Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two interviews now live!

Talking about God's grace and His strength and promises nevers gets old :-)

Hope you can tune in now and here our interview on The Christian Author's Show -- it's automatically playing June 30 and July 1, but you can scroll to it on the list and listen afterward -- hope you enjoy!

And you can listen in here to our interview from June 21: Priceless Moments with Phyllis and Sandra on BlogTalk Radio -- see ya there!

God bless, karon :-)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June, 2010 -- Overcoming the fear of loss of control

Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Isaiah 41:12-13

I know we’re supposed to get wiser as we get older, and surely we do, but it’s a real kick in the gut to think you’re doing so well, being so wise, “taking control and in control” when life blows your work apart like a tornado and tears your scaffolding loose from the worksite and you think you might just die, right there with it.

We fight that experience and fear it with all we have – the great fear of loss of control. We fear it in our relationships, our jobs, our family life, just about everywhere, and we work hard to keep any threat to our progress at bay, strapping on the toolbelt extra tight and watching with the vigilance of a mother hen. Because we’re scared. Because we don’t trust God to be even more vigilant than we are. Because we think we’re in control in the first place.

Sure, we can control some things, and let’s not confuse control with responsibility – much in our lives needs our hand on it as we do our jobs, but our lives are not ours to control – that’s God’s job. And we can trust Him with it.

We might think God expects more of us, that giving up a death grip of control isn’t something He wants us to do, but giving all we are and all we see and all we do to Him seems to be a priority for Him. And I hope that together we can learn how to model our surrender to God for others and let them see our trust and calm and choice to continue to build where we are, even when circumstances aren’t what we like or can change at the moment.

The illusion of control is intoxicating, making us feel like we have everything buttoned up well and – because it’s a control we feel we achieve on our own – the thought of losing it is paralyzing. I should know because I’m the ultimate control freak, but when control of about everything except my breathing was wrenched from me in one breath, I had a lot of choices to make.

I had to know if I could practice what I’d preached to others. Sure, I’d been through stuff before – who hasn’t? – but the God-awful experience I’ve not escaped from yet has been the hardest test of all, the blueprint only God and I will figure out together.

I warned everyone about my struggles and God’s ironic timing with this book and tour, and while I can’t say any of the past year of my life has been easy, it’s taught me to relinquish this fear – and my illusion of control – forever, and that’s ok – because I know God’s promises remain. God’s words to Haggai [and the whole point of the book and what I hope you take away from this tour]: TRUST ME are all I really need to know.

When I don’t know anything, and believe me, in the darkest days of my current horror, I could barely put two words together, but when I could, those words were the ones echoing in my throbbing head, finding their way through the tears and pain: TRUST ME, He said. And so I have learned. I have faced this fear and lived through what I thought I couldn’t. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m still here, still building with everything I’ve got because He’s still here with me. There, that’s what I want you to know. That’s what I want you to do.

--when has your fear of loss of control overpowered you and kept you from living the kind of life you wanted?
--does [or has] your fear of loss of control kept you from trusting God the way you know He wants you to?
--what have you learned when you’ve had to face this fear because some situation ripped away your control?
--how would you live your life differently if you trusted God to control everything?

o ~ o ~o

Please visit June's Partner Blogger: Kristen at Hands, House, and Heart Full and join her as well as we explore this topic.

Read below or download the study of Joseph for yourself or your group.

Thanks for being part of our tour . . . please post your comments and stories for all our readers. See you soon! God bless you.

From the book . . .

Chapter 24

Not seeing but believing

Remember when our story’s ancestors were following Moses out of Egypt and became afraid of the raging water and closing Egyptians? Moses had an answer for them, this reminder of God’s companionship when they felt forgotten.

He knew the people were scared, but he also knew God was with them, watching, preparing. He knew they had one job to do—to focus on the trust corner of the square. Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14). Moses knew, but he was as human as the rest of us.

And God was not without His wit, either. Was Moses’ own trust and faith slipping despite his words, maybe a little doubt seeping in like an ink stain on cotton? The next verses read: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16).

Can’t you just read the love and patience on a litter of grace God threaded between those lines? He’s saying, “What’s wrong with you people? I said I’d take care of this and I will. Why are you asking Me about it again? Trust Me and do what I say, that’s all we need. I’ve got My corners of the square covered.”

And His did. We’re told that all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided (Exodus 14:21). Done, no sweat.

And yet, we go through this exercise over and over and over. That trusting part can be just as hard for us as it was for the water-crossers. We have a hard time letting go of that human part of us that wants to hold and touch everything that’s happening to know it’s real. We want to see a diagram of what God’s doing in our lives along with what He’s doing anywhere else that might concern us. Color-coded would be a plus. We want to know the answers and the methods and the outcomes of everything that frightens us or confuses us. We can’t.

We can’t live our lives that way because God didn’t design it that way. He planned for us to take hold of the spiritual part of us and put the human fears to rest. He planned for us to not know everything but to do the most important thing—to trust Him to know and do everything else. The square’s only a square when all four corners work together.

We wait in hope for the Lord’ he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22

Dreaming Jesus

The dream I remember most still lives in me, revisited often when fear comes calling.

My eyes opened all the way when I woke up, searching the dawn for clues to my heartbeat echo in the quiet. The dream unfurled in my mind like one of those cartoon flip books you flutter really fast to make the figures move. Then I interrupted the show and inspected the scenes frame-by-frame, determined to discover every detail and miss nothing.

As if I had settled myself to pull the stubborn morning glories from my squash patch, I could feel the slick marble of the bank’s floor on my bare knees. My warm hands hid my face like a game of pee-pie with a toddler, but the threat standing over me yelled orders and shook a black handgun at us both. The lady next to me whimpered in her weed-pulling stance and seemed sure of waking up dead tomorrow. I knew she was no help.

Not content to only yell at us, the robber poked me on the head with the nose of the gun barrel. It hit me hard and I began to think the lady next to me was right. But his yelling began to fade because of the focus taking over my mind, like a Times Square ticker you have to read to the end: “Whether I live or die, I belong to the Lord” (from Romans 14:8). I followed the words as they trotted through my head, over and over, bringing a breath, finally, and sending my fear and the man’s screams farther and farther away.

Slowly I peeked through the cracks between my fingers, and what I saw allowed me to drop my hands and defy the grip terror had on my heart. Jesus stood before me, too far away to touch but close enough to feel. His eyes rested on me the whole time, and I could tell He was unafraid of anything, and He wanted to give that gift to me.

He smiled at me, directly at me, and without a word, He said He was still in control, loved me without condition, and brings His peace—unmatched and all I need no matter what threat is poking me in the head. Maybe the robber saw Him, too, because he seemed aggravated but unable to do anything about it. He hurried away, leaving me and the lady there on the floor. After I woke up, I wondered what she had seen.

Read below or download the study of Joseph for yourself or your group.

A brief study of Joseph

Find Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-45.

Jacob loved his son Joseph deeply, more than he loved his other sons and they knew it. They were jealous and plotted to get rid of him. They dropped him in a pit, then sold him to a band of Midianite traders from Gilead and faked his death. The traders carried Joseph to Egypt and resold him to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer and captain of the guard for Pharaoh.

Wow, talk about a loss of control.

But the tragic events didn’t knock Joseph off his ladder. Somehow, someway, despite the circumstances that got him there, in a foreign land subject to another’s law, with no family and no idea of what was to become of him, he continued to build. He continued to trust in a God greater than the jobsite he couldn’t begin to control. So he worked with what he had. And God saw.

The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. [Genesis 39:2]

Sounds like things were looking up for Joseph, and perhaps he even felt in control of his life a bit again. If so, did the thought of losing that control become a fear because he began to trust in his own power and not be so dependent on God?

Was Joseph holding so tightly to everything he thought he controlled than the fear of losing it dictated every measured swing of his hammer? Probably not, but we can certainly get there sometimes, so convinced that we’ve mastered what we see and so afraid of it wiggling out of our grip like a box of nails knocked to the ground.

Joseph had reason to fear, but it’s easy to doubt that he did. When Potiphar’s wife propositioned him, he refused, so she accused him of improper advances, and Potiphar put him in prison. Through no fault of his own and when he was entrusted with everything Potiphar had [except his wife, of course], Joseph’s control again was ripped from him. He kept his trust and we begin to hear a familiar response from God.

But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed [39:21, 23].

One example of Joseph’s success was his correct interpretation of a dream for the Pharaoh’s cupbearer [a trusted servant]. In return, Joseph asked for help in getting out of prison. Perhaps he thought he’d regained a little control.

Pharoah’s chief cupbearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. Two full years later . . . [40:23-41:1]

Wow, we know that kind of revolting development, as the saying goes. We know what it’s like to do everything we can and still not get where we want to go. We know what it’s like to see what we planned fall apart and hope disintegrate and despair set in. We know it well and maybe that’s why we hold on so tightly and fear that loss of control we think we’ve gained again. But God still knows more. Imagine that.

We don’t know much about those two years Joseph remained in prison, but clearly he was unafraid. He no doubt kept building, climbing as high as the circumstances would allow for the time, making where he was a reflection of God Himself.

Soon, Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret some dreams, and he did. He guided Pharaoh with good advice, building where he was. And Pharaoh responded.

“Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God? Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders” [41:38-40].

God planned it, he built it.

From starting to build in a pit in the desert to being put in charge of “the whole land of Egypt” [41:41], Joseph never lost his trust in God. Despite all the setbacks and injustices and everyone around him seeming to take his control away, we’re never told he was afraid.

Instead, Joseph used his time and resources wisely – something every builder must do. He made the most of every opportunity without giving up on God to be in control of everything he couldn’t see. And he stayed on that ladder no matter what, and because of that, we remember him today.

Pharaoh said to him, “I am Pharaoh, but no one will life a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval” [41:44].

Now that’s control as our world would see it, but we can trust that Joseph knew Who was truly in control, because we know where he’d placed his trust, beginning to end.

May God bless your building . . . .

o ~ o ~ o

How will you become like Joseph and resolve to live and build today, even with little or no control?

How will you keep your trust in God instead of being afraid that He’s not with you?

How will you reflect God to those around you even in difficult circumstances?

o ~ o ~ o

Download this study of Joseph in pdf for easy printing for yourself or your group: Go here.

Thanks for being part of our tour . . . please post your comments and stories for all our readers. See you soon! God bless you.