To Be

As an elementary student, every year my greatest dread was the sports carnival. Running races for flat-footed me were horrific as no matter how hard I tried, last place was mine unless a girl, whose name I'll never forget and wont mention, would rescue me from this torture. Slower than me, she'd guarantee me second last place rather than last.

Beyond this though were other dilemmas. To be acceptable meant that I had to win. Mediocre was not okay but significance meant to be best or near best. I felt good if I was succeeding and accepted.

We often carry these thoughts into the church world. To be noticed and successful, I must be a pastor or worship leader, I must be on the stage or hold a grand title. We often too only show our positive front to leaders. Oh the shock if they saw our flaws and we were then rejected.

As believers, we may accept Christ but we hang onto our past baggage and endeavor to find acceptance and success through external measures rather than in Christ.

The real God is so different from this, being the God, "I am" rather than the god "I do."

No races, competition or comparison are in Him, only the desire for a relationship with each of us. Nor does He disappear if we fail or show negative emotions.

He created us as we are, to find acceptance and rest in Him.

External things such as high achievement and performance, are such an enticement for satisfaction because they are directly in front of us. And yet Solomon often admits, that they are empty and hollow endeavors.

Contentment that is long term,  is an inner quality found in God. Better yet it is free.

 

The Hand and Will of God - Questions and Answers

We've heard the statement, "Even when our world is falling apart, God is still working in all areas."

Easily said but not easily lived. And very hard to hear when life is in turmoil.

The hand and will of God though is often not pleasant. It is not the stuff of our dreams.

It may even mean that we have to stagger through a storm alone, accused and ashamed. 

God's will is rarely a life of success and no adversity. Consider Isaiah 53:10 in regards to Jesus.

We also cannot deny the pain of Joseph's life. At 17, he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery and separated from family for twenty years. And yet would we say that he was out of God's will? And that God had removed Himself from Joseph's life?

God will accomplish His purpose and His will despite the messiness of life.

It actually takes trials and pain to make us useful to God. In fact it's doubtful that anyone is truly useful to God without very deep pain.

Alignment and the Bible

The Bible could be compared to a navigation system.

To simply look at a map for a potential road trip doesn't take us anywhere. To own a Bible does not make one a Christian nor does it do anything in one's life.

Nor is the Bible, God. It is however written about the lives and experiences of many people who truly knew God.

Therefore to get anywhere, we should align our lives with the instructions of the Bible. Similar to following the navigation's directions, if we do, we arrive at the desired location.

To obey, sometimes, is going to go against the deepest of our heart's desires and will make no sense at all. Some times we'll see those we love, reject us for our adherence to these principles. Some times it will mean ridicule and we'll want to give up.

If some Scriptures make no sense, this is an opportunity to just trust God. That at some point, understanding will come. 

This is the nature of Christian growth.

How Do I Fit In?

In the early twentieth century, Abraham Maslow developed a chart that categorized people's needs. His work is worth examination, especially considering family.

We can be part of a great family and yet still feel little value, unknown or insignificant. 

Often we emphasize the needs for food, shelter, safety, education and hobbies. Busily, we reorganize schedules to maintain all of these things. But to finish at this level, denies greater needs and therefore we cruise through life wondering purpose and worth.

Each of us has a huge need to belong and to be valued.

These desires are fulfilled by giving time, listening without preparing for an answer, and providing encouragement.

Practice affection or rather than focusing on being the center of attention, watch for opportunities to include others.

Watch for those things that bring a smile to another's face.

Listen and validate other's thoughts and engage in another's interests. 

Build up those, whether spouse or child, whether an unlovable teenager or an angry spouse. 

To criticize isolates, but encouragement strengthens connection and that sense of belonging.

 

Being Blessed

There is no guaranteed way through which we can receive God's blessings. There are principles that guide us through life but there is no such thing as a cause and effect pattern that will guarantee blessing.

We can work hard at raising great children or building a great marriage. We can work diligently at a business or making lasting friendships. Ultimately though, we do not have that much control over the outcome and may not achieve our desired result.

Christian leaders can work hard and serve God faithfully. Some enjoy God's blessing by building a substantial ministry but others do not.

Some parents parent faithfully and produce fantastic children but other parents whom have been just as faithful, do not.

Ultimately if we live with a cause and effect mindset regarding the blessing of God, life becomes a roller coaster and disappointing.

If children, marriage, business or friendships succeed, we are happy. If one fails, though, we experience contempt not just for self but for others.

If we live with a cause and effect mentality, or as one whom expects blessing for good works, life and God are disappointing. We live, preoccupied with using God as a source of reward, rather than aiming at a relationship with Him.

Beyond the splendor that life has to offer, focusing on the thought that God Himself is the ultimate blessing is fulfilling. He is the constant relationship that lifts us despite trials and loves and accepts us in spite of success or failure.

Anger as a Life Line.

Often we do not know how to handle anger, particularly when it is expressed by another.

We therefore offer solutions that bring no relief to the person. Honestly, we are uncomfortable with the other's rage.

Anger does not have to be logical or valid but tends to surface once a person is feeling  able to survive a crisis. In crisis, one often feels amazed that she survived the loss.

Anger is a necessary stage of healing and as permission is given to express this emotion, one is able to process true hurts.

Anger has no limits. Underneath anger is pain. But anger can be strength and provides temporary structure in loss.

If we ask someone to move past their anger too fast, all we do is alienate them. We fail to recognize their loss and pain.

Anger can be seen as a life line. It is a rope to which one can cling and climb until clarity is again found.

The Voice

Last week, I had the tremendous privilege of sitting with one whom had accomplished much in life. She has not sought success and yet has achieved it through much hardship. Her thoughts follow.

Some times we are confident and we have no trouble in finding our voice.

Then there's times when we question our life and feel a failure. It's hard to find our voice and it's difficult to find an arena in which we can be heard.

Some think that there's something dreadfully wrong at the expression of bitterness and hatred. Yet these emotions pass through people's hearts and minds every day.

To not accept one's emotions of pain minimizes their situation. We make them into a culprit only deepening the loss.

Perhaps  we fail to realize the enormity of the situation or perhaps their dilemma is inconvenient to us.    

To give room for one to express themselves, some times repeatedly, helps a person to process pain and again find security in their surroundings.

To not listen invalidates. To not listen, speaks of no interest and no time.

To give people a voice means we care and value others.

The Pioneer

I thought my pioneering days were over but God had other plans.

Out of the blue, one can find himself starting again. It may not be in one area of life but many.

Amidst the pioneering, there is excitement but hardship. There can be unresolved 'stuff" from the past but to determine to focus forward, is vital.

The fulfillment of God's dreams do not happen easily. But then again I've always thought of hope and faith as more than words. They are action.

Pioneering means that one pushes through the negative emotions, silence, criticism, lack of support and resources, no matter the moment.

The occasional cheerleader becomes the pioneer's best friend.

Man cannot rest his dream to pioneer on any of the above, as much as one seeks approval. As Catherine Marshall wrote, "Hope must be in the future tense. Faith, to be faith, must be in the present tense."

Believe in Me

One of my greatest discoveries recently is understanding that my source of affirmation has shifted.

Our desire to be valued is great and one of the ways in which this is maintained is through affirmation.

Our need for affirmation is greater when we feel that we have failed.

We can though make the mistake of trying to get affirmation from a source that is not appropriate. That source may not have the capacity, the capability, the time or understanding. 

Rather than attempting to repeatedly draw affirmation from that from which there is no result, we should look around and realize that God's provision will come from elsewhere.

New seasons bring new meaning and new people into our lives. We cannot change the season or other people. We should not depend upon our own understanding but know that our troubles are all a part of God's master plan.

Sympathy and Empathy.

Some times these two words are confused in meaning. Yet they are very different.

Empathy strengthens connection but sympathy can move us to disconnection.

Empathy means that we can see the perspective of another person. It recognizes that the other person sees their perspective as truth. An empathetic person doesn't just recognize the emotions of another but acknowledges and feels with them.

Empathy recognizes that someone is in a dark place and does not just tell someone that "life will improve". The empathetic are willing to visit that dark place with the someone.

Empathy assures the someone that they are not alone.

Sympathy, on the other hand, will acknowledge a difficult situation but remains removed from the someone. Sympathy may encourage the some one to reach out but fails to realize their true state.

Sympathy does not connect with one in pain because we do not wish to feel that pain. Rather sympathy minimises the problem, making it less than what it is.

If we examine our conversation, many of us do this a lot. We do not want to become enmeshed in another's pain. 

Empathy is prepared to acknowledge that perhaps we don't have an answer but that we are willing to listen and be a part of this journey.

Connection, a part of empathy aids in healing. Response, which is the prime ingredient of sympathy, does little.

Learning to Laugh

 

A friend and I love to compare notes on the crazy things that we have done in the midst of crisis.

Some bills have gone unpaid and yet I was sure that I had paid them.

One mortgage was paid three times in a month. Did I really do that?

There's appointments that i double booked or forgot to attend.

There's books and movies read and seen of which I have no recollection.

Restaurant tips that were given that were totally inadequate or double the price of a meal.

In the midst of this is perseverance. 

We can rejoice in the midst of hardship.

"Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope."

What Do I Need?

In times of want and need we tend to focus on that particular desire. It becomes our primary focus and occupies our thoughts.

For myself, I found myself reestablishing myself as a single woman, selling and moving homes and finding a new career.

Do I leave my home church or stay? Do I move back to Australia or to a location close to my children?

Such concerns are a normal part of life but the stress of these things can find us pushing God to the periphery.

At such times we can neglect to seek God for help and become obsessed with our dilemma.

What do we do?

I believe that we start with repentance. Do what we usually do when we've neglected some one that we love.

After repentance, let the conversation with God flow.

The more we focus on God, the more access to His unfailing love.

His never ending love is empowering and fuels us as does nothing else. 

I Get It

I understand praying prayers that are not answered in the way we wish.

I understand fixing a marriage but I also understand losing a marriage despite all effort.

I understand life when it starts to unravel and when failure is discovered by others.

I understand telling one's children that their parents can't hold it together.

I know the fear of not knowing what's coming, of making wrong decisions and not knowing what to do.

I understand loneliness and the fear of being alone. Lord, will it always be like this?

But I'm seeing that God is a God of new things. I've made new friends. I have a new career and home and both are wonderful.

I've visited places and seen people for which there was no time in the past.

Dare I say, there's some fun in again being single.

God doesn't just create new things but He can make all things new.

In other words, He's not tossing us out and starting anew with someone else.

He looks at us and dreams of whom we are going to be when we get to the other side of our drama and pain.

 

Starting Over

We grow up in church  and the recommendations are to pray, read your Bible, attend regularly, get involved and to share our faith with others.

We usually struggle and feel guilty regarding our lack of competence in at least one of these areas. And therefore think of ourselves as being a little less than others. We carry a sense of failing God too.

But then great catastrophe can strike us such as relationship or financial disaster. In so many ways we no longer measure up to our former image.

And so we have to start again. It's actually a journey of rediscovery regarding one self. Who is God and what does He desire of me. I'm no longer what I was

The result is that God loved me as I was and loves me even now. I don't have to behave or perform in any certain way.

Hardship is a prime opportunity to move beyond immature ideas into greater faith and character. Some disasters, are a catalyst for learning perseverance, steadiness and hope.

Who among us wouldn't prefer an easier life but through hardship we discover the reality of God.

The Calling

I'm not really a fan of this word. It though works for this writing.

God assigns us a life to lead and as much as we'd like it to be a journey of plenty and fairness, this is not always so.

Nevertheless, there is something splendid about embracing our journey and finding new strengths and contentment along the way.

To compare our path to that of another is a useless task and only brings grief.

Each of us must make every effort to accept our own God given calling. This therefore lessens the hurt along the way in difficult circumstances.

Whether experiencing loss in career, relationships, a church home or in sickness, if we search for  that new pearl of wisdom that God is endeavoring to show us, we can accept His journey without losing hope for a better future.

 

How often do we read emails, texts and face book posts asking for healing? The common response is "Praying."

We may find ourselves running hard and fast in a quest for healing.

Most of us would confess to feeling a brokenness in some way.

Some would say that time is a healer but I think that time is the revealer of how God performs a healing.

Healing can occur in the middle of pain. If not so, I would still be curled up in my bed.

God doesn't wait  until we are all the way through a situation to commence our healing.

Nor do we need to put life on hold because we face trauma.

Where is Happiness in the Tough Times?

 

I am a melancholy personality. I enjoy the thought of sleeping in or going for a walk with my dogs in the sunshine. I love the thought of curling up by the fire and reading a good book with a lit candle alongside me.

I can be intense as many know. I try to find the reason for the occurrence of things and love having a goal. When life changes drastically, it's difficult to find joy. My sense of justice is upset and emotions rage.

Joy though doesn't have to be put on hold until circumstances change. It can be found in the simplest of things.

It can be having coffee with an understanding friend who doesn't have to deflect the conversation to discuss "the bright side of things." It's taking up an old hobby that was not possible in former times. It's rearranging a room and giving it a fresh look and this does not have to cost money. It's sitting in a coffee shop and while you may be alone, you can be surrounded by the chatter of others. Perhaps joy is watching the sun go down, listening to the wildlife.

Life can be tough and many of us would confess that we are not fans of what we face. We still though need joy.

We need to remember that God is bigger and that life is not just about us.

There is beauty around us at all times and we can be thankful even when things are painful.

 

Am I Now Broken?

There are all types of broken.

We can appear to have it all together but we are still broken.

We may be broken by our own sin.

Perhaps we have been rejected and hurt by another.

It may have been circumstances that broke us or we may be just plain messed up, like every body else.

We all come into the world with the sins of our fathers passed down to us. We are also torn up by original sin.

Thank goodness that we bear the image of God.

As an individual, you may look around and believe that you are the only broken person. This probably means that you are the most authentic.

If another seems unbroken, then they are likely just good at covering up the truth.

Be My Enough

Do we really understand? That Christ is in us?

It can be difficult to grasp that He loves us just as we are.

To see oneself as God does and to lay down what others think of us.

We can allow the voices of others to control our lives and call us to action incessantly.

We can believe against our better judgment that we need to do things and be seen in order to be worthy.

But a person is no less fruitful because his or her life is more hidden.

We do not need to run repeatedly to doing but it's okay to just be.

God's love doesn't increase toward one, based on our calendar or our level of works. We cannot win His affection by being more prominent.

It's okay to be oneself. We are as we are, enough for God. (Psalm 46:10)

Forgiveness: Do I Have To?

 

As we practice the art of forgiveness, it becomes a skill that builds our lives. 

Perhaps one has wronged us and has apologized or perhaps no 'sorry" was offered.

 Perhaps in our estimation, another does not deserve forgiveness. We therefore hang onto our opinion and thoughts of revenge because we think that the offering of forgiveness makes another's wrong okay.

Our action of forgiveness however places healing and judgment into greater and more capable hands. Our retaliation accomplishes nothing to our benefit whereas God's actions are absolute.

To truly carry so much emotional pain and hurt around is exhausting. To continually let it go, though difficult, frees us for betterment.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us are blameless. We all owe an apology somewhere and to some one at some time.

It's not easy to own our part, but an apology means that we are willing to learn and it frees us in unpredictable ways. It also brings honor to God.