LASTing Peace, Take God’s Name

What does the Bible mean when it says, “Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain”? It’s not what you think.

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If You Can’t See God

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you couldn’t see?

Maybe you are blind or you have some other kind of disability. When we struggle with something or face difficulties, it can be hard to understand how God will work it out for good.

Meet Fanny Crosby. Fanny had a hard life. In fact, to hear her story at first, it’s hard to imagine that she found any joy at all. And yet, Fanny Crosby was one of the most joyful, talented, wise and influential women in history.

Fanny Crosby was born in 1820 in Brewster, New York. When she was only 6-weeks-old, she caught a cold and got very sick. Even her eyes got inflamed and painful. The doctors treated the little girls the best they knew how, but by the time she got well, Fanny had lost her sight. No one really knows whether her blindness was caused by the medicine or something that could not have been prevented.

Before Fanny was a year old, her father died so she was raised by her mother and grandmother. Both of them were devout Christians and taught Fanny about Jesus. They taught Fanny to study hard, read the Bible and memorize Scripture. In fact, starting at 10-years-old, Fanny memorized five chapters of the Bible every single week!

Fanny was only 8-years-old when she wrote her first poem describing her blindness. By that time, she had accepted the fact that she could not see as part of God’s plan for her and determined to use it to glorify Him. She said that if she were offered perfect sight, she would not take it. Fanny believed that if she could see, she might have been distracted by all the beautiful things around her and forget to sing and praise God!

So, Fanny used her talents to glorify God. In her lifetime, she wrote over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs including some of the most poplar hymns we sing today like, “Blessed Assurance” and “To God be the Glory”. In 1843, Fanny traveled to Washington D.C. to help persuade the government to support education for the blind, and she was the very first woman to speak to the United States Senate!

When Fanny wasn’t composing songs, she spent much of her time teaching at the New York Institute for the Blind. Once, when an epidemic of cholera struck New York City, rather than flee for safety, Fanny stayed at the NYIB to nurse the sick. She also worked hard to care for the poor saying, “from the time I received my first check for my poems, I made up my mind to open my hand wide to those who needed assistance.” Fanny is remembered for her rescue missions work almost as much as for her songs.

Does it ever feel like you can’t see God’s work in your life?

Do you ever ask God why He made you a certain way?

Do you wonder why you have to struggle with some things that don’t seem fair?

Next time you do, try praising God using one of Fanny’s songs. I think it will encourage you!

To hear some of Fanny Crosby’s songs follow these link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNVCcph6cnI&list=PLD75EEB725D137135.

How to Have A Happy Heart

love-tree-1077047-mI’d been at my new editing job for less than a week, and already I’d offended someone. No matter that I’d prayed over every single article, prayed for my attitude, humility, comments and thoughts–still, somehow I’d allowed an author to feel as if her work wasn’t good enough. It was an accident! I want so much to honor the writers I edit.

A brief email. She wasn’t rude, but I could read between the lines. I’d hurt her feelings, maybe overstepped my bounds with the changes I’d made to her article.

It took a few hours, a few emails; finally we seemed to resolve the issue. Surely, I could carry on with my evening–just let it go. But my heart was still stuck in my feet. I hate to let someone down. I hate to hurt someone’s feelings. Back to the computer, I kept reading, kept typing, kept working.

Ding! A new email, but I was hesitant to check it. Bravely, I clicked through to a message from another author. She wrote, “Hi Abby, Rough day? Feel free to do anything you want [when you edit my articles]. (They are His articles-not mine!) Rewrite, edit, change, etc.”

My spirits rose. As I whispered a prayer of thanks. Proverbs 12:25 came to mind, “Anxiety in the heart weighs a man down, but a good word makes him glad.”

Whose heart can you buoy with a good word today?

My Book Reviewed by The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

I’m so excited that my second book, a Bible study titled: Beyond Belief, will be released in June. As I’ve sought reviews and critiques of that manuscript, it brought to mind a favorable review of my first book, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia.

Going Beyond Belief

Last month, I was greatly honored to have my book reviewed in the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center’s monthly newsletter. I’m excited to share it here with you all. If you would like a copy of my book, it’s available on Amazon through the links on the left of this page or you can contact me for a signed copy.

BOOK REVIEW: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story
By Abby Kelly (Bettie Youngs Books, 2014)

This past August, Robin Williams killed himself; his depression and past struggles with substance abuse defeated him. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also succumbed to a drug overdose this year. These sad losses highlight how possible it is to die from addiction, and how recovery is not simple or automatic just because you say you want it. Therefore, we need to pay careful attention to recovery stories of people like Abby Kelly to learn…

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The Fruit of Fretting

Most of you know, my husband is currently deployed. This article was written several months ago, but I find it again relevant–even to me, the author.

We recently talked  on LASTing Peace, about fear being idolatry. This article explains another way that fear, also known as fretting, can sabotage our Christian lives.

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He started it.

Yes, he snapped at me first, but you’d think I could’ve held my tongue and finished with a “win”. Especially after all my praying lately.

Just two days ago, I even sent my husband a text message telling him that I prayed to be a Proverbs 31 wife to him: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

With all my heart I want to learn to control my tongue; to face temptation and make the right choice—not to sin. In that moment, just before I retaliated, I saw the choice, clear as an angel and a devil perched persuasively on my shoulders. I saw it, and in the split second that it takes to activate one’s vocal chords thoughtlessly, I snapped right back. And just as James says, I set a fire.

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6

After his harsh words, my husband apologized immediately. He came toward me to give me a hug. With self-righteous flare, I turned my back on him. “No, I don’t want it. You’re not sincere, you’re just trying to make me stop being angry.”

He dropped the fight. That’s one thing I simultaneously admire and hate about my man. He  can simply drop his arms, turn around and let the whole argument go. All the while, the heat of anger and bitterness simmers in my chest. He settled into the couch with his computer, but a fire had already broken loose in me.

Tearful, I huffed into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. “God, why? Why is he so heartless and uncaring? Why doesn’t he care about making up? Why doesn’t he notice that I’m really hurt?”

I don’t know who I was more angry with—myself or my husband. Yes, Patrick’s words were hurtful and the capstone to my mounting frustration as I played second fiddle to his computer games all weekend. But still, when the opportunity to express forgiveness, to respond with abundant joy that rests on Jesus and not on my husband’s behavior—when the opportunity to engage the Scripture I’ve been memorizing presented itself, I glanced away from the proverbial “angel” and bored full ahead into my husband with a devilish piety.

God says His Word never returns void. So true. Even as I sat there, sulking over my hurt and groveling in my shame, my newest memory verse came to mind. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

That morning, in my quiet time, I had examined a couple of those words in the Hebrew. Fret means “to be incensed, to get hot”—in American vernacular think of “smoldering anger” or “fuming”. The most poignant definition of the word evil is “to shatter”.

As the evening waned, I sat in the darkening corner of my bedroom and listened to my Heavenly Father. Gently, without accusation, He prodded my heart with the truth: I could choose to fret and be angry. But if I did, I was playing an active role in shattering my relationship with my husband, to say nothing of my own peace.

Often we are told that fretting or worrying is pointless. We are reminded that being angry or bitter hurts us more than the person at whom it is directed. But God’s Word takes it even further. To simmer, steam or be hot and angry tends only to shatter—relationships, peace of mind and communion with our Heavenly Father.

I wish I could say I came out of my room right away with a glowing countenance and words of restoration. No, I sat there a while longer and wrestled with God. In fact, it took me until the following morning to face my husband and humbly ask his forgiveness. When I did, I saw the fruit of God’s Word bloom. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

The wonderful thing about knowing Jesus is that even when things are shattered, He is our healer. He can restore all things, even relationships and a peaceful heart.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3

Faster in the Wrong Direction

Did you ever read the story of Winnie the Pooh and the sand pit? I’ll sum it up for you:

Pooh Bear and his timid sidekick Piglet got lost in the woods. They didn’t even know they were lost until Piglet pointed out that they kept passing a very familiar sand pit. Could it that they were just going in circles? No, Pooh asserted, the sand pit was following them.

What do you do when you’re lost? I’ve got some great stories about being lost.

There was the day after my wedding, when I traveled with my dad to pick up my car, that for reasons I won’t go into, was in a small town about an hour away from my new home. Once, I was settled behind the wheel of my own car, Dad waved goodbye and drove off toward his own house. I promptly took the ramp to the interstate—cluelessly, in the wrong direction. I didn’t realize I was lost until an hour had passed and I wasn’t home yet. And then I did the worst thing I could possibly do. As anxiety mounted, my foot got heavier. I could find no where to turn around! I sped faster and faster. In my mind, the faster I went the sooner I would find a solution and fix my error. As you can imagine, going faster only sent me farther in the wrong direction—faster. As well, I missed the first opportunity to correct the situation. 

That wasn’t the first, nor the only time I’ve done something like that. I’ve gotten lost when out for a simple run, on roller-skates, in my grandparents neighborhood, in many an airport and more. Suddenly, nothing looks familiar; instead of slowing my pace and thinking clearly, I push faster and faster praying that home is around the next corner. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed my tendency to accelerate when I’m lost.

Speaking of praying…

What do you do when you feel spiritually lost? I don’t mean lost as in unsaved, or doubting your salvation. I mean lost like, “God, what am I supposed to do with my life? What am I supposed to do in this situation? What am I supposed to do about this relationship?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Since I’m baring my soul, being honest about my disabilities (directionally challenged) I’ll admit that I do the same thing when I feel spiritually lost—I go faster.

Many times, after a move with my husband’s career, I’ve felt detached, floating, essentially lost. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a church. I don’t have kids. Who am I? What do I do God? What did you make me to do?

And usually, I start running. I make lists of all the volunteer opportunities I can find, call them all and offer to be there tomorrow. I sign up for every club. I give my number to every smiling face at the dog park and suggest, “Let’s meet for coffee sometime! I’m sure we have a lot in common.” I visit 15 churches in 15 Sundays.

Suddenly, I’m swamped, overwhelmed and more lost than ever. None of my new activities seem to be “homey”. I’m overcommitted and under-fulfilled, over-used and under-serving. You see, I can’t really serve the way I want to, the way God calls me to, if I’m trying to do everything and really only doing it for my own self-fulfillment.

This year, 2014, God gave me on word to wrap my life around: Walk. I asked Him for one word to guide my pursuits this year, to focus my Bible study; one word to plow the Scriptures with and put on like shoe leather. He simply said, “Walk”.

I have to think this means a couple things. 1) My most delicious prayer time is spent on long walks with my dog. I know there I’ll find Him, when I’m undistracted by the to-do list and to-see people. 2) I need to walk with the Spirit. The Word says when we do this, we won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh. He doesn’t say to run with the Spirit. There’s intention in the slow, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other; the rhythm of walking. 3) No matter how useless I feel, or briefly how disconnected, I need to walk slowly through change. Whether it be into my new life when my husband and I move next time, or any other upset of routine. I must set aside the choking panic of impending solitude and take steady, meditated steps, placing each foot in the footprint of my Father.

I don’t know that these lessons will be well applied to my propensity to be physically lost. I’ve got enough to think about merely applying them to my obedience to Christ. But, perhaps they might. And if not, I always have my iPhone 🙂

All Things New, Life After Death

I’d given up on that phone call years ago. Subconsciously, I just knew it wasn’t a good idea. I’d ruined my body for having my own babies, why would anyone else trust me with theirs?

But last week, a sister called me. My second sister isn’t much of a talker, so I knew something must have prompted the call. “What’s up?”

“Well, nothing is wrong, don’t worry. In fact, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, it’s a big deal, but…”.

“Now I’m really curious,” I urged her on with a laugh. What on earth could tie her tongue and yet still be so important as to warrant a phone call in the middle of her daughters’ bath time?

“My husband and I have been talking and praying about it. We would like you and Patrick to consider being the ones to take the girls if something were to ever happen to both of us.”

She paused. My heart hit the floor and took wings all at the same time. Giddiness washed over me. Me? They chose me—my husband and me?

Not so many years ago, I would have been a terrible choice to take care of my nieces if something happened to their parents. In the throes of a longterm battle with anorexia, it wasn’t a stretch to wonder if I might not live to see them reach high school. I let my mind follow that line of thinking.

Not so many years ago, my sister and her husband might have feared that living with me would warp their girls’ body image. They might wonder if I’d feed them well, tend to their precious bodies or teach them how to fully embrace all of life outside the numbers by which society measures happiness. Or they might have been concerned that I wasn’t mentally present enough to assume responsibility for their little girls. What if I fell asleep at the wheel driving to gymnastics? What if I was re-admitted to a treatment center—what would happen to the girls then?

My sister still waited on the phone; slowly my mind resurfaced and collected itself. I tried to control the waver in my voice and suggest following the proper protocol. “Of course, I’ll talk to Patrick and we’ll pray about it. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. But I have to ask one question—why did you pick us?

My sister and her husband have done a remarkable job instilling the love of Jesus in the hearts of their little girls. A passion for Christ at the center of all things is the desire of their hearts, the defining trait they want for the home where their children mature.

“We think that you guys embody the way that we want the girls to grow up. We want them to know Jesus as a Person, not simply grow up in a religious home. We want them to feel His presence and learn to walk with Him.” (Not a precise quote, I wasn’t recording my sister.)

Not so many years ago, the mention of my name conjured worries, memories of treatment centers, confusion, deception and fear. I identified myself as anorexic. The dominant thoughts of my wakeful hours, and often even my dreams, were calories, food and exercise. But now…

Oh the joy, the sheer magnificence of a healing God! He healed me and allows me to experience abundant life, unhindered joy, Christ-filling. He redeemed the years, redeemed my reputation, redeemed my identity.

To be known as one whose mind, heart and home is consumed with Christ, is a greater honor than I can explain. To know that the old is so far gone, so far has He removed my sin from me, and the new has come—there are no sufficient words.

Of course, you’re likely wondering if I ever consulted my husband, who would share the responsibility of raising our nieces and what he said. He said, “Yes!”

Please don’t be put off or allow this to be seen as a morbid story, considering the loss of my sister and her husband. Rather, I believe her call, their question was meant first and foremost as God’s testimony to me, of me, that He makes all things new.