PTSD

But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand. Psalm 31:14-15

Anyone who has struggled with an anxiety issue knows how crippling it can be. Something triggers it and that ‘thing’ is different for everyone. It can be a fear of the dark, or something more defined and unique like a creaking of the floor outside a closed door, a thunderstorm, or a dreaded car coming up the driveway. Whatever sounds or smells triggered the original stressful event are the sounds and smells that stay with you for life. None of us are unaware of the PTSD our soldiers suffer from their time overseas. The sound of a balloon popping sounds like gunfire and sparks as much terror as though they were still on the battlefield.

In my thirties and early forties, I faced my own triggers, not by choice but out of necessity. They were performance related. What was the catalyst? The ticking of a clock backstage.

Comedy Hall August 2011

As a 14 year old teenager, I was performing in very stressful situations where I simply wasn’t prepared. An hour before going on stage, music was being thrown at me to perform. Little of it involved just sight-reading. That would have been easier. Most of it was improvisation ~ looking at a piece of music, transposing it, then modulating to other keys while crafting an intro and ending. It was never just one piece of music but five or six for one evening. Three to five thousand people were often attending. While backstage, I watched the clock. It felt like a bomb about to go off. “I have thirty minutes to learn this. Fifteen minutes. Seven minutes. Oh no, I’m not ready. But I have to be!” Then I would hear my name being announced, I would flip a switch in my head and walk out. You get the progression of fear, I’m sure. I felt like Job when he said, “That which I feared has come upon me.”

How creative is God when He is called upon to heal complicated issues? I found out when anxiety crippled me twenty years later. I cancelled concerts due to ‘illness’ but what people never saw was the thirty-year-old woman huddled in a ball on a nearby hotel floor. God came to my rescue. He assured me that He was Lord over the clock and Lord over all time. In fact, He operated outside of time and space and had me in His hands. In the space of several years, performance anxiety was replaced by a joy of knowing that I didn’t take the stage alone. I was not under pressure to perform without supernatural help. (I also learned to say ‘no’.) I gave my mind, memory, talent, and hands to the One who is all-powerful. Currently, I do not suffer from any stage related anxiety at all.  Praise be to God! I can see a clock and not even make a painful association

God’s healing is creative and personal. God’s healing is unlimited and love-driven. God’s healing was conceived long before the painful event ever happened to you or me. He is a God of intervention, not a God of passivity. Though life can catch up to us and momentarily pin us to the ground, God has already visited us here on His heavenly timetable. He has woven an intimate cocoon where He and His child can step out of time and rebuild what was shattered so long ago.

I love You more because of how You love me. I know that’s childish but You knew that’s how it would be. Thank you for giving me wings out of confinement. Amen

“How Long, Lord?”

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Psalm 4:2

People can trample on beautiful things in my life. I lend someone something very precious but they are careless and break it. I share my good news with someone whom I assume will be joyful over my joy, but it stirs up envy instead.   I announce a spiritual breakthrough with a really good friend but the telling falls flat and I don’t know why.

Family and close friends are turning King David’s honor into shame. His reign, obviously anointed by God, is in jeopardy because of family jealousy. His power hungry son, Absalom, wants to de-throne him. The glory of David’s kingdom is being trampled on. Those once loyal to him are aligning with his handsome, manipulative son. Absalom is preying upon their naiveté with vain words, making promises he cannot keep. He sways them because he’s handsome and most people are gullible around a fast talker. These are the darkest days of David’s life. Though he experienced the treachery of King Saul earlier in his life, the pain of that pales in comparison to the treachery of a son.

Demonic driven ungodliness, resident in Absalom, takes its toll. Because Satan hand-picked Absalom, it doesn’t take long for this son of David to unravel what has been secure. David now lives in inflicted shame. The arrows of character assassinations penetrate his soul. He probably understands that Absalom isn’t working alone. He has the power of hell behind his efforts. Satan’s infiltration into the heart of Absalom has fashioned a formidable foe and perhaps David remembers the same murderous look in the eyes of a once demonized King Saul.

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“How long, Lord?” David asked what you may be asking today. You’re waiting. You’re clinging to God’s promises. You’re aching for redemption. You’re longing to see God justice come to pass. You wonder if God is going to allow this adversary to take you down. You feel certain that you will be a spiritual casualty. Hold on! David did resume his throne. Today, God is still on His! Though the plans of your antagonist might appear effective, God is not worried nor is he intimidated. He honors His children in due time and while you wait, He crowns your inside world with peace.

You understand Your earth-bound children. The clock moves slowly. Give us peace beneath the current of the storm as we dive deeper into the resources of You. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

Prayer Before A Potentially Explosive Discussion

Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me; try my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2

Prepare my heart, O God, to think Your thoughts and speak under the constraints of Your Spirit. I have no agenda other than Yours. I do not need to be right. It is Your reputation that is at stake when evil prospers. You are the one being wronged. Make me Your mouthpiece. Let me speak what You would speak if You stood in my place.

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Others have shut my mouth when they accused me of judging them. I have feared hearing such words again until I remembered that You told your disciples to judge with righteous judgment. So I crucify my own self-righteousness that would want to judge others in order to stand taller than they. I raise up Your standard to discern righteously. I use my mouth to humbly proclaim Your truth. Let Your judgment fall from lips. I am Your servant.

Make this a holy confrontation. You prepared each of Your children to thrive in a wicked and perverse world. You said, “Have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Matthew 10:26 Let today’s conversation pull what is hidden out of the dark. Let secret thoughts be exposed. Let true intentions rise to the surface. Let truth be spoken no matter the consequences.

I can be fearful of a confrontation but You are my banner. “You, Lord, are my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? You are the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 Let me see the one I must face today as You see them. “It is You who arms with me strength and keeps my way secure.” Psalm 18:32 I need not fear their intellect. I need not fear their retaliation. I need not fear their cunning arguments. When You speak, none can stand. “You made my mouth to be a sharp sword and in the shadow of Your hand You hide me.” Isaiah 49:2

I confess that, on my own, I have lost my objectivity. The battle has worn me down. But You, Lord, have illumined my thoughts. I am seated with You in heavenly places and You have graced me with insight to view events as You see them, not as they appear on earth. I rise today with supernatural knowledge only born of Your spirit. You are the one who “gives the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might.” Isaiah 11:2

Make me Your ambassador today and bring Your kingdom to earth. Come, Holy Spirit, to our conversation and let Your sword of truth fall. May righteous outcomes arise. In Jesus’ name, Amen

When Others Won’t Let You Forget

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.  Psalm 69:20

The Psalmist knew human nature.  He knew that we are often punished for the breadth of a lifetime for mistakes we’ve made.  Grace, even from Christians, can be absent.

Some families don’t forget words spoken in a scathing argument, even though the blowup might have been twenty years ago.  People in our hometowns may gossip about the choices we made in our teens whenever we come home to visit.  Even church congregations have a way of reminding us of the sins for which we’ve already repented.  Many of us probably knows what it’s like to wear a scarlet letter.

God, because of His mercy, loves to offer a clean slate on the other side of forgiveness.  People just don’t give that kind of gift easily.  We are fragile beings, petrified of being hurt again or being made to look like a fool again.  God is so different.  He will grant me unconditional pardon even in the face of the high probability that I’ll sin the same way again. Will He be hurt when it happens?  Yes.  But even then, He won’t compile all my previously confessed sins and use the great number of them as a way of disqualifying my next act of repentance.

sunrise-country-field-wallpaper-4The Psalmist is breaking under the heavy burden of blame.  He wants God to change the minds of the ones who are throwing stones.  Since God is the one who can turn the hearts of kings and princes however He wishes, the Psalmist knows that God can also change the mindset of those who point fingers.  Perhaps they will look at their own sin and remember how much they need God’s forgiveness.  Whether they will or not, God will be there for him to offer a supernatural peace that sustains him.

Are you around someone who refuses to extend mercy?  Does their reproach cause you to hate yourself?  Perhaps you feel that God is also your constant accuser, never letting you forget your past even though you’ve begged for His forgiveness.  You and I must always remember that Satan can sound like the Spirit of God.  He has been quite successful at disguising his voice and donning righteous robes.  He suggests that reviewing our sin is really holy conviction when it’s nothing more than nasty accusations against forgiven children of God.  Don’t be fooled.  Hold your head high and throw off the shame.  Joy and peace are on the other side.

I dread being around people that never let me live the past down.  Oh, that’s not You, Lord.  Yesterday’s failures are a forgotten subject.  I am standing tall in the light of new mercy.  In Jesus name, Amen

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Getting To The Dance Part


GETTING TO THE DANCE PART

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!  Psalm 150:4

How comfortable are you at the thought of dancing before the Lord?  Our answers will differ according to our denominational affiliation and history.

In scripture though, a ‘dance’ is referenced many more times than the way it is in this Psalm.

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For instance, when the creation of the world is described, the interaction between the God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is described as a continual slow dance.  They move within their unity with grace, joy, and precision.  I was also surprised to discover that something the Apostle Paul wrote connects to the idea of a dance.  Here it is.  Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  I Thess. 4:12   I miss a lot of the meaning of scripture once it is translated from Greek to English.  Unless I become adept enough in my Bible study skills to do some word studies, I’ll never know I passed over something golden.  So Eugene Peterson, in THE MESSAGE, translates Paul’s verse this way.  “One final word, friends.  We ask you ~ urge you is more like it ~ that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.” I love this!  Having lived for decades in a religious prison camp, I was overjoyed to discover that there was another way of life in Christ.  Dancing surely describes it.

When I choose to learn a new skill, it seems like it is all work.  It is not natural for me to perform it.  The thinking and coordination it takes to accomplish it can feel daunting.  I fear I’ll never master it.  Practice is the key because once it becomes second nature, the joy kicks in.

So it is with God’s instructions and my obedience.  When I first decided to follow in His footsteps, it was like walking in foreign territory.  It was all struggle on my part; impartation of grace on His.  At some point, the practice began to pay off.  Now, I wear some of His ways like a second skin.  I no longer have to harness every inclination.  I more fully understand the ways of Jesus and find that practice makes them a part of me.

I know, in part, what Peterson speaks of in his paraphrase today.  Oh, to dance with the labor part behind me!  To no longer have to look at my feet and think over every move means that I can close my eyes and enjoy the waltz.

Help me not lose heart today, Lord, over things I’m still learning.  One day, doing it will feel like breathing.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Hanging On To What Others Ridicule

#1-003You make us an object of contention to our neighbors, And our enemies laugh among themselves.  Psalm 80:6

Those who live without Jesus hope for things they cannot see and have no assurance of ever getting.  “I hope I get picked for the team.”  “I hope things work out okay.”  “I hope I will be loved in my new marriage.”  They watch us live by faith and taunt us as we assure them that our Father answers prayer and keeps His promises.  We’re human though ~ and we ache as we seek to hang onto our hope.  It’s easy to lose it in the company of those who try to talk us out of it.

Children of God hope for things they cannot see but know that what they hope for already exists.  They have a Father who has promised it.  They hope for heaven; knowing it will be there when they take their first gasp of celestial air.  They hope for deliverance; knowing that there will be one whether on earth or in heaven.  They hope for healing; knowing that the Healer is vested in them and will provide it.  They hope for redemption; knowing that no pain is ever wasted.  Why?  God said so.

Waiting patiently is not passive but pro-active.  In order to keep hope alive (and keep the lies of hopelessness at bay), I must be reviewing the promises of my Father.  I re-read the stories of my spiritual ancestors and their similar dark times in order to be reminded how God was faithful when onlookers ridiculed them.  I find scriptural promises that relate to my struggle and live in the hope of them, knowing that promises are a sure thing because of “who” it is that made them.  I hang those promises on my mirror, on my walls, and post them in a prominent place in my car.  This is the fight for faith.

Loss, grief, betrayal…these all visit the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.  Though weeping visits us all, the nature of our tears differs greatly.  The laments of God’s children are temporary and though they cry, they cling to the robe of their Prophet King and recite the promises of His good will.  Resolution of the heavenly kind is just around the corner.

If I harbor disappointment today in any area of my life, it is only because my deliverance has not yet come.  I know it will and my hope is sure in You.  Give me grace while I wait.  Give me strength to fight for my faith by speaking Your Word to the lies of my own soul.  Amen

Prayer For Someone To Know God

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to <him> a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  I pray that the eyes of <his> heart may be enlightened, so that <he> may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.  Ephesians 1:17-18

Thank you for hearing my prayer, not just casually listening, but invested.  You bend your ear to hear every pause, false start, and You discern the emotions behind my words.  No one listens like You.  No one understands all the questions I’ve not yet asked. You do.  You lead me to a place of understanding.

My heart aches today for someone who says they know You.  He knows ‘of’ You because he knows stories about You.  He’s heard us talk about You and I fear he is deceived into thinking that he knows You well.  I do not know if he would seek You if he were not influenced by friends and family.  Father him ~ and don’t let his pursuit of You depend on others.  Awaken his hunger so that it is self-generated by your gift of grace.

I pray that You will open his eyes to see You.  Give him a spirit of wisdom and revelation to realize that unless He has personal experience with You, he doesn’t know You at all.  He doesn’t know how You think and process things.  He doesn’t know what moves Your heart to beat passionately.  He doesn’t know about his hope and spiritual inheritance.  Not really.  If he did, Lord, he would not be checked out, living life by putting one foot in front of the other.  He has no purpose and little significance.

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Break through the fog of indifference with Your glory.  Stun him and give him a Damascus road experience.  Let him be privy to an intimate relationship with You.  Let his knowledge of You have personal content.  Penetrate his heart of stone.  Kiss his soul to life and melt the walls of resistance.  He is afraid of love.  Afraid of feeling.  Afraid of change.  Afraid of Your calling on his life.  And in each of his fears, there are lies about your heart.  Tell him the truth, Lord.  In truth is his freedom.

You love him more than I do.  Call him to Your embrace and teach him to live as Your son.  Amen