Leaning Into Jesus

walking-in-the-spirit
Today I was about to step on the scale when I heard God tell me “Don’t do it.”  I was obedient.  Since the first thing I usually write in my journal is my weight, today I wrote “No weight today”.  Then God started talking to me some more.

Those words “NO WEIGHT TODAY” primarily were written due to the fact that I didn’t step on the scale.  But what jumped out at me was the other type of weight.

  1. a : burden, pressure
  • the weight of their responsibilities

from Merriam-Webster

leaningNO BURDEN TODAY.  Jeannette (my coach at Finding Balance) has told me more than once to “lean into God”, and my best friend and spiritual mentor has told me over the past 2 days more than once that God has told her I’m under tremendous stress and to simply relax in Him.  They kinda’ mean the same thing, and it sounds like God really wants me to get this.  I will not bear any of that heavy weight of stress today.

But He wasn’t done yet.  A Bible study I’m doing referred to Romans 8:6, and I happened to read the Amplified which said:  “Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever];”  Notice God says the mind of the Spirit is life and peace.  Sounds like relaxing in God to me.

water rockNext, the same study instructed me to read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 which read “and all [of them] ate the same spiritual food; and all [of them] drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not well-pleased with most of them, for they were scattered along the ground in the wilderness [because their lack of self-control led to disobedience which led to death].”  In the wilderness the supernatural food (manna) and supernatural water (from the Rock) came day by day, and what came on one day was not good for the next day.  Application:  God was feeding and watering me today, but that won’t be good enough for tomorrow.

And finally, I realized the above verse wasn’t actually 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 at all; it was 1 Corinthians 10:3-5.  So I looked up the verses in 2 Corinthians, and they said “For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ,”  Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ for me at this point in my life means especially all those thoughts that bring about stress.  Right now, those are most of my waking thoughts.  The only thoughts I can think that are beneficial are those from God, to be found in His Word and through other ways He communicates with me.

Can I do it?  Most assuredly not!  But when I lean into God and relax in His arms, He is more than capable of doing what I cannot.

Death & Life. . . No, Just Life

life is short, I wanna live it well

Today was Lois Byrne’s funeral.

Her daughter asked me to play the piano and accompany the soloist.  Because my mother had the flu and couldn’t, I also gave a eulogy for her.  It was all an honor and a privilege.

Lois has been in my life my entire life.  I was born on a Sunday.  My parents took me to church the next Sunday.  Lois was there.  From my childhood, I most remember her as a Sunday school teacher and Bible School (that’s what we called VBS back then) teacher.  Back in the 1960s there were quite a few of us children learning the stories from her.  When, at the age of nearly 17 I came to know Jesus personally, those early lessons were undoubtedly a part of the experience.

In recent years, I knew her as an encourager.  She often complimented my piano playing.  She would sometimes cry when I preached, and I allowed myself to believe it was because she knew she had a role in the faith I now have.  Today we said good-bye to her in the same church where she taught children Bible stories about Paul, David, Joshua, and Jesus among others.  Hers was a life well lived.  It is a life she now enjoys in perfect health in Heaven; of that I have no doubt.  When I think about Lois now I can’t help but think of the Ray Boltz song “Thank You” when I think about her walking the streets of Heaven.  When I gave the eulogy my mom would have given, I added some of my memories to Mom’s.

It was difficult being a part of the service because the last one I attended was my husband’s.  At the graveside on February 12, 2016, it was bitterly cold, windy, and snowing.  Today it was cold and windy.  I am thankful to God I didn’t have to go to the graveside; instead I went to the village hall to help set out the funeral dinner.

The church was packed out for her funeral.  The pastor is a good friend, a confidante, and I could just hear her thinking—where are all these people on Sunday morning?  100+ people come to mourn, but those same people can’t come to receive life.

Of course, many of those people do attend other houses of worship.  But our town has somewhere between 200 and 300 residents.  Between the Methodist church and the Lutheran church across the street, both would be full to capacity if everyone in town attended one or the other.

This past Sunday, 4 days ago, I attended the visitation of a young man with whom my husband and I were acquainted.  Rod was good friends with his parents.  The man’s brother attends Rod and my church in Lincoln.  Afterward, I went to visit Lois and her daughter and pray with them.  An hour later, Lois was gone.

It seemed like a week of death because right in the middle of those, yesterday, February 7, was the 2nd anniversary of the date Rod went to be with Jesus.  Next Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and this year Ash Wednesday, would have been his 58th birthday.  When I checked Facebook last night, there wasn’t a single mention of him.  Not even by me.  Life goes on, but he is not forgotten; I know he is not.

To say I miss him still is an understatement.

Like Lois, he poured so much into my life, albeit at the other end.  And like Lois, he probably didn’t even realize it.

Before I met him, the life I lived was that of one who was just going through the motions.  I was attempting to live for God, had been doing so for years, but there was no overcoming.  I was looking forward to heaven, but there was no enjoying life in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  My children were nearly grown, and I was scared to death that God was going to leave me a broken person, useless, no longer relevant in any way, unable to find victory in any area of my life.

He did not.

He loaned me Rod for a few precious years.

Rod loved me, a person utterly unlovable, unworthy, insignificant, at least by any person who was not related to me and was not God.

Rod loved me; even while God was using him to bring healing and rejuvenation to my soul, He also used him to help restore my body after a serious battle with cancer a year and a half into our marriage.

Rod loved me.  Even after 6 years of marriage when he was finally beginning to see I wasn’t always the “blessing” he had proclaimed me to be in the first year of our marriage, but I was a real person with some serious flaws, one being an extreme distrust of just about everyone.  My favorite nonbiblical quote is one by Shakespeare, “Love everyone, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

I had good reason to be distrustful.  Rod had more reason than I; yet he continued to love.  Me and everyone else he met.

My negativity never rubbed off on him.  Laughter was his primary expression.

More than one person has suggested to me that God placed this angel in my life for 6 years to help me become me, the me God created me to be.  It sounds right, but how can it be?  Rod was a wonderful person in his own right; his ministry had to be more than that.

When we married at the ages of 48 and 49, I believed we would live out the rest of our lives together; and I intended to make sure those years were the best ones of Rod’s life.  I hope they were.  Aside from the years my kids were born, they were certainly mine.

Now that he’s been gone from me for 2 years, I find myself fearful (fearful? she who wrote a book entitled Fearless in Euroclydon? she who knows there is a verse in the Bible regarding fear for every single day of the year?) at times of reverting into the person I was before Rod came into it.

In addition to the fear, there’s the apathy.  I recently read a blog post by a writer who believes apathy is the greatest hindrance to walking out the Christian life.  Another teacher shared the same thoughts.  And, with the prayers of my dear husband on my behalf no longer wafting up to God daily, I feel that very thing attempting to make its insidious way in.  Apathy seems akin to stagnation.  Both are death.

Yet, in the funeral of a dear saint of God, there are many reminders of the life of God in the midst of death.  Apathy can’t withstand a life lived in faith because faith is the opposite of death; faith is life.  Today more than one person testified they’d never heard Lois complain, not about anything, ever.  Rod lived life with such joy, as he lay in his casket I observed that the funeral director couldn’t completely get the smile off his face.

Lois and Rod both exemplified the faith life; if either of them ever experienced apathy, I never saw it.  They lived their lives well to the very end.  They lived life which death cannot defeat.

O death, where is thy sting?  Some believe Shakespeare said that, too, though others say not.  Not having read him, I cannot say for certain one way or the other.

I have, however, read the written Word of God, and He said it first through the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church chapter 15 verse 55.

Death has no sting.  It is the beginning of life for those who know Jesus.  For those of us who remain, it brings the good memories and encouragement of a life well lived.  “Life is short, I wanna’ live it well.”  Line from Live It Wall by Switchfoot 2016

Perfect Isn’t a Thing

In my quest to memorize the chapter of Romans 8, I last memorized verse 5:  For those who are dominated by their sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.

romansTime for verse 6:  So letting your sinful nature control your thoughts leads to death, but letting the Spirit control your thoughts leads to life and peace.

The meaning behind this verse permeates the online Bible study I’m currently doing.  Every participant in the study is trying to reach the place where the Spirit is in control (perfection).
untitled
Today in the online webinar I learned perfect isn’t possible.  It isn’t even a thing.  Uggh!  Even for this overthinker, because my overthinking is overlaid with a tendancy to put everything in black and white, this is very hard to procsess, but . . . I will attempt to do so.

I would assume the teaching refers to our bodies (sinful natures) and souls; i.e., our humanness.  Because our spirit, the main part of us, was already complete (perfect) when it came to life at our salvation.  If our spirits were in control, we would not have to achieve perfection; it would already be present.

Unfortunately most of us live with our humanness in control, rather than our spirit.  We are not predominately led by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, it’s not possible to be perfect in this life, it is not possible to be 100% Spirit led 100% of the time.  The goal is to each day give up a larger percentage of our self (body & soul) to the control of the spirit alive within us who are born again.

There is a song currently popular in CCM called “Hard Love” by the group Need to Breathe.  One of the lines goes like this:  “It’s not enough to just feel the flame.  You’ve gotta burn your old self away”.  This is so radical.  I don’t even like feeling the flame!  Burning my old self away?  But consider:  When we let God “burn away” our old self (humanness/sinful nature) we will be free to experience life, real life, and peace of the supernatural variety rather than sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24 & 25), the only human being who ever was or will be perfect.

Note to me:  Quit trying to be perfect, let the Perfect One lead you.

Finding Balance

Although I try to keep my posts as positive as possible, I know transparency is of vital importance in benefitting anyone, especially me. So. . . here goes.

Today (written on Wednesday, January 24) was an all-out binge. I will probably put in my hand-written journal what it consisted of, but not here.

Yesterday was quite different. Felt like I walked in victory all day, thanking God for my lunch and asking him to help me stop when it was time—and He did. But. . . then I went out to Wal-Mart to kill some time before going to work and picked up ingredients for what is probably my current favorite binge. I did not binge yesterday, though.

The binge started today.

So, I guess the fail started yesterday at Wal-Mart and tonight as I sit here typing this, my stomach is about to bust out of the surrounding layer of adiposity—the large layer of adiposity; I am extremely uncomfortable physically. Because of this I am asking God, once again, to help me to turn and stating I will do my best to do so. My best in this area isn’t very good—that’s why His help is essential.

So does that mean I’m victorious since it only took me, what 29 hours from the fail to the repent. I do believe this is true repentance based on my current understanding of repentance. I’m not crying, I’m not deeply sorrowful, but I’m in enough physical pain to not want a repeat tomorrow. But at the same time, I’m scared it will happen anyway, no, probably not tomorrow, but perhaps as early as Friday.

I’m saving this until morning to post.

My plan is to rise an hour and a half earlier than necessary and spend the time with God, in prayer, Bible study, Bible reading, and meditation and to start memorizing Romans 8:5. Signing off 5:55 pm. . .
. . .
5:21 am Still in some physical pain due to the binge but of a different nature and not as intense. More like a 4 instead of the 7 it was last night.

And I caught a side glance of myself in form-fitting leggings in a full-length mirror as I walked past it. Not an auspicious beginning to my day. If I continued to walk in my flesh (sinful nature), I would be setting myself up for failure today. I cannot worry about tomorrow (Friday) because today has its own worries (Mathew 6:34)

But. . . I am still resolved to walk in the Spirit today. Yes, I saw my flesh in the mirror, but I will not be led by it. Interestingly, and so like God, my next verse to memorize in Romans is verse 5 which reads “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.”

Yesterday, I was dominated by the sinful nature. I thought about God from time to time, prayed several times throughout the day, and read about Him, but I was not controlled by the Holy Spirit. He is alive and well within me, but I chose to let the sinful nature be in control.

Today I choose to let Holy Spirit be in control. Thank you, Jesus, for sending Him as a comforter and guide.  It is now 5:31 am.

7:27 pm  Was I Spirit led or soul/flesh led today?

If I were to judge by my feelings, I would say the latter.  I did not feel particularly spiritual or spiritually insightful.  But, the Spirit was leading because there were no binges.  None.

The Lord did it!  (2 Samuel 5:20)

Devotionals

 

What do you think about them? Love them? Disdainful of them? Letting them collect dust on a shelf? Don’t throw them out yet. God speaks in a variety of ways, and today He spoke to me through one of them.

I have at least half a dozen—probably closer to a dozen—different devotionals in my library. Jesus is Calling, Pearls of Great Price, Starting Your Day Right, among others, and I have read daily devotions from each of them on various occasions, sometimes even from more than one at one sitting. I also have a couple I receive as emails.

Earlier today I read a blog by someone who had issues with devotionals in part because they sometimes take Bible verses out of context. I respect this particular blogger; she is spiritually wise, and she makes me think.

A minute ago as I sat down to write, I saw My Utmost for His Highest on top of a stack of books next to my computer and picked it up. The focus verse for today is Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

This goes along well with an online Bible study I just became involved in which advises against following our own plans to solve our problems. Rather, we lean into God or turn to him.

In previous years, I have been taught that repentance requires tears and brokenness. Undoubtedly, turning from our own will and intellect and looking to God does require brokenness, even ultimately coming to the end of one’s self, but I don’t believe God always requires the production of tears before He will consider a heart repentant. In the right situation that even seems like it would be kinda’ fake. Don’t get me wrong—there are those who cry easily, and tears in those individuals could show true repentance. Even one who doesn’t cry easily may sometimes be overwhelmed by the magnitude of God’s love for her in spite of a willful and sinful heart.

So I did some research and found that the Old Testament word for repent is “sub” which in today’s jargon is a shortened form of the word substitute. Think of when a benched athlete is replaced with a sub. Perhaps the player being benched is wiped out, perhaps he has committed too many offenses to participate in the game well. It doesn’t mean he is no longer in the game. It only means he needs a sub.

I need a sub. I need to turn. To God.

God is talking to me, telling me to forget my own plans for salvation from bad habits. These plans have never worked and have little likelihood of working in the future. This was taught in the online session last Tuesday of my Bible study. “Forget your plan.” “Lean into God.” I didn’t understand it. How can this bad habit be eradicated without a plan?

My overthinking brain tries to plan everything! How can God expect me to give up this plan? Surely I will fall into total abandon to the sin.

God is stronger than my plans. God is stronger than my sin (bad habit). God is wiser than my intellect can begin to comprehend. So today, this minute, 10:54 am on January 22, 2018, instead of thinking about my plan, I turn to Him, sub my plan with my Abba Father, and I will be saved.

Father, I pray that everyone who reads these words, including me, would remember that this turning is not a one-time thing; it must be done daily, hourly, minute by minute, and even moment by moment. I pray we take captive every thought produced by our mind, examine it, store it or cast it away, relinquish our plans, and turn to you.

 

Why Now?

This is not my first attempt at a blog.  A couple years ago I was encouraged to create one by my publisher to promote “Fearless In Euroclydon”.  That publisher went out of business.  The website, likewise, no longer exists.

So why revisit blogging?  Why now?

While still dealing with some of the storms described in the book, more Euroclydons have hit:  the loss of my husband to death, the loss of my home to bankruptcy, and the loss of my identity.

Whoa. . . . !  Hang on a minute there.  The loss of my identity?

Let me rephrase–the loss of my identity as I knew it.

I am no longer a wife.

My children are grown, and though I’m still their mother my role in their lives is significantly reduced.

I no longer have my own home, my own space.  I now live with my mother.  While there are benefits in this arrangement to both of us, I definitely miss my alone time and take it where I can find it

So. . .

I have thrown off my earthly identity (or was it ripped from me?) and am taking on a new one.   One that has been with me for 40 years but I couldn’t recognize it through the layers of other roles I put on myself, some good, some not so much so.

My true identity is that of a daughter of the Living King.

The problem?  The old me, Jacqueline Lisa McDougall (JLM) still wants to be in control of her life both in and out of storms.  The real JLM (Jesus Loves Me) is learning how to relinquish control completely to the Lover of my soul.  Such a slow and, yes, painful process.

At this point, I don’t plan to promote this site; that may change in the future.  If you happen on it by accident and find within my ramblings something that speaks to you, come along for the ride.  And I would love to hear from you.  My email is jacquelinemcdougall@ymail.com