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Trust the Process

“Trust the process.”

It’s one of Dr. J’s favorite sayings and one I’ve heard countless times over the past two years. When I first heard about a “healing process” I thought I knew what it meant and what to expect as the process progressed. But it didn’t take long for me to find out I was clueless. Heaven knows I had a lot to learn.

In April 2017, at the beginning of my Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease healing process, I was told it would take two to three years to complete. Although in my optimistic (read: naïve) mind I believed I’d crush the doctor’s estimated time to full physical restoration by completing it in one year – two tops.

Well, two years have come and gone and my process it not over yet. I am still in route to full health, living day-to-day life with lingering ailments and stubborn symptoms. I am not 100% healed but I’m not where I once was and I’m not who I once was.

Along this journey I’ve come to learn what Dr. J means by “healing process.” Unlike I originally thought, it is not only physical. It’s mental and spiritual, too. Healing from Lyme has changed me in body, mind and soul, restoring and renewing from the inside out.  It is a long, challenging and rewarding journey that has shaped, strengthened and sanctified me every step of the way.

The Lyme healing process is unique in its physical manifestations but it is universal in its spiritual application. Whether or not you ever journey through a physical healing process, if you give your life to Jesus and receive His gift of salvation, you will most certainly embark on a spiritual, mental and emotional healing process. Along the way you will encounter setbacks and days of utter defeat, just like I have on my Lyme journey. There will be days you’ll be tempted to give up and plenty of days you’ll struggle just to get up.

But if you keep turning back to Jesus, He will give you the strength you need to continue in the process. Carried on His wings of grace, you will experience unspeakable glory and indescribable mountaintop views. He will lift you from deep pits and set you on your feet again. By His Spirit, He will guide your journey through valleys low and lead you up hills that higher than any you ever imagined you’d climb.

During the past two years of my healing process I have learned priceless principles to healing God’s way. I’d like to share seven of them with you and hope that they bless and encourage you in your own unique healing process:

P: Practice patience. The healing process probably won’t go as fast as you like but if you remain “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” you’ll discover that the slow road to healing is a rewarding one. (Romans 12:12)

R: Remain firmly planted in the foundation of facts over feelings. The healing process is a battle which is why suiting up in the full armor of God is key. Buckle the belt of truth around your waist and stand firm in the promises of God. (Ephesians 6:14)

O: Overcome by the strength of the Lord. Even when the process feels like too much for you to bear, remember that you “can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

C: Keep calm and let Christ carry you on. The process is not yours. It is God’s. Be still and let Him fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

E: Expect a breakthrough. Even when the process feels endless, remember that God has plans and a future in store for you. Live expecting to meet Jesus and experience His grace along the journey. (Jeremiah 29:11)

S: Set your heart, mind and soul on who Jesus is. Watching the process is like watching a pot of water while waiting for it to boil. It seems to take forever. So don’t count the days of trials and troubles. Count the blessings of being loved and saved by the Author and Perfector of your faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

S: Stay the course. To enjoy the healing up ahead you cannot give up. You must give yourself fully to the process, trusting God entirely. In due time a harvest will be produced “if you do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Although it’s true that Jesus saves us in an instant, He sanctifies us for a lifetime. Renewal in His spirit is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process. Healing God’s way isn’t a quick fix. It is a journey that will peel back every layer of your being and purify every crevasse of your body, mind and soul.

The process of letting Jesus heal you will try and test you but in the end, if you let it, God will use every moment of it to make you into the person He created you to be.

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Sea Gulls & God’s Provision

I love when the birds return in spring, especially after a long, brutal winter like the one we just had in northern Pennsylvanian. The blessed sound of birds chirping and singing their joyful song reminds me that even the coldest winter will come to an end. Warmth will return to the earth. Spring will always spring again.

But some birds don’t suddenly reappear in late winter because they never left in late fall.

While most birds – robins, blue jays, geese and many others – are “snow” birds, meaning that they head south before winter hits, sea gulls stay put. They are weather warriors, enduring the elements of all four northern seasons – polar vortexes included.

During a northern winter it isn’t unusual to see dozens of sea gulls gathering in snow covered parking lots, causing me to question their habits. Why do sea gulls stay here all winter while other birds go south? How do sea gulls obtain food when the ground is frozen solid and snow is piled high?

While walking along the bay on a late winter’s morning, my questions were answered by a flock of sea gulls perched on a mound of ice. There were at least thirty of these silly birds huddled together in one clump looking, as usual, cold and out of place. But, as I got closer, I realized that the sea gulls were congregating around a break in the ice so they could go fishing.

From my vantage point, the area of broken ice didn’t look like a prime fishing location since the opening was in shallow water. I couldn’t imagine many fish would be swimming that close to land. Not to mention that the icy opening appeared too small to provide fishing space for such a large gathering of birds. Yet, in just a few short minutes, I saw sea gull after sea gull dip into the frigid waters and return to the ice mounds with breakfast in their beaks.

The sea gulls fishing on the ice provided a powerful picture of God’s provision and reminded me of Jesus’ words. “Look at the birds of the air;” He said. “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?” (Matthew 6:26-27)

Watching the sea gulls taught me two important lessons about trusting God.

First, the scene taught me to never assume my way is the best way.

Take, for instance, sea gull migration. If it were up to me, sea gulls would fly south for the winter to escape the snow, sleet and ice. But God has a better way. He specifically designed the sea gulls to endure winter’s storms. Because God is in control, I don’t need to understand the “how’ of the sea gulls’ survival. I just need to trust the “Who” of their survival. And the “who” is God. He who creates the birds, sustains the birds.

The same is true of humans, like you and me. Although with my limited understanding I often think life would be better if I could simply “migrate” away from troubles. I’d be so much happier, healthier and content if only I didn’t have to endure the storms of life – or so I think.

But God has a better way. God knows that it is by way of suffering that perseverance, character and hope are cultivated in His children’s heart (Romans 5:3-4). The fruits of Christ’s spirit grow most hardily when the conditions compel us to cling to the cross in the midst of the most harrowing storms. When we stay faithful through the trials and lean into Jesus, His Spirit transforms us into faith-filled warriors in the Lord’s Army.

Secondly, from the sea gulls, I learned to never underestimate the sufficiency of God’s supply. Although the hole on the icy bay was small, God supplied it with plenty of fish to meet the sea gulls’ needs. He made much out of not much.

In my own life I’m prone to believing I need more to be satisfied. More funds. More strength. More resources. But God says that His grace is sufficient for me because His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s strength and might is best displayed in weak and needy vessels. The more dependent we are on God’s provision, the more miraculous it is when our only hope is for Jesus to show up with His resurrection power (and He always does).

As God’s beloved children, you and I can confidently follow Jesus wherever He goes without fear of provision or concern for the conditions because where God guides, He always provides.  

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Jesus, our Warrior King

If you’re a friend of God’s, you’re automatically an enemy of satan.

Be prepared, because he is going to attack you. Members of the Lord’s army who have taken a position at the foot of Christ’s cross are in satan’s cross hairs.

Picture a bulls eye on your back. Your enemy number one.

The Bible says that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities of the unseen, dark world. (Ephesians 6:12). There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. As followers of Christ, we are in a fight and the fight is always against satan. He is out to kill, steal and destroy with weaponry of fear, confusion, disappointment, anxiety and doubt. Just to name a few.

The enemy’s aim is to annihilate our faith and confidence in Christ.

To accomplish his goal, satan twists emotions so that God’s children are deceived and tricked into believing they stand on the battle field alone. The enemy knows that if he can make us feel separated from God, he can disconnect us from Christ’s power.

But the good news is satan cannot separate us from God. He doesn’t have that power.

As Paul wrote in Romans 8, nothing on earth can separate us from the love of God because Jesus already conquered the grave and rose to life again. There is nothing that can defeat the reigning Lord our God. There is nothing that can rip us away from His overcoming life.

But, in the heat of the battle, this truth can feel far away. While being taunted by defeat and hopelessness, it becomes tempting to focus exclusively on the attacker and lose sight of the Victor. Feelings of failure descend and cloud the facts of our faith.

In order to fight with the strength and power of God we cannot trust and rely on feelings. Taking hold of Christ’s victory must be done on the basis of faith.

If you and I wait till we “feel” like the battle is already won, we will spend our entire lives feeling defeated. The enemy is a liar and he regularly hijacks our feelings, making liars out of them, too.

This is what happened to Jesus’ followers in the days immediately following His crucifixion. As Luke recounts in his gospel, as the two men were traveling on the road to Emmaus they were overcome with grief because they believed their Savior was dead.

Even though these men were told by Jesus that three days would pass before He left the grave, they didn’t understand the warning. Even after the tomb was found empty, his followers were still doubtful that their Savior would return. They hadn’t seen Jesus yet and they didn’t feel like they ever would.

As the two men traveled along, they were downcast. They felt like their Lord was gone forever. They felt like Jesus was still in the grave.

But we all know how this story ends.

Jesus came and walked with them, although they didn’t recognize that it was Him at first. They told him about their defeated feelings and He restored their hope with the facts of faith.

Using scripture and the words of the prophets, Jesus recounted everything that was predicted would come to pass regarding His life. He reminded them that what God said about the Messiah. That He would suffer before He would rise again. The events that unfolded on Calvary had to occur for the sake of salvation. This trouble was to be expected.
Jesus’s followers were restored to hope and revived with the joy of Christ’s overcoming life by returning to truth.

War-weary travelers, take heart. The truth that Jesus shared with His followers on the road to Emmaus is still true today.

Jesus is victorious.
Jesus is risen.
Jesus is the eternally ascended Lord.
Jesus is triumphant!

When we focus on the facts of our faith, our feelings of failure are dispelled. By fixing our thoughts and hearts on who is fighting for us, the enemy who is fighting against us cannot get the upper hand.

We need never feel defeated because we are never on the battlefield alone. We have the truth, the way and the life fighting for us. And He has already won.

Today, when the enemy comes to attack, return to the truth of God’s Word. Stand on the firm foundation of scripture as you sound the trumpets of triumph for Jesus Christ, your Warrior King.

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The Cure for iPhone Addiction

Smartphone addiction is no joke.

On average, smartphone users check their phones forty-seven times a day due to social media fixation and texting-obsession. Studies show that we even admit to being smartphone dependent with over forty percent of smartphone users acknowledging that they have a phone addiction.

I am one such user.

I am a smartphone addict. iPhone to be exact. My phone is as much a part of me as my right arm (not left, because I’m right handed.) Although I’ve tried to curb the addiction many times my efforts have been futile. The technicolor screen keeps calling me back. Telling myself not to look at the phone and self-imposing rules never did the trick to cure my addiction. I needed to take more drastic measures. I needed the help of gray scale.

The gray scale smartphone setting transforms the screen’s vibrant color into various shades of gray. With one click of a button your smartphone can step back in time. Think pre-1970 when new-fangled color TVs had yet to infiltrate living rooms all across America.

The addiction-combating benefits of gray scale are psychological and scientifically proven. A technicolor smartphone screen stimulates neurons and triggers the release of dopamine, one of the body’s feel-good hormones. The chemical reaction of checking a smartphone is to the brain what handing a banana is to a monkey. It is a reward, enticing the monkey (and brain) to come back for more.

Switching the smartphone screen to gray scale dramatically reduces the appeal of the neurological reward. In monkey terms, gray scale feeds the monkey only a little slice of banana instead of the whole piece of fruit. When the monkey isn’t content with such a small morsel (and who is content with just a single slice of banana?) he will seek other sources of satisfaction.

And so it is in the brain. Without the color to feed the need for neuro-stimulation, our brains will naturally seek other ways to meet the need.

Switching my iPhone to grayscale has been an addiction-kicking game changer. By changing the screen’s setting my phone checking compulsion has substantially dissipated. Without color, apps have lost their allure. The temptation to scroll, search and surf has been greatly reduced. And, as an added bonus, my desire for real books (printed in ink, on paper, without back lighting or buttons) has been naturally reawakened.

But the greatest benefit of switching to gray scale hasn’t been a change in behavior; it’s been a two-part spiritual awakening.

First, I realized that the color of this earthly world is gray. Upon reading that pronouncement you might be thinking, “No, it’s not. The world is very colorful! I can see it!” It’s true that by using our limited human vision this certainly appears true. But when we reframe our thinking to consider the reality of heaven and the unimaginable splendor that awaits in glory, this world suddenly looks awfully gray.

The colors on earth cannot compare to what God has prepared on the other side of the pearly gates. Think about it like TV in the 1960’s, before the experience of a colorful screen. No one knew what they were missing and they were content to watch and enjoy the black and white program. But once full color came along no one wanted to go back. They saw the fullness of the picture and it was far better than they had imagined the show could be! This is just a small picture of what it is like in Heaven. Our eternal home is unparalleled in glory and once we experience it, we’ll never want to go back. 

Which leads me to the second part of the revelation: the world we live in and the creation we enjoy is God’s gift to wets the appetite and entices us with glimpses of the glory that awaits.

God has designed our world to be sprinkled with sweet samplings of Heaven’s splendor, but they can’t be experienced while lost in a one-dimension smartphone world. By looking up from my iPhone and out at the world, it dawned on me that this life is like the trailer for Heaven’s movie. God is showing you and I clips of the feature film. He is given us a foretaste of what’s to come and, unlike most Hollywood movies, He isn’t even showing us the very best scenes. God is reserving the finest glory for the grand premiere – the moment we arrive in Heaven.

Paul wrote, “Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.” (Romans 8:24). Paul didn’t need a smartphone to know that this world is just the grayscale preview of the technicolor eternal dwelling God has prepared for His own.

We can’t see Heaven’s full glory just yet but when we put down our phones and feast our eyes on the world around us, our hearts will be quickened and hope will be renewed as we travel through this life on our way to our ultimate, final destination – our everlasting home with God in Heaven.

Find out how to turn your phone to gray scale:
https://lifehacker.com/change-your-screen-to-grayscale-to-combat-phone-addicti-1795821843

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Peace, Purpose & Posting

For the past few months I haven’t been posting much. I’m still writing. Heaven knows I’m writing! But I can’t seem to complete anything. I type and type but nothing turns out quite right. Even when the seeds of an idea appear fully formed the conclusion alludes me. As a result I’ve amassed a prolific portfolio of unfinished devotionals and drafts too inferior to post and too elaborate to delete.

I’d like to blame my dilemma on a severe case of “writer’s block” but that wouldn’t be true. It all began with a “purpose block.”

Why am I writing? Who am I writing for? What am I writing about? These questions have been plaguing my pen and paralyzing my finger from hitting “publish.” While my body has been healing, my hand has been struggling to form complete thoughts. All I’ve written about for years is sickness and physical suffering and, without it, I don’t know how to write or what to write about. Illness has been my purpose for eight years but my body has started telling a different story.

Blocked by a confused purpose, I decided to do the only thing I could do. Pray. Earnestly seek God. Ask Him to show me His purpose for my life.

And He’s been answering.

With open doors and new opportunities God has been magnificently, miraculously and abundantly answering my prayers. His answering has been so remarkable that it caused a new kind of block. “Glory block:” the inability to write due to the blinding glory of God’s goodness.

But the most miraculous answer to prayer has come to a request I didn’t even think to make. In His infinite wisdom and love, God has given me more than what I asked for. He’s given me peace.

God has showered my hands and heart with peace, removing my anxious striving to post and publish. God has given me rest and reassurance, calming my fears with the comfort of knowing that I am complete in Him. God has reminded me that writing does not give meaning to my life. God gives meaning to my life. Whether or not I ever write another word, I am whole because I am His.

I do not need to answer the questions of “why, who and what.” God is in control of my writer’s life. If He chooses to give me words, I’ll write them. If He blesses me with “glory block” and keeps me from posting then I will peacefully sit back and enjoy the wonder of His presence.

I need not worry about what I will write or what will become of “Jesus take the pen.” God will take care of that. All He requires of me is that I keep seeking, praying and asking Jesus to take my life and fill it with His purpose.

“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28