A message from my friend Lauren:

It has been several months since I last blogged.  Of course, all the normal excuses apply:  life got so busy once school started, there are so many other projects to be worked on, etc., etc.  But the truth is I have let the old thought patterns have free reign again – the ones that tell me that God’s promises of freedom and abundant life somehow don’t apply to me.  And if they don’t apply to me, how dare I write about them?  I would get a nudge to write.  But there would be a whisper that said “Nobody is really interested in what you have to say.”  I would try to fight the whisper and follow the gentle nudge to write what is on my heart.    But the whisper grows louder:  “No one will notice.  You can let your blog just die quietly.”

So days go by and I don’t write.  Worse than not writing, though, is that I start to forget . . . . I  forget how desperately I want to live freely and abundantly.  I forget that this is my Year of Jubilee.  I forget that my Savior loves me and woos me and invites me to dance.

Forget really isn’t the right word though.  I can’t forget what He has promised me and how real that felt a few short months ago.  But I bury it.  I bury it because I am afraid. What if I decide I’m “all in” and nothing changes?  What if I talk openly and transparently about wanting to be free of these chains and still remain imprisoned by them?  WHAT IF . . . God doesn’t show up like I am trusting Him to in my own tremulous way?

How much of my life I have spent in fear about the “what ifs”.  Fear that God’s promises don’t apply to me.  Fear that I am just “too unworthy”.  Fear that God is not going to show up.  When the reality is I don’t even need to ask Him to show up.  He is here, as close as the air I breathe.  He didn’t leave me when things got hard, He didn’t turn His head in disgust when I messed up.  If anything, He has held on tighter during those times.

I know this is true . . . so here is where the anger comes in.  Why do I let my fears and insecurities, which I know to be untrue, overshadow God’s promises, which I know to be true?  My conclusion:  I have a very real Enemy who is very much alive and wants to rob me of my security, my joy, and the abundant life God wants me to live.  “A thief is only here to steal and kill and destroy.  I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  (John 10:10, The Message).  I am not usually one to talk a lot about Satan, or to blame things on Satan.  But this internal battle I am fighting is strong enough and intense enough that I can’t come to any other conclusion.

You see, he can’t rob me of my salvation. He knows that.  So what’s the next best thing?  He can keep me ineffective, paralyzed, and incapacitated by fear and insecurity.

This began to come more to light for me in recent weeks as we were challenged in church to fast from something for a 5 week period leading up to Thanksgiving.  A couple things crossed my mind. . . I could fast from Diet Coke . . . but those headaches would be killer and I don’t want to be cranky and miserable.  (And I could quit Diet Coke anytime I wanted to.  . . really I could).  I could fast from Facebook . . . but that is my only way of staying in touch with some of my friends.  (And I could quit Facebook anytime I wanted to . . . really I could.)  Nothing I considered fasting from seemed meaningful to me.  Until I felt God nudging me.  “Fast from your negative, condemning thoughts.”

“Oh yeah, God, that’s a real sacrifice. Do you realize how crazy people will think I am if I say I’m fasting from criticizing myself?  That doesn’t even make sense.”

I was pretty sure I was hearing wrong.

Until I realized how pervasive these thoughts had become.  How they interfere with my ability to relate to God and others authentically and transparently.  How comfortable, believe it or not, these thought patterns had become for me.  And what hard work, and, yes, sacrifice, it would take for me to battle them.

So, I began writing Scripture verses on index cards that I keep with me throughout the day.  And when I catch myself with a fearful, negative, critical, or worrisome thought, I grab my index cards and hear God whisper to me.  (I have paraphrased some of them so that they are God speaking directly.)

“I will keep you in perfect peace because you trust in Me.”  Isaiah 26:2

“I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your head held high.”  Leviticus 26:13

“I will not abandon you and I will never forget you.”  Deuteronomy 4:31

As you might imagine, my battle has intensified the more I actively try to fight the lies of the Enemy.  Sometimes I want so desperately to just “get by” and not rock the boat.  I didn’t know it was going to be such a hard fight.

While driving home the other night, I was feeling particularly discouraged.  I was tired, physically and emotionally.  My prayers had felt kind of empty lately.  God felt distant.  Tears welled up as I began to pour my heart out to the One who knows me best.

“God, things just feel so hard right now.  I know that you are calling me to walk away from my fearful way of living.  I know that freedom doesn’t come easy.  But I get so tired.”

Somewhere along the way, I stopped talking to God and began directing my comments to Satan (Oh, please don’t think I’m crazy as you read this.)  I’m not sure why.  Like I said, I’m not the type to usually pay him much attention.  But I found myself telling him that I was not going to give him another minute of my life.  That he could go after me all he wanted, but that I was secure in my Father’s love for me.  That I had seen him try to go after my daughter in the area of insecurity and that it would be over my dead body that he gets a foothold in her life.

When there seemed to be no more words to be said, I knew what I needed to do.  I pulled out my index cards, already rough-edged and a little tattered, and began reading Truth.  Truth about me and Truth about my God.  (Don’t worry, I had pulled over at this point.)

“I have not given you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”  II Timothy 1:7

“God can do anything – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  He does it not by pushing us around but by working with us, His Spirit, deeply and gently within us.”  Ephesians 3:20-21, the Message

When I was ready to get back on the road, I was still tired.  Still a little discouraged.  Nothing magical had happened.  But I felt the teeniest twinge of . . . . what is this unfamiliar and strange sensation?  Could it be hope?

I don’t know what you are battling right now, but I do know we all have a battle to fight.  Mine is currently with fear and insecurity.  Yours might be with a relationship struggle, a physical illness, grief, or pride, or countless things in life that tend to throw us a curve ball.  Whatever your battle is, know that I am side-by-side with you in the fight.  God intends for us to live fully and freely in His love and grace.   I intend to get to the place where I can do that without reservation.  I may have a few bumps, bruises, and scars when I get there, but I will get there.

Choosing a Jubilant Life one minute at a time,