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Braking Points

Pausing in the midst of Life to ponder, pray and find footing to continue.

Month

July 2014

You Were Always on My Mind–Ephesians 1

imageUnlike Elvis Presley’s familiar lyrics which state, “Maybe I didn’t love you, quite as much as I could have”, God has always loved humankind.

We are the crowning glory of his creation. The first chapter of Ephesians assures the Gentile believers in Ephesus, indeed assures all who would read this letter that God the Father loved them before “In the beginning. . .” Before “God created the heavens and the earth”, before ” the Spirit hovered over the waters”, God had a Satan-proof plan already in place. He already knew humankind would blow their utopia in Eden and yet the Triune God still said, “Let US make man in our own image and so He created them male and female.” He didn’t say, “Hey, Guys, let’s trash this idea and just make a bunch of puppet children.” He wanted the real boys and girls so He had his plan to save us from ourselves, but only as an exercise of free will not coercion.

God knew how fragile, how frail humankind with all our grand resolves to do good, with all our attempts to be like God, with all our weaknesses of the flesh, He knew we would need Jesus. He knew with the work of the Cross complete, I and all believers before and after me, including those ancient Ephesians would need His presence dwelling in us to sustain us in this world and to enable us to be the Church.

The following is from THE MESSAGE, Ephesians 1: 2-23. I have altered it only to make it more personal to me….Please feel free, Fellow Believers, to insert your name in place of mine.

Dear Carolyn,

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us [you] in mind, had settled on us [you] as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us [you] into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us [you] to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

It’s in Christ that we [you] find out who we [you]are and what we [you] are living for. Long before we [you] first heard of Christ and got our [your] hopes up, he had his eye on us [you] , had designs on us [you] for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us [you] , a praising and glorious life.

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank.

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule.

And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.

The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

[You see, Carolyn, You were Always on My Mind! You have a purpose in the Body of Christ and in His Church! You are signed, sealed and delivered to MAKE A DIFFERENCE as a part of His Church.]

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Skipping to the Ending before Starting the Beginning

imageEver skip to the last page of a novel just to satisfy your curiosity?

Well, I have been known to do that, although I find it harder now that I read most books on my Kindle or listen to audio editions when we drive. As I began to read the Epistle (letter) to the Ephesians, which Paul wrote in around 60 AD from a prison in Rome, I found myself trying to remember when the church was established there, what else does scripture tell us about this city, this church, and what do I know about modern Ephesus? Yes, my random mind began to wander, to explore, and to compile the pieces into a framework to absorb the letter’s content and to apply that content to my life.

In the first century Ephesus was an important port city, active commercially and religiously as home to the Temple of Artemis (Diana), abounding with witchcraft and black arts Christianity brought among other things deliverance from demons. Ephesus was termed “Lumen Asiae” or Light to Asia; it was the Gateway to Asia. According to many accounts it is the city where the Apostle John eventually took the Virgin Mary after Jesus turned her care over to him on the Cross and where both John and Mary ended their earthly existence. It is the city to which John returned after his exile to Patmos where he received the final Revelation from Jesus Christ.

I wonder if John, glimpsing Ephesus from the deck of a ship as he returned from his Patmos exile, carrying with him the glory and the weight of his visions inscribed on papyrus scrolls, I wonder if he returned hoping the letters to the churches from the risen Lord would bring a revival of the hearts. More than 30 years had elapsed since Paul sent his epistle to Ephesus and the letter John had transcribed on Patmos had a different ring to it than Paul’s letter.

Write this to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands says this:

I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up.

I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people.

You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars.

You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.

“But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. So remember where you were before you fell.

Change your hearts and do what you did at first.

If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place.

But there is something you do that is right: You hate what the Nicolaitans do, as much as I.

“Every person who has ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To those who win the victory I will give the right to eat the fruit from the tree of life, which is in the garden of God. (‭Revelation‬ ‭2‬:‭1-7‬ NCV)

The Lord acknowledged that the ministry actions of the Church; these were hard workers who stood up against false teaching, false teachers, and who demonstrated patience in suffering, but like myself at times they had gotten so involved with the doing to be doing that their relationship with Jesus had become duty not love so they were slipping into a pattern without the light of Love. Yes, they strongly opposed allowing occultism to infect their Christianity, but their hearts were hardening with the plaque of self righteousness.

Whatever John’s revelation to the Ephesus Church, time shows that while Christianity expanded, silt like plaque filled in the river port, land locking Ephesus so that today it stands with ruins of both a pagan and Christian past. The Lumen Asiae was extinguished. Their lamp removed from the lamp stand.

So I must admit as I pondered this I became distracted and sad for the Ephesus Church and for all the churches I have seen dwindle in to nothingness. Sad that so great a love as Christ’s, so great a love for Christ can descend to ritual and duty. I know how easy it is to drift away from the most essential relationship of my life, from the One who loves me more than even my dear husband does, to get busy and spend less and less time in the Word and in Prayer. No Christian, No Church can live without the life blood of Jesus and his love flowing unrestricted flowing both into the believer and out into the world.

And so having leaped forward, I returned to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians with new sense of urgency and with a new vision of what this study might accomplish in me. I mean let’s face it “I am not a young chick; I am an old hen.” So I ask myself the question “What if God wrote this letter to me?” “What if I read this letter as if God composed it for me?” What if….

I intend to find out.

A Personal Plan for Perilous Times

imageOur Pastor, Daniel Saunders (Nortonville First Christian Church and Victory Church, Madisonville) has begun a sermon series on “How Christians should live in Perilous Times.” His scripture text for the past two Sundays has been II Timothy 3. His messages encourage us to look to God, God’s Word, and within ourselves so that each of us can line up with God and His Word. He makes the point that I need not busy myself with what my fellow Christians’ behavior, attitude, or walk with Jesus looks like, but to examine myself.

One of the first points he made this past Sunday morning was

“God has a plan. He knows what is coming. He is not taken by surprise by ANYTHING! He never says “I didn’t see that coming!”

Sometimes we panic. Some folks live in a state of panic. Sometimes perilous times paralyze us. BUT

God never panics!! An emergency in my life or in the world does not constitute a need for panic in God.”

Then he told us that 400 plus times in the scripture God tells us “it came to pass..” I guess you could take that more than one way, but one way is that it isn’t going to stay like this forever.

Secondly, he reminded us of the significance of the last verses in Chapter 3:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ NIV)

From Genesis to Revelation Scripture is God Breathed, except where the human author i.e. Paul says “in my opinion”. God guards and watches over his word.

And then he reminded ME that if I am letting Sunday Morning be my only encounter with God’s Word I am in danger of becoming anemic spiritually and poor nourishment in any part of life depletes my ability to function.

Normal course of life happenings can be like mountains when the body, mind and spirit are weakened. Getting dressed in the morning, let alone pulling on the “full armor of God” and welding the sword of the Spirit (THE WORD) and praying might bring on a full paralyzing panic attack, IF I do not prepare.

And so, Pastor Dan
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ,

To better prepare myself for these PERILOUS TIMES, I opened the Letter to the Church at Ephesus this morning and am preparing to study, contemplate, pray, and publish my discoveries as I read these familiar words with new eyes. I did a little study on the city itself and looked at what Jesus revealed to St. John in Revelation about this Church.

Thank you for reminding me that “Our God gets personally involved in our lives. He has us on his radar. We are his. He cares. The Holy Spirit binds us to him.”

So for the next (how ever long it takes) period of time, I hope to share what God has for me this time through Ephesians and maybe some others will join me on this journey.

Blessings on you and Sharon, Hunter and Mariah and ALL those you love.

Brain Storms…A Learning Experience

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Last night following a disturbing nightmare, my brain erupted, not literally, I feel certain that would have been catastrophic, but with an internal electrical storm that danced back and forth between my ears. ZZZT! ZZZT! complete with flashes of light on the inside of my eyelids. I had the feeling I was surrounded by a crowd of voices, but opening my eyes proved the room empty except for my sleeping husband and two dogs…obviously, my personal thunderstorm wasn’t nearly as disruptive to them as it was to me. I got out of bed and found walking made the sensation more extreme, but I managed to make it to the living room where I grabbed, not the phone to dial 9-1-1, but my Ipad where I proceeded, thunderstorm still raging, to Google “Brain Zaps”…Go figure, the first entry and those following assured me I was not alone but was going through
withdrawal.

Since 2005 I have been taking the prescription antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram). During 2004-2005 I lost my dearest friend to Colon Cancer, my dear mother-in-law, Dorothy to late stage Alzheimer’s and my closest support system, the church Terry and I were serving. The congregation leaders decided it was time for our 13 year adventure with them to end. For months before the actual conclusion of our ministry there, I overheard whispered conversations and endured increasing alienation of my husband and myself as the church began the painful process of divorcing us. While I had a satisfying career, I could not battle my increased anxiety and depression, so my physician started me on Lexapro.

So at ten years of usage, having come through a number of crises and feeling as a retired person with friends and family support, I needed to discontinue Lexapro. He agreed and told me to stop. He probably thought a reasonably bright person would know to taper off…I mean it says that in the medication literature, obviously MOI! is not too bright, because I stopped “cold turkey” two weeks ago. Guess it took that long to interrupt the seratonin balance in my brain and take me on my electrical brain excursion.

All depression drugs can potentially lead to withdrawal symptoms. In fact, antidepressant labels often warn that stopping the medication too quickly may lead to bothersome symptoms. However, withdrawal symptoms are more likely with antidepressants that stay in your body for a shorter period of time, especially those that affect both serotonin and norepinephrine, such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). Other short-acting medications that affect mainly serotonin include:

Celexa (citalopram)
Lexapro (escitalopram)
Paxil (paroxetine)
Zoloft (sertraline)
Withdrawal is less common with medications that take longer for the body to clear, such as Prozac (fluoxetine). However, longer-acting antidepressants may still cause withdrawal symptoms.

Needless to say, I did not get much sleep last night and unfortunately, managed to wake Terry way to early also. After more research, I realized that I needed to take a Lexapro and then split the 10mg tablets in half and TAPER OFF. I am not giving up on eliminating this drug from my life, but I am going to try to be smart about it.

So whatever medications you are on be sure you know not only the side effects while taking them, but learn how to stop them if you need to and what if ANY side effects there are with withdrawal.

I am thankful to have such a wonderful husband and thankful to God that He continues to guide me and love me even when I am STUPID! Especially, when I am stupid.

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison: My Personal Review

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“Lusaka, Zambia
August 2011

“A girl walked alone on the darkened street.” Immediately as this novel begins the reader senses the fragility of this unprotected child. Not only is she alone in the dark, but she is physically disabled, “Her gait was steady, but her steps were irregular, for one of her legs was shorter than the other” and visually impaired, “(she)stared at Auntie’s apartment through the thick lenses of her eyeglasses.” And then she is lured, purposefully we later learn, by a tall thin man with an agenda weighted with superstition, revenge and betrayal. The child’s name is Kuyeyu.

From this beginning Corban Addis crafts a novel that one doesn’t have to dig more than a few pages into before realizing that “betrayal” is at the heart of all the characters, from Zoe Fleming, the Expat human rights attorney who is estranged from her father, Kuyeyu, a child with Downs Syndrome, who is violated by an entitled elitist, to Charity(Bella), Kuyeyu’s mother, whose promising life ends up in prostitution due to the double-dealing of others, and who dies of AIDS. Actually the pattern of betrayal extends deep into the psyche even the violator and his powerful parents.

Zoe lives in a gated apartment complex with guards and a brick wall around it. But she truly cares about Kuyeyu to the point that with the help of Kuyeyu’s mother’s journal with letters addressed “Dear Jan” she seeks to understand how Charity moved a promising career in nursing to the streets of Lusaka. Working with a Zambian Police Investigator and the team of Zambian Human Rights attorneys she works with, the guilty party is soon identified, but between getting DNA testing approved (a legal matter and an availability of the service, nearest DNA lab, Johannesburg, SA) the sample taken on the night of the rape disappears from the hospital.

The impression the novel often gives is that “MONEY” specifically from the USA would save the world, especially in this book, Kuyeyu and by extension Zambia. As a Christian, I know that money cannot SAVE the World, but I also know that without money many more would die without Jesus. I found myself routing for Zoe and Joseph as they worked for the benefit of this child. I followed them to some of the most beautiful places in the world, Victoria Falls and Cape Town, SA. These are places I may never see, but Corban Addis brought them alive to my mind’s eye. I found myself drawn into Charity’s journey as the betrayals piled up…and realized that this well written, secular humanistic novel awakened in me a need to weep for everything on these pages are things that break the heart of God. But there were also pages that deepened my love for Africa, for my missionary friends in Kenya, East Africa and the work they do to minister to children who are orphaned many by AIDS.

The book strengthened by belief that the work of Christ comes in many forms and if Christians don’t support ministries to the disenfranchised, GOD will work through those who do, but without the Word of Christ results will be temporal rather than eternal. Pray for the lost and those that serve them, Support CHRISTIAN ministries that feed, clothe, provide health care and educate the children of the world, and Weep for those things that break the heart of God. If I do not, then someone will and the results could be detrimental to us all.

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