Paralyzed by Fear

I turn on the television
Chaos all around me

Disbelief–that is no longer disbelief–
at what I see unfolding
Before my very eyes.

Immediately paralyzed by fear.

I fear for those I love;
For my LGTBQ friends,
For my black and brown friends,
For all my friends who are seen as outsiders.

Fear encircles.

I am afraid to stand up for what is right.
I am afraid to speak my mind.
I am afraid for what will happen if I speak truth.

Yet God calls me to speak truth;
To be brave.

I will not let fear silence me.

I will listen to the words of our God
As he proclaims over and over again,
“Do not be afraid.”

Words that appear 365 times in Scripture
One for each day of the year.

Yet the truth is that fear is here.
Fear paralyzes hourly, daily, every minute.
Fear encompasses us all.

Fear that is for me taken away through
This one who cries out and pierces the darkness;

The one who continually reminds us that we are never alone.
That God will never leave us or forsake us.

Unsettling Days

These days are unsettling. The lights in a Bethlehem are no longer burning bright. The city of peace has lost her light. To those in power, do you know what you are doing? What you have done?

A football player pledges allegiance to God and not the flag. So many think he is wrong while others understand what he is kneeling for. Unsettling arguments….whose right and whose wrong?

An unsettled world for so many. Unsettling days for women, black individuals, LGBTQ people. Unsettling because the world treats them awfully. The world is unsettled; for they  have forgotten what it means to truly listen to one another.

And it all began with Jesus who was born in an unlikely place to an unlikely woman. This precious Jesus who came to turn the world upside down. This one who unsettled the world for a reason.  But I think we have forgotten why Jesus came to the world in the first place? We have forgotten that this is unsettling is unlike the unsettling days of today. This unsettling born in a manger in Bethlehem calls us to shut up and listen.

Sunday Blessings 192 and 193

(1) An interview with a seminary student. He was interviewing me for a class.

(2) Fun mail!

(3) Getting to see SH

(4) A parishioner buying me supper.

(5) Great fundraiser turnout

(6) Watching some of my youth dance in Alice in Wonderland.

(7) Decorating the church and having pizza with some of the decorators afterwards

(8) A surprise package in the mail

(9) Crockpot chicken noodle soup

(10) Being selected to have one of my blogposts posted over at the Mudroom blog

(11) The movie Elf

(12) Texting with my faves

(13) Snapchatting with HL and ST

(14) Supper with KD and her family

(15) Applebees leftovers for lunch

(16) A parishioner bringing me buns and bars leftover from a funeral.

(17) Caroling with church peeps

(18) Texting with my fave

(19) Seeing Miracle on 34th Street with awesome peeps.

(20) Bake sale goodness

(21) CH and CC sharing my Mudroom blogpost

(22) Guest posting on the Slate Projects blog

(23) Surprise packages left on my office door at church.

(24) A beautiful PLN

(25) Aspirin for those headachy days

Enfleshed Children of God

” I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”–Ezekiel 36:25-26

Mary, a pregnant woman, lying on a cold dirty barn floor births baby Jesus. This job was not a clean job. In fact, Mary experienced every contraction, every pain that came with giving birth to this precious one. But so often we try to shine up her birth. We try to make it less about the pain and humanity and more about the joy. Yet we cannot experience Jesus birth without really focusing on where he was born.

Jesus ministry begins in a dirty stinky unclean barn. Throughout his life, Jesus was the first to sit with those on the margins; the unclean. In fact, Jesus often chose the least likely to fulfill a mission for God. Jesus offered them the life giving water only Jesus can provide.

And this life giving water is offered to you and I too! We are not perfect. We sin. We are unclean because we are human. We don’t always make the most pure choices. We fixate on things that are not always so good for us. But our choices also remind us that we have life and breathe and depth.

Our hearts beat with every part of our being. As our hearts pump, beating with each moment, God reminds us that God has given us life. Life that is lived out when we share love with each other; accepting one another completely for who God created us to be. Enfleshed, living breathing children of God who are always welcome to the life giving waters of our God.

So when you think your neighbor is unclean, perhaps you should sit down, zip your lips shut and listen!

Not Only

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “only.” We would love to have you join us.

“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.”–Jeremiah 1:7

An infant lying in a manger in Bethlehem whose cries pierce the darkness. This infant who is not only Mary and Joseph’s child but the savior sent to the world because of God’s love for each of us. Jesus a man who turns the world upside down and spreads the good news from city to city. Jesus who hangs on a cross for our sins. The one who only God can resurrect from the dead.

Jesus who comes to remind us to love our neighbors. Jesus who tells us not to care only for ourselves but to care for all the world. Jesus who calls us to strive for peace. But where is this peace? Is it a peace only Christ can bring about?

This Advent may we walk to the manger not alone but together. May we trust in the promises of this one who comes in the midst of a silent night; not only for one but all of Gods beloved.

A New Seed

In the ground, a seed is planted. Rain is prayed for–to water this seed; to encourage it to grow. And when the rain doesn’t come, we water the seed hoping we don’t over water or under water. We watch and wait for the seed to produce a beautiful new plant. Sometimes the plant is damaged by the strong ND winds. Other times, the plant doesn’t grow because it is so arid and dry. As a farmer’s daughter, granddaughter, and niece, I understand the need for just the right amount of sun, rain, and timing for growth. And when everything is just right, a good plant is yielded from that first seed.

This past year, the last 7-8 months especially have changed me in ways I never thought or imagined. I have been shaped and shifted from this unexpected change in my life. It is a time of waiting that has changed me in new and exciting ways. (You can read about this waiting over at the Mudroom this week.)

Yet in early June, in the beginning days of this change, I couldn’t see how I could or even would grow from this experience. All I saw was a girl in need of water, in need of growth, in need of someone who would tend and nourish her heart. I was dry and desperately seeking to be quenched by the life giving water of our God who offers that life giving water to all of us.

But then the unforeseen happened again. In the majestic Colorado Rocky Mountains, I stood 300 feet from the base of Estes Cone where I felt I could practically reach out and touch God. And it was there in that place where I began to see God molding and shaping me into a new woman. On that mountain, holy tears streaming down my face, I began to let go of the past and look towards the future.

The weight of the world; of my life was lifted from my shoulders. I came down from that mountain; lighter than I had been in weeks. And as I stood at the bottom of that mountain, looking up at the top, I stood contemplating where God would lead me next.

The truth is that in the midst of this liminal space, God grew me. I didn’t see the growth in the midst of the pain. But God watered me through friends who sat with me and knew when I needed to grieve, when I needed to cry and when I simply needed to yell at the world. God also watered me through the Word and through holy spaces and places that began to fill my heart up again. In addition, God nourished my heart as God formed me along the way.

Now looking back, I see the ways that God has used my brokenness to make me whole again; to graft me into an elegant new piece of kintsugi. Kintsugi that tells the story of my brokenness but also the beauty of that brokenness in my life. “God makes beautiful things out of dust; out of us (Lyrics from Beautiful Things; Gungor music). I am a beautiful beloved child of God whose cracks shine forth with God’s love knowing only God is the one who can heal, redeem and grow forth new life.

I am a changed woman; changed by the growth that has taken place. The weeds have been removed. New seeds have been planted. And this dry arid heart again has life and breath and peace as a new seed grows forth reminding me and all of us that God indeed is the master gardener knowing what we need at the right time and place.

And now, a new seed is sprouting forth; cracking through the dirt ready to be nourished, watered and tended to in the midst of life’s own brokenness.

I See You There!

I see you there
Watching her
As she pulls out her food stamps
To pay for her dinner supplies.

I see you there
Staring at the way
She is acting.

I see you there
Scorn upon your face
Wondering why she is allowed
To have her own children.

I see you there
Judging immediately
Blaming the latest school shooting
on “her kind.”

I see you there
Constantly
Showing contempt

And because I see you there
My heart is broken
How can you judge?
Why must you judge?

Do you not see her?
Do you not see him?
Do you not see any of the Lord’s beloved?

They are hurt by your words,
By your actions,
By the way you treat your neighbor.

Will you please see all
For who God created them to be?

Will you promise to not judge?
To not show contempt? To not scorn?

We Cry Out…

Now why do you cry aloud?

There are so many that cry aloud
Cry aloud at the injustices they see
Cry aloud at the way the world treats them
Cry aloud because justice isn’t being served
Cry aloud at this broken fractured world

Cry aloud–louder and louder
Hoping that their cries are heard
Over the noise of the world.

Is there no king in you?

That is the problem
Too many think they have the power.

In fact, too often they yield their power
Flaunting it in front of all the world
Flaunting it especially to those who are crying out.
God is the king!
But too many think
They are the ones sitting on the throne.

Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor?

The world is full of so much deep pain
Like a woman in labor

Wanting all the pain to subside; to go away
Eventually the pain leads to life
And more life reminds us that God is indeed the one in control.
Yet Micah you still ask these questions

And your questions have answers.
We cry out because we want Emmanuel
To have the final Word
We want you to fulfill the promises you have given us.

And yet we look at the world around us
And all we can do
Is continue to cry out…
Hoping you will come down
To turn the world upside down
In this broken messed up world.

From Joy-Immune to Joy-Full (A Guest Post)

I am excited to welcome Dr. Michelle Bengtson to the prairie today. She recently published a book titled “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression.” 

This book that is a gift to anyone who knows someone or lives with a mental illness themselves. As the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness, I am looking forward to continuing to read Michelle’s story. So please welcome her! 

From Joy-Immune to Joy-Full
Dr. Michelle Bengtson

Joy-immune.

That’s where I was.

At least that’s what I believed.

As I looked around me it seemed like everyone else was so full of joy and yet I had none. In fact, depression was all I could see as the dark night of my soul enveloped me.

Why were they the lucky ones? Was I not as deserving? Was I not as worthy? Was I not as special? Was I not as important?

I wasn’t even sure I knew what joy was. To me, it was just a word in a Christmas carol.

I wasn’t even sure how I had fallen in this deep, dark well. I was the doctor—the neuropsychologist who treated patients with anxiety and depression for twenty years. Shouldn’t I have been able to prevent depression from enveloping me?

At least I knew how to treat it, right?

That’s what I thought.

And so I embarked on all the treatment strategies I had suggested to my patients for nearly two decades: therapy, medication, diet, exercise, rest. They all helped, but they were not enough to eradicate the depression that wreaked havoc in my soul.

I cried out to God that if this was all my life was going to be, I didn’t want this life. I begged Him to take me home to Him. But if He chose not to do that, would He please first show me what I was missing because I refused to go back to being the doctor treating patients until I knew that what I had to offer really worked. And lastly, I begged Him to make my depression count for something…to use this pain for good…to bring me out better than I had gone in.

He very clearly spoke to my heart, not in an audible voice, but to my heart He clearly said, “If you do not deal with the spiritual root of disease, it’s like putting a band aid on an infection and hoping it will get well.”

That began my journey into understanding the spiritual contributors of depression, and cooperating with God for complete healing, wholeness, and restoration.

God so vividly made me aware that we have an enemy. John 10:10 says that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”

That enemy seeks to 1) steal our joy, 2) kill our peace, and 3) destroy our identity. But that’s the end of his influence, because neither the enemy, nor depression 1) determine your worth, 2) dictate your destiny, or 3) separate you from the love of God! And that’s reason to maintain our hope while we walk out our healing!

While there are genetic contributors, and chemical contributors, and secondary and reactionary contributors to depression, the enemy is the biggest contributor to depression and he does so by interfering with our minds and lying to us about who we are.

Scripture tells us that “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Essentially, we have to pay attention to our thoughts, determine if they agree with what God says, and if not, reject them and instead, embrace His truth.

For me, this began with writing one single scripture on a post-it note, and putting it where I would see it every day. Every time I saw it, I recited it out loud because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Then I wrote down another, and another, and another. Before I knew it, I had over 100 scriptures on post-it notes all over my walls, mirrors, car dashboard, and light switches to remind me of the truth of what God says about me.

I was speaking at an event and a woman came up to me and asked if she could pray for me. Never one to turn down prayer, I happily agreed. As she prepared to pray, she hesitated. I looked up to her with a question in my eyes. She responded, “I usually pray for people to receive His joy. But I’m not going to pray for that for you. You clearly are already filled with His joy! So I was just asking Him what He wanted me to pray for you…”

As I left, I prayed prayers of gratitude because I don’t think I will ever forget being so depressed that I was seduced by the enemy of my soul into believing the lie that I was “joy-immune.” And now, I am full of His joy!

Scripture says, “Weeping may last for a night, but His joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The dark night of my soul lasted a very long time, but God was faithful and brought His joy in the morning!

Not only that, but I recognize many of the other lies he had whispered to my heart, that I also believed…the lies that I was not as deserving, worthy, special, or as important as others who appeared to be joyful. Christ died for one and all. That levels the playing field. I am as important and as worthy as anyone else, and THEY are as important and as worthy as I am, and so are YOU!

Hold on to Him, and the hope He offers. He came so that YOUR joy may be full as well!

Because of Him, #HopePrevails!


For a Free eBook on How to Help a Depressed Loved One, click here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/how-to-help-a-depressed-loved-one-ebook/

For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/10-things-to-know-if-you-have-a-depressed-loved-one/

For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-not-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/ while here are suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/

Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of best-selling “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.”  She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She is in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of 30 years have two teenage sons, and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with Michelle at:

To order Hope Prevails: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/
Website: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com
Blog: http://drmichellebengtson.com/category/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrMichelleBengtson
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
LinkedIn: http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/DrMichelleBengtson
Google+: http://www.google.com/+MichelleBengtson
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/drmichellebengtson
Pinterest:  http://www.Pinterest.com/Drbhopeprevails
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn92DHzGSZk8psDb2FKazOQ

To order Hope Prevails from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Prevails-Insights-Personal-Depression/dp/080072707X/


This week, my guest poster Michelle and I will be linking up with Kelly and the RaRa linkup, Holly and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.

 

Defiled

She stands in the kitchen making supper for her family. But the demons begin to play ping pong in her brain and soon dinner is ruined. She is beside herself. She quickly picks up her children and takes them to the nearest restaurant. Eyes are on them as they walk into the building. The secret is locked deep in the depths of her children’s heart, yet many in this town know this woman’s story. Her name is defiled because of the illness she lives with day in and day out.

A homeless man comes in from the cold asking for assistance. He is given a meal but there isn’t much else they can do. They send him on his way. He stands on the corner asking for more handouts. His name is defiled as people wonder why he doesn’t have a job, a home, etc.

The black man, the transgender couple, the immigrants. Their names are defiled too. Yet Jesus himself was an immigrant born in manger in Bethlehem. And as I remember that fact, I am reminded that we are called to, as my colleague/friend Tuhina states, “rebellious joy.”

What does this rebellious joy look like? How can we stop each other from defiling one another’s names? Jesus himself was defiled as he hung on a cross for our sins, as a crown of thorns was placed on his head, and nails were pierced into his hands and feet.

May we cling to the promises of this holy one who knows what it is like to be humiliated, who comes to turn the world upside down. May we rebuild the holy temple as we share God’s love with the entire world. And believing in this deep promise, no longer will our name, our neighbor’s name and most especially God’s name ever be defiled again.

“For God so loved the world, God gave God’s one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send God’s son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that we may have life through Him.”–John 3:16-17