Who Are You?

Ok, we humans got a problem.

We don’t know who we are.

I mean this in two ways. First, at least in America, we have lost our sense of unity and pride in our country. We are divided to an extent that this History teacher has not seen in a long time.

The other identity problem we have, however, is worse. Since our culture has thrown out God, we have thrown out our hope and purpose.

You see, the Bible says that every human is made in the “image of God.” We are all made to represent Him. He thought us up—each of us—and He has given each of us a specific role to play in the story of life. Psalms 139 says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” and “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Each of us was planned. No one is an accident.

But most of us in Western society have forgotten that. We have been been persuaded by popular phrases like “Follow your heart” and “Make your own destiny,” thinking that we are actually the source of who we are. We have become the captains of our own ships, leaving God as an afterthought. However, this empty way of thinking will lead to nothing but anxiety and depression. (Oh, yeah, and it’s no surprise those are some of the top issues that Americans struggle with.)

I work at a facility for teenagers with major life trauma. They have been abandoned, raped, assaulted, hated,…pretty much everything but loved. And these kids have some serious identity issues. Most of them cut themselves regularly and do other things to injure themselves. Others try to commit suicide. Others attack people, verbally and physically. Many of them are confused about their sexuality and gender identity. These kids have no concept of who they are, and it permeates every area of their lives. They are miserable.

But God loves them and created them. I try to tell them that as much as I can. I want them to know they are created who they are for a purpose.

Skeptical?…Read Psalm 139. It tells about how God knew you before you were born. He chose you. He created you. He knew every day of your life. He loved you immensely—and still does.

And as believers in Jesus we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live I live through faith in the one true God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). My identity is in Jesus Christ. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about him!

What identity security!

Jesus, You are my home

The world seems to be going crazy.

The U.S. is overcome by chaos.

So many of us are feeling overwhelmed by what the future may hold.

But Jesus is my shepherd. He takes care of me, just like a shepherd cares for a sheep. He provides for me and protects me. He is my constant companion.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-4

Jesus, you are my home. My safe place. Help me to run and hide in you when I am afraid.

the weight lifter

“I am the Lord your God. You were slaves in Egypt. You were bent low from the heavy weights you carried as slaves. But I broke the heavy weights that were on your shoulders. I let you walk proudly again.”
‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭26:13‬ ‭ICB‬‬

Have you felt more than tired under a heavy weight? I have. The weight of regret. The weight of sin. The weight of fear. So many weights…

But God is a weight-lifter. Not in a gym—though that would be fun to see—but in our lives! He can carry your burdens. He wants to take them. All you gotta do is turn to him and ask him to take whatever is weighing you down. He will do it.

Jesus said in the book of Matthew, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Lean on Him. He’s there for you!

Do Miracles Still Happen?

Do you believe in miracles? I mean, really?…Most people don’t nowadays. I struggle to believe in them too.

But this one really happened.

My mother-in-law has a terminal illness. It’s so bad that she has not walked or eaten or even changed the tv channel by herself for years. And she’s in her 70’s. Not someone you want to get the Coronavirus.

But she got it. And we all prepared for the worst.

She was sent to the hospital a week ago, and—no surprise—no one could visit her. It broke my heart that she was there, possibly dying, all alone.

I started to pray for her. I had a crazy idea and prayed that God would send her an angel—or even Jesus himself—to visit her and comfort her in the hospital. I know, it sounded kinda like a ridiculously big request to me too. I prayed it a couple times over the course of the day and then forgot about it for awhile.

Well, this is where it gets interesting. The next day I asked my husband how she was doing and if he had heard anything that day. He said the nurse had actually helped her call him on the phone. He said she mumbled a few things (normal for her condition) and told him she loved him and wants him to visit. Then he said something interesting…he shook his head and said, “She kept saying something about Jesus being there…seeing him in her hospital room…”

My heart stopped beating for a minute. I had never told anyone about my prayer. Yet his mother specifically said she was being visited by her Savior.

Could this be some kind of hallucination or silly gibberish from a sick woman? I might think so if I had not just prayed that prayer and specifically asked for what she reported.

The truth is this: God is still at work. Miracles still happen. Keep your prayers big and your eyes open.

Dont stop believing,

Lauren

P.S…My terminally ill mother-in-law, who’s in her 70’s, is going home from the hospital tomorrow. Not for hospice. No, she is better. She has survived Covid.

As CS Lewis wrote: “Aslan is on the move.” Take heart!

The Picket Fence Lie

I used to think that the goal of living was to someday end up in this “happily ever after” life in a beautiful house with a white picket fence.

I guess I just always assumed I’d get there and THEN I’d be happy.

Well, my life fell apart once again last month. Once again my dreams were shattered. Once again I had my heart broken. My picket fence seems farther and farther away.

I found myself looking wistfully at a cute little house with a picket fence the other day. That’s when I realized: It’s a lie! I’ve been believing a lie!

I don’t have to wait until I have the perfect life or the cutest house to be happy. I can choose to be happy now! In fact that’s the only way “happy” works: in the right now. I have to choose to be grateful and content where I am right now. Not when _____ happens or when I finally get to do ______ or buy _______. I have to make up my mind to choose happy every moment.

“I have learned the secret to be content with whatever I have….I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:11, 13

Choose happy today! 😊

Thank you, Loneliness

Dear Loneliness,

I have to thank you. You have done something great for me. Something that Happiness couldn’t do. Neither could Popularity. Not even Fun.

Loneliness, you brought me something I never expected: Joy.

You see, I used to be afraid of you. I thought you would ruin my life. I thought you would stick around forever.

But, I was wrong. You were actually the best thing for me. You are what made me see how much I need Jesus. Your pain made me run into His arms. The best place I could be.

Loneliness, because of you I now stand on the rock of Christ and I rest in the comfort of the Psalms.

Thank you, Loneliness. I’m so grateful for the person I’ve become from all the pain you put me through. I now have Joy, which is better than Fun and deeper than Happiness.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭50:20‬ ‭

Sincerely,

Lauren

P.S. I’m fine if you don’t ever wanna come for another visit…but I’m sure I’ll see you again.

I Admit to my Affair

Ok, this is confession time. I have had an affair going on for years—not against my husband but against my Savior. And the only person it’s hurt has been me. It’s not an affair with a man; it’s an affair with something even more tempting.

Food.

Yep, this is embarrassing to admit, but I have struggled with this affair since I was about ten. I remember starting my first diet (consisting of trying not to eat the whole family size bag of M&M’s myself) around that time. By the time I hit high school I was committed to daily exercise and only eating 20 grams of fat a day (of course, fat free chips were free game). In college, after purposefully getting myself addicted to Diet Coke, I increased the exercising and graduated to Slim Fast. I was able to keep my weight down until my second child was born (when I was around 30) and since then the struggle has been more obvious (on my waistline).

I’ve realized, however, that the struggle isn’t truly with my weight. And it isn’t really with the rules of my diet. My struggle is with myself.

My biggest problem is that I don’t want to deny myself. I want what I want when I want it.

Ok, yes, I do believe that sugar and carbs are addictive and that I have an emotional connection to food. I know that I am an emotional eater, that I’ve established bad habits over the years and that I would feel much better to go gluten free. I know I get in the shame cycle of addiction and eat more when I feel hopeless because of the four pizza slices I ate last night.

These are all what I would say if someone told me this was their problem. I would “diagnose” them with so many typical eating issues.

But the real problem is my heart. I am a sinner saved by grace, and, while I don’t struggle with stealing or violent crime, I do struggle with saying “No” to myself. This is the age old struggle of humankind: the desire to be our own god. We want to control our lives without God, the “cosmic killjoy,” telling us what to do.

But Jesus tells us in His Word, “If anyone comes after me, let him deny himself and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) He goes on to say that if we want to save our lives we must lose our lives. This doesn’t really mean dying; it means giving up our selfish desires.

That is my problem. A daily struggle with giving up my desires minute by minute, for what God desires for me.

And we know what God desires for us is good. (If you doubt that read Psalm 34, Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 139.)

So, I would appreciate your prayers and comments if you are struggling with this too. Or with anything else pulling you from God’s best. We can fight this day by day with God’s Word in our hands.

Please feel free to contact me if you have a question, comment or need prayer! Lnewsom77@protonmail.com

Throw it Off

Ok, picture this: A bride all dressed and ready to walk down the aisle. She pauses outside in front of the country church for one last photo. Her hair is perfect. Her makeup is perfect. Her dress is perfect…or is it? When she turns around to let the photographer capture the decor on the back of her dress, everyone freezes. As she looks curiously at all the pale faces and big eyes of her bridesmaids, she realizes something is wrong. “Don’t move!” is all she hears. Her brother comes up and carefully reaches behind her, picking something off her back. To her horror, her brother is holding a HUGE, pregnant spider by the leg as the other seven legs wiggle in the air! The bride screams and runs into the church, throwing off her bouquet, her veil, and her shoes in her fright!

This memorable wedding day happened to my coworker’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure I would have run just as fast! (I probably would have run to the bathroom and tore that dress off of me!)

That scene is what I picture every time I read Hebrews 12:1.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We are supposed to “throw off” everything that could hinder us (meaning anything that could hold us back) or any sin that we easily fall into.

We’re not supposed to just slowly walk away from these things. We’re not supposed to hang out there a little while. We are supposed to run like a bride from a spider! Throw those things off!

God knows how damaging sin is to us. It corrodes our lives. We tend to think it’s no big deal sometimes. (“Oh, I’ll just do it this once!”) But it is like that pregnant spider; if you let it hang around it will birth hundreds of tiny baby spiders all over you! (Ok, not spiders, but bad stuff for sure.)

Jesus said, “The thief (the devil) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

So, I struggle with sin as much as anyone. But I just wanted to give you a picture of how destructive it can be in our lives. Next time we’re tempted, let’s throw off that temptation like a huge, pregnant spider! 🕸

Take courage

Fear is a choice.

This is something I’ve learned recently. In this crazy spring. (2020 we will not forget you.)

Fear is everywhere in America. Fear of a virus. Fear of being alone. Fear of not having enough food. Fear of losing a job. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shot. Fear of those people. Fear of that group. Fear of those who should protect us. Fear of people who look different from us. Fear of riots. Fear of economic depression. Fear of a growing divide in our country. Fear of rejection for who we are. Fear of government control. And the list goes on and on…

Fear is everywhere right now.

But, ya know what? We don’t have to give in to it. We don’t.

Fear is a choice. And we don’t have to choose it.

You see, fear is Satan’s trademark. It is his operating system. He wants it to be like the WiFi in your house: everywhere…you can’t see it, but any moment you can hook right up to it.

For most of my life, fear was like oxygen. I just breathed it in and out constantly. It was always with me, even when I wasn’t aware of it. Sometimes I would forget and feel happy, but wait a minute or two and that fog of fear would be around me again.

Reading my Bible and singing praise songs have the best affect on making that fog leave. However, two things that have really made a difference lately have been a book I read and a comment my pastor said.

The book is Fear is a Liar by Daniel B Lancaster. In his book, Lancaster refers to the verse “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) He says that believers in Jesus can claim this verse , knowing that God is Love. We can either choose to walk in the path of love or the path of fear. Love is right there to keep us safe and free, but we so often ignore it and choose to walk in fear. From that moment on, I chose to walk on the path of love.

The comment that impacted me was when my pastor pointed out the other day that Jesus often said, “Take courage!” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50, and so many more times.) My pastor, Steve Gaines, emphasized that we have to take courage. He said, “Take it! Pick it up! It’s right there for you to take!” It’s a choice.

Both of these instances made me realize I don’t have to sit there, overwhelmed in fear! I’m not a victim. I am a victor! I can choose the path of love! I can choose to “take courage” and trust the Lord! After all, He is faithful. He is sovereign. I have nothing to fear. My Father rules the universe!

Fear is a choice. Choose courage. Choose faith. Choose love.

This is the Day Challenge

I was flipping through my coloring Bible today and I came across the page where I had colored in a drawing of Psalms 118:24.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm118:24

We used to have to sing this song every week at the little Christian school I went to for grades 1-5. We got so tired of singing it over and over, and it seemed to mean nothing.

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that this verse is not just a comforting truth (that God designed this day); it’s also a challenge.

It’s a challenge to us to see every day—with its good and bad parts—as a blessing appointed by God. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a blessing—some days seem full of curses–but many bad times are blessings in disguise. God promises us that he works out all things for our good (see Romans 8:28); therefore, all our days are blessed days, whether or not we can see the blessing in it yet.

Would you join me in this?

The This is the Day Challenge!

I challenge you to post this verse somewhere you can see it each day and to either write down or post a picture of something you found to be a blessing that day! Something you found that was rejoicable! (Is that a word?)

Let’s see if we can make a difference in this broken world. Or at least in our attitudes.

Go out and have a blessed day!