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Who Is Your Shelter?

 

Psalm 91:9-13

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Psalm 27:5

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 31:20

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.

One of the first things Cherokee and Chris did when they bought the new house in July was buy Chickens. We have 24 chickens and they have their own space in the yard and a safe, comfortable coop. On the first day the chickens were big enough to run free in their yard, I asked Chris how long it would take to round up all 24 chickens every evening and get them back in the coop. Chris told me that they would go back in the coop on their own as the sun went down. He was right. I watched as the sun went down and one by one they headed for the coop and huddled together inside the door waiting for Cherokee or Chris to tuck them in safely for the night. I was amazed that they knew somehow that they needed to be tucked in for the night to keep them safe from predators of the night (okay, maybe they didn’t “think” all that, but somehow they knew they needed to be tucked in for the night).

Watching the chickens as they headed for the shelter of the coop reminded me how we, as humans, sometimes need shelter from the dark moments of our lives. In life, we will come upon predators who may want to harm us. We will experience the storms of life and need to seek refuge. where is our shelter? The chickens know that they have a coop to keep them safe, but where do we go when the night starts to fall and we are surrounded by darkness and evil? 

We go to God. We need to find shelter in God. Psalm 91:11 says that God commands His angels concerning us to guard us in ALL our ways. Psalm 27:5 says that when the day of trouble comes that God will keep us safe in His dwelling. Psalm 31:20 reminds us that God keeps us safe in His dwelling from accusing tongues.

Life is full of problems, heartache and pain. The reality is that there IS evil in the world. We can’t escape that fact. We can’t run from the hardships of life. It wouldn’t matter where we run to, the hardships will only follow us. The only thing that we can do is seek shelter under the wings of the Almighty God. God promises us in His word that He IS our shelter and that He WILL protect us. God does not break His promises. We need to trust that when the pain of the world hits us in the gut, that God will be our shelter and in Him we will find refuge and safety.

 

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The hardest thing for me as a mom has been to see my kids grow into adults and struggle with their relationship with God. We were active in a local church at one time, but left due to some personal issues. After we left, we all struggled in our relationship with God. The kids struggled the most. It was hard for me to see them fall away from their faith. I felt guilty for taking them away from something that had meant so much to them at one time. In the end it was only causing them pain and they were considered in the decision to leave. We have attended different churches. My relationship with God has actually grown in the mean time, but the kids still struggle. I hate to see them struggle in the most important aspect of their lives. I try to force God on them and I know that this doesn’t work. I just want them to “get it”! I want them to embrace this Jesus that I live and breathe. God has finally convinced me to back off a bit and to give the Holy Spirit time to work in the lives of my kids.

YOU MEAN I AM NOT ACTUALLY IN CONTROL OF THEIR WHOLEHEARTEDLY ACCEPTING JESUS?

Reality sinking in. No, I am not in control of how they think or act or what they believe. As much as I would like to force them to accept my beliefs, I can’t. I can’t force Jesus on them. It just turns them away. They have to figure it out on their own the same way I had to figure it out on my own. They have to come to the realization that life with Jesus is so much better than life without Jesus. So, what do we do while they are figuring things out?

  1. Pray: We pray, pray and pray some more. We pray that the Holy Spirit will fill them with a burning desire to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We pray that they will be filled with a deep desire to do God’s will in EVERY aspect of their lives. We pray through until all of our children have accepted Jesus and then we pray that they will grow in their Christian walk. The most important thing is to pray.
  2. Set a Godly example: No one is perfect. We aren’t going to get it completely right all of the time, but if our kids see us reading the Bible, praying, living our lives with integrity, serving others, and loving those around us then they will know Jesus through our actions. Don’t ever think that our kids aren’t watching how we live our lives. They are and they are deciding how they want to live.
  3. Never Judge: Our kids get enough judgement in the world, they don’t need it from their parents too. No one is perfect and our kids are learning how the world works. We all fumble. We all make mistakes. Our kids need to know that they have a safe place to fall where help will be given without judgement.
  4. Love unconditionally: God loves us no matter what and He expects us to love our kids no matter what. We need to love our kids regardless of how they choose to live. We need to continue to build our relationships with our kids. We need to continue to be that support system they so need in this world. In a place of so much hate, they need our love.
  5. Allow the Holy Spirit to work: We need to step back and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our children’s lives. Trying to force Jesus on them only pushes them away. We need to surrender our kids to God and trust Him to work in their lives in His timing. I know how hard that is, but take it from a mom who has been there, we can’t force our kids to believe. We are not in control. God is.

I have had to learn to surrender my kids to God. It has not been easy. I see them struggle with wrong choices and living life styles that are contrary to my Christian beliefs and my heart breaks for them. Life will never be free from pain, but it can be so much better when we live according to God’s will for us. My one desire in this life is that all five of my kids will know and follow Jesus Christ. I can’t make this happen. Only God can. It is now my job to get out of the way.

 

 

 

I am coming to the end of my first year as a Providence Associate. It has been more of a inward journey than an outward expression. I have finally begun to come to terms with my personality quirks. I still struggle with those quirks, but I am learning to not be so hard on myself. I am learning to accept myself as I am, quirks and all. I decided to post this reflection letter to the associate directors because I could not express my struggles any better than I did in the letter. I am slowly revealing my soul through this blog. My prayer is that it will help someone in some way. If you are reading this and you are struggling, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are more of us than you know. Tell me how I can pray for you. So, below is my reflection letter:

My first year as a Providence Associate is coming to an end. As I reflect over the last year, I realize that I have had ups and downs. As I have been called to be part of this community, I have struggled with the resurgence of my schizoid personality disorder. I was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and generalized anxiety disorder when I was 17 and living in foster care in Los Angeles County, California. Schizoid personality is simply an avoidance of social situations and a lack of desire to want to form close relationships with others. It makes us somewhat socially awkward and as much as we know we need community, we don’t desire community. We desire solitude and isolation.

As a single mom for 18 years, my kids have been the center of my life. They are now growing up and moving on to lives of their own. It is hard for me, because I also suffer from constant anxiety which leaves me with a fear of being abandoned. As much as I desire solitude, I am terrified of being left alone. I need that circle of support that my kids provide and having that vanish has thrown me mentally and emotionally. I struggle every day I have to work. I love the Sisters, but I have to force myself out of bed to be at work because of the constant anxiety and the sometimes overwhelming desire to run away and hide. I live with my daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandchildren. I love them and I need them, but even then, I spend a lot of time in my room, isolated. I know I need community, but I don’t desire relationships. I have 1 friend. My ex-husband’s wife is my best friend. My ex-husband once told me that during our marriage he always felt that I had a wall up that he could never break through. I see the truth in that. Many schizoids don’t marry at all, because we have no desire for that close of a relationship with anyone. It is extremely hard to know I need community, but not desire community in any way. I become hard on myself and try to push myself beyond what I am capable and it creates further anxiety to the point of the inability to function at all. Thus, there is constant chaos in my mind. It isn’t something that can be “fixed”. We learn to cope the best we can.

I am sharing all this in my effort to share more about myself and to bring awareness of those who do suffer from mental illness. My quirks are what make me the special person that I am. I have to learn to only do what I am capable of doing and not push myself to the point of being overwhelmed by life. It is an ongoing struggle to balance it all and to keep the noise in my head at a manageable level.

I want to renew my commitment as a Providence Associate. I want to be more transparent about my struggles in an effort to bring awareness of those who struggle with mental illness. I want to share my struggle with the Sisters because I know that they love me as I am and will accept me, quirks and all. It is important for others to know that there are those who suffer in silence. The rate of suicide is increasing. People are ending their own lives because they feel hopeless. Suicide is not a choice made by someone who is thinking straight. It is made by someone who has lost the battle to the chaos in their minds and has become overwhelmed to the point of ending the noise in any way that they can. I struggle, but I survive. I survive because I have a provident God who has heard my cries of desperation and keeps me alive to share my story. As hard as sharing my story is, I must share it. I know that surrounded by the love of the Sisters, I can find the strength and courage to do this.

In Love, Justice and Mercy,

Patti Burris

Living A Simple Life

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

 

              

Not all of us were meant to live like Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, or Joel Osteen. The majority of us were meant to live simple lives. Most of us were called to live quiet lives, loving those around us and sowing seeds for God. Volunteering in our communities, serving those in need, being part of a community that loves God and loves each other regardless of our quirks and imperfections. Those of us that God has called to live quiet lives have a responsibility to change our communities through being a Christ-like example to those around us. We have a responsibility to be Jesus to our neighbors and communities. It is a big responsibility. God calls us to partner with Him in changing communities and transforming hearts. It may be the most important calling we can ever have on our lives. So, the next time you think your life is mundane, boring or ordinary, remember that God calls most of us to live simple lives so that we can reach out to those who need us and need God the most.

     

 

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

I was watching Llama Llama this morning with my two year old grandson, Christopher, when God decided to use this children’s cartoon to teach me a lesson. Llama and his friends were planning to spend the last day of their Summer break flying their kites. At the last minute, it starts to rain and the kids have to change their plans. Llama Llama is upset because they have to change their plans and stay inside. Mama Llama reminds Llama Llama that sometimes we have to plan to change our plans.

WOW! What a reminder! I always thought that I would be a missionary. I have wanted with all of my heart to serve God in a full-time ministry position. I have wanted this since I was a teenager. I am now a 48 year old single mom of 5 young adults and working in the food service department of a local convent. I have worked different secular jobs, but a ministry job has been elusive. It hasn’t been easy for me to sit and watch as others become missionaries or enter the convent. I will admit to being frustrated and discouraged. I have even at times felt hopeless. I have cried out to God in my despair, wondering why everyone else seems to be chosen for a grand purpose but I am left living a mundane life of daily struggles. I have learned three important lessons in this time of waiting.

  1. Be Patient– God’s timing is perfect. We need to be patient while waiting for God to reveal our God-given life purpose. There are many reasons that God might want us to wait; we need to work on our character, we need to wait for God to set up our ministry opportunity, we need to learn more about God and grow in our relationship with Him. I am not a patient person! I’m sure that God has shook His head in frustration at my petulant attitude. I continue to grow in this area and I trust that God knows what is best for me.
  2. Continue To Grow– God may be waiting for us to grow in our knowledge of Him. God can not use us if we are not prepared. We have to know WHO HE IS if we want set a Godly example in the world. We have to know God’s character. We have to know God’s heart if we want to reach others for Him. By digging into God’s word and by prayer we begin to grow in our relationship with Him and only then can God use the love in our hearts to draw others to Him.
  3. Bloom Where You Are Planted– Sometimes our missionary opportunity is right in our own backyard. Find a need in your neighborhood or community and find a way to fill that need. Lead a church wide effort in volunteering at a local homeless shelter, food pantry, or other ministry. Prayer walk around your neighborhood. Reach out to those around you and open your heart to the opportunities that God presents. God often places us right where He wants us. He expects us to be missionaries in our own communities. If we aren’t, then who will be? If we call ourselves disciples, then He calls us missionaries!

These are things that I am still working on, hence the lesson from a Llama. Be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Even if you are stuck in a mundane job that frustrates you, you still have a unique, God-given ministry to those around you. You are a missionary in your own community! Be patient! Keep growing in your knowledge and relationship with God and bloom where God plants you. He knows what is best and where we are needed most. Trust in His will for your life and know that He will always use us if we are willing to be used.

 

It started simply. A whisper of the Holy Spirit. A whisper in my spirit telling me to pray for the Police Officers in the Police vehicle in front of me. I obeyed and prayed. It was a simple prayer that God would protect them as they protect us. A simple prayer that their hearts would be filled with love and compassion. A simple prayer that they would act with wisdom.

It started in June, after our city lost a Police Officer in the line of duty. God started prompting me to pray for city officers, county sheriff deputies and state police officers. It has become a ministry in my every day life. I used to drive around the city and rarely see a Law Enforcement Officer and now I see them ALL the time. I used to get nervous when I would see a police vehicle. I now am glad when God brings them across my path, because I know I have a ministry to pray for these heroes. I am glad when I don’t go a mile without seeing an officer. The more I see, the more I get to cover with prayer. Always a good thing. In these times of chaos and evil, these men and women never know what they are walking into. A simple call can turn into a loss of life. They put their lives on the line to protect and serve their communities and if my simple prayer can protect them in the line of duty then I am happy. They will never know, as they sit in their car in front of me, drive past me, or sit in their spots looking for traffic violators that a 48 year old, ordinary woman driving a 12 year old SUV has just covered them in prayer. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I have the privilege to pray, partnering with God in changing the world, one community at a time.

I don’t know what God is calling you to do as you go about your life. I don’t know what ordinary ministry God has called you to, but nothing is ever to simple when it comes to obeying God. That simple thing that God has called you to do could keep someone safe, could give someone hope, could bring someone to Jesus. Some of us are not called to the billion dollar mega church ministries that get tons of media attention. Some of us (and that includes me) are called to simple ministries in our communities that may actually do more to change the world than all of those mega ministries put together. Do that simple thing that God is calling you to do. Simple ministries can change communities, when you and I obey God.

What is your simple ministry? What small thing is God asking you do to do to change your community? Will you obey? Will you do what God is asking you to do to make a difference in your community?

 

Statistics on suicide in the United States (These statistics are the most recent statistics available from the Centers of Disease Control as reported on www.save.org):

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. for all ages.
  • Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide.
  • There is one death by suicide in the U.S. every 12 minutes.
  • Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year.

Statistics on suicide worldwide (These statistics are the most recent statistics available from the World Health Organization as reported on http://www.save.org):

  • Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly ONE DEATH EVERY 40 SECONDS.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

 

“I don’t want to live anymore!” I never in a million years thought that I would ever feel that way, much less give voice to those words. But as I stood there with the door of my daughter’s car open I started sobbing and the words just came out. I completely shocked myself. I had not realized that my mind had wandered that far off the path. It scared me to realize that my mind had taken on a life of it’s own.

This was the middle of July of 2017. There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t suffer from anxiety. There have been times in my years of raising my kids as a single mom when I did feel overwhelmed, but it had never gotten to this point. There had been times when I wanted to hide, but I had never ever thought of not wanting to live. I had started becoming more anxious and overwhelmed around the end of April. I felt hopeless. I didn’t think that anything in my life was where it should be. My job caused me overwhelming anxiety on a daily basis. There were things on the home front that I was stressed out about and I felt a disconnect from God. I knew that God was still there, but I was struggling to feel His presence. I cried out in my despair, “hang on to me! Please God, don’t let me go!” I constantly prayed for a healing of my mind. I was aware enough to know that only God could make me mentally whole again. After that morning in July, when I uttered those words of hopelessness, I prayed with all of my heart that God would heal my mind. I was scared. I felt out of control and it terrified me. I was not happy. I felt alone and I cried tears of helplessness and fear. At one point during that time, I had had a rough morning at work and I sunk down in a corner in the dining room and sobbed. The dining room was empty at that moment and I was able to pull myself together rather quickly, but I was not happy and the tears flowed freely. It took until the end of October until I felt more like myself. I felt better and I wanted to live.

I still struggle with anxiety. I still struggle to connect with people. The constant chaos in my mind is real. But, I am better. I have my ups and downs, but I will survive. I will hang on to God and I trust that God will hang on to me.

There are so many ways that the Church is missing the opportunity to reach out to those who are suffering with anxiety, depression, mental illness, and hopelessness. When someone is suffering with any of these issues, they need a support system. There is a feeling of helplessness. There is a feeling of not being able to cope alone. And yet those who suffer don’t always ask for help. As helpless as they feel, they may not be able to reach out for help on their own. It is up to the rest of us to watch out for those around us to make sure that if anyone in our sphere of influence is suffering mentally, that we reach out in love and hope.

Love in Words– We won’t always know if someone we know or come in contact with is suffering, so it is important that we love those around us by the words that we use. When we encourage, build up, speak kindly, and use words of love, we give hope to those who may desperately need hope in their lives. Loving others through our words is such an easy way to let someone know that they are loved. Why would we not want to let others know how much we love them?

Love in Action– When we look for ways to show others how much we care about them, we might be giving hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. When we step in to ease the burden of someone who is overwhelmed by life, we may be saving a life. When we take some action to help someone who is struggling in their circumstances, we allow love to grow and God to work. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures. Little things matter just as much. Look around you and see where you can reach out and love someone by your actions.

My Challenge To You

Look around you every day to see how you can use your words and actions to show love to someone you come in contact with who may be suffering. Don’t let the busyness of life keep you from reaching out to someone that you KNOW is struggling in life. Don’t let opportunities pass you by to love those around you. Don’t let your frustration in the check out line cause you to make nasty remarks to the cashier adding to the burden he or she may already carry. You never know what the people around you are dealing with. You have a choice. We all do. We can either save a life with our words and actions. Or we can destroy one. It is completely up to each one of us. Personally, I would rather save a life. There is so much death and heartache in this world. I don’t want to think that my words or actions caused someone to even think about taking their own life. We may never know when that harsh word we said in frustration or anger was the last word they heard, because it was that last straw that pushed them over that edge. Please be kind. Choose to save a life.

RESOURCES

If someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please do NOT ignore it. Do not just chalk it up to someone being dramatic or wanting attention. Seek help for this person and urge him/her to seek help for him/her self. I have listed some resources below:

suicide prevention lifeline

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

National Alliance for Mental Illness

Recklessly Alive Ministries

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, please get help! Use any of the above resources or talk to someone you trust. Please get help! YOU MATTER! YOU ARE LOVED! YOU ARE WORTH SO MUCH MORE THAN YOUR MIND IS ALLOWING YOU TO BELIEVE! Get help!