Posted by: Kris Lindsey | October 31, 2015

I Got Joy!

At the beginning of this year, I read the first line of Psalm 81 and winced. It said to sing for joy, and I didn’t feel like being joyful. I rarely did. So I resolved to read Psalm 81 every day until its truth transformed my dismal heart.

Nine months later, I’m happy to report that it did!

It’s been a journey—a joy journey—which I blogged about along the way. Looking back, I see two key concepts that made a big difference.

My first breakthrough came when I realized I had a hard time throwing my arms open and trusting God to give me whatever he thought was best. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10b). I hadn’t realized how defensive I’d become. After all God had done for me in my life, all the prayers he’d answered and all the times he’d rescued me, why did I still doubt he had good things in store for me?

By wrestling with God about my misplaced misgivings, and opening my heart to trust him a little more each day—“Okay, God, I believe you have good things ahead for me”—my defensiveness was slowly replaced by optimism. Instead of plowing through the day with my gaze on my list, I found myself looking up and dreaming of what God might have for me.

Sunset Over Rural Road In Green Field

 

My second breakthrough came after pondering what Psalm 81:1 meant when it said to “Sing for joy to God our strength.” I wanted to live “in God’s strength” but didn’t know how. I discovered the key in the book of John where it says that, like branches to a vine, when we stay connected to Jesus, he produces the fruit of the spirit in us—including peace and joy, and apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Birch branch isolated

When I took the attitude that I could do nothing on my own, and depended on Jesus to do everything—even brush my teeth—I felt empowered by God’s strength. And I felt his peace and joy.

Those are the two highlights, but Psalm 81 contains so much more. After reading this psalm four or five times a week for nine months, here is what it says to me:

Sing for joy to God, who is my strength.

This is a command—not an option—because God wants his children to be filled with joy.

And why shouldn’t I be?

God says, “I removed the burden of your sins, hurts, and responsibilities from your shoulders.

I set you free from your tasks—let me do the work.

And remember all those times you were in trouble? You called out and I heard you and rescued you.

I am the Lord your God who brought you through all your hard times.

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it with every good thing you need and more.

If you won’t listen and yield to me, I’ll let you stubbornly follow your own devices and schemes.

But if you’ll just listen to me and follow my ways,

How quickly I’ll subdue the enemy of your soul and quench your insecurities and fears.

On top of that, I will feed you with the finest wheat; with honey from the rock I will satisfy you.”

 

It’s taken me almost a year to grab hold of all these wonderful promises. But how wonderful it is to receive all God offers!

Photos courtesy of Crestock

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | September 30, 2015

Living in God’s Strength

After years of searching for the key to peaceful, victorious living, a couple months ago I discovered something that changed my life. It not only calms my anxiety, it frees and energizes me to move forward with confidence.

When I say discovered, what I really mean is, it finally sunk in how something I knew in my head could be practically applied in real life.

In my July post I said I was going to try practicing John 15:5b where Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” In context, I saw this meant that I couldn’t produce the fruit of the Spirit, including peace and joy, on my own. I needed God’s help. So, as an exercise, I decided to take this verse literally and acknowledge that “I can do nothing without Jesus.” With this attitude, I went through my days asking God to help me with everything I did—even brushing my teeth. The initial results surprised and encouraged me, so I decided to keep doing it.

After practicing this for two months, it feels like I’ve finally figured out how to consistently apply the tandem bike illustration—with God in the front, steering and pedaling while I sit on the back seat enjoying the ride.

tanden bicycle with red hearts, vector

This “I can do nothing without Jesus” attitude has been the key for me to let go and rely on God, to let him take the wheel.

In the process of doing this exercise, I discovered that I put a lot of responsibility and high expectations on myself—in both performance and relationships—and this responsibility weighs me down. But when I say “Okay God, you’re in charge,” the weight of responsibility lifts. My hunched shoulders straighten and my gaze rises from the floor. The knot in my stomach loosens. The dark force that keeps me from moving forward disappears and the room brightens. Suddenly I feel hopeful, because with God all sorts of good things are possible.

With God in the lead, my job is to listen. Since I started this exercise, I’ve been doing a lot more listening. “What do you want me to do next, Jesus? This, or that, or something else?”

Sometimes God answers by giving me an impression—either all clear to go, or a negative feeling to stop and do something else. Sometimes, if I’m really listening, a new idea outside my main line of thinking might gently pop into my head. Not an order. Not required. But I know to take it seriously because it’s probably God’s best for me.

After I get direction, my job is to do what I feel God is leading me to do, still listening and asking for his help. Because “I can do nothing without Jesus.”

Of course, I know I can do things on my own, but why would I want to? My lightened heart and quenched anxiety are good enough reasons to put God in the lead. But on top of that, the optimism and surge of energy I get makes me feel like I’m really living.

Bright yellow sunflower on green background

The apostle Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10b). By taking the attitude “I can do nothing without Jesus,” I’m finally learning how to “be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power,” (Ephesians 6:10, emphasis added). And it feels amazing.

 

Photos courtesy of crestock.com

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | August 31, 2015

No More Whining?

The other day I heard some news that irritated me. Someone I knew had done something that seemed irresponsible. I knew, from years of experience, that this piece of information would sit and brew inside me until I told someone. After I spewed this toxic morsel out, however, I would feel better.

And who would I tell? My husband, as usual.

But then I thought, this information would really make him mad. Did I want to do that?

Suddenly I got a picture of myself over the years dumping complaint after complaint in this dear man’s lap—from little daily frustrations while raising my kids to blow by blow details of talking to tech support all day.

Unloading of scrap metal

I imagined I’d whined to my husband about everything that ever went wrong in my perfectionist life.

My stomach churned as I saw the fallout of my issues poisoning him. Frustrating him. Dragging him down as he felt pressure to fix them.

But what could I do? I needed my emotional outlet, didn’t I?

Then I remembered my vow to do everything with God—turn everything over to him and let him lead. Instead of telling Bob or holding this information in and mulling it over and over, what if I deferred it right away to God and trusted him to handle the situation?

So I did.

My shoulders relaxed, the room brightened, and the burning desire to tell someone vanished.

Then I imagined how different my life would be if I turned every issue that irritated me right over to God.

Brunette relaxing in the hammock at the beach

How peaceful I would feel if I cut out all the time I spent stewing over problems.

A few days later someone inadvertently hurt my feelings. I took it straight to God. He turned my thinking around and helped me see how the situation had actually worked out for my good.

A couple hours later, at the end of an exhausting day when I could feel my hormones were low, someone else told me some potentially bad news that tore my heart. A minute or two later Bob walked in the door.

I tried not to tell him, but I was hurting so bad. I paused to think, and then rephrased the news as a prayer request for me. Would he pray for my breaking heart?

Bob came over, wrapped his arms around me, and prayed a sweet prayer over me. Then he playfully tried to make me smile. It warmed my heart.

Later, as I talked over this heartbreaking news with God and imagined what he could do with it for the greater good, I was able to turn it and the people involved over to him. My heart lightened.

A few days later, I heard a friend has been waiting weeks for a last ditch clinical trial to cure his cancer and relieve his pain. Another friend was exhausted from years of daily challenges in raising their handicapped child. On Sunday, our pastor could hardly mouth the words to tell us the teenage son of a dear pastor friend of his had died this week of a brain tumor.

My daily frustrations paled in comparison to these. For my emotional health, and my husband’s, I’m determined to stop whining about the small stuff and pass on all my irritations and hurts to God as soon as I’m aware of them.

After turning these things over to God, I do need to share some of them with my husband and friends. I’m praying for discernment and God’s leading to sort out which ones and how.

What are your thoughts about sharing frustrations and hurts?

 

photos courtesy of crestock.com

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | July 31, 2015

When Doing Nothing is Doing More

I had a nice, restful vacation in Alaska, but when I came home I was far from relaxed. My shoulders felt achy and tense. What was up with that? I always get all wound up getting ready to go on vacation, but that usually goes away once I leave. Everything in my life was going well. Were my shoulders tense out of habit?

On closer evaluation, my whole body was tight and achy: my chest, my hips, my feet. Enough is enough. If I don’t calm down I’m going to make myself sick. I vowed I would really dig in and make a conscious effort to relax my muscles throughout the day, then realized this sounded like a New Year’s resolution. And how long do those work? Hmm.

About that time, I happened to read a familiar Bible passage in John 15 about Jesus being the vine and us Christians being the branches. It says that if we stay connected to Jesus, we’ll bear much fruit. Then the last part of verse 5 jumped out at me: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

That line had always irritated me. Of course I could do some things apart from Jesus. I could do a whole range of things, from tying my shoe to doing complex tasks. What did it mean when it said I could do nothing.

Then it occurred to me, this verse is talking about bearing fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit includes peace and joy. How was I doing at producing that on my own? My tense muscles told the story.

“Okay God, this time I’m getting serious about riding with you—letting you steer every detail of my life.”

I decided I’d take this verse literally for a while—that I could do nothing without God—and see what happened.

So I asked God to help me brush my teeth.

Toothpase on toothbrushI asked God what I should eat for breakfast and which tasks I should do next. Before I left to go out the door, I’d ask Jesus, “Am I forgetting anything?” and sometimes I’d suddenly remember an item I needed to take with me.

Whenever I put Jesus in the lead, I felt my shoulders relax and my posture straighten up. My attitude also improved. Instead of forging ahead with my head down, I felt like I was hanging with my best buddy.

But when I forgot about God and went about my plans on my own, I found myself making mistakes. I forgot to take my medical records to my new doctor’s appointment. I went to another office on the day it was closed. I mixed up facts in conversations and had to be corrected. It seems I couldn’t do as many things on my own as I thought, and at the end of the day I felt drained and frustrated.

I always thought of myself as a competent person. I work hard to figure things out. That is who I am—a thinker. So taking the stance that I can do nothing without Jesus is hard for me to do. But I’m beginning to see that treading through my day without Jesus is like walking in the dark with a small flashlight.

Light beam and flashlight

I can do it, but I only see a fraction of the picture and I’m prone to stumble.

With Jesus, I’m traveling in style in the light.

Nature sunny abstract summer background with sun

I think I’ll keep relying on God for everything, with God’s help.

 

photos courtesy of crestock.com 

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | June 30, 2015

My Spiritual Experiment

This month, I slipped off the proverbial beaten path and ventured into some territory I’d only caught a glimpse of before. It was an area where I’d said, “Oh yea, that sounds good,” and then turned away and forgotten about it. Because if a person really took this concept fully to heart…well, it could get a little weird. Maybe even scary.

sun fog in forest

But for whatever reason, this time I decided to try a little experiment. What if, for one month or so, I took Ephesians 6:12 seriously and literally. What if I interpreted everything that happened to me and around me through a spiritual lens? Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV). What if I looked for the spiritual forces behind every physical problem? What would I find, and how would that change my actions and attitude?

The first physical problem I noticed was in my body—my sore shoulder. It had been hurting since I injured it a year and a half ago playing disc golf, and nothing I tried seemed to fix it. So, what might be going on spiritually? The pain was very distracting, I’d spent significant time at appointments like physical therapy, and the pain had kept me from exercising in general so my whole body felt stiff and weak. Would the enemy want to keep me distracted with pain, and want me to spend my time running around to appointments? Would he want me to get physically run down and weak? Yes, I think so.

Now I’m not going Christian Science and saying the physical world doesn’t exist. My shoulder problem is real. And I’m not against doctors—they do very well at curing the things they know. I’m not even saying the devil causes every illness. I’m just explaining how I saw my situation. And seeing the enemy using my shoulder pain to distract me from following Gods plans got me a little irked.

When I saw my shoulder pain from a spiritual perspective, something else also happened. The pressure to fix it myself lifted and a new strength welled up inside. It was up to God to fight spiritual battles, and I knew he could.

I prayed.

prairie lake landscape with a cross in the sky on the right side.

After that, I started applying this spiritual struggle principle to other areas. When Bob told me about  tragedies and political controversies on the news, I got all worked up thinking about them. But then I stopped and asked, “What do you think is going on in the spiritual realm there?” When we thought about it that way, the answer seemed obvious—the enemy riling people up, leading them down his path, and distracting Christians from their mission. Our view shifted from problem solving and judgement to the big picture of eternal priorities. What was God’s answer? Pray, listen, and love.

My shoulders relaxed as hope rose. God could work even the bleakest situations to good.

I looked up Ephesians 6 again, but this time I started at the beginning of that paragraph—verse 10. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” When I recognized the spiritual aspect of problems and trusted God to provide the spiritual solutions, I did feel strong in the Lord. And it felt good.

Psalm 81:1 echoed in my head. “Sing for joy to God our strength.” Yes, praise you, Lord Jesus, for the strength and peace you give.

 

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | May 30, 2015

Riding with God

“I’m so dense—why didn’t I see this before?” The room brightened and a heavy weight lifted off my chest as my thoughts zoomed back to the story Allen Arnold told in his writer’s class at Mt. Hermon the year before.

“Son, do you want to go for a ride with me in my truck?”

 

Farm truck with driver side door open.

“Yes.” The boy looked up eagerly and smiled.

“But don’t you want to know where we’re going first?”

“No. I just want to go with you.”

Allen went on to explain that writing with God can be like that. We write the story together with God and see where it goes, but the fun part is just doing something with our Heavenly Father.

I took this lesson to heart and had a great time writing my next project with God. I’d ask God for wisdom and words to write, and watch with wonder as the words flowed more easily onto the page.

But now, here I was sitting in Allen’s class at another Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference, anxious about getting this writing project published. I could self-publish, but my stomach knotted at the thought. There was so much to learn. I wanted an experienced publisher to help me. I didn’t want to tackle publishing alone.

Then Allen told the story about his son again, and it hit me. I’m not alone. God is always with me, whether I’m writing or publishing. Why hadn’t I realized this before? Compartmentalization, I guessed.

God could be as real to me in the publishing process as he was in the writing process if I remembered to trust in him and listen to his guidance. I smiled.

And not only that. I could expand my “writing with God” experience into a “riding with God” experience in every aspect of my life. This could be a new way to approach living in God’s presence.

So that’s my next goal—to talk with Jesus throughout my day, thanking him and asking for his guidance, with a mindset of just enjoying his company and the journey. Whatever project I tackle, I don’t need to be anxious. I can look up and relax. I’m not alone.

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | April 30, 2015

Smile

I’m going to visit my baby granddaughter, Eve, today. My goal: to get some smiles. Nothing warms my heart like seeing that tiny person’s face light up when she sees me. It’s priceless.

Bob loves those smiles even more than I do, and he’ll do anything to get them. As soon as he sees Eve, his arms raise up like airplane wings, his mouth and eyebrows contort to form all sorts of silly faces, and motor sounds vibrate from his lips. He is quite a sight to behold. Sometimes Eve just stares at him until finally she gets what he’s doing. Then her whole face shines with delight. So does his.

As I was reading Psalm 81 today, I realized God says to “sing for joy” because he, too, wants our smilesAnd he’ll do anything to get them.

Young girl

He sends sweet summer fruits to delight our palate and big fluffy rain clouds to quench our thirst. He sends birds and butterflies to cheer us, and rainbows and spectacular sunsets to awe us. He even sent his son Jesus to remove our burdens and set us free.

Like Eve, sometimes I don’t recognize God’s gifts of love, even when they’re right in front of me. But I’m trying to be aware of and celebrate the good things God gives me each day. I want to be a child of God who smiles and delights his heart. I want to make God smile, too.

 

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | April 13, 2015

Jump-start Joy with Music

Sweet melodies mingled with fresh spring scents as I watched willow branches dance in the breeze above the gathering of musicians at the Flower Farm on Saturday. I enjoyed hearing the intricate hodge podge of improvised chord progressions as the players jammed, but my heart soared when I heard the notes of Amazing Grace emerge. I smiled as my friend, Rosemary, skillfully bowed the chorus on her violin. This was my first time hearing her play.

Rosemary 2

The combination of music, God’s garden creations, and friends lightened my heart. I felt God’s strength rise inside me and I left inspired to do some creating myself.

On Sunday, I had a similar music experience at church. Although our drummer wasn’t there and the music started out weak, by the third song the spirit of praise filled the room as the hearts of the people sung out bolder than I’d ever heard—mine included. Again, my heart felt light and strong.

Psalm 81 says to sing for joy to God, who is our strength. It doesn’t say to just spontaneously be joyous, but to sing for joy. To help us jump-start our joy, it says to begin the music, strike up the tambourine, and play the melodious harp.

Harp (2)

Now I don’t personally own a harp, or even a tambourine, but I have a radio and a CD player. Instead of bemoaning my lack of joy, I need to follow God’s instructions and use his gift of worship music to stir my heart and embrace the strength and joy God provides.

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | March 23, 2015

Joy Between the Hurdles

The teacher’s voice echoed in my ears as I crouched on the dirt track. “Ready, set, GO!” I sprung forward and quickly reached my maximum speed, my long hair trailing back from my face in the breeze. My eyes were glued on the first hurdle while I concentrated on spacing my strides so my right leg would clear the bar as I jumped. Made the first one. Eyes on the second hurdle. Pace, pace, pace, jump. Now the third. Pace, pace, pace, jump.

red running tracks

Back in eighth grade, I enjoyed learning how to jump hurdles for the track team try-outs, even though I didn’t run fast enough to make that event. (I competed in the triple-jump, but missed my starting mark each time because Eddie, the boy I had a crush on, was the spotter).

Now, as I sat on my sofa reading Psalm 81, the vision of those hurdles came back to me.

That’s how I’ve been living my life, racing with my eyes glued on one hurdle after another. I no sooner got one problem solved, or one project finished, then I was off to the next.

But in Psalm 51, God tells us to stop and sing for joy as we remember how God has helped us and brought us through. After God delivered Moses and the Israelites from Egypt and brought them through the sea on dry land, they broke out in song, praising God (Exodus 15:1-18). That’s what Psalm 81 is talking about.

I thought back to the day before, when I was stressed and worried about a meeting that night. God answered my cries to him and not only calmed my heart, but worked in everyone’s heart to bring about a smooth meeting. Afterward, I said a simple “Thank you” to God, and then moved on to the next hurdle.

If I want more joy in my life—the joy God wants me to have—I need to stop and celebrate when God does good things.

I need to stop and praise God. I need to stop and feel the joy, live the joy, practice the joy that God provides. I need to stop and take time to drink deeply and savor God’s victories, big and small. This is God’s plan for us. Psalm 81 says so.

Posted by: Kris Lindsey | March 7, 2015

If I Would Only Listen

The spoon clanged against my empty cereal bowl as I rinsed it in the sink. I made sure all the crumbs went down the drain, shined the water spots off the faucet, spied two specks by the stove and wiped them up, and then surveyed the kitchen for any wayward crumbs.

Nope, all clean. But seeing a tidy kitchen didn’t scratch my antsy itch today. My tense, aching muscles had me in a python hold and my anxiety whirred like an electric fan.

retro wind fan clip art

Because today was “the meeting.”

No cute posts on Facebook or chocolate cookies would ease this ache. I needed to spend some time with God and get myself straightened out.

I sat myself down with my Bible, turned to Psalm 81, and winced as it instructed me to sing for joy to God my strength. Not feeling joy today, but I definitely needed God to be my strength.

Come on, Kris, do the things God has taught you.

“Okay, God, back in December I “let go” and gave you control of the situation we’re discussing in the meeting today, but the anxiety I’m feeling tells me I must have taken it back. I really want it to turn out the way I envision it, but I give it over to you again. Please work in the other person’s heart, and in mine, to guide this meeting how you want it to go.”

My tight muscles eased a bit, and their ache diminished. But the anxiety fan in my chest still hummed.

I read on to verse 13 and sensed God say, “If you would only listen to me and follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue your enemies—your fears.”

Yes, listen and then do.

So what was God saying to me?

Woman  in nature looking far

I looked back at my underlined verse 10 to see. Yes, the same God who helped the Israelites had also brought me through countless trials and situations. I needed to trust God with this situation today, too.

Next, I opened my daily devotional, Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. Speaking of Isaiah 41:14, that day’s reading said “It is a small thing for Me, your God, to help you…I gave my life for you. Help you? Fear not! I will help you.”

Wow. It sure sounded like those words were meant for me. The room brightened.

Then I opened my Bible study book, The Faith Dare by Debbie Alsdorf, and my mouth dropped open. That day’s assignment was to “Dare to Believe in God’s Power in All Circumstances.”

Of course God had the power to work in any circumstance. But did I dare believe God would accomplish his good purpose in my meeting?

Bob walked into the room and plopped down next to me. “Are you worried about this afternoon? Remember, you’ll be among friends. It’s going to be fine.”

My anxiety fan slowed to a purr. “Okay, God, I hear you loud and clear. I will trust you to guide me through this meeting. Whether we come to an agreement or not, I believe you will bring something good out of it. Thank you for saving me from my fears. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

That afternoon, my meeting went without controversy. The issues that I feared would cause friction didn’t seem to bother anyone at all.

I breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, God, for preparing our hearts—especially mine—for the meeting. But more than that, thank you for reminding me to listen, and for helping me to trust you in yet another circumstance.”

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