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I obstacle. Do you obstacle?

24 May

CAM00070The other day in church I heard the word obstacle used as a verb in Spanish.  You know, “I obstacle, you obstacle, they obstacle, we obstacle.”  It really resonated with me because how often do we obstacle ourselves? Or others?

I work with someone who struggles with her interpersonal relationships and yet she obstacles herself with her thorny personality just like this plant. There are thorns popping out of every vein!

I obstacle myself, my peace, or any remote possibility of moving gracefully through my days when I throw EVERY possible thing to do on my to-do list.  Then my life looks totally unachievable and I feel overwhelmed; I find it impossible to move through life one day at a time.

And so I say to myself (and maybe to you): “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (AMP)  I love what Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown say about this–“Every day brings its own cares; and to anticipate is only to double them.”

But we can also look at it this way:  “A voice of one is calling out, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness [remove the obstacles]; Make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

Clear the way, or panah in Hebrew, means to to turn away, put out of the way, make clear, clear away. “He hears a crier giving orders, by solemn proclamation, to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; to remove all obstructions before Jehovah marching through the desert; through the wild, uninhabited, unpassable country. The idea is taken from the practice of the eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey, especially through desert and unpractised countries, sent harbingers before them to prepare all things for their passage, and pioneers to open the passes, to level the ways, and to remove all impediments. The officers appointed to superintend such preparations the Latins called stratores.” (Benson Commentary)

So, I guess the moral of the story is to take a look at how we obstacular ourselves instead of collaborating in the clearing the way for Jesus to work in our lives. Or perhaps to look to be stratores rather than obstaculadores.  Yes. I did just make up that word and it means one who creates obstacles. 

Any other thoughts?


one thousand gifts–on worry

24 Oct

FireweedOf course I worry.  I worry less and less as life goes on and I see what an incredibly faithful God I serve, but lately worries about finances have popped up.  Worries about church finances.  Worries about our future finances.  What’s odd is that I don’t normally deal with these types of worries.  Family matters are familiar worrying territory for me.  Relationship issues.  These are areas where I battle. But lately I’ve been struggling with these future money issues.

And then I read this passage from the book one thousand gifts by Ann Voskamp:

Anxiety has been my natural posture, my default stiffness. The way I curl my toes up, tight retreat. How I angle my jaw, braced, chisel the brow with the lines of distrust. How I don’t fold my hands in prayer . . . weld them into tight fists of control. Always control–pseudopower from the pit.  How I refuse to relinquish worry, babe a mother won’t forsake, an identity. Do I hold worry close as this ruse of control, this pretense that I’m the one who will determine the course of events as I stir and churn and ruminate? Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is. And stressed, this pitched word that punctuates every conversation, is it really my attempt to prove how indispensable I am?  Or is it more? Maybe disguising my deep fears as stress seems braver somehow.

Two points really struck me. 1) That control is a pseudopower from the pit of hell. 2) That worry is the facade of taking action. Both of these things put the focus on me and what I can do instead of where it should be–resting in Jesus–who is ever faithful and ever loving.

Do You Know?

10 Mar

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Do you know that although “Americans are safer and more secure today than at any point in history,. . . America now ranks as the most anxious nation on the planet, with more than 18 percent of the adults suffering from a full-blown anxiety disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”

Also, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” These quotes are from a book I just finished called Nerve: Poise under pressure, serenity under stress, and the brave new science of fear and cool.  I’m interested in the topic of teenage anxiety, as I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in a middle school in Costa Rica, and my students are continually stressed out.

The book has a number of suggestions for dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress, which I am taking the liberty of giving a Biblical point of view:

Breathe:  Physiologically when we take deep breaths we are telling our body that everything is all right.  Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord!  Psalm 150:6

Put your feelings into words: Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.  Psalm 4:1

Train, practice, and prepare:  to know the love of Christ, which surpasseth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:19  As Christians, we prepare for extraordinary crises in our lives through reading and meditating on the Word of God and fellowshipping with Him during ordinary times in our lives.

Redirect your focus:  “The culprit in cases of meltdown under pressure isn’t fear but misdirected focus:  we turn our attention inward and grow preoccupied with worries about results, which undercuts our true abilities.”  Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.  Philippians 1: 18-20

Mindfully disentangle from worries and anxious thoughts:  Taylor Clark, the author of Nerve, suggests two routes through which we can disentangle ourselves:  1) mindfully watch your worries, or 2) postpone worries.  The Bible suggests that we Humble [ourselves] therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Expose yourself to your fears:  But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light. Ephesians 5:13

Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control:  According to Oswald Chambers, “Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated.”  That is the fear we need to deal with, and the only way to deal with that is to acknowledge our weakness and learn of His omnipotence through worship and communion with Him.  O Lord God of hosts, who is a mighty one like unto You, O Lord? And Your faithfulness is round about You [an essential part of You at all times].  Psalm 89:8  Oswald Chambers goes on to edify:  “If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified.”

Continue to persevere.

A “Clean” Mind

12 Sep

In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.  Psalm 94:19

When we were in Florida this summer, Sunny mentioned that he liked to get things off his to-do list quickly “so he could have a clean mind.”  I’ve realized lately how much I can obsess about the tiniest things, and I’ve been turning to God for His comforts when I’m obsessing, so that I can have a clean mind.  I know just what Sunny means–a mind where things aren’t turning over and over or leaping around like popcorn.

Grandchildren are such a gift from God and certainly one of His comforts.  I could fill this post with lists of His comforts toward me–and I would imagine that He comforts each of us in a different way.  What grace!  What love!

In the multitude of my [anxious] thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul! Psalm 94:19 (Ampl)


God is in the Waiting

25 Jan

God IS in the waiting.

Not until then did he seek comfort and counself from his wife, who had always been his solace at such times; throwing himself down beside her on the wagon seat, he told her the story of his late discoveries, the absence of the king, the death of his kinsman. For a second the woman’s heart quailed before the fresh difficulties, but she forgot self at the look in her husband’s face. Her quiet reply, “We will wait, for God is in the waiting.” ~ The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric. P. Kelly

Mike has taught me so much about waiting!  I’m the kind of person that wants to make things happen.  I want to fix things.  Many, many times in fearful moments, Mike has spoken to me as the wise wife spoke in the quote above.  Wait, dear.  Let’s see what God will do.

LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. Psalm 48:15

Comfort Food

16 Nov

When I was little there were certain comfort foods that mom would make when we were sick:  rice with raisins, cinnamon, and milk; soft-boiled eggs over toast bites; her famous chicken soup.  These foods still comfort me today!

As a Christian when I need comfort–from grief, from fear, from worry, from stress–I run to the Psalms.  I’m there now as we struggle to hear from God for our next move–I told Mike a worry that I had about God’s direction the other night, “What if it is God’s will for us to move to St. Augustine and I get a job offer for Costa Rica or Curaçao?”  Mike just laughed (not unkindly) and said, “Don’t you think our God is big enough either to close doors or give us a bad feeling?”

Here is today’s comfort food from the Psalms:

You will show me the path of life;

In your presence is fullness of joy;

At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16:11

Scared Carnal?

9 Aug

Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever].  [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot.  So then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him.  Romans 8:6-8

Yesterday I found out that I’m going to lose my magnificent classroom assistant.  It’s a good move for the school and for her, but I was quite unhappy for myself.  Did I take it to the Lord in prayer?  No.  Lourdes and I spoke and I told her that I’m happy for her as it is a step toward her professional goal of being in early education.  I asked her how she felt and she said, “I’m a Catholic and I have strong faith.  I believe things that happen like this are from the hand of God and for the good of all of us.”  Then she and I prayed together.  I yearn to have my FIRST response to be spiritual.

This morning I began reading a book by Andrew Murray and I was hit upside the head by a 2″ by 4″ as I read about carnal Christians!  Who reacted spiritually?  Who reacted carnally?  I reacted in my flesh thinking about ME.

If any come and say:  “I have struggled, I have prayed, I have wept, and it has not helped me,” then you must do one other thing.  You must see that the living Christ is God’s provision for your holy, spiritual life.  You must believe that that Christ who accepted you once, at conversion, in His wonderful love is now waiting to say to you that you may become a spiritual man, entirely given up to God.  If you will believe that, your fear will vanish and you will say:  It can be done; if Christ will accept and take charge, it shall be done.” ~ Andrew Murray, The Master’s Indwelling.


15 Jul

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today!

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;

And give us not to think so far away

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here

All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,

Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;

And make us happy in the happy bees,

The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird

That suddenly above the bees is heard,

The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,

And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,

The which it is reserved for God above

To sanctify to what far ends He will,

But which it only needs that we fulfill.

~Robert Frost

To deal with worry and fear, we must purpose to live in the present.

Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.  Matthew 6:34

Details, Details

13 Jul


We recently spent some time in Pennsylvania with dear friends.  Walking through that countryside, I couldn’t help note the variety of wildflowers–down to teeny-tiny ones that lined the roads.  You’d have to be walking to even have a chance of noticing them.  It came to me so clearly (once again) that if God the Father is going to decorate the sides of roads with flowers that few will see, He’ll certainly see to the details of our lives that we may worry are too small for Him to think about.

“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”  John 6:39

Best. Women’s. Meeting. Ever #2

1 Jul

Courtesy of

LaTasha Brown spoke at the women’s meeting the other day.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah speaks to a widow and asks her for a drink of water, and while she’s in mid-step he also asks her for something to eat.

She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”   Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.'” v. 12-14

Here’s a woman preparing to die and Elijah says, “Don’t worry about a thing?  Go make me a biscuit first??  Then make one for yourself and your son???”  Can you imagine the struggle in her heart?  I can just imagine some of the things she could have said, but she . . .

. . . And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!

Latasha pointed out that in that moment the widow’s capacity was small, but a little oil and obedience was — and is — enough.  It opened her heart.  When you are at your moment of extremity, don’t forget that God is in the heart-stretching business.