After slaying the giant … what next?

In keeping with the story of David facing the Philistines’ giant (I Samuel 17:22-58), I wanted to share with you my thoughts on what we all can learn from the young shepherd boy with the heart of a king.  What has to be kept in mind is that David, the youngest son of Jesse, had already been anointed to be king by Samuel.  David had also soothed Saul’s depression by playing his lyre for him until the evil spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:14-23).  So Saul knew of David’s youth, his profession as a protector of his sheep and even his physical appearance.  So now this meek young man has become the adored slayer of giants.  True it was only one giant, but David was widely admired by the children of Israel.  Because Saul’s armor was not part of what David carried into the battle, David used Goliath’s own sword to behead him to take to King Saul.  After presenting Saul with the head of the slain giant, he simply returned to tend his sheep.  He had a role in the family to fulfill and had only wandered into the battle when he was taking food to his brothers who were in the king’s army, as directed by his father.  So David did not allow his accomplishment to change who he was in his heart or in his family.  How are we after a battle with Satan?  Do we return to what the Lord wants us to do, or do we lose our way in human pride.  We know for a fact that later in life David allowed sin to enter his life, and we do the same.  But we do also experience victories.  Having faced the “cancer giant” in my life, I am keenly aware that I am not the same, physically or spiritually.  The weapons, or stones, used to defeat the physical cancer, have now become the weapons of my life.  David returned to tending his sheep, I returned to providing for my family, working, and fulfilling the family roles that I have chosen for myself, with God’s leading.  David knew his own strength and was secure in what he did while I have had to learn that kind of confidence.  I asked God last week to confirm my calling to write my book, to continue my blog and stay the course.  Through participating in the Beth Moore online Bible Study in the Women’s Bible Cafe®, I became aware of how important it is for us to know we are doing EXACTLY what God has directed us to do.  If you have read my book by now, Asking What: No More Whys, Soaring on Eagles Wings Defeating Life’s Labels, Anger and Cancer, you know that I know what I am to do by the confirmation of knowing that I have reached one person through the sharing of my story of how I needed to grow my faith.  That certainty has not changed, but the way I do it or the way I need to accomplish obedience could change.  I struggle with a new giant, self doubt.  Satan and I were officially at war, and I had my five smooth stones.  So I listed seven items that I had felt were God’s words to me and asked God to differentiate for me, the difference between His calling and possibly my selfish desires to prove to the world that I am here.  It was very overwhelming to me.  I went to college at two different times in my life – ten years apart.  College was an opportunity to improve my ability to provide for my family, a security for the future.  Why the doubt – because I wanted to prove to people in my past that I had the right to pursue an education, so there could have been selfish motives in my actions.  Seven items were on the list, quickly reduced by three because I knew I had heard God’s voice in my heart directing my path.  But my book and the blog was different than what college had provided and prepared me to do.   These were expensive undertakings ($$$) and the devil had presented to me the thought that I had wasted precious resources, time and money.  It appeared to be a good argument.  In the study of Jeremiah, I had just finished studying chapter 1 and the words from God to Jeremiah had moved me to seek affirmation (Jeremiah 1:5-8).  Leaving it with God to show me I was on the right path, I prayed and thought this will be a long wait because my heart was troubled about the possibilities that had led to the sin of doubt.  Within 18 hours of making the entry into my notebook, I had the truth presented to me, in writing.  It was once again one person, just as my prayer in Chapter 7 of my book, just as God had answered that it would be.  God does not waste time and as His servant, I know that I have not wasted my time or resources in this path I am now on.  Disappointments ave been in my heart for a few weeks, they were part of the items on the list I had made and I perceived those disappointments as resulting from the desires of my heart and not necessarily what God had intended for me to do.  That is not the truth, so once again the stones that I have chosen as my life’s weapons did not fail me.  I prayed, had faith that God would hear me, answer me in His time and He would strengthen me when I became weary.  That dread that brought on the doubt, frustration and an overwhelming fear that I had taken the reins away from God was the same “bully” that David had faced.  I had the tools, I have my faith and now I also have confirmation of His will for my life.  So I have chosen a new routine to my Bible Study, I write down my prayer to God and go back and date (even write down the time) of the confirmation and then thank God, praise Him for His work in my life and stay the course.  Now I can tend my sheep.

Getting ready for battle … the example of David facing Goliath … and my Five Stones

Picking up on my blog from last week, we will continue in 1 Samuel 17 and taking up at verse 31 when David has decided to accept the challenge that the armies told him about, a chance happening when his father sent him to take food to his brothers who were soldiers, and he was the shepherd, too young and not skilled at war.  Saul reminded David of the futility of his desire to fight in verse 33, reminding him that he was “but a youth” (those labels that I chose to address in Chapter 5 of my book).  How quickly the world seeks to take away our determination and shake our faith in doing what we are called to do in this life with just a few words spoken to remind us of our humanity.  Saul’s grim reminder of how Satan deals with us, how the negativity can seep in and rob us of our confidence and our strength.  Just as quickly as I determine God has something for me to do or face, Satan sets out to remind me of those five stones – mentioned last week and strives to weaken my resolve and faith by reminding me of my past missteps and failures.  In a futile effort, Saul attempted to help David by equipping him with his armor, with the tools that had worked for him.  1 Samuel 17: 38–39 describes the great armor Saul provided to David, to equip him for the battle, but it wasn’t God’s armor.  David could not function to the best of his ability using what had “worked” for others, because God chose him in his ability to use his skills as he had done in defending his sheep from the predators, David was chosen for his own unique abilibities.  David was a skilled shepherd, he knew how to guide his sheep to food and water, protect them from the storms and the natural predators who sought out his sheep to take from him and devour.  Life for me is the same as the picture painted for us in this story.  I have predators, and like sheep I have to have help.  Sometimes I look to those around me seeking the equipment and support I need to face the struggles, challenges and giants that seek to devour me.  But their equipment is not designed to work for me, because my battle is different and God called me to face the giant.  God uses who we are and what we have to accomplish His purpose and it is the same for each of us.  David did find strength in the words of Saul who said: “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (v.37).   Words of encouragement and strength are what we all need from those from who we reach out to for support.  I know how I feel, how I am girded in the prayers and support of others.  I still have to find my weapons for whatever I face which is why my reference scripture has changed throughout my life, a need defined by the battle.  Whether it is running a race (Phil. 3:14), believing God will supply all my needs (Eph. 3:20), facing the results of a \medical test (Phil. 4:6) or preparing for what I know will be emotional and spiritual warfare (Phil. 4:13), my equipment may change based on God’s direction in my life but needing others upholding me in prayer and even walking with me physically is how I face my giants.  My armor changes, but God does not.  So David went into battle with five smooth stones (v. 40) in his shepherd’s bag, and a sling.  I go to battle with God in my heart and on the path going before me.  But the stones re-entered my study of this scripture because now they transition from the giants in my life to those things I carry with me into any battle (if I leave the giants behind).  Prayer is the first stone – it sets the tone of the day; Bible Study is the second stone in my arsenal because it is how God assures me that I am ready to face the giant, Satan’s challenge in my life.  The last three stones in no particular order of preference are Faith – the sword of faith that has been the constant in my life; followed by entries into my journal, the way I identify what I am truly feeling and striving for in order to set my sight on the purpose God has called me for; and lastly the security in the hope I have in what the Lord can and has done for those who are His children.  What can top the great sacrifice of Jesus and the promise of eternal life (John 3:16).  All of this in preparation for the battle, David still has not faced the “bully” that was issuing the challenge to the Philistine army.  David did seek to learn why the battle was not “being fought” and knew the cost to his people if he failed, but it did not deter him.  He was secure in what the God who established His people would continue to honor His promise to His people.  The Israelites were residents of their promised land, so David knew the Jehovah God that established them would continue to supply their needs, and I am promised an eternal life in heaven where I can worship and praise the God of my salvation.  God extends this promise to all who will accept the invitation.

Rick Warren When God gives you an assignment

Image from http://www.saddlebackchurch.com and the studies from his book What on Earth Am I Here For; the Purpose Driven Life.

Facing Life’s Giants … Using David’s Pattern …

Living in this small community has such benefits, one of which is a small country church.  A place of worship that is loving, growing, learning and building the character of its members.  The great part to me is the Bible Study we do on Sunday and Wednesday nights.  It is great simply because of its structured approach to learning.  Our pastor, Johnny Miller, will lead one week and the next week one of our deacons, Earl Dugas, leads the next week.  Their approaches are different and this makes those of us who are participating are the ones who benefit from this approach.  We also have the uniqueness in that we, the congregation, the assembled believers and yes, the students are encouraged to share how we see the scripture selection as we move verse to verse.  The openness of communication allows us to not only learn the foundation of the truths that have been before us for years while allowing the new view or understanding through the interpretation and growth of life’s experiences.  The referenced reading is 1 Samuel: 17, the Bible story that all children hear early in life, even if they are not in church, the victory of the shepherd boy over the giant.  But there is more to that story, more to the ritual of preparing for war/battle/conflict, the choice of the weapons we use and the motives or desires behind our actions.  Stepping into my professional training, the sociologist, the behaviorist in me has a new understanding of the story that is often called a Children’s Bible Story; this child of God needed a new understanding of the battle that changed the life completely of the shepherd boy.  Beginning with verses  4 -11 describes the giant, the Philistine warrior and the force he represented.  Tall, powerful, skilled, well-armed, a seasoned victor – he knew his ability and strength, and an idol of his fellow soldiers.  So what about our giants, the giants we face in our daily walk.  My giants have traveled with me a very long time because I gave them breath and I was so small in comparison to the giants of fear, anger, self-doubt, a weak spirit and Cancer.   There are probably a lot more, but I chose to identify five, one for each of the smooth stones that David chose to place in his pouch (1 Samuel 17:40)

.220px-Osmar_Schindler_David_und_Goliath

The artist’s interpretation [David and Goliath, a colourlithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)] of the overwhelming size of the giant, Goliath, over that of his challenger, David, is a symbolic representation of how we as humans often feel when facing the trials and tests that come as we journey through this life.  I can only speak from my own personal journey of faith, and yes, the giants in my life have been astonishingly strong in their ability to invade, control and paralyze my ability to live the life God had planned for me to live.  Fear froze me in a negative path of “what ifs” and kept me from pursuing the things that would serve to worship God and bless others once I reached a certain measure of growing through the test to a level of faith that would surpass the fear, anytime that giant returned.

Once I learned to challenge the unrealistic components of my fear, the giant was no longer so powerful – just a stone’s throw to defeat each time it would return.  Anger, one of the stones that seemed extremely weighty in my life, became the next giant I was to battle.  Once I knew I was angry and that it was not a sin to experience that emotion, I could manage its power over my life.  David, the youngest of Jesse’s son, fair to look at, but of small stature in comparison to Goliath and his contrasting size and weaponry, helped me to understand the giant is only a giant if I see myself as small and ill-equipped.  So one by one I visited those five stones over the next few days before our small Wednesday night group would meet again.  My stones were becoming smooth because of the acknowledgement of them in my life and because I named them and gave them to God, because God is the only controller of my life.  The fear, anger, self-doubt, a weak spirit and Cancer each had to be faced.  Facing those things that hinder the maturing of faith in life have to be acknowledged, challenged and defeated.  Those five stones bullied me much like Goliath bullied the soldiers of Israel every day – come and fight me, for I will win. In verse 10, the giant would present his challenge “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together”.   The giant knew the power he had over the armies, simply by daunting them with the task of fighting one on one, sure of his size and ability.  That is how much power I was surrendering my own power given by God to the giants in my life.  They seemed very large, very sure of my weakness, I was sure of my weakness – thus the stones self-doubt and weak spirit.  Cancer is huge, there is no doubt of that, it claims lives daily but there are those times the giant loses.  Prayer, personal bible study and exercising faith through prayer and trust in a God who is greater and able to do “… super abundantly able to do above all we dare ask, think, hope and desire …” (Eph. 3:20, Amplified Bible) became my weapons for battle.  But that is only three stones, and David took five stones into battle, and so do I, daily.  It is those three stones plus two more – the first stone being the love of the people who God has placed in my life, and the fifth stone being God working through the doctors and their skills to defeat the giant.  There is more to this David and Goliath story, but that comes later.  Join me next week as I move to the rest of the story.

All the same questions … yet again … What is the new lesson?

Although I am not asking the questions I used to ask when circumstances arise that I do not understand, I still struggle in advising, listening to or providing an ear to others who may be having difficulty with changes in their lives, unexpected and possibly tough changes.  Recalling not only what my dad would say when he struggled with the illnesses and deaths of two of his children, what I said to him as we discussed it along with my cancer diagnosis 22 years ago returns to my mind so quickly when things change.  Today I know, with a certainty, that I serve a loving, living God and that these events come into the lives of those whom I hold dear, and it is not a bad thing but an opportunity to have the reassurance of who holds us in the palm of His hand, forever (John 10:29).  Although the next 48 to 72 hours will be my allowed emotional reaction time out, I know that all will be well just as my favorite song states, “It is Well With My Soul” (Swafford) and I will cling to the “…lively hope …” of which I am assured in ! Peter 1:3-5.  I do not deal with change well, who does?  My dad would say that he wanted to know the sin that was being visited on his generations.  Then this past Sunday the lesson brought up those same scriptures again:  Moses and the first generation of Israelites who did not get to enter the promised land because of the sin of returning to the religion of their Egyptian captors when the going got tough being visited upon them (complaining, doubting and disobedience …) Numbers 20:12 KJV, David and the murderous act resulting that cost him the death of his firstborn child (Nathan bore the news of his judgment … 2 Samuel 12:13-14) … all reminders of our human reaction to unsettling events.  It is so easy to fall back into the questions and the emotions that cause us to fail, doubt, give in to worry and fear, and my all time stand by – ANGER.  While I am in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness month and focused on sharing God’s work in my life in multiple events to include my book signing (The Galilean Religious Books, October 11, 12:00-3:00), I am attempting to help with crises from two directions in my life, and am trying to counsel those who reach out to me on what to do next, I find myself almost stumbling on the Baptist clichés that were crippling to me so many years.  Although I celebrate the victory in my life, I still have strong reactions to the “cancer” threat to others in my life and the possibility of facing the disease that took my brother, diabetes.  Heredity is not always a bad thing, but for me those two diseases bring up so many memories and fears.  In trying to shatter the fear in my loved ones’ lives the words are difficult because it is so near to my heart.  Finding myself struggling to find the words to reassure, strengthen and support others, the carnal me, the scared me, the doubting me attempts to return.  My goal is to spread the good news of God’s great work in my life, but find myself once again wishing “not my loved ones”, and I am aware that is selfish of me and is a step backwards to an infant state of Christianity where I once again want to return to the milk from God’s Word because it hurts to be mature, knowing the meat of the Word and my faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 14-15).  I halted as I started to tell someone “remember to ask what of this journey”, because fear and tears do not allow a person to ask the greater question of what.  As we face struggles, challenges and changes we have to deal with the emotions that come first.  The fear (False, Evidence that, Appears to be, Real) is consuming and we have to face it and deal with it.  Then I realized that tears and fears are also a part of grief, it is part of my training as a mental health professional to know these things, the label of who I am in these circumstances: Sister by another mother, mother, and grandmother challenges every fiber of who I am.  Then I hear from those with whom I am talking that “this just isn’t fair…” and I return to my old feelings of playing by the rules and it still not working out the way I think it should be, that I share in my book “Asking What: No More Whys … Soaring on Eagles’ Wings Defeating Life’s Labels, Anger and Cancer.”  This thought pattern was mine as discussed in the failure of my marriage, the man who tried to kill me (Living someone else’s dream …), conquering those mental tapes of playing by the rules and expectations of society (Be sure you have on clean underwear … Chapter 5) and it plagues me when I allow my faith to waiver.  In today’s world, we can find answers and new approaches to the very diseases and illnesses that were at one time a diagnosis that meant death … at some point … a diagnosis that would shorten one’s natural life span.  When I find myself returning to my professional mode, the best way for me to help others, I go through the steps: 1) Validate their feelings, yes you can feel that way …; 2) Figure out what you are really feeling that leads you to choose to be angry (the emotional coping mechanism with which I continue to deal); 3) Start writing in a journal until you work through your feelings, find your direction and your personal peace (some people do not want to be told pray about it and trust God…); and the most difficult thing to say is 4) You’re a mother/grandmother/family member/brother/sister/spouse and you don’t have the option of being emotional in front of those who look to you for strength.  It is important for each of us to find the scripture that can be what we call on every time we are faced with a new mountain, trial or struggle.  I have my cancer scripture, Isaiah 40:31, Before that became my go to scripture, I also used Ephesians 3:20, and then was led to the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48) who stepped out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, “… your faith has made you whole…”.  Mountains can be conquered by “soaring” over them by the method/instrument or person God brings into your life for that one purpose/season; rough ground can be made smooth (the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, Exodus 14:21-22); and our storms will be calmed in spite of our fears (Luke 8:22-25).  No, there are times when life does not appear to be fair, times get tough and we shed tears of fear and confusion – it is our human nature.  But we have the ability to ask professionals the right questions so that we are better equipped to handle what is at hand; we can turn to the world wide web (internet) to glean information needed to take appropriate action and make needed changes in our lifestyle or environment that may be necessary to equip us for the new journey we may be facing and there are those who God has already prepared to help us that have been through the same journey we may find ourselves on and are waiting for God to direct them to us.  No, it doesn’t necessarily go away, but we can be equipped to handle what comes as we learn the lessons needed to launch into our battle mode that will strengthen us and make us available to someone else once our journey of growing our faith is completed in this area of our lives.