Worthless

The mind is often our worst enemy

-It’s about midnigDepressionht on a Saturday and I am sitting in the living room of our duplex in Billings MT. My stepfather—a 6’8” truck driver, former bull rider and cowboy—comes home drunk, nothing unusual there. For some reason my mother is not there, I think she was out looking for him— again. He walks in and stops at my chair, towering over me he commences to berate me; “Look at you, just sitting there watching TV, you’re worthless and lazy, you have always been worthless and lazy and you’ll never amount to anything.”

I was barely 16, going to school, working part time cleaning a clothing store in the evenings and often working on a ranch during the weekends but that didn’t matter— I was worthless and lazy—and for some reason, in my heart I believed it. Perhaps because I had heard exactly the same thing for five years from my former stepfather.

A couple of years later after leaving home and school to go into Job Corps where I would learn the construction trades I would get a visit from another Father. Around midnight as I was lying in bed on a Saturday night in a dorm room surrounded by other snoring guys about my age, far from home and family —I was having a melt-down. I don’t even know why, extreme cabin feve
r in the midst of one of the worst winters on record, fear of the future and my own ability to face it? Looking back with a little more understanding and wisdom I know now that I was most likely in the grips of depression, an ailment that runs strong in my family.

But this time the Father who showed up had a different tone. I couldn’t see him, he wasn’t towering over me with whiskey on his breath, he was just a presence of love and peace so strong that I could feel it. I was having a close encounter with the Lord himself who revealed to me in the anxiousness of a dark winter night in the mountains outside of Anaconda—his love for me. Suddenly my childhood long, unending longing for a loving fulltime father, to be a real part of my life was gone, and I realized that I did have a Father who loved me and was proud of me.

It finally started to sink in that what my real Dad and my mother had been telling me was true, that I was a good person, and though it would take many more years for that to really sink in and bring me to a place of real healing— on this night in Anaconda, far from all of my family, the anxiousness that was consuming me as I was sinking into the death grip of depression and codependency was gone as my heavenly Father whispered to my heart that he was there for me, and would always be.

I heard him because I had cried out in desperation and opened my heart to hear. I had received Jesus years earlier but now I had accepted my adoption into the family of God, and though it would be a few years before I started hanging around with the Lord’s family in a church, at least now I knew who my true father was and that he loved me and was there for me in my darkest hours, not to berate me but to comfort me, to let me know that I was someone worth loving.

This realization is peace—this is happiness.

16Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy. Ps 94

Though this psalm starts with a need for deliverance from enemies, the focus of the psalm soon shifts to a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from inner demons so to speak. The writer (David) felt himself slipping into darkness, even the darkness of death— perhaps literally—as he feared the arrow of an enemy could find him at any moment as he was living as a refugee from the King and then as a King with many enemies who would like to see him gone— or the death like silence of a heart that has given in to total despair.

I believe David felt himself slipping into a despair from which death may even have been seen as a relief, a desperate and undesirable relief especially in light of the fact that the Hebrew notion of the grave before the doors of heaven were opened by Jesus, was a place below the earth, hades, where the dead waited for the resurrection, totally cut off from the living.

A heart that feared it was on a slippery slope of no return to the silence of death was an anxious heart indeed while at the same time an anxious heart that longed for the silence of death was a heart that was already in a kind of living death, either way, it is a bad place to be— it is a place with no love.

An anxious heart, a heart of despair, a heart that either fears or longs for death is a heart that has no love. David is plainly thanking the Lord here for delivering him from a heart issue. His heart was hurting, his heart was empty, his heart was about to give in and give up. It was perhaps a despair that was brought on by the relentless persecution of his enemies, but the real enemy soon became his own mind.

Then he receives consolation, and what is that consolation? The love of the Lord.

I believe the heart, the soul, the mind and the spirit are intricately
woven together in such complexity that only God can unravel and bring health and it is only by his word and by his Holy Spirit that we can even begin to understand it, and only through him that the damage that this fallen world and the sinfulness of the human heart has inflicted on it.

Love is the answer

We need love, we were created to be loved, and to give love. A heart that does not perceive itself as having love will not last for long, at least not in any kind of sustainable form. The ultimate deceit and victory of the enemy of our souls is convincing us that we are unloved— that we are unlovable—and that even God does not love us. He delights in isolating the human heart from any and all love but ultimately the love of God because then he has succeeded in not just destroying our lives, but also our eternal souls.

But rest assured, you Father loves you and he has a plan for you—A plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11

Look to him, he is waiting, he understands— he really does.

 

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You can be happy

Attitude

-Happiness is something we all strive for, something we all long for, yet for all the attention being happy has garnered as a pursuit of mankind as it has been for eons, it has remained frustratingly illusive and even indefinable and unattainable to most no matter their station in life. It can’t be bought, stolen or forced—you can’t take it away from someone and they cannot give it to you.

Happiness can be very subjective and as fickle as the wind. This is because happiness is a state of mind, it is something we choose.

Going through Yellowstone park a couple weeks ago I was reminded of the words I learned as a child in the 60’s; Words of a great 20th century poet and singer of songs:

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. 

But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

All you gotta do is set your mind to it, knuckle down buckle down, do it, do it, do it!

These words of wisdom are from the same man who also wrote the profound words: “I wish I had your good luck charm and you had a do-whaka-do-whaka-do-whaka-do, whaka-do.”Roger Miller

You can be happy, if you’ve a mind to. Obviously this is kind of a silly song but it is certainly sound principle. We choose our own attitudes and our attitude affects everything we do and everyone around us. Attitude is the greatest determiner of happiness there is. Our attitudes touch our very spirit and determine our reception to the blessings of God.

24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Numbers 14

A Spirit of worship

Years ago— I will never forget this because it really rang true and gave me hope when one of my children, was giving me my first grey hairs, as she was struggling to find her way in the world—a good friend at our church, Jennifer, told Donna and I as we were talking about the challenges of raising teenagers, something which we helped each other do—she said: You know what? “I wouldn’t worry too much about Cally, Cally will be all right, she will always overcome, because she has a spirit of worship. I can see it in her”

This encouraged us greatly because we knew it was true. I had never thought about it this way—as a spirit—but it made sense. Our spirit is who we truly are deep inside, who we will always be, the part of us created in the image of God, and if that spirit has a love for worship then it is a spirit of worship.

Worship not an end in itself but it is merely a symptom, if you will, of just loving to be in the presence of a loving God, so a person with a spirit of worship is a person who has discovered that the vehicle to bring you into that presence, the place where you can be blessed, be safe, be strengthened—is by closing your eyes, shutting out the world and singing a song of praise to the God of the universe with the knowledge that he hears you and is pleased with you for coming to him.

A spirit, a heart, an attitude- one in the same? I believe so. A spirit of worship is one that acknowledges the Lord, one that recognizes the goodness, the possibilities, the truth of God’s goodness, his power, love and hand in our presence. That is a happy person who can overcome, who can see in the light of eternity and will be blessed.

Jesus said, the Father seeks those who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

If you listen and obey, make the right professions at the right time, see the world through the eyes of the promises of God, learn to have a spirit of worship—then you will overcome the giants in the land and enter into your blessing—just as Caleb did. That is a spirit that is free, that is truly happy.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8

Freedom from fear of judgement, fear of failure, fear of condemnation and inadequacy, all things Jesus took away on the cross, those are all ours if we trust his word, look to him for our deliverance from whatever troubles us, even if all we can do is worship him in the middle of the storm— we will have a soul at peace, a spirit that is free, and that is happiness.

It’s not always easy— trust me I know,—but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

 

Heart Treasures

 

-Making Memories- Hyellowstone-national-parkere’s a word for you parents with young children; don’t get so hung up on the challenges and frustrations of trying to shape young irrational, stubborn and impatient minds and souls that you miss out on the potential significance of want is happening right now. Don’t stress because your plans and fantasy of perfect children being raised by perfect parents in a home full of fun and educational crafts, fresh baked cookies, butterfly catching and smiling singing children who take naps on que and wake up ready for their piano lessons haven’t come to fruition.

Watch Mary Poppins, the Sound of Music, laugh hysterically, and then go treasure the fact that you have real children who have a strong will, a desire to get really dirty and want to rule the world starting with your house, because God has entrusted you to shape them into a force that will affect their world and advance the kingdom of God and you have no idea how you just being there with them every day— challenging them, correcting them, wiping their noses and just keeping them from killing one another—is going to affect their lives for eternity.

They won’t remember the times you didn’t flit into the dining wearing your apron and high heels carrying a pan full of made from scratch oatmeal cookies as they were practicing their spelling. But they will remember that you were there and you allowed them to be kids without allowing them to play in the street, jump off the roof with a garbage bag for a parachute, get a tattoo of the Ninja turtles when they were twelve or pierce their little sister’s ears for her with an ice pick and a potato.

They will remember that you cared enough to be there for them and have the struggles that allowed them to live to adulthood largely unscathed. And if you managed to instill some mental snapshots into their hearts of the good times you had as a family— then you have really excelled as a parent because these have become heart treasures, touchstones, that they will carry for eternity.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51

 

I didn’t write a blog last week because Donna and I had taken the weekend off to head to a place where we have created a full album in our hearts of mental snapshots— treasured memories; Yellowstone Park— just a short drive from where we live. Yellowstone is a place that indeed brings back many great memories and reminds me that life is an adventure worth living, a fight worth having.

So last Saturday Donna and I stopped at Canyon village in the Park for lunch. We waited for and got a seat at the very busy lunch counter in the café there.

Across the counter from us was a family of six. Parents with three young girls ages 8, 10 and 12 I’m guessing, and a little boy about 6. I don’t know where they were from but they weren’t speaking English, I couldn’t hear them well enough to even guess, they looked maybe the Mediterranean or even middle eastern.

What I could see though was that they had 4 beautiful children who were enjoying themselves playing with a bag of polished stones and other trinkets they had probably just bought in the gift shop next door as they waited for their lunch. This brought back many memories of taking our own daughters through the park, the fun times and all the challenges that go with that.

Suddenly the challenges presented themselves to this family as the little boy starting getting angry and causing a commotion. I saw the mother sitting next to him give her husband a “Do something with your son look.” Soon he was sitting next to the boy who was starting to throw a fit, pointing at his sisters and demanding something. His father tried to quietly diffuse the situation and apparently thought he had succeeded because he went back to his own stool leaving the little boy pouting with his arms crossed.

Suddenly he very resolutely announced something to his parents and quick as a wink he slid of the stool and stormed off under the divider and into the very busy store adjacent to the lunch counter. His mother looked at her husband for just a second with a mixed look of shock, anger and fear and took off running to fetch the boy on a mission, dragging him back screaming to the counter where he sat and pouted some more—but stayed put.

While all this was going on I was also watching the girls, I could tell because I know kids, that they were still having fun. They were in the park having the adventure of a lifetime and they knew their little brother would get over whatever was troubling him soon enough. Soon they all had their American cheese burgers and life went on.

Donna looked at me at the point where the mother was running after the boy into the crowd with a what is going on look and I said: I can’t understand what they’re saying but it seems as though the girls had something the little boy didn’t and he was bound and determined to go and get it—some things are universal.

All of this brought back memory after memory and I just wanted to go over to this shell shocked couple and say; “Cherish this day, this is a day your kids will remember for the rest of their lives and in years to come you will look back and say, wow, that was a special trip, I’m sure glad we did that.” And this stress of trying to herd little kids through a crowded tourist haven will be long forgotten. I was wishing I had one of my books— Hope For Families— on me to give them but they probably wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway. But I stayed put, and I didn’t talk to them, I try not to be a creeper and they didn’t need me—they were doing it, they were having an adventure and they were making heart treasures.

You see, it’s not being perfect, it’s not the money you spend or the grandeur of the adventure, it’s just being together. Taking the time, making the effort to be there, to make memories, to build monuments. Everyone in that family is going to remember something different from that trip but they are all going to remember it and I’ll bet someday they will bring their own kids there and then their hearts will be full when the memories come flooding back and they see their own kids making new memories of their own, adding to your treasures and the heart gets fuller and fuller just knowing that you are helping the next generation find their own heart treasures.

Don’t get so busy just trying to live that you neglect making memories. You will never have this day to live over again, you cannot redo your children’s childhood and you cannot add treasures to a heart that you don’t make time for.

You have to be intentional about finding your treasures, they don’t always just happen. It doesn’t have to be Yellowstone, it can be the city park, a favorite camping or picnic spot. An activity like fishing, bowling, riding, playing games, all of the above— you name it. The point is, be there, be intentional and treasure the times you have while always looking for opportunity to make more.

And realize that the kids in Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music had full time nannies raising them so they probably grew up to be spoiled neurotic adults who resented their parents for not raising them themselves—just a theory.