Go Through the Valley

adventure alps backpack backpacker
Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

Courtney Hay was mentor and worship leader who’s father Bob Hay was a found of the Karitos Worship and Arts Conference in Chicago. Courtney taught at this conference for many years and that is where I met her. She has been a spiritual leader to me. Courtney would often teach a class called, Worshiping in the Valley. I attended it multiple times at Karitos and the Karitos Indianapolis Conference. It was about how to have joy when you are going through something amazingly hard in your life. Courtney knew hard. She struggled with multiple cancers for many years, in fact she had cancer when I met her at least 10 years ago, she passed from complications of it in 2018. She was one of the most joyous people I have ever known despite being in constant pain. She knew a secret that most days I can’t even grasp. She knew how to be content in her situation and be present every day.

Now I know she had days where she couldn’t get out of bed. When she begged God to heal her or a day of no pain.  I know I mostly saw her on her best days when she was doing what she wanted to do and surrounded by her family and friends, but I know that pain can make that even hard to enjoy at times. The problem is when your in constant pain, physical or emotional, sometimes you get stuck. You can’t see your way out of it. You long for a day without it but that day just doesn’t come. For me it might be waking up everyday to the nerves firing in my foot or the soreness in my back, for you it might be that person you love very much saying something very unloving to you again. It wears you down, breaks your heart and makes you feel like you just want to give up.  That’s what it feels like to be in the valley.

But that’s not the end. Jesus wants to give us hope. He doesn’t want us to set up a house and live in the valley. He wants us to keep walking through the valley.  Psalm 23:4 AMP “Even though I walk though the {sunless} valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for you are with me;  Your rod {To protect} and your staff {to guide}, the comfort and console me.”

The verse says “we walk through”, that means every day we get a little closer to the end of the valley. We walk through that heart breaking situation, that divorce, cancer, loss of a loved one or physical loss. If we stop walking and we sit in it we will get swallowed up by it. As Christians were not supposed to just sit. We get to walk through. Although loneliness dwells in that valley we are not alone, Jesus is right in that pain with you protecting you and guiding you through and out. That is something to be thankful for!

Two years ago before my back was ruptured I was preparing to leave a job I dearly loved to be a stay at home mom with my then three-year old son. I prayed earnestly that my work would be protected even though I was leaving. I loved the people I worked with, I loved what I did and leaving was so hard but I felt that God was calling me to do it. My last day of work was supposed to be a Friday and I ruptured my disk the Tuesday before. I never made it to my last day of work. But thankfully my work was saved from loosing an employee due to injury. Everything was already in place for work to occur without me. God protected me and where I had worked even though I was just starting out in my valley.

I can think of many other times when he protected me. When I hurt too much to drive and one of my kids had to be somewhere and miraculously my dad would call, my husband would be home or a friend would appear and it would all work out or God loving helped me drive home in pain but I’d get their safely.

So I encourage you, whatever you are facing to go through it. Put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. Remember there is another side, the valley does end you don’t have to stay in it.

Time to Rest, work is ahead

I’ve been wrestling with some physical limitations recently. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had a stress fracture in my foot, thankfully last week I was able to retire my brace and walk in shoes only again. Only to later in the week aggravate my back.  I went directly to my back doctor who informed me it was a mild aggravation of the facets near my surgery site (the bones that surround the disc) and I should feel better in a few weeks. So I am forced to take things easy right now. I often think that God allows these things to happen when He needs me to slow down and rely on him. I don’t like slowing down or sitting still, or waiting on anything so its an area God is still working on in me. I am thankful for my husband and my dad both have been here for me this week. My dad came and helped me watch the kids the day I injured my back so I could lay down he also cleaned my kitchen. I am so blessed with a good father. My husband has helped me with more of the chores that require me bending or sitting on the floor which I am very grateful for.

I also think I have a tendency to want to do everything my way, on my own without asking for help. In the past two years since my back injury I’ve had to learn how to ask for help and how to show appreciation for it. Its hard and humbling to know you can’t do something most people can do for themselves without help. Its such a relief when someone comes beside you and does help, thank you never seems like enough.

I have two exciting things coming up in July that I need to be better for, both will take a toll on my body if I’m not careful. But both things I don’t want to miss. The first is I volunteer for a week at Camp Allendale in Trafalgar, Indiana. This christian camp is one of my favorite places on earth. I attended there as a child and both of my daughters have attended. I can’t wait till my son is old enough to go. The week of camp is Holy Spirit filled and rich with lessons about how much Jesus loves us. Last year was my first year volunteering and I just loved seeing it through the eyes of the kids in my cabin. It was hard work but so worth it.

I also have the Christian worship conference Karitos to attend from July 11 -13. This conference is very important to me. This year I am the department head over the youth attending and I have been working on making this years experience for them for the past few months. I am so excited about what they will be doing this year. We have a professional spray painter, Milton Coronado who will be spending both Friday and Saturday with them teaching them about street art and giving them a chance to work on an actual mural. We also have individualized devotional time planned. The youth get to try all fields of artistic expression from visual art classes to sound and video recording. It will be a great experience for anyone who attends.

Both are big reasons why I need to rest and focus on being in better health by the end of this month. Prayers are greatly appreciated on all fronts. If you would like more information about Camp Allendale check out their website www.camp-allendale.org  or Karitos check out my blogs. What is Karitos Worship and Arts Conference  and their website www.karitosnation.org. 

Addressing the Anxiety of Change

I worked for a man once who didn’t like change. Really didn’t. He liked routine, predictability and the old fashion way. But regardless of what he liked and didn’t like he would eventually have to agree to some of it and change would happen slowly, mostly for the better. I don’t like change much either and have a hard time when I see a season of my life end. Lots of seasons are ending in my life right now. Which causes me to feel fear, anxiety and sadness.

I looked in the Bible for a word about change. Of course the Byrd’s song “Turn, Turn Turn” popped into to my head as I turned to Ecclesiastes chapter 3.  A few things I took from this is that first I have God’s permission to feel how I do, there’s a season for weeping or sadness in verse 4 and thankfully it’s followed by a season to laugh. There is not a season for fear or anxiety. So I should let go of them. In verse one it states in the Amplified Version “There is a season ( a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven.” There’s purpose to change. Purpose to what was before and what is coming and purpose to any pain you feel during the change your going through.

Next I stumbled upon a number of verses that speak of how God does not change. He is the only unchanging, stable factor in an ever changing world. I really liked what Psalm 46 verses 2-5 had to say. “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change.” (Well my fear should go out the window right there.) “And though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas, though its waters roar and foam, through the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah. There is a river whose streams made glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her (His city), she will not be moved, God will help her with the morning dawns.”

I take from this that I shouldn’t fear change because the Holy Spirit dwells in me and He will help me.

Finally I was reminded that we do change. God made us as beings that can transform from what we were into what he wants us to be. Change is painful, sometimes just emotionally painful, sometimes both physically and emotionally painful. But our goal is to live like Jesus, to be shining lights in a dark world and he changes us slowly into that glow.

2 Corinthians 2:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from (one degree of) glory to (even more) glory, which comes from the Lord, (who is) the Spirit.”

I’m not one to say “go ahead embrace change” but I do agree that it is necessary and has purpose and is nothing to be feared. Knowing that it is purposeful to God in how he shapes us helps take away the anxiety and fear I feel and some of the sadness too.

Be Salt, Matthew 5:13

side view of a bottle with salt
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I’m in a bible study right now that is going through the book Taste and See by Margaret Feinberg and each chapter the author explores a food and how it is used in the Bible to teach us about Jesus and His kingdom and how we should live. I just started chapter 5 and it’s about Salt. I enjoyed the chapter but it reminded me about a devotional I wrote a couple years back for our art ministry group.  I wanted to share what I had found about salt at that time. I based my discoveries on the principle that God created things to teach us about his kingdom and way of living. I took a closer look at how salt is mentioned in the verse Matthew 5:13″ You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.”

So my question was  what did Jesus mean by calling us salt? Jesus was talking to Jewish peasants who wanted to hear his teachings. Because they were learning and following Him he wanted to give them a true picture of what it means to live the life God wants. So what is salt? Salt is the combination of Sodium and Chloride its chemical formula is NaCl. That is one atom of sodium and one atom of chloride. It is a very stable atom. So stable that when put through a battery designed to separate the components of an atom, salt will not separate. It is made up of 7 electrons (chlorine) and 1 electron ( Sodium). This is kind of like how when we change from being man (chlorine and 6 electrons) and become a christian, adding Jesus to our lives that one extra electron, makes us stable. It makes me think of how Jesus is referred to as our anchor in a storm of life.

This stability also actually helps when making clean water for countries that do not have it. Using a simple battery and salt to purify water the battery will separate the charges of the compounds in the water. Since Sodium is positively charged and chlorine is negatively charged the chlorine will separate from the sodium and the charge can purify the water.

Next I examined salt’s properties, Salt is clear and crystallized. That means you can see what is inside. We are like this too. We are vessels. What we put inside ourselves, comes out of us. Luke 6:45 says. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

So if you spend your time thinking about things that are not good, your more likely to do things that are not good, but If you think about things in loving ways, and are thankful for them your more likely to produce good in your life. There is another verse that goes along with this its found in Matthew 6:22

“The eye is the lamp of the body, If your eyes are healthy your whole body will be full of life, but if your eyes are unhealthy your whole body will be full of darkness.” So this means what you spend your time doing and looking at matters. If I spend my time playing a video game I’m going to talk about it, draw about it, think about it. I see this in my kids who love Animal Jam and Rolbox.  So if you read God’s word and pray every day, your likely to remember God’s instructions and live a life that reflects Jesus.

When you add salt to water it expands and fills with the water.  Jesus said he could give living water. Salt expands with water and makes the water taste different. When we fill ourselves with God’s word, Jesus pours himself into us and we can easily imitate Him. His word combines with us allowing us to care and love more deeply the people around us. Our words becomes “saltier” not like we say now, more sarcastic, but instead how He means in verse “ Let your words always be full of grace, seasoned with salt” in Colossians 4:6  Our words will sound sweeter, taste better and be more rooted in love towards others.

When salt is added to water and heated, the boiling point of water raises from 100 C to approximately two degrees higher. Therefore cooks use it to help their water burn hotter when cooking. The Holy Spirit is the helper Jesus sent when he rose back to heaven. Working together with the Holy Spirit by asking for help with what we are doing allows us to have a better outcome ( hotter water). This is why Jesus says his way is easier and his yoke is light in Matthew Chapter 11 verse 28-30.

Salt can be in rock form when found – The Sea of Galilee had salt deposits near it. The Israelites would go and mine salt from these areas. They would have to break it off into pieces of rock salt and then grind it down before it can be used. This is a lot like what happens to us when we decide to live for Jesus. The Holy Spirit refines us, like salt is refined. He breaks us of sins and strongholds in our lives that are not good for us and teaches us how to live in love. This happens when we commit to reading and praying regularly. This is seen in the Bible when John talks about pruning in chapter 15 verse 2. “ He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

So what does the second part of this verse mean. How does salt losing its saltiness? Have you ever had the salt in your salt shaker not taste salty?? I haven’t. Well apparently on that Sea of Galilee by the salt mines there were also Gypsum mines. When it would rain particles of Gypsum would mix with salt particles and the salt would not taste salty. This unsalty salt still worked well for traction though. So the priests would take this to the temple and on rainy slick days they would pour it on the floor of the synagog so that no one would slip and fall when they came to the temple to worship. Just like we pour salt mixed with dirt on our roads in the winter. Gypsum in this parable is sinful things we do, Anger is a good example. If you hold on to being angry it’s really hard to love that person your upset with. Jesus is saying to turn away from sin, and ask forgiveness. Some sins we can’t avoid, we have to ask the Holy Spirit to help us learn how to avoid them. But there are some sins where we make a conscious decision to do wrong. Jesus is saying to live a life like that will end up in you being useful to him for any reason accept keeping those who are faithful from falling like you. Or in other words being the bad example. So that’s what Jesus means when he says to be like salt. He made us and salt alike so that we have a visible example of what He is and what we are supposed to be like.

Becoming Brave in Hard times

It’s coming up on my two year anniversary of this journey. On May 17, 2017 I ruptured my S5 disk picking my son up to stop him from running into the street. We were on our way to my first therapy appointment with my “new” therapist, the old one had left the network, and my sweet 3 year-old son didn’t want to go get into the car. He ran down the driveway toward the street and I did one of those grab and pick up maneuvers and ruptured my already compounded disk. We didn’t know it was compounded at the time. I had been to two doctors that week and a physical therapist that same day who all said it was my hips. It was an unavoidable action that changed my life permanently for these past two years. I spent a good amount of the summer in my bed recovering from surgery and learning how to live with nerve pain. It was there I decided I was done with anxiety, fear and worry as I dealt with daily panic attacks wondering if I’d ever get out of bed.

Well 8 months of physical therapy, a back surgery and numerous epidurals later I wish I could say today I’m healed. Unfortunately not quite yet. However sometimes God makes us go through really hard things to teach us and I feel like I’ve been in His classroom daily. Some of these lessons are priceless. Like learning how to slow down and rest when I need to. I never rested when I was whole and was always exhausted. I’m not afraid anymore to take a day and just rest. Being brave has become driving my car with nerve pain. Not knowing if my doctor will renew my handicap placard.  Serving at Camp Allendale and walking 3 plus miles a day, and celebrating after that third mile. I’ve learned to rely on God and the Holy Spirit to do simple, everyday things like find my keys or pick up the laundry basket.

I can’t say I’m grateful for the injury yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that point. But I can say I am grateful for what God has done despite the injury. Regardless of what you are going through God does have good plans for you and can bring beauty from your ashes. The situation may still be there (for example yesterday I found out I have a stress fracture in my nerve damaged foot so now I’m walking in my brace again) but He can work through, during and around the situation if you ask and allow Him too.  Joyce Meyers says that “we are anointed for hard things, you don’t need the Holy Ghost in you if its going to be easy.”  So don’t be afraid of those hard things, remember who’s daughter and son you are and ask your Father for help. You’d be amazed and what He can do.

Love your Neighbors

I had a very scary night last night. Around 1:30 in the morning I was woke up by someone in our neighborhood yelling obscenities and racial slurs at another neighbor who happens to be Indian. We have a great deal of people from India living in our neighborhood. I was scared and appalled at what was happening outside my window. I did not feel safe and when the police drove by and the ordeal was over I had a very difficult time going back to sleep and had a number of nightmares.

While it was happening I prayed earnestly for protection over everyone in the neighborhood and for peace to come over the individual yelling. I prayed that no harm come to anyone and was so thankful when the yelling stopped. This morning I am a mix of emotions. I am still anxious about the whole event.  I’m angry that I live in a world with such intolerance. We have a fairly peaceful neighborhood in a small town that is a suburb of Indianapolis. I’ve lived here 15 years and never had the issues we have had this past year. I have two neighbors who have reported guns firing and bullets going thru their windows. I’ve heard of mail theft and people breaking into cars, stuff that never used to happen here and after last night I am at a loss. Its not just my neighborhood that crime is increasing its all over. Intolerance is running rampart across our country.

My heart breaks for the person who was being abused last night. I pray today they are okay and that they will live in a safe place again. My heart breaks for the abuser, that he harbors so much anger and hate, it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. I guess this is my call to whoever is reading to love each other and show love to others. No one deserves to be talked to or treated in that way. We need to love our neighbors no matter what. This world is getting to be so dark and we as Christians need to show light and love to one another. There is no room for intolerance in the faith of Christianity.

On April 28 of this year in Poway California John Earnest opened fire in a synagogue killing one woman and injuring three others. Before this event he wrote a seven page letter spelling out his core beliefs that Jewish people were guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media and that they deserved to die. As Christians we should be appalled by this anti-semiotic replacement theology that he believed and the actions he took.

We need to love our neighbors. And to negate his thoughts on the Jewish people,  Jewish people didn’t murder Jesus, Jews and gentiles murdered Jesus and it didin’t matter because Jesus forgave them, Luke 23:34. Jesus was Jewish and he came to Jewish people to teach them. Many of the first Christians were Jewish including all 12 disciples. Many of the parables and stories taught in the Gospels were biased on Jewish laws, traditions, culture and beliefs as well as the Torah and old testament books. If we took those into account when studying the word we would get a lot more out of the Gospels then we already do.

But regardless we are Christians are again called to love others and that includes our neighbors, our enemies, those who are foreign to us and those we don’t agree with. So today I ask you do something nice for one of your neighbors, show them some love. Lets fight intolerance the only way that works. With love.

The Art of Bravery

IMG-0564There’s this magical place about an hour and 15 minutes south of where I live called Nashville, IN in Brown County. I always wanted to live there. For one its beautiful. Hilly with trees and big high outlooks. The Brown County State Park is full of beautiful trails to walk and the town is like a mini Gatlinburg. Small shops, kettle corn, ice cream and an artist colony. I was so excited this past week when we got to visit.

My oldest daughter’s 8th grade art teacher entered one of her drawings in the Mabel B Annis Student Art Competition and the piece was on display at the Brown County Art Gallery. IMG-0566Sunday was the reception and awards so after church we drove south. It was a beautiful drive in the country. The trees were all in bloom and the clouds were starting to break up. We ate lunch at a small restaurant in town and walked  down to the gallery.

My parents were there when they we arrived. My youngest son adores my Dad and he was thrilled to have his Papa. We looked at all the pictures and talked, I was excited until my mom pointed out to me that awards had already been placed by the pictures and my daughter’s was not chosen.

As a mother and an adult it was ok, I was still proud of my daughter for being picked and for being on display. For my 8th grade daughter there is a level of disappointment and humbleness. I realized how brave these young artists have to be. Whenever you put out something you create in the public eye it undergoes scrutiny and art really boils down to which piece appealed to the one judge more. You have to be brave to allow something you create be rejected or chosen.

I life its the same way, we all create in some way.  We are innovative in our work down to making tonight’s dinner. If were not willing to undergo scrutiny we never grow as individuals and that willingness takes being brave.

We finished the afternoon visiting a few of the beautiful shops on the street buying ice cream and kettle corn for the way home. We made plans to go back soon, let the girls ride horses and hike. I watched my daughter be gracious to her teacher and family, loving to her siblings and grow a little bigger before my eyes. I am thankful I have an artistic daughter who is becoming a little braver everyday.