Written on 01/04/2008

Feelings, nothing more than feelings
Trying to forget my feelings of _______
Teardrops rolling down on my face
Trying to forget my feelings of _______

Feelings, for all my life I’ll feel it…

(A song by: Albert Morris)

Some may remember the words to this tune—normally considered a love song—but for this message I’d like to use it in a different way. I left the feelings that are being felt blank above, making it available for whatever feeling(s) each of us is dealing with on this day. I have mine, I’m sure you have yours…

Today the rain POURS down outside, there are puddles where there is normally dry ground, and I’m sure the little creek here by our RV is rushing with what looks like chocolate milk by now!! It’s hard to believe during the dry summer months that any water runs through there at all…and yet as the seasons change, it surely does.

There are times in our lives when our creek beds are dry…when it’s been a while since we laughed or cried. Perhaps we just haven’t taken the time to stop long enough to feel much at all. Then there are the times in our lives when we can’t stop the creek bed of feelings from filling us up and rushing through us like a river—the laughter can’t be held back, or the debris in our lives is being so whipped up we can barely see through it and we wonder if our tears will ever stop. Will the sun ever shine again?

I don’t know about your December 2007, but I have to say I have heard about many, many lives that were touched with great difficulties this past month. There were many lives where the rivers of anguish, and fear, and sorrow, and questions were full to overflowing. Some of these stories I heard through others, some I was involved in, but they all touched me as I sought to see God through the debris the storms of life were whipping up. I too have had my own difficult Decembers, I too have wondered if the sun would ever shine again, I too have filled in those blanks with feelings of anguish, sorrow, fear…I know times of literally groaning through the pain and agony that this life can inflict on us.

And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit
within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be
released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously
for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children,
including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:23 (NLT)

As I sit inside on this wintry day listening to the wind blow—sometimes feeling the gusts of wind as they hit the side of our RV—I think of Home…in Heaven, and I pray. I pray because life is full of good things on this day for me personally, but it hasn’t always been this way, and it won’t always remain this way…I know that all we have is this day, until God does give us our full rights as His children, and then life will be good forevermore! And what about those new bodies? Well, who wouldn’t also want the new body that goes along with that life, after a FULL December?!

God knows what we need, and He knows what we need to hope for. God is not oblivious to our feelings and where they come from. He knows what keeps us trapped. He knows what’s needed to set us free. He knows, even when we don’t, and it’s in our not knowing that God’s knowing can seem so wrong…and when things seem wrong, things can feel wrong, but can we trust those feelings? Sometimes we avoid feeling anything because we think if we do, it will literally kill us. Sometimes we drown in feelings that are untrue, not realizing the pool of lies we’re sinking in. Sometimes feelings are legitimate, backed up by facts and figures that support our case for feeling loved or unloved, accepted or unaccepted, understood or misunderstood. But in all of our feelings God needs to be our anchor, because otherwise the winds of the evil one will constantly blow us off course!

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow,
and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.
Romans 8:38b (NLT)

We definitely have fears and worries in life, but it doesn’t change the purity of God’s love and care for us—that is our Anchor, our bottom line that keeps us tied to Truth!

Even as I write this and the storm rages outside, our son and his wife and their two daughters are making their way back up to Oregon from their California visit. What does a mom do with the fears for today, having heard that there are perhaps even three storms moving in? Will there be “The Perfect Storm”? I saw the movie, the ship goes down… “In the Fall of 1991, the Andrea Gail left Gloucester, Mass. and headed for the fishing grounds of the North Atlantic. Two weeks later, an event took place that had never occurred in recorded history.”

The phrase perfect storm refers to the simultaneous occurrence of events which, taken individually, would be far less powerful than the result of their chance combination. Such occurrences are rare by their very nature, so that even a slight change in any one event contributing to the perfect storm would lessen its overall impact. (Wikipedia)

I have visited this port in Gloucester where this ship set sail from. It was the last vacation that my son Phil and I had together before he left this earth for Heaven two months later. It was a good trip to Massachusetts…but that was a bad storm to reflect on as we stood in that port…lives were lost at sea. And now on this day, the lives of my children are out there on the freeways, driving through wind and a HUGE amount of rain and possibly snow to get back home after their Christmas in California… Fears for today? Without God and prayer, without Truth, where would we be? What would our feelings do to us? What should we do with them? Take them to God, be honest with Him, and ask for help. That is what He asks us to do, and for good reason. We need God! He sees the rain, the wind, the lightening and thunder…He is not blinded to any of it!

The Bible is full of emotions, of feelings…we are not the first to feel as we do, and we won’t be the last unless Jesus comes back on this day! God does not ask us to deny our feelings; after all, He gave them to us in the first place! But I have to believe that the feelings God gave to Adam and Eve back in the perfect Garden of Eden were not quite as messed up as ours are today…they were not so far removed from the perfection of God’s original design for human beings. Today, after generations and thousands upon thousands of years, I don’t know that we are even sure what to think, what to feel, what is pure and right and good and honest. There are so many layers of dysfunctional thoughts that fill our minds today.

An example: I grew up thinking that brown eyes were better than blue eyes. This may sound silly, but just go with me here. I grew up in a family of blonde-haired, blue-eyed individuals. I have blue eyes, my dad has blue eyes, and many other people in my family have blue eyes, with a few hazel eyes in the mixture. Then my parents adopted a beautiful baby girl. She had curly brown hair and big brown eyes. This little girl grew up her whole life hearing comments about her “big brown eyes.” What she heard was the word, “big.” What I heard was the word, “brown.” Until recently, when this subject was discussed between my sister and me, neither of us realized that my feeling was brown eyes were the best, and her feeling was blue eyes were the better eyes to have. She thought the only reason her eyes were noticed was because they were big!! Wow, how our feelings can be messed up over the littlest things. This is not something we struggle with each day of our lives…believe me, there are bigger fish to fry in life, but it is there, nestled deeply, ingrained forevermore in us that we are a little bit “less” because we got stuck with a certain eye color. There is no TRUTH in this feeling!! There is only a misperception of what is the better eye color to have, and that perception comes out of whatever placed it there in the first place—be it right or wrong—depending on who we’re listening to. God made hazel eyes, green eyes, brown eyes, blue eyes, and some people even have two different colored eyes…and since God don’t make no junk, there is no junk in the bunch!! It’s just that our feelings of what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s good, can muddy up the water in our thinking!

We need to strive to get back to a purity in our feelings, and there is only one way to do that…go deep into our hearts, to the place where God resides, into His Most Holy Place, and dwell there, listening to our Father’s Truth until the feelings that pour out of that place are clear and true and honest. It makes me think of watching “The Nativity Story,” when Zechariah was there in The Most Holy Place as the angel spoke to him telling him he and Elizabeth would have a son, and they were to give him the name, John. As I watched him there, facing the Ark of the Covenant where God’s presence dwelled, I thought of the purity of what flowed out of that place, and how we have that same place inside of each of us as believers, where the Holy Spirit dwells…it is a good place for us to go when our outside world is in turmoil. It is a place of peace in a crazy, mixed up world of emotions.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus says: “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NLT) To even begin to have a pure heart, we need The Most Holy Place. To even begin to see God, we must start with the Holy Spirit who lives inside each believer. Jesus wants us to see God. When we see beyond this world, God changes our perspective on all that surrounds us and how we feel about everything that happens in our lives. When we don’t focus on God, we become a muddy, mucky mess of trouble and frustration, full of hurt feelings, loveless emotions towards ourselves and others, unforgiving thoughts, and our own judgmental ideas about what is right and true and good. When we look at the world through our own eyes…look out!! Our vision is skewed and our feelings will rule…and the devil will say, “Walk this way…” and we will…

Feelings are there for a reason. In reading the book, “Where Is God When It Hurts,” it points out the many reasons why we need pain, and how feelings of pain help us in life. Philip Yancy also explains times when strange things happen in our bodies with what we feel! He writes:

Anyone who has eaten homemade ice cream too fast on a hot summer day may experience a related phenomenon. Suddenly a headache strikes, just behind the eyes. Quite obviously, ice cream is not entering the forehead. Rather, the stomach’s vagus nerve is sending out strong signals of cold to the brain; at the junction with the trigeminal nerve from the face, forehead, and jaw, pain jumps across from one nerve to the other and the chill in the stomach is felt as pain in the head.

So again, it’s not that we are not to have feelings, either emotional or physical; God has a perfect plan there. It’s that sometimes our feelings may not match up with what’s actually going on. Sometimes our feelings can run away into danger zones when the purity of God is not at the core of them—they can be misleading. We should continually seek God out in our feelings, allowing His Truth to drown out any lies that the enemy will use to hold us captive or whatever thoughts the enemy will use to fill us full of fear, doubt, or frustration, to name just a few. Why should we allow the enemy to rule, when God’s power is so much greater?

Our natural life must not rule, God must rule in us.
Oswald Chambers

Recently, I had to walk through feelings of fear and dread that I would rather not have. Six years after our son left for Heaven, I had not yet revisited the hospital where Phil’s treatments were given, where he spent long days and nights suffering the effects of chemotherapy. I had not once entered back through those doors after Phil entered through the doors of Heaven, and I had no desire to. But God had a better idea. In God’s perfect timing, in God’s perfect way, He led me back there, and He healed my heart one more time, in one more area—in an area that could have held me captive for the rest of my days on this earth simply because the feelings that I had—feelings that I would have preferred to ignore would have then been allowed to remain, tucked deep inside, where the enemy could use them against me at his will. He would have been free to say, “Walk this way…” But no more…I went back to this dark, painful part of life and found restoration. God’s light shines brightly there now! God set me free from my fears in this area!

God knows what we can take, and when it’s time, and He even blessed me with the company of a good friend for this journey. Years ago, I had already been given the “assignment” to get on the freeway and just drive by the hospital. That was hard enough then! The feelings were huge…I was scared, I didn’t want to, but I had jury duty, and there was no choice. You may have remembered the story I wrote called “The Drive,” written on March 27, 2002. I wrote, Relax, and Pray for help! Let God fight this battle, rest in Him. It’s only a road, only thoughts. Only the enemy causing fear where there is no need to fear. Focus! Focus hard! I started to relax, thinking of the battle that I could not see, the spiritual battle, as I was quoting scripture. Then just a couple of months ago, Jim and I found ourselves lost in Oakland, and guess where we ended up? Right on the street where this hospital is. I guess it was time… We both felt the same emotions, difficult emotions that could make it hard to breathe. And then, it was time to take one more “Baby Step,” God’s most recent assignment was to have me actually park and go inside the hospital. My feelings screamed, “NO WAY,” but my heart knew better. I knew jury duty took me there the first time, I knew getting lost took me there the second time, and this time it was my free choice…to fully heal through this or not. To let feelings rule, or to let God rule…

My friend and I made the drive one Sunday afternoon. The drive was not hard, after all, those roads had already been traveled—those feelings already dealt with. But then, as my friend turned the car into the much too familiar parking garage…I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. As we got out of the car and walked towards the garage elevator, I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. My nerves were sending out strong signals of FEAR to my brain!! The feelings were strong as we crossed the street and entered through the doors of the hospital, where the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the memories caused my thinking to become foggy. I was definitely on overload!! I never wanted to experience that place again, but there I was, back in the midst of it all.

After going up many floors and then exiting the hospital elevator, my friend knew I was not “feeling well.” She tried to distract me by gently mentioning the view out the window. Yes, it was lovely, but I could only quickly glance at it, having seen it too many times as I stood silently looking out, praying for our son to be healed, and searching for God in the storms we were facing back then.

We found the room we were looking for at last, and were able to visit a short while…then it was time to go…and I was more than ready for some fresh air! It didn’t matter which door, I felt like bursting through the nearest EXIT just to get back out onto the street! When we did, I found some relief! It was over, I had not died, the feelings of sickness and breathlessness began to ease, and we drove away, stopping for coffee on the way home to talk about our God.

Then the Devil went away, and the angels
came and cared for Jesus. Matthew 4:11 (NLT)

It seemed “Paul and Barnabas” were sent on a journey together, only wanting to encourage those we visited on that day, but we mostly found ourselves being encouraged at how God is ever present in our lives! My friend told me that what I was experiencing was not outwardly evident while we were there…my only answer for that was because we were there to visit someone in the hospital, we were there for them…what was going on in me was personal between me and God.

Feelings…very much felt, but how real are they? Very real if you had asked the part of me that is flesh and blood as I entered that hospital, but the Spirit of God saw it differently. God knew it was time to get past those chains that were powerful enough to freeze up my emotions—so when the time was right, after six years of waiting, God brought the opportunity for restoration in this area! I’m happy to report that I returned once again to that hospital days later, alone, at peace, with no sickness in the pit of my stomach, with no pressure in my chest, and my mind was very clear. God’s plans for our lives are not always easy, and there are a great many feelings involved, physical and emotional, but greater is Jesus in us than the enemy is in this world!!

As real as feelings are, they can also lie. So what is the truth, and what is fiction? I thought I hated that hospital. It wasn’t the building itself that I hated at all, it was what was inside of me that needed to be dealt with. The hospital is only the tool that God has given us to use to help heal our physical bodies. It is only a building; it is not to be feared. I know of a young girl on this very day who is spending time in that hospital, fighting for her life very much the same way our son fought for his. Her parents are thankful on this day for that help, for that hospital being available for her and the hope it gives them that their daughter will be cured. The hospital is not the bad guy, even our feelings are not the bad guy, the bad guy is Satan, and how he will use these things to hold us captive in our lives if we will not give God total reign when He asks us to.

Even if a hospital did hurt us somehow, even if mistakes were made, or if a person hurts us, or a time in our life was devastating…whatever the situation might have been, we have to go deep inside ourselves to where the Spirit of God dwells and find the purity there, that’s where the Truth lives, that’s where we will see God. When we dig under the rubble of what life has piled on top of us, under the feelings that hold us captive, we’ll find the Real Cure for what ails our emotions…His name is Jesus Christ. He is the Great Healer. Only in knowing our Savior Pilot can our ship keep an even keel in the storms of life. When our Savior is at the center of all we feel, we will feel loved—which is the desire of every human heart, isn’t it?

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought
to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death:
sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever
you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life
shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.
Colossians 3:5 (The Message)

Long ago, in my teen years, I had a pin on my bulletin board in my room. It said, “If it feels good, do it.” That seemed to be the thinking of the early 1970’s. But you know what? A lot of things don’t feel good in life, and we’re still called to do it by a Mighty God who knows what’s best for us. And sometimes, when things do feel good, we’re not supposed to always do it, simply because it may not be the best of what God has planned for us and those around us.

After writing this message, I watched a sermon on TV by Joyce Meyer. She too, talked about feelings, so I thought I’d share a part of what she had to say with you here:

I believe the only way you ever have victory is by learning how to do what’s right when it feels wrong. You have to learn to do what’s right when you don’t want to. You have to learn to keep on keepin’ on when you feel like giving up. You have to learn how to love people when you’d like to choke them. You have to learn to give away what you’d love to keep. You have to learn to stay places that you would love to run away from, and you have to learn to leave some places that in the natural, you would love to stay. You see the Bible says that the spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh wars against the spirit. They are continually antagonistic towards each other. Continually. Do you understand that Galatians 5:17 says that they are continually...not occasionally, not once in a while. That doesn’t mean that you never have any relief, but it does mean you just never know when your flesh is going to show up and have a little fit, so you have to learn not to live by those feelings, you have to learn to live by what you know.
(Enjoying Everyday Life)

Feelings, nothing more than feelings…and yet they will rule us unless God rules us more.
For all our life we’ll feel it…well, maybe so, or maybe not…let’s ask God about it!

One this day, the rain is still falling outside, the wind is still blowing as the puddles grow and the muddy river rushes…my children are still on the road and I wait for a phone call saying they have arrived safely tonight… I must go deep into The Most Holy Place and rest there, knowing that God knows, that God cares, and His plan is always perfect even if the storm doesn’t appear that way in our lives. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that six years ago when our son went home to Heaven—leaving us as a family of four—that this Christmas we would have been celebrating as a family of eleven. Does any of this replace the feelings of missing our son? No, nothing could ever take his place in our hearts, but what God does is use the rain from our sorrow, from our tears, and He creates a river that cuts a canyon very, very deep into our souls. Then when the sun does shine again, the warmth of its rays are felt to a depth never thought possible. It is glorious! Now, that’s a feeling that I can live with—a truly miraculous feeling that comes from our Lord’s indwelling Holy Spirit.

We can deal with the ambulance, if God is in it.
We can stomach the ICU, if God is in it.
We can face the empty house, if God is in it.
He is.                                             
Max Lucado

Until we meet again,

P.S. Our kids arrived safely at their destination tonight in Ashland, Oregon, having driven through the slushy, foggy mountain pass… It’s been an interesting day of writing and praying, as they were making their way back home. Thank You Lord for seeing them safely through on this day.