now, before her agreement was fulfilled, then the past 2 and a half days would be wasted.

She went back to her room to pray for more help and I left unsure of how strong she would remain without me to support her. So I said my own prayer asking for the Lord to keep her strong and keep the enemy from tempting her. When I arrived home later that night all was quiet, everyone was asleep. I wanted so desperately to wake her up and see if she had achieved this monumental goal.

I waited until my eyes sprang open then next morning, “How did you go Honey? Did you end up watching a movie or did you manage to keep your promise?”

Her little face beamed back at me “I didn’t watch a movie Mummy. God helped me keep my promise and I read this much of my book” She held up her novel and showed a quarter of it sectioned off with a bookmark.

I was so overcome with joy as tears ran down my cheeks, I made such a big deal of her triumph. Throughout the day I kept reminding her how very pleased I was with her, because it is one thing for a parent to discipline a child, but for a child of 9 years old to discipline herself was a huge accomplishment. I don’t know  many adults who have that much self-discipline or faith. I strongly feel that exercising faith and self-control is extremely important, especially in a day and age when self-indulgence is so widely encouraged. Proudest Mum ever!

22/07/2012

Why So Fragile?**

Posted in Encouragement, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:06 pm by The Water Bearer

A few years ago I read this statement by Author Lysa Terkerst and have tried to refer to it ever since.

“Don’t let the compliments of others go to your head, or their criticisms to your heart”

I failed to adhere to this advise recently, and it has become the foundation of a new level of perspective.

Having had a very successful couple of months of blogging, I have become somewhat ‘hyper-enthusiastic’, it has been so wonderful to see people all over the world reading my stuff, then even ‘liking’ some and giving such wonderful compliments. Yet I have fallen into a trap set for me by my inner enemies, I confess that I have come to rely on my ‘blog stats’ to verify the success of my calling. I can hear all the horrified ‘GASPS’ of shock. (*Wink) I imagine this is pretty common.

Unfortunately it is not as trivial as it may seem, nothing ever is with me!

This is dangerous territory, treading way too close to pride than I like to get. By no means can I take any credit for any of this success, I completely acknowledge all glory goes to the Lord for any ability He has given me to write. Besides people always like His stuff much better than anything I try to come up with on my own 🙂 I suppose it is simply that I have become overly animated by the evidence that He can use me.

A big element of my personality is an addiction to WORDS. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very busy mind, often have many thoughts, words and ideas buzzing around inside my head and I am drawn into sharing these with others. Sometimes expressing them and seeing them more clearly brings tremendous benefit to my chaotic state of mind, other times I become manic and fear that my testimony may be damaged as I ramble on in a state lacking control.

I am also compulsive by nature and harbor much nervous energy. I used to smoke irregularly when my busy mind found an empty moment to kill, when I quit smoking I took up Facebooking, filling the spaces by automatically checking for notifications using the app on my phone. On a bad or slow day this simple act can get out of hand, so I knew I needed to once again take action. When I quit Facebook, I took up blogging. You see a pattern here? I am now constantly tempted to check to see – Who has viewed? Where were they? Did they ‘Like’ it?  “Does someone want to share ‘words’ with me?” All stemming from these long standing traits.

A month into blogging, this pattern began emerging (again) so as usual I went on a 3 day Fast. I didn’t go onto my blog site at all, didn’t check my ‘stats’, was determined not to read any comments or reply for 3 whole days! (Luckily God didn’t allow me to be tempted by comments during those three days, as my blog received none, He knows! Lol)

I have come to find that fasting something for 3 days, is extremely beneficial to our development of faith and victory in overcoming the habitual temptations of life. In times when either breaking a habit, or preventing one from forming, or simply going without something we enjoy for God, is a symbol of recognition that we need Him in our situation more. This is because 3 days is fairly achievable, and therefore we are less likely to break our promise and become self-condemning. 3 days is also long and difficult enough to need help to reach the promised goal. Every time the tempting thought pops up during this time, we can  acknowledge the promise we made, and ask God for Help, this breaks up the automatic train of thought. It invites Him into the situation and an army of angels are dispatched to our aid.

So even though I have fasted blogging a couple of times, I must admit that due to all the new experiences it has brought me, my state of mind has become even more excitable than usual and I have allowed the compliments of others to somewhat go to my head (or perhaps rather my hands).

Compulsive nature can be easy fodder for our inner enemy to form habits, dangerous ones that try to to push us off the narrow path. It brings a whole other side to the coined phrase “Idle Hands are the Devil’s plaything”.

Next came phase two, when I received a couple of blunt criticisms which I let go straight to my heart, deeply. I reacted badly, defended, felt guilty, then that old familiar fear began to rise up from the depths of my soul, pressing hard on my heart, it began to choke me, forming a lump in my throat, and by the time this fear got to my head I was lost and consumed by it.

The main focus of these criticisms:- my unruly mouth. A negative response to the easy and common temptation to think too much and share every thought in my head, especially during a bout of psychological ‘mania’. I am aware of this, I have been all my life, it has brought me great shame, I have prayed and confessed about this more than anything else. While I have seen much improvement during the years God has been changing and developing me, this is the one area of weakness that I experience the most regular and regrettable backward slips. Old habits do die hard!

Often the desire to force being different from the reality of who I am causes severe bouts of depression.

When I get attacked with a bout of depression like this a few things commonly happen. I doubt and condemn myself and confess it all to God, I believe the words of people I care about and respect so much that I ask God to help me become what they think I should be. At the same time I try to remind myself that this is how God made me, I need to love and accept myself, and that I need to work with Him to bring about any changes He is guiding me to make. It can become quite a confusing mixture of thoughts as I try to determine which ones I should listen to.

This inner to and fro can lead to thoughts of insanity which creep to the threshold of my mind, leaving me unable to trust a thought in my own head. Battling these types of psychological conditions causes mental fatigue, I refer to this as an emotional hangover’ , a few wasted days spent heavy and extremely sensitive. After this it is common to want to make up for lost time and I can become manic and go into overdrive to catch up and get ‘on top’ of things, only to fall short of my own expectations.

It is common to want to reach out to someone, needing them to help clear away some of the self-condemnation, however often human misunderstanding of spiritual or psychological systems can lead to badly timed good intentions which can clumsily handle a fragile heart. Now while I personally have found much support through professional therapists, they can not cover all the bases these situations require. Only God and His word know how to properly handle this type of vulnerability, so we need to reach out for Him in prayer.

These attacks soften the heart, making it fragile as it prepares to receive the new level of perspective and to break off old unwanted strongholds. Forcing a new level of complete submission to God, depending on Him for every thought and every action, begging Him to take the wheel and drive.

As usual I prayed for clarity and for sanity, I prayed for Him to keep a tight reign on my lips, I prayed for freedom and self-acceptance, I cried bitter tears of remorse, I asked for forgiveness, and I begged Him to meet me in my pit and rescue me.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”. Psalms 51:17 (ASV)

Within a few minutes of intense prayer at the time my heart was at it’s most fragile, I was sent comfort. First I received a pleasant surprise to distract me from my thoughts, a little later an unexpected, warm, lingering embrace and a confession of Love. The next day a special family evening, spent sharing ‘words’ with those I love and cherish most on this earth. Then a days break, a day alone to listen to soothing music and allow me to begin to collect my thoughts. Hallelujah!

Since all this has really taken it out of me I have taken some much needed R&R, which you may have read about in my recent post A Fragile Heart.

When we obey and make steps to fulfill our calling we open ourselves up to the inner enemies attacks to try and put us off track. This may come in obvious ways  through physical circumstances such as a verbal attack from someone unexpected, perhaps burning your hand or cutting a finger while cooking dinner, or disturbed sleep from petty annoyances, perhaps just an unruly household with everyone in a ‘mood’, rubbing each other in the worst ways. Sometimes the enemies attacks can come through more subtle ways, through temptation, or creating a fearful mindset, through psychological weakness, or a moment of confusion at the expense of your faith. These are his scare tactics, hoping we will not follow through in obedience, and you can be sure that if we do continue on the obedient path we will see some of these attacks result afterwards as well. This is the enemies backlash in retaliation to any ground we may have made toward God.

Yet this is the war we are in, and when we are obeying the Almighty and keeping our hearts open to Him, He gives us comfort through faith by knowing He will be victorious. We are on the winning side even if the evidence all around may appear bleak. Depend on His strength when you are weak, find comfort in knowing you are Loved no matter what lies the enemy or the world tells you. And be prepared to suffer and to grow, and to rest and to fight again and to succeed, then suffer and grow, then rest and then fight and then succeed ……..and so on and so on….. Until this war and life as we know it ends, and we are finally free from this battle, changed by Him forever. When the enemy loses all influence and Righteousness Reigns into ETERNITY!

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