Who’s carrying your burdens?

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Give your burdens to the LORD…..Psalm 55:22 NLT

I met with my counselor on Tuesday this week. We explored why I’m still struggling to decide whether I continue an endeavor or cut it off.  I’ve been ‘wishing and washing’ for more than two years, not able to make up my mind.

When I started my YouTube channel, English without Fear, in March 2018, my goal was to replace my classroom teaching salary through providing compelling, intermediate-level English stories that could benefit both English-language learners and teachers. I produced videos and materials for free to build a following, hoping eventually to convert some of them into paying clients

When the Lord suddenly moved Mike and me to Huntsville, I left my classroom job teaching French.  Due to Mike’s salary, there was no longer a need for me to work.  My purpose for having started this YouTube channel and website evaporated. I kept it up, however, out of a sense of pride for having begun it and for the identity it gave me. I also viewed it as a type of voluntary contribution to the language acquisition community. But my feelings toward it vacillated.

At the end of my counseling session, Teresa challenged me to pray in a way that had never crossed my mind.  She suggested I ask the Lord, ‘What would YOU have me do with my life, since you have planted me here in Huntsville?’ That’s a much broader, open question. It actually excited me.  Maybe there’s a new adventure God would have me take up, something I’ve never imagined, but one that he has been preparing me for all along. Up until now, I’ve only prayed for wisdom about continuing to invest time and energy in this ESL tool I started back in North Carolina.

Recently, God reminded me of the verse at the beginning of this post.  Hence, I’ve been thinking of Sherpa guides. I can imagine climbing a perilous Himalayan peak, tightly tied to my guide.  Using only climbing poles, my back is weight free. If the ascent challenges me, my guide takes the lead. Other times, I walk beside him, securely attached to my moving stronghold.

Isn’t that a picture of how our Christian life is to be? No anxiety should burden us if we keep casting each one on our guide, the Holy Spirit. Paul picks up this reality in his letter to the Philippians. Because the Lord is near, we are privileged to keep handing over all worries.

Wouldn’t it be a stupid sight to behold, a mountain climber loaded down with all his heavy baggage and struggling to keep up with the Sherpa guide who burden free hiked along?

Yesterday morning when I journaled, I wrote to Jesus, asking him to show me what he wants me to do here in Huntsville. I asked him specifically, ‘What do YOU say about…?’ and I listed all the ‘chosen’ activities I do during the week.  Then at the gym, the Holy Spirit brought to mind James’ advice:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. James 1:5-6 NLT

I thanked the Lord for this promise and reminded myself that if I trust him to provide wisdom, to respond to my prayer, then I don’t need to keep thinking and deliberating.  Especially if he truly is my divine Sherpa guide on whom I have off-loaded this issue that has perturbed me on and off for 2 years!

I’m excited to see where he is leading me, what he is going to open up for me. If I count on him to keep being God and to continue his faithful pattern of how he cares for his chosen sheep, then I can rest in his promised provision of wisdom and insight.

Incoming artillery barrage from Satan: You’re not doing enough!

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There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free. Romans 8:1-2 Berean Study Bible

Oh, the places we have lived and the friends we have made.  England, Virginia and North Carolina enriched us the most. We now live in Alabama. My former school colleagues, church friends, neighbors with whom I WANT to stay in contact now number in the 20s, I would imagine.  These are people for whom I still pray and feel close, but in different degrees. Deciding who is in my ‘inner circle’ has been challenging.  I have limited emotional energy and time to invest. I imagine that’s the same for you.

Add to those different groups of friends from our past, God has planted us in yet another community with new neighbors, church friends and colleagues at Mike’s office.

How have I organized those in whom I invest? There’s my mother-in-law with whom I spend 30 minutes twice weekly on a Zoom call, keeping up with her. Two grandkids I occasionally (depending on their schedules) teach either French or Spanish by Zoom. Then there are two close friends I’ve chosen to invest in. With one gal, I connect daily through Voxer, an asynchronous audio messaging platform.  My other regular friend and I leave lengthy video messages for each other once a week, using Marco Polo. They are the gals who are closest to my heart. 

Yet, I feel overwhelmed with how to ‘handle’ other friends. ‘Shoulds’ distract me and cause me guilt:  

  • I need to schedule a catch-up call with Jane
  • We should reach out to neighbors and get to know them over a meal
  • Martha is a young mom at church with whom I click, I should schedule a walk and talk.
  • I haven’t talked with my sister-in-law in a while; I should find a time soon to connect.

So, what’s the problem?  There is not enough time to schedule in all these people, given my other responsibilities. Plus, I feel guilty in admitting that these ‘shoulds’ feel like a burden.  The background music in my mind keeps playing the same-ole refrain, “Something is wrong with me that I don’t want to stay in touch with everyone; that’s selfish!”

This morning I woke up heavy with, “I don’t do enough to stay connected to people, past and present.”

Journaling my raw thoughts during my morning time with Jesus and my Bible always help me process what I’m feeling and thinking. The Holy Spirit always helps me sort through the yuk and bring me out into the light.

Here’s how once again, he came to my rescue. 

With relief, I wrote down exactly how I was feeling condemned and distracted.  Having finished reading the appointed scriptures for the day, I then opened up my Oswald Chambers app on my phone. The first whiff of freedom emerged. ‘Don’t worry anymore about yourself….’

Copying Oswald’s exhortation, I then wrote this conclusion: ‘Every time I start to think I’m not enough, recognize that I am focused on the wrong issue. Leave it alone and hop over to the most important issue: ‘Jesus, YOU did enough for me.  I am enough IN you.’

That triggered this idea: ‘What if I focused and meditated on your ‘enufness’, Jesus? Oh! Didn’t I recently read something about being sprung from prison?  Yes!  Here it is, from yesterday’s scripture:  Psalm 116:16 You threw open my prison door.

That truth set me to considering a daring suggestion that seemed to spring up from inside.  ‘What if I DIDN’T initiate contacts with my other old friends and new acquaintances here?  What if I just trusted the Holy Spirit to lead people to contact me if they want to catch up?  Could I DARE give that a try?  That would feel SO freeing!

But what about all the exhortations to ‘one another’ and love brothers and neighbors?’

God encouraged me by bringing Philippians 2:13 to mind. You know that statement Paul makes where he writes that it is God himself who gives us the desire to work for his good pleasure.

I looked up ‘desire’ in the Greek.  Glancing down at the various meanings, I dared to hope that this was the answer.  Desire can also be expressed as:

  • being gladly inclined toward something
  • taking delight and pleasure in doing XYZ

With mounting energy, I asked, ‘What excites me?’ I didn’t have to think.  The answer flooded my heart:

  • Writing! Having time each day to write energizes me.
  • Learning Spanish fills me with joy

You know, that line in Philippians clearly teaches that it is God who plants desires in us that conform to his purposes and good pleasure. ‘Could it be that simple? To follow my God-given desires, especially this urge to write?  Is my craft, my calling to express myself beautifully in order to connect and encourage others? Is that why the Holy Spirit daily brings me fresh ideas that link his word with my life?

And the Spanish, well that’s clear. The absolute joy and pleasure of growing more proficient. For years, I taught French to adolescents. Now, I get to expand my areas of fluency, giving me entrée into a different world with fascinating people. Describing my language acquisition process and what I feel inside as a second-language learner thrills me.’

I put my pen down and closed my journal to get ready for my exercise class. Throughout the day, I have been letting these ideas sink in.  I think I’m on the right track, for not even three weeks ago one of my friends reminded me that the Holy Spirit corrects with gentleness.  He doesn’t condemn.

More than just a solution to ‘what do I do with all the people from my past’, God confirmed what he has called me to do.  Satan apparently likes to suck away our joy and burden us with duties that God maybe hasn’t appointed. I’m quicker to recognize Satan’s ploys, that shame-producing condemnation together with distracting thoughts.

Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you! Psalm 116:7 Berean Study Bible.

I’ll let you know what happens, as I leave to the Lord my other friends and acquaintances. I believe I can trust him to let me know when I should engage.

Why does everything feel like a burden?

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This is embarrassing to admit, but some days, the idea of fixing dinner FEELS like a burden.  I’ve told Mike that I think I’m addicted to ‘pleasant’ or pleasure. I can’t come up with any other explanation.

So what does ‘pleasant’ mean to me?

Not having anything to do that I don’t want to do.  The funny thing about dinner prep is, is that I CHOOSE to cook. It’s not like someone else MAKES me.

I also choose to exercise each day.  Three of the days each week I push myself hard, working on cardio endurance and muscle strength. Those are the mornings I dread. Yet I know that discomfort is a small price to pay for fitness and health.

Then there are the once in a while tasks that feel like burdens. The other night the reality of a new month hit me – a month with Mother’s Day and 4 birthdays in our family.  My desire to give thoughtful gifts that please clashed with a lack of confidence in being able to find them. 

After a couple of days of churn over the gifts ‘burden’ plus some other unresolved matters I had to get myself in hand, via God’s Word.

Feeling sorry for myself and with a bit of drama I wrote in my journal: Things I need to do ALWAYS feel like a burden. But I’m supposed to cast ALL my burdens on God (Psalm 55:22).

ALL of a sudden, one of God’s truths came to mind. It’s those two verses from Psalm 18:

28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.

Here’s how verse 28 helped me: If God lightens my darkness, that means He will show me what I’m to do about each purchase for my family. 

Reading further in Psalm 18 I mused: Well, what are walls, but obstacles?  With the gift example my lack of creativity is no hindrance to God who is CREATOR of all that exists.

And what is a troop but an enemy army whose diabolical objective is to RAID my peace of mind!

As a redeemed little sister of Jesus, family PEACE is my due. The Father doesn’t intend for me to worry.  He wants me to hand over EVERY burdensome, anxiety-producing decision or problem to Him, however minuscule they seem. He even calls my relying on Him ‘obedience.’

Seeing these truths, together with writing down my thoughts in my journal dispelled the self-pity and lightened the tasks.  Even my workout didn’t feel so painful afterwards!

Here’s my prayer for today: “Okay, Father, I’m handing over ‘all I gotta do’ about gifts during May. Today, I will just do what is at hand, what I CAN do.  Thank you for reminding me of my privilege to off-load all that feels burdensome.  Thank you for your promise of energy for today.”

And about the ‘burden’ of preparing dinner for Mike and me? Another truth from God’s word came to mind as I was getting dressed.  God has sovereignly ordained for all of us the GOOD gift of work, (a pre-fall blessing). Yes, there is time to relax and restore. But work is the natural guiding principle of human activity.  We are meant to TEND our gardens, whether in the home or in the office.

Father, help me to remain content with the work you have given me this day. May I do each task depending on you, for the welfare of those around me, for my joy and to please you. Amen

PS:  My mother used to say that the THINKING about something was always worse than the actual DOING.

 

 

 

 

Burdens and what to do with them

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What is your inheritance as a Christian?  If you are a born-from-above new creation, then God HAS granted and assigned you a share in His heavenly Kingdom.  This is your allotment or LOT in life. What exactly IS a ‘lot’?   To gain some insight, let’s look at how legacies and shares in wealth were distributed in the Old Testament.

Joshua 14:2 Their inheritances were assigned by lot to the nine-and-a-half tribes, as the LORD had commanded through Moses.

Sometimes these apportioned inheritances bring hardships. Life’s trials and problems may at times feel like ‘crushing weights’.   David, out of one such bitter experience, cried: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! Then would I fly away, and be at rest” (Ps. 55:6). But before he finished this meditation he seems to have realized that his need for the relief that wings would bring could be met in a different way. For he writes a few verses later, exhorting himself AND us, “Cast thy burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain thee.(Ps 55:22)

Read this commentary quoted by Streams in the Desert: “The word “burden” is translated in the Bible margin, ‘what he (Jehovah) hath given thee.’ The saints’ burdens are God-given; they lead him to ‘wait upon Jehovah,’ and when that is done, in the magic of trust, the ‘burden’ is metamorphosed into a pair of wings, and the weighted one ‘mounts up with wings as eagles.'”
Sunday School Times

Do you find David’s example depressing or encouraging?  For me, the new thought that our burdens are given to us BY God and we are meant to give them BACK to God is a RELIEF! For the implicit conclusion is that we are NOT meant to carry/handle these burdens ourselves.  So why does God ‘gift’ us with trials?  Because they are necessary to the completion of our faith.  This ‘faith’ is part of our inheritance and the Holy Spirit strengthens us through the vehicle of our faith.  So our faith must be fully kitted out and made complete.  Trials are God’s means to do just that kind of perfecting of our faith.

See how the apostle Peter writes about trials in his letter to wobbly believers:

These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return. 1 Peter 1:7

Take heart, dear brother and sister.  God knows what He is doing.  And we can trust Him.

 

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