Something Better Than an Adrenaline Surge

100_5543One morning this week, as I was racing up the stairs in my home, I said to my husband, “When my aging body has this much energy I know that it’s from God! It’s not due to caffeine or adrenaline–flowing from anxiety or anger. There’s a difference between a caffeine induced high, an adrenaline surge, and Holy Spirit empowerment.”

The Old Testament prophet Elijah knew what Holy Spirit empowerment was. By God’s power he outran a chariot. This is how Eugene Peterson describes that event: “Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily. [italics mine] Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab’s chariot until they reached Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:45-46 The Message)

I can’t image myself out-running a chariot; so far, God has not called me to do anything like that. However, I do know what it’s like to be empowered by his Spirit in the work that he has called me to do–teaching and writing. Sometimes, even after seven or eight hours of sleep, I wake up in the morning wanting more sleep. Instead, I drink a glass of water, pick up my Bible, and prayerfully read.

The encouragement that the Lord gives me during this time strengthens both my body and my spirit. I feel energized–much more energized than I do when I drink a cup of coffee (not that I’m against coffee). I can’t explain how this works; it’s a mystery. I call it joy-strength. It’s the joy of being loved and accepted by God. It’s the joy of being a servant of Jesus Christ. The beautiful thing about this kind of strength is: it is never followed by a let-down–like  an adrenaline crash.

Sometimes I operate under the influence of adrenaline—adrenaline that’s generated by anger. It feels powerful. But even when this power is used for good (anger does not have to be destructive), exhaustion is its by-product. Through a cooperative relationship with the Holy Spirit that results in self-control, my anger level is both managed and reduced. The end result is inner peace.

In Chapter 9 of my book Emotional Freedom, I explain how to detect destructive  anger. in Chapter 10, I explain how, through choosing Holy Spirit empowerment, we can possess self-control and become productive.

These are the key concepts of Chapter Ten:  

  • Admitting to our destructive expressions of anger is the first step to making positive changes.
  • Learning to detect signs of stress in our bodies helps us detect anger.
  • Doing something to calm ourselves decreases adrenaline and reduces the intensity of our anger.
  • By asking God for wisdom and following the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can use the energy of anger for constructive problem solving.
  • We can learn to communicate our anger in ways that improve relationships.
  • Resolving anger on a daily basis prevents emotional “baggage” from accumulating in our lives and frees up our energy, so that we become more productive.

May God bless you, today, with joy-strength as you turn to him for empowerment.


You can find information on purchasing Emotional Freedom here.

A Preview of My New Book

I’Janem excited to announce that my new book, Emotional Freedom: The Choices We Must Make, has been approved for printing. It will be available in 2 or 3 weeks.

This post contains content from Chapter 7

“A Dynamic Dance with the Gardener.”

The Dance

Jesus does not compel us to obey him. He does empower us to overcome evil and destructive passions, but it does not happen automatically. It’s a collaborative (shared) effort. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, uses the phrase “unforced rhythms of grace” to describe the shared relationship that Jesus invites us to have with him. (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

I love this phrase. It reminds me of a dance. I’m not a great dancer. My least well developed intelligence is kinesthetic. When I was in college, I had to take beginning swimming twice in order to pass it. Kinesthetic intelligence is one of my husband’s highest developed abilities. He loves to dance. I love watching him dance. We do it as a part of our worship on Sunday mornings. I managed to dance with him at our daughters’ weddings without crushing his toes. I am much higher on the musical measure of intelligence. I love rhythms and I make up songs and poems in my head.

The concept of dancing with God delights me. I call this dance with Jesus “Choosing Grace.” It has two basic steps: grace and responsibility. Grace is God’s step of love toward me. Responsibility is my step of love toward God. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love” (John 15:10 MSG).

Choosing grace is about “dancing” in such a close relationship with Christ that his nature becomes a part of us, motivating our decisions and empowering our behavioral changes. The clearest Biblical statement I know of describing this interaction between grace and responsibility is found in the book of Philippians: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13  NIV).

Choosing grace is about acting on our decisions so that our behavior will change. However, it’s much more than a how-to-do list for selecting and practicing new behaviors. Through this dynamic dance with Jesus we are transformed; we become like him. How do responsibility and grace work together to bring about character change and freedom from destructive desires and emotions? There are two common misunderstandings.

Problems on the Dance Floor

Some of us focus entirely on God’s grace, and others of us focus entirely on our responsibility. Some of us depend on God to do all the dancing, while others of us leave him standing on the dance floor and take off in our own independent rhythm.

When we place responsibility as well as grace totally in God’s lap, our slogan becomes “Let go and let God.” God did not design us as robots, and he does not bypass our will. We have the responsibility of choosing whether or not we will rely on God’s empowering grace. When we place responsibility on our shoulders and forget about grace we take up the “just-say-No!” slogan. Our program of self-reform does not usually work very well or last very long.  The only way we can be successful by “just-saying No” to our destructive desires is by lying to ourselves—overlooking our slip-ups.

On any day, I may deceive myself into thinking I can stay away from the chocolate ice cream which gives me digestive problems. Perhaps, by God’s grace, I’ve been successful for a few weeks. Now I think my will power is sufficient; I no longer need God’s assistance. What happens? I’m so focused on my performance that my craving takes over.

I tend to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. Sometimes, I act as if God is totally responsible for my growth. In passive irresponsibility, I refuse to take initiative. I don’t anticipate problems, and I don’t plan how I can obey. I sing “I want what God wants” while waiting for him to exercise the will he gave to me. What’s the result? Nothing happens. Why doesn’t this work?

God will neither take over my will nor override the choices I make. His freedom-of-choice gift includes responsibility to act and accountability for our action, or failure to act.

When we are choosing day-by-day to live in a close relationship with Jesus—relying on his favor, depending on him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and trusting him to meet our needs, God’s grace empowers us so that we can overcome our destructive and addictive desires and emotions.


Transparency and Respect in an Unsafe World

Arriving at my door at the end of an enjoyable walk this morning, I took a house key out of my pocket and tried to stick it into the doorknob keyhole. I could not get it in. After several attempts I gave up. Because it was a replacement key, made by duplicating the original, I assumed it was not made correctly. I did not want to stand in the hot sun for several hours waiting for my husband to come home and unlock the door. If he was not seriously busy, I knew he would rescue me, but I couldn’t call him because I had not taken my cell phone with me.


I walked to the house of my nearest neighbor to ask for help but she was not home. So I sought help from a neighbor who lived further up the road. Even though I had never been in her house, Georgia (not her real name) graciously invited me in and handed me her phone. When I dialed my husband’s phone and received a busy signal, she invited me to sit down and chat. What could have ended up as a frustrating morning turned out to be an opportunity to make a new friend. We shared facts about our family, our interests, and a few other details about our lives.

Even though I did not know much about Georgia, I felt safe in going into her house and comfortable while talking with her. I believe my level of transparency was appropriate. What were the clues that gave me that feeling of safety? (1) I saw that Georgia was empathetic; she smiled and patiently listened while I told her my problem.  (2) I believed that I could trust her because she looked at me directly. (When people avert looking at me, I tend to think they may be hiding something.) (3) I knew from previous communications that she shared a common faith in Jesus Christ. That was the primary reason I felt secure enough to go to her door and ask for help and safe enough to enter her house and talk with her.

I wish that I could say that someone’s confession of faith in Jesus Christ guarantees gracious and truthful communication, as well as trustworthy behavior. Assuming so, I’ve been unwisely transparent in past situations. Sadly, at times I have lacked these qualities; therefore, I try not to judge and condemn others.

However, I feel grieved by the arrogant attitudes and disrespectful behavior some Christian people in the United States  are currently displaying toward those who disagree with them, especially in the political arena.  Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That does not mean Christians, Muslims, Atheists, or any other people have the right to disrespect, manipulate, coerce, and mistreat people who are not in agreement with their faith, or who lack faith.

Jesus, who was called a friend of sinners, did not treat those who lied, cheated, and robbed others with disrespect. Instead, he offered them these fantastic options—freedom for those caught in compulsive and addictive behaviors, forgiveness for those who were sorrowful and repentant, healing for those with broken bodies and broken hearts, and hope for all who would place their trust in him.

How dare we, who call ourselves Christians, distort Jesus’ message of truth and grace by our disrespectful, manipulative, and coercive behavior!

What Is in Your Line of Vision?

When we planted tomatoes in our garden this spring, my husband placed one of them in a large pot and placed it on the deck that we can walk onto from our dining area. He said,”This will make it easy for you to pick a tomato; you can have one whenever you want it–without going into the garden.” Unfortunately, during most of the summer, I did not notice the plant on my deck, so much of the time I forgot to water it.

This iswilted tomato 2 what it looked like yesterday. Although I immediately watered this almost-dead tomato plant, I doubt that it will revive. Why did I neglect watering it for so long? Until yesterday, when my husband moved it to the opposite side of the deck, it was not in my line of vision. For weeks I sat at my dining room table, looked out at the deck but failed to see that tomato plant.

That which we place in our line of vision we pay attention to. David must have recognized the importance of this. He wrote,“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8 NIV). In this beautiful psalm, he goes on to describe his assurance of life and joy for eternity, as well as the present day. 

I want to follow David’s example and keep Jesus in my line of vision. That was my desire when I wrote the following poem, which I call “My Kitchen Prayer.”

Lord, let my eyes see far beyond
My kitchen walls, my family nook;
I want to view that unseen world
Described within your holy book.

Lord, fill my mind with higher thoughts
Than how I look, than what I wear;
I want to know of your concerns—
For your eternal kingdom care.

Lord, fill my heart with greater things
Than dusty furniture and books,
Than unwashed dishes, dying plants,
Than fearing someone’s scornful looks.

Lord, make my house your dwelling place
Where joy is present at each meal,
Where all who enter sense your peace
And know, in truth, that you are real.

Whether or not my tomato plant revives is not very important to me.  Even in it’s dying state, that plant provided me with a good illustration–unless I keep Jesus in my line of vision throughout the day, my inner self wilts and dies.

What are you placing in your line of vision, today?

How is it affecting you inner life?