LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: fear

a day to remember

November 2, 2012.  Not a holiday in most people’s experience, but for me it is the day of my “fake heart attack”.  So it’s not a holiday for me either, but certainly a watershed day in my life.  Although I had already been spending a year doing heart work – emotional and spiritual, it is this day that began the physical transformation that all that heart work was leading me to.  I remember being in the hospital trying not to be afraid, but with the wires connected to me, doses of nitro being administered to no effect, and being prepped for an angiogram, I was admittedly scared.  Later we realized the nitro had no effect because it was not my heart that was damaged.  I had/have acid reflux.  Not a fun condition to be sure, but a manageable one.  One whose management meant a radical shift in my diet, thus the physical transformation.  When one can’t eat spice, fat, citrus, tomatoes, chocolate or even coffee, one is going to lose weight.  And weight I lost.  After a short while, I began to notice this and with all the heart work that had happened, it was like a light came on and weight loss just sped up.  My new heart wanted a new body to go with it.  I no longer needed to use weight to hide or suppress my fears and hurts.  I no longer needed to use food keep from trusting God’s plan for those hurts and to manage them on my own.   The first year I “moved more, ate less” and I lost about 10 lbs a month.  The next November I joined a gym and the weight loss slowed, despite beginning running.  But it still comes off.  My general eating has returned many of the foods that acid reflux doesn’t care for, but with the weight loss the doctors said I might not need to worry so much about it.  In retrospect, my fake heart attack was a gift, a wake up call from God and another step in my healing that he was taking me on!

IMG_6238Look at this picture!  The left side is me in late October 2012.  And that wasn’t even my highest weight.  A few years earlier I was 40 lbs heavier.  The one on the right is me yesterday on my longest run to date.  I stopped for a moment to ask a random person to take a picture of me.

I still have weight to go, but that is not a concern for me so much.  I am loving fitness and the new me. I still have those moments of snacking late at night, but because I run and work out so much I am able to handle it.  But that explains the slower weight loss these days.

In earlier posts I have referenced a couple of songs with lyrics that mean so much to me.  One is “Brand New Day” by Joshua Radin.  As I was running yesterday it came up in the playlist and one of verses struck out to me.

Most kind of stories
Save the best part for last
And most stories have a hero who finds
You make your past your past
Yeah you make your past your past

It’s a brand new day
The sun is shining
It’s a brand new day
For the first time in such a long long time
I know, I’ll be ok

It reminds of what Paul says in Philippians.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

It’s not that I forget the past, but I make it my past!  I press on to the future and as he says in the next verses, I hold on to what I have attained!  This new me IS me.  The old, is a memory, one which shows the God of grace at work…MY God.

Who am I that you would find me here?
Who am I that love would draw me near?
Who am I that you would die, to save a broken soul like mine?
Who am I?
Who am I?

The maker of the heavens knows my name.
The author of the oceans gave me grace
My should my soul will ever sing your praise
Almighty God!
(Almighty God, Todd Fields.  North Point Live: Here + Now)

I Don’t Know What I Will Do, But I Know What I Won’t

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again.  The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”  Exodus 14:13-14 (NLT)

I was reminded of this passage again today listening to Mark Batterson share a story of feeling trapped in a Red Sea moment.  He went on to say that he had no idea what he was going to do at the time, but he knew what he WASN’T going to do; panic.

I am winding down on the sale of our home.  We are less than a week away from escrow closing and if you read some of my first posts you see that there were moments that I panicked and needed to be reminded that God was leading me through this entire journey of faith.  I in fact spoke a message to our church during that time when I referenced this passage from Exodus, so to be reminded of it today is so cool.  (Listen to the message, Fear of Risk, in my sermon section)

This week I was praying to God that I might not forget how I saw Him at work in this journey.  I don’t want to interpret this “win” experience in any way that gives me or any other man credit.  It was clearly God leading and I shamefully did not always exhibit the trust I would have liked to.  It’s easy to see the struggles and pains of life as learning experiences.  But often the wins are forgotten beyond the celebration.  But the win was not easy and matter of fact.  There was a lot of struggle and fear and doubt and twists and turns.  And because it was not in any way accomplished out of my wits and abilities, I have many lessons that I need to keep in my view for a long time to come.

I don’t think that Moses’ statement to the Israelites is a direct promise for us today.  It was for a specific time and deliverance.  But the principle of standing firm, not fearing, and trusting God are behaviors that we can count on and should strive to live out at all times.  And when we do see the deliverance of the Lord, we should be sure to give Him the honor that is due Him.

If you find yourself in a Red Sea moment and have no idea what you’re going to, at least be confident of what you won’t; panic!  God is trustworthy and able.  And if the deliverance doesn’t come in your preferred time or way, know that God still knows what He is doing and really does know what you need.  What you need is always better than what you want.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCunuL58odQ&w=560&h=315]

These past couple of days I am enjoying the song How He Loves and it’s amazing lyrics.

“When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all”

What an amazing statement! To become unaware of our afflictions because they are eclipsed by the glory of God. What a beautiful reality to live in. What a beautiful way to say it. I am reminded of the old chorus, “turn you eyes upon Jesus…and all these things will grow strangely dim in light of His glory and grace”.

We (I) need to continually make God bigger in my view. To allow myself to focus more on Him. So much energy is spent on trial/sin/affliction management; fear, worry, fret, solutions, and frankly even telling ourselves we need to see God more and then running to the Bible for the fix. There is a franticness even in trying to see God.

But God calls us to just…rest. We don’t need to drum up His action. He already has accomplished it and it is there for us. We need to dwell, rest, delight and abide. Much different mood or tone with those words that are used all throughout scripture to describe the way to approach our Father.

The song continues,
“Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”

I imagine those slow motion scenes where a person is falling backwards into the water and you see it just engulf them and then the shot takes you under the water where you see the silhouette floating down with the light rays behind. That moment of complete surrender and yielding. No fighting or struggling. Just a resignation. Of course we are not drowning, but we are dying to self. Drawn to the absolute grace. No more effort to maintain our image. No more struggle to become good enough. Just grace!

“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way

Oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves all”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYQ7FlND93c&w=560&h=315]

A great soulful cry to trust in the strength of God!

Surprised by God Once Again

I spoke a message this weekend to our church as part of our series, Roadblocks. (addressing the issues in our lives that keep us from going deeper in our faith).  My message was on the “Fear of Risk.”  I always find it amazing that as I near speaking a message God takes me through experiences which challenge me to “own” the message.  This message  topic and date had been calendared many months ago, but as we neared it I had the whole crisis of faith regarding our house sale (read the story in earlier posts).  I of course wove it into the message and I believe I was sharing truth I didn’t just know about but knew.

But in the midst of all of this I am still working out the rebirth of many other dreams.  The dream for financial and “stuff” freedom is only part of a bigger dream to live a “dangerous” gospel again.  I have felt like I personally have gotten in the routine a lot in the last few years.  I have been on a serious journey these past two years to be shaken up and out of my comfort zone.  God is working in me to dream again, to hunger for more of Him, to be used more by Him, to be more radical in Kingdom building.  Along the way I have been addressing family of origin issues that were holding me back, I have dealt with issues where I was placing my trust and finding comfort in more than God, and most recently the home sale where God was working in me to show me that not only can I hear His voice prompting me, but I can trust Him to take me through it.  But this is not the end of what is going on.

I had a meeting the morning before I spoke the message and the person in the meeting used a phrase that I had planned to say in the message.  A key phrase that God used to jolt me and confirm that what we were talking about I needed to sit up and pay attention to.  It was in the context of a growth change that I was dragging my feet on and finding ways to say, “yeah, but…”  But God took me right back to what I felt He was leading me to say to the church, “Your whole life has led to this moment to take the risk, the risk that will bring the breakthrough!”

Once again, “my” messages are really God’s message to me first.

My Shortcomings or God’s Sufficiency?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3-8 (NLT)

How do you see yourself?  What is the tape that plays in your head?  What fears drive you?  What limits do you place on yourself?  Have you disqualified yourself from even trying to step out and trust God?  “I could never do __________ because _________.”

Here’s what I see in this verse.  God loves you and chose you!  He did this BEFORE _________________ (insert limit here).

He decided in advance.  He chose before.  He loved!  Before any of us did what we did.  And yet I still have talked myself out of trying sometimes.  As if my situation is the exception.  That somehow my sin or incompetence or fear or failure is the ONE that God can’t handle.  The ONE that causes Him to step back and say, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.  You’re right, this doesn’t apply to you.”  The ARROGANCE!  God knew exactly what and who I would be before the earth was formed and He still loved, chose and adopted me – to be holy and blameless and part of His family.

He has showered His grace and kindness.  He purchased my freedom.  These are extravagant descriptions.  These are bold actions.  These are powerful declarations and the ONLY reasonable response is to praise Him.  And look at what it says, He did this because He WANTED to and it gave Him GREAT PLEASURE!  So what do we do?  We praise Him.  We give our lives to Him!

Am I holy? No.  Am I righteous? No! Am I anything special? No.  The answer is always no, IF it’s based on me alone.  But God loved and chose and decided that I was in fact holy and righteous and special and it gave Him pleasure to shower me with kindness and grace and freedom.  “And now I get to be what I got to be!”*  

But It’s not about ME!  It’s about who God is!  

He has declared me free and all my internal exceptions are nullified.  I don’t have a case to not step into the plans God has for me.  I need to stop disqualifying myself and instead see myself as God sees me.  To live up to who He has called and allowed me to be and become.  

And instead of spending emotional energy focusing on my shortcomings, I need to spend it focusing on God’s sufficiency.  

Thank you God for your great love and kindness.  That no matter the condition I am in, you chose me in advance to become part of your family.  Thank you for purchasing my freedom!  Please forgive me for thinking that somehow I was the exception to your grace and disqualifying myself from being more available to your purposes.  Help me to focus instead on your sufficiency!

*I heard Steve Fry say this years ago and it has always stuck with me!

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