Faithfully Thinking: How can God give you peace when you’re turning to others for it?

Many of us are running to our phones or computers every morning, looking for some good news.

“God, just let there be some good news out there right now,” I find myself saying.

Yes, I’m asking God to make the national news media give me good news.

How backward is that? Very it turns out.

One thing I have learned is that I can not receive the peace of God if I am filling my mind and my thoughts with other voices.

I can’t run to the national media, looking for their reassurance and their peace because they don’t have it for me. They don’t want me to have it. Their business thrives on turmoil and fear. Tragedy and anger and fear and scandal sells. Period. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Don’t look to entertainers, to television personalities or news channels or even pastors to bring you comfort or to allay your fears.

Only God can do that.

Only God can calm our fears.

I heard a sermon one time where the pastor talked about how many of us are looking at the news and social media all day and feeling more and more stressed and then we turn to God and say “Lord, give me peace.” Then, while waiting for that peace, we grab the phone and keep scrolling, as if we are going to find it there.

How can God give you/us peace when you are going other places for it?

Pastor Steven Furtick said in his sermon two weeks ago:

“You feed yourself fear and then pray for more faith. God says stop!!”

He was talking about us scrolling through news sites, pouring over current events, filling our minds with horror stories and what-ifs and projections and fear-filled stories all day long and then having the audacity to ask God where our peace is.

I can tell you (and me) one thing. Our peace is not on Fox News, CNN, or any other national news site. It isn’t on any news site.

Our peace is in God’s word.

Our peace is in God’s voice which speaks like a whisper to our hearts throughout the day and we can’t hear that whisper if we don’t take the time to be still and listen to it.

Yes, we need to have an idea of what is going on in the world around us. We need to check in from time to time, but staying glued to the news, soaking our brains with stories that don’t always provide us with the full story is not healthy for our minds, for our hearts, and definitely not for our spirits.

Being still is hard for many of us to do. Maybe you can’t simply sit in a quiet room somewhere with candles around you, especially now if everyone is home with you. But maybe you can focus your attention on God and his promises for us by sitting down somewhere and putting some headphones in and listening to encouraging, God-centered music or a Bible-based sermon to remind you that you are not alone, that he is for us, not against us and that he has you in his hands no matter what happens in the world around us.

The leader for my online Bible study shared this song Sunday when we met for prayer and praise. I want to share it with you and encourage you (and remind myself) to listen to it and remember God gives you peace, not the world, not the national media, not doctors with models or projections, or political leaders. I will share a link to it at the bottom of this post, along with the lyrics.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

This verse means we will have peace that essentially makes no sense. When the world is spinning around us we will feel peace. It isn’t a peace that will come naturally. It is a peace we will have to ask for repeatedly, each day, each morning, each night and maybe several times throughout the day. But it will be a peace that will settle over us and envelop us like a warm blanket.

I am writing this post to myself as much as to anyone who might read it today. I haven’t been letting God’s peace fill me and I have a feeling there are many more who haven’t been doing this and don’t even know how. Feeling his peace doesn’t mean we can’t feel frightened or uncertain. It means we refuse to let that fear or uncertainty consume us to the point we forget whose hand we are in, who holds our future.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

Remind me, Lord, that nothing can separate us from you. Nothing. Not a virus that threatens death, not death itself. It’s so hard for me to remember at this time. So hard when death is something I fear even when I know I shouldn’t.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

I don’t want to be afraid

Every time I face the waves

I don’t want to be afraid

I don’t want to be afraid

I don’t want to fear the storm

Just because I hear it roar

I don’t want to fear the storm

I don’t want to fear the storm

Peace be still

Say the word and I will Set my feet upon the sea

Till I’m dancing in the deep Peace be still

You are here so it is well

Even when my eyes can’t see I will trust the voice that speaks

I’m not gonna be afraid ‘Cause these waves are only waves

I’m not gonna be afraid

No I’m not gonna be afraid

And I’m not gonna fear the storm

You are greater than it’s roar

Oh I’m not gonna fear the storm

No I’m not gonna fear at all

Peace be still

Say the word and I will Set my feet upon the sea

Till I’m dancing in the deep

Peace be still You are here so it is well

Even when my eyes can’t see

I will trust the voice that speaks Peace, peace over me

You speak peace

Let faith rise up O heart believe

Let faith rise up in me

Let faith rise up O heart believe

Let faith rise up in me Let faith rise up O heart believe

Let faith rise up in me Oh let faith rise up O heart believe

Let faith rise up in me

Peace be still Say the word and I will Set my feet upon the sea Till I’m dancing in the deep

oh Peace be still You are here so it is well

Even when my eyes can’t see I will trust the voice that speaks

Peace, peace over me I hear You speaking

Peace, peace over me Oh peace Over me You speak peace

You speak peace

Over me

You speak peace

You speak peace

You speak peace

The state of our world today

I was very anxious about several situations the other night, feeling restless and bitter about the actions of others, in my world, in the world in general. I knew I should be reading the Bible instead of scrolling through social media and seething so I left my phone behind and grabbed my Bible when I went into the backyard to watch the dog. Isaiah has been bookmarked since Easter when I was reading about the prophecy of Christ’s death and resurrection.


When I read Isaiah 65: 1-5, a few pages after that prophecy (Isaiah 53: 1-12), I felt like I was reading a message for today.

“I was sought by those who did not ask for Me;

I was found by those who did not seek Me.

I said, “Here I am, here I am,”

To a nation that was not called by My name.

I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,

Who walk in a way that is not good,

According to their own thoughts;

A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;

Who sacrifice in gardens,

And burn incense on altars of brick;

Who sit among the graves,

And spend the night in the tombs;

Who eat swine’s flesh,

And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;

Who say, ‘Keep to yourself,

Do not come near me,

For I am holier than you!”

These are smoke in My nostrils,

A fire that burns all day.­”

Isaiah 65: 1-5

Things aren’t great in our world right now. We have a lot of hatred, a lot of horrible things being said by people who are supposed to be leaders. We are at a crossroads in our nation and sometimes the choices we have to make are frightening, but none of this is new to God. There has always been upheaval in the world.

There have always been people who have denied him and even spit in His face, figuratively and literally. There is nothing new under the sun for God. He created this world, He gave humans free will, He knows our past and our future. He knows the time He will send his son to gather us home.

Sometimes it is hard for me to remember all this when babies are being torn from their mother’s wombs and people say they aren’t babies they are blobs.

It’s hard to remember when babies and adults are dying at the borders of nations, not only our own, looking for a better life, but politicians won’t agree on how to help them.

It’s hard to remember when so many children are lost and looking for their identities, impatient to grow up and state too soon who and what they are.

But even in those moments, God is here.

I don’t know why He doesn’t pluck us all out of this confusion and set us straight, stop all the sadness and horror from happening in the world; it’s something I argue with Him about often. What I do know is one day it will all make sense and one day those who deny Him won’t be able to anymore.

Even fat moms read the Bible

Recently I didn’t have any models for my stock photography so I decided to make myself a model, as uncomfortable as I was with that idea. I plopped myself in front of the camera with my intention to capture only my hands holding my Bible or at least being able to crop it that way.

But when I looked at my arms in the photos I thought “Oh gosh. I’m so fat. I can’t believe how fat I’ve gotten.”

And it’s true.

I’m fat.

Partially from poor decisions and partially from auto immune conditions I can’t seem to get a handle on. Five years ago I lost 30 pounds in three months and I’ve only recently re-started the lifestyle change that helped me get there, so we’ll see how this latest journey goes, but until then, I’m just fat. Not running myself down. It’s just where I am. Not big boned. Just fat.

Many of the photos in the Christian stock agency I submit to feature young, skinny women reading their Bibles, I guess because the idea is that only young, in shape women need God. Of course I know the photographers or stock agencies aren’t really thinking that when they take or approve the photos but the thought is there, subconsciously, even in my own mind: fat women don’t sell.

We just don’t. Right?

But guess, what, maybe we do because not every woman out there is a size four. Some of us are struggling and we may know we need to lose the weight but no matter what we do it isn’t working. Maybe it’s a medical issue blocking the weight loss or maybe it’s emotional pain but either way losing the weight is a battle and we are in the middle of it.

And what I thought when I saw those photos, after the initial depression and decision that I wouldn’t submit the images, “well, even fat moms read the Bible.”

Though the agency I work with is fairly diverse and offering a few more photos of the old and the fat, I don’t know if some in the Christian advertising world have caught on yet. So many are focused on catering to the Millenials, they’ve forgotten that there are a huge segment of Christians who don’t know what a Instagram is. There is also a segment (notice I left out the word “huge” here) of Christians who are struggling with their appearance in a world where they are told constantly they are only worthy if they shop a certain place, wear a certain size or have a certain amount of money.

DSC_6864This is where we are right now – us women who fight with our weight – and we need to read that Bible as much as the 21-year old skinny girl does. That 21-year old blond may look like she has it all together but she’s in need of a savior as much as the fat mom who cries in the closet with a pint of Haagen-daz when she looks at photos of herself. The only difference is the fat mom may find a bit more judgement because of how she looks and how she has “let herself go.”

Christ loves us no matter our size or what the world thinks of us, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when a large majority of the Christian images we see in Christian or church publications are of young men or women wearing skinny jeans and hipster hats. Does the Kingdom belong only to the young and fashionable? I tend to think not.

DSC_6932While the youth of today may dismiss what they see as the old fashioned and out of touch ideas of the older generation, the older generation are also a driving force of the Kingdom.

And that younger generation will one day be the older generation and they will one day have to deal with the sagging chests and the expanding bottoms and, as author and speaker Lysa Terkurst says, the missing “thigh gap.”

No matter our size or our age we are all a part of the kingdom of God.

Maybe it is time the Christian advertising industry started to reflect that a little better.

Pulling it into the light

I have a photo of my daughter looking at an old, black and white photo of a couple and the woman in the photo is her namesake. The woman is my great grandmother and I’ve heard some funny stories about her over the years but I wish I knew more.

One story came from my mom who said great-grandma had once reached into a cabinet while mom was visiting her and pulled out a small bottle, took a swig, looked over her shoulder and told my mom “It’s for the heart, don’t you know…”

And then she giggled.

I guess there was always something about the photos of my great grandmother that caused me to imagine she had been a fun person, but also one full of strength and wisdom.

I know she most likely also had some big hurts hidden in that heart, especially the pain of a mentally ill daughter who was sent away from the family because back then no one knew how to treat schizophrenia. My grandmother probably felt that pain as well but I never heard her say. It was only her and her sister and then one day her sister was gone and in a hospital hundreds of miles away.

Onieta, my great aunt, sent letters, begging to be allowed to come home with her family. Her life was cut abruptly short in so many ways, not in a physical death but certainly an emotional one as the promise of a future as an artist, a wife, a mom were taken from her by a medical world that didn’t know how to help her and in many cases didn’t want to because of the stigma mental illness stamped on a person.

I didn’t know about her until I was almost nine or 10 when I traveled with my parents and grandmother to see her in a nursing home about an hour from us. I wasn’t allowed to see her, actually. I sat in the car with my mom who explained it all to me as my dad and grandmother went inside. Dad told me later she didn’t really know them but she hugged her sister.

I imagined the rest for myself-that sister bond that could not be broken, even by mental illness no one knew how to treat. I imagined how close the two were growing up and how shattered their lives must have been all those years apart. When my great aunt died, she died alone and I don’t remember her funeral.

For me she was merely a dream I’d once had and later her life was a tangible fear that when I turned 21 I’d go crazy like she has at the same age.She was an artist and even before I knew she existed I had liked art as well. Maybe art was the gateway to crazy I had once thought. Or maybe 21 was the magic age when the genetics kicked in and schizophrenia rose up and took over and you jumped out an upstairs window like she had.

But schizophrenia never tormented me, other than through fear that I would be the next in the family line to crack. Mental illness didn’t affect me the way it did Onieta , though I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression. It didn’t tear my life apart or pull me away from the ones I loved in the way it did her. I was lucky to be born in a time of more understanding and more pharmaceutical advances.

Maybe it isn’t the same for others in my family, but for me, Onieta was our big family secret, something hidden and dark, not because of her mental illness but because she was hidden away, pushed away and almost never spoken of within the family. For me, at least, she never really existed. But for my great grandparents and my grandmother the pain of losing her must have been unbearable.

There is something about a mother’s heart that is hit especially hard by the loss of a child, whether that child is lost in a world of confusion or physically lost. A mother spends nine months with a child inside her, feeling the movements, talking and loving the child before they are even born outside the body.

Then the first few years of life are spent caring for the child’s every needs until they are old enough to do it themselves. Back in those days my great grandmother would have done almost all of it – breakfast and lunch and bedtimes and middle of the night cries. For her the day they knew they could no longer care for a daughter whose mental illness had taken over her mind must have been mental and emotional torture.

My heart aches for the women I never knew – my great grandmother and my great aunt – for their heartache and their emotional anguish. I wish I could go back and take it all away for them, hand Onieta some medicine or find out if a thyroid or hormone issue or even a vitamin deficiency was the problem, and let them be a real family, let her live a life full of promise, fulfillment and joy.

I can’t, of course, do that but by dragging it all from the darkness into the light, maybe I can help to be sure history does not repeat itself. If a member of our family faces a similar tragedy I want to be sure they aren’t hidden away, pushed away and loved only in the darkness of secrecy and through memories of who they once were.

I want them to be loved in the light for who they are.

I’ve started to think about how I owe it to Onieta to live my life fully alive, with fears pushed aside, to experience life the way she was never allowed to. The best way to pull her from the darkness of exclusion and back into the family is to not keep her a dark, hidden family secret.

She’s gone from this earth now but if we keep talking about her and imagining even a little of the pain she faced, then we keep her memory alive and we keep the determination for it not to happen again alive. Because of what she faced and suffered through hopefully others will be spared. Hopefully I will spare myself from a life limited by fear, anxiety, illness and mental pain. Sometimes I feel like Onieta is urging me to really live, do what she could never do, be who she could never be and feel free the way she never did.