Believer’s Meeting

9:00 am, Sunday morning eyes close, hearts open– cue the perfect opening song, chosen because it’s upbeat, uplifting, and it gets the blood pumping. Energy surges. Those who practice loudly in their cars are ready to join in corporate Praise and Worship of Jesus, right?

Except, “I” and “me” are used far more often than His name.

It’s all about You, Jesus and how much You have done for me, how much I have been changed, how much You love me, how You’ve made a way for me…”

Song one finishes. Cue songs 2 and 3, in similar keys and subject so they can flow into each other smoothly. Hearts and minds are focused on all Jesus has done for “me“.

Cue song 4 for the offering, something catchy and convicting to encourage Believers to give to God freely…

Song 5 helps transition right into the sermon, getting hearts and minds prepared to receive the Word of the Lord and the Preacher’s sermon.

The sermon is deep, convicting, full of Truth and equipping Believers to make it through another week until it can all start over again.

A closing song extending the sermon message, inviting people to let down their personal guard so they can receive personal ministry to help them overcome the things holding them back, keeping them from fully embracing Jesus, God’s healing and deliverance…

And… we’re done.

It’s a set, a church service proven to be a smooth and embraceable formula that the majority of American Church models follow now.

What’s the fruit? Happy people, a love for deep, powerful music, a new determined focus to meet the challenges and difficulties of a week focused around “me”.

Mid-week, there used to be Wednesday night Believer’s Meetings to help get us past the dragging down of our spirits, and re-focus in putting Jesus first and foremost in hearts and minds. It seems many churches have instead poured their entire focus on that Sunday morning gathering. Which is fine, Wednesday night sometimes just adds into another thing that keeps us busy and exhausted.

Which songs in church help equip Believers in how to treat others? How many prepare Believers for interacting with those hurting, abused, or abusive outside of the Church bubble?

What church service songs encourage us to help rescue others from the spiritual muck and mire that acts like quicksand, holding and pulling people farther from freedom through Jesus.

We hear the words “help the dying and lost” so often, we’ve gotten numb to their meaning and impact.

The world that has not embraced the Salvation, Grace and Mercy of God through Jesus– it’s not a friendly, warm place. There are people who hate Christians, hate everything about God. Are we ever prepared to walk in the empowerment of God to not only deal with people that hate us, but also show them Jesus?

We lack transformative power, most often, because I believe we are stuck in a “me me me” rut.

Me filters everything– how does this song minister to me? How does this affect me?

All fingers are pointed at me. I’ve recently been confronted with my own boundaries of keeping the ugliness of the world out of my perception and eyesight-hearing range.

Choosing what I allow my understanding to be exposed to is a luxury.

The hurting, lost and spiritually dying don’t have that luxury. They don’t have Jesus, the necessity for us all, to protect them, to shield them, to deliver them from the cold, dark world of animosity towards all God has created– which includes them.

I had forgotten where I had come from. But– God reminded me. How can I not go back and help others ? Did Jesus rescue me so that I could become cold-hearted towards others who need Him to rescue them as well?

Jesus told us to go, share the Good News with the world that hates Him, and by proxy– hates us. Share the Good News that they don’t have to serve hatred any longer, they can have His free gift of Eternal Salvation. Before meeting Jesus, after allowing Jesus to give freedom is like night and day. It’s like shackles and freedom, caged and free, oppressed and… free.

Free.

No price.

No bondage.

No entrapment.

Free.

Mind-blowing, am I right? The human mind cannot even fathom what that means, and so many reject it because it sounds far-fetched and unbelievable.

We need God to empower us to demonstrate that reality of Jesus.

Where does the neat and tidy American church service infuse that empowerment?

We will never find that power on our own, within ourselves, to reach out to a torture victim. Because they do exist– in America.

How can we help rescue someone’s mind who has been trapped in human slavery– because, again, that exists inside of America.

Jesus left Heaven to be born as a human to walk with us, so He could rescue us– heart, mind and soul. Not just our soul. Not just physical and heart healing.

Our minds.

Our emotions.

He came to set the captives free.

Where are we most held captive?

In our minds.

How can we ever be ready to help people get free from the ugly hatred of the world if we stay focused on “what Jesus has done for me? Those trapped don’t care what He has done for me. They need Him to help them, and they need us to stand in the gap while He sets them free.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17 (NASB)

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

One Size Fits… Um No

I confess– I have a tendency to be a serial unasked-for advice giver. I can’t help it. I know others can glean from my experience-gained wisdom. Right?

Except that’s never how it’s taken.

If I’m honest, it’s also not how I take it from others, either, even though I try to be polite and respectful.

The old cliche’ about judging a book by its cover fits here well. How often do we hear or read something someone says and opine that we know the solution to their problem? After all– it worked for us, so it will work 1000000% for all– right?

Well, no. It won’t.

Nothing about me or my life is ever a one-size-fits-all fit.

Even Scripture is not a one-size-fits-all life application. I mean– it is– but it applies in endless ways. Some Scripture is the same for everyone. Like John 3:16-17. And most Scripture will help us achieve the same outcome as others, but it applies individually and uniquely over every life it touches.

Because it’s the Living Word of God.

It’s not a one-size-fits-most bandaid or covering. It’s the healing/repair balm uniquely designed to fit our specific needs.

God’s Word is not reactionary to us, it’s designed for us to respond to it.

Unlike our random acts of unasked-for advice-giving.

I have so much more to learn about letting God love others through me.

His ways are so much better than mine.

Fighting An Invisible Enemy

girl-blowing-glitter

 

I have an invisible enemy. I’ve fought against it for as long as I can remember. This enemy does not fight fair. It hides in the shadows. I have exhausted myself many times throughout my lifetime trying to fight back, but it dodges every retaliatory jab.

My enemy catches me off-guard, though less often now. It strikes with the intention of crippling my efforts. It dismantles my credibility. Mocks my accomplishments, experience and concerns, rendering them invaluable– useless. It attempts to define me as “too emotional”, “uneducated”, “ridiculous” or “ignorant”. It laughs at me, or rolls its eyes with a sarcastic dismissal of my importance.

It steals my confidence– tries to steal my joy.

I’ve learned to stand back and just observe how this enemy attacks and come to recognize that part of its victory over me has been through the use of decoys. It’s as though I am blindfolded, and I think I know its location through a sound or a movement. But, when I attempt to retaliate, I punch through thin air, exhausting– even injuring– myself in the process.

It’s impossible to fight this enemy.

In an effort of self-protection, I surround myself with people who have proven their trustworthiness to me over time. People who value me and don’t laugh at my creativity, experience, or blow off my concerns. Sometimes those people disappoint me.

I have begun to realize, the best way to defeat this enemy is to guard myself during its assailment and then assess the damage.

The damage hardest to overcome or heal from is the friendly fire. I know my visible enemies will not care about or recognize the truth over their opinion of me, so their words no longer hurt me. But, those closest to me– their opinion becomes the fiery darts my enemy uses to go straight to my heart.

When I remember to hide in the shadow of God’s wings, the damage is minimal, often non-existent.  Psalm 63:7 reminds me: “For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy”. Hosea 14:7 encourages me that:  “Those who live in his shadow Will again raise grain, And they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon”.

Then I know, the only thing that ever matters is God. He sees all, knows all, and He’s with me every step of the way, guiding me with the light of His Word, working through me regardless of how useless or unimportant any person believes me to be.

God is my strength, and He helps me defeat the intentions of my invisible enemy, by praying and believing God’s Word– His promises. Every time.

The Spiritual Damage Of Anorexia

I’m a former anorexic and bulimic, reformed through Christ. This post has been a long time coming.

To look at me now you can’t tell I was near death at one point from practicing anorexia.

The Spiritual consequence is what I want to get into with this post. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about that before.

Fasting is an important part of our growing relationship with God. When we fast unto God, we deny our flesh to set aside our physical wants and needs temporarily to focus on seeking God. We fast to repent, seek God, grow in our faith and understanding, and to actively put Him completely first. The focus is God, not our body, not the avoidance of food.

Anorexia is a tool the devil uses to corrupt that. Fasting not only becomes an obsessive practice of focus on ourselves. Opportunities open for the demonic to gain footholds in our lives, choices, beliefs, vision, perspective and practices. The devil sells us the idea we can obtain perfection.

When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, God sees us as perfect because Christ is in us.

Through the practice of Anorexia, the devil causes deformity within our spirits and our understanding. The devil clouds our vision, and converts our perception to a distorted view and belief system– the belief that our body is the enemy we need to fight against.

The Bible is clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are transformed through the renewing of our minds, new creations through Christ Jesus.

Striving for perfection, we work hard for acceptance and approval of the world. But like a small kid in a game of Keep Away, or Monkey In The Middle, we never lay hold of it. The constant effort steals focus, energy, confidence– reality. The bar gets raised higher. It’s always just… out of…

Reach

God accepts and approves of us because of Jesus. We don’t have to prove our worth to Him because Jesus showed us how much He values us by dying on the cross, and rising up again. We are wanted, welcomed by God.

Jesus made it possible to have acceptance from our Creator. We can have a relationship with Perfection Himself, and He is working to make us the best version of ourselves– for His glory.

We have a choice: We can work really hard for a distorted version of perfection that’s never within reach. Or we can rest in God’s approval and meet Him in the changes He makes as He perfects us His way.

I have experienced both. I prefer God’s way.

Why My Defensiveness Is A Reflex Reaction For Me With Some

striped-tiger-2873x2748_94516

 

Last night, I had the most wonderful time having dinner, talking, then just listening to a dear friend. I learned so much about her, things I never would have guessed! It’s even easier to see why she is such a beautiful, loving, sincerely kind woman of God.

As is the usual case with me, it’s also hard to not also see that deep contrast between her life and my own.

Again I come face-to-face with why I have often felt a type of rejection from some I’ve hoped to get to know. I’m no Miss Congeniality or Miss Anything.

Often in my lifetime I’ve been left feeling as though I’m not worth people’s time. Some of that is cultural, sure. Some of it is personality-clash. I can be abrasive. I’ve even been described as a “bull in a China shop”.

There aren’t many “boxes” I allow myself to be put in. I tend to fail under heavy-handed expectations. I am as God designed me, also molded from my unique life experiences, which also at times have borne the weight of heavy-handed expectations.

I have learned that not everyone is alike, not everyone does things the same, or reacts to expectation the same way.

I probably will never meet any human’s expectation.

I can only try to meet God’s. And, I fail… All. The. Time.

One of the toughest things to put into practice is listening when it feels like you are not heard by others– that’s where my reaction of defensiveness tries to overtake me.

My life is full of many amazing, even some miraculous testimonies of God’s work.

It’s easy to focus on things that happened because God was not in the circumstances. It’s best to focus on contrasts caused by God’s healing, intervention, love, kindness, miracles and His Mercy.

While the contrast between our lives is somewhat vast, my friend and I have one very important thing that is similar– the knowledge of Who God Is in contrast to who we are and how amazing it is that He loves us.

Remember Me?

72084302455

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of people make a fuss to get gifts for loved ones during the Christmas season. For some, it’s just about checking people off of a list. For others, it’s about spending as little money and/or time as possible. For others, it’s about really looking for that “perfect” gift for each person.

My love language is giving and getting gifts, so I’m a “perfect gift” searcher. I fail if I don’t give something that has special thought and meaning behind it. Empty gifts just create clutter and are easily given away. One with thought and purpose involved also contains a portion of my heart and thoughts towards the recipient.

I am not one to just get “something, anything”.  That makes me sincerely uncomfortable.

This year I got some really nice gifts.

God gave us all the ultimate gift. He put so much thought and care into His gift to us. It’s the perfect way to be with Him eternally, if we will choose Him to be first in our lives. He gave all of His heart, all of His love, all of Himself to make a clear path for us all to join Him one day.

Our gift to God is allowing Him to be our help in everything and loving Him more than we love anyone or anything else. That’s what He wants.

Have we remembered God this Christmas season?

Being An Enabler Is Good

domestic_violence

Isaiah 57:14 “And it will be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.””

We’ve all heard the phrase and warning, “Don’t be an enabler“. I grew up thinking there is only one definition and only one way to enable: to allow, encourage or make excuses for the wrong or hurtful behavior of another. I became an expert in not fitting that definition. I also became an expert at knowing how to avoid being co-dependent.

Recently I’ve become aware that Merriam-Webster is changing definitions to words. No, not adding new definitions, but erasing/deleting/removing previous definitions, then adding new ones. “Tolerance” is one that has been redefined. I’m going to work hard to help change the mindset about this word “enabling”. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we completely throw out the definition society most often grabs hold of and speaks out against. I am saying, let’s get to the place where that becomes a secondary definition, and the word doesn’t cause such a negative reaction.

DSCF0990

I thought about how using a lawn mower enables us to take care of our lawn.

Recently my husband was asked to play the keys in a band performing that didn’t have someone available to play them. I reacted, rather than responding, with a groan. My husband has so many demands on his time. Often when it’s my turn, he’s so exhausted he’s falling asleep. Things have been busier for both of us, and I was looking forward to just having a day where nothing was scheduled that we could relax at home. Then, he explained the reason for the performance. It was an opportunity for the young lady singing to participate in an open air concert, with a possible opportunity to be able to open for a big named singer in the future. Wow. I didn’t want to stand in the way of that possibility! So, I stopped complaining and dreading his being busy with yet another thing, and I went with him in support. Meeting her and hearing her sing, I realized this was a super big deal. She is good, with a powerful message that made me cry while they were rehearsing.

So, that got me to thinking, and realizing: I’ve been short-changed. There is a whole other positive side to being an enabler, one I think the majority of us would love the chance to embrace. So, here are some ways to enable the people in your life:

1) Always speak to them with words that encourage and build up.

2) Address things that need to be changed or done better, in a positive way. Don’t just allow the negative to continue, but don’t criticize harshly or condemn.

3) Be available to support in the ways they need, not the ways you think they need.

4) If they mess up or fail, be there to support, build up and gently encourage them to not give up.

5) Support them and help them have a balanced attitude when they succeed.

 

To Know Me Is To ______ Me

1Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (NASB)

I have a jumble of thoughts built up. Hopefully I can get them all out and place them in good order.

I’m thinking about God’s continuous cycle of revealing and healing. He shows us something about ourselves or our past that we haven’t seen through His understanding, He illuminates it, then He begins the process of healing.

The thing about God’s way of healing: it’s not always our way. We don’t even understand that that’s what He is up to, sometimes.

A root biggie in my life is enveloped by the Scripture I shared. To be known. A branch off of that would be to be seen, and another branch would be to be heard. The fruit that I want to grow on this particular crop in my life is: to be valued.

This probably shapes pretty much every thought, action, and even inaction I do, all the time.

There are so many things we place value on concerning people. What they do (job, talent, skill), what they say, where they have been. We value degrees, titles, clothing, monetary worth, status, and career choices.

I think we often forget to place value on the most valuable part of a person: them.

When my husband and I discipline our children, we often remind them that it’s the dangerous, unacceptable, or just all around bad behavior we are wanting them to change and correct, not them as individuals. Their worth is not tied into behaving perfectly. No matter what, we will love them, they will always be our child, though their choice in behavior may disappoint and frustrate us. Their behavior does not define them.

God defines them. He began the definition of each one of us as He knit us in our mother’s womb.

There are roots in my history that have become tied to how I perceive being valued. My parents weren’t the sort to hold conversations with me, or listen to what I had to say. They were focused on their own lives for various reasons, and the very best thing I could ever do was try to just stay out of their way as much as possible.

There were times I ran away, and they didn’t even know I wasn’t there. There were times I ran away, and they did know I wasn’t there, but I never heard a conversation about how I might have been in danger, or how I had or would be missed. I heard about how it made things look, or how things weren’t so bad for me, or how next time they’d  put me in Juvie. I had no self worth, because I never saw my parents reflect that back to me. Except when I did something that reflected on them in a good way, like doing well at a concert. My worth became tied into playing my violin well.

I remember times when I shard things with my mom that seemed super important to me, things I didn’t have anyone else to share them with, and she would roll her eyes, sigh irritatedly, and tell me how stupid it was, or something to that effect. She still does that, and it still tries to affect my perception of my worth.

I feel like I was robbed of a healthy mom-daughter relationship. Because of that, I purposely go out of my way to tell my kids how important they are to me. I don’t ever want them to believe they are not valued just for who they are, because I know what that feels like. (Of course, a clean room would also give an added pleasant bonus…)

I think that’s why God carefully took me under the shelter of His wings when I was pretty young. I always remember His being there, going out of His way to give me something I needed to help me want to carry on. He made me aware of a deeper purpose that He has given to me, deeper than any person ever could. He reflected my own heart back to me when I was heart-broken at trying to help a friend who tried to commit suicide, then told me they never wanted to speak to me again. He fixed that, and He worked, and I didn’t have to lose that friend to suicide or hatred. He made Himself known to me before I knew myself at all. He showed Himself to be real. Nothing can ever convince me God is not real, because He simply IS. There is no unbelief that is more powerful than God’s reality. It doesn’t take much to find Him, either. One just has to sincerely want to know Him for themselves.

God is at work healing some pretty deep hurts in my life. After all the healing and work He has done, sometimes it’s tempting to want to ask Him, “Are You ever going to be finished in me?”

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I do know that answer: Yes. When Jesus returns.

Anyway, I got the jumble of thoughts out, and here I am at the end of this blog entry. You’ve now had a glimpse into my head, heart and life. I hope something good will come out of that for you.

Thanks for reading.

Being Falsely Accused

“‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deut 5:20 )

Don’t take hold of a misunderstanding, giving it no opportunity to be resolved or cleared up, and instead tell others about it as if it were the truth.

1-sad-girl-bad-love-relationship-quotes-photo-images-wallpaper-fanzwave-netMisunderstandings happen.  I have often hoped for grace from others when I have either misunderstood something, or I have been misunderstood.

But there is a pride in some that just won’t let them admit they have misunderstood something. That lack of communication that could most often keep friendships safe, marriages strong and family close in heart, often gets overlooked or disregarded.

That’s when anxiety pulls the strings with impulsive reactions, causes a spewing out of hurtful words that can’t be pulled back in under a controlled tongue. The mind plays tricks, creates scenarios that consume concentration. Reality is saturated with illusions and injections of a “read between the lines” offensiveness that often doesn’t even exist.

Negative, accusing thoughts are illuminated and become like darts of poison to a misunderstanding.

The wisdom of God‘s Word in Philippians 4:6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (NASB)  stands out like a beacon of light on the darkest of nights.

God’s Word heeded saves friendships during times of misunderstanding.

I grieve the loss of friendships torn away from me by confusion of circumstances, misreading of intentions, and not having open heart-to-heart conversations.

Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving: Let your requests be made known to God.

That seems so clear. Until I walk away from it, and my thoughts remind me of a perceived offense.

In light of God’s advice: maybe my own perception is affected and influenced by things outside of what really happened. Maybe what I see is tainted by my choice to instead meditate on the perception. Perhaps my prideful ego suckled on the bitterness of a false negative, while stirring up strife in my heart and in the hearts and lives of others.

Who wants to admit when they’ve made a mistake? Isn’t it easier to instead cover it up and share with others the perceived offense? Doesn’t the sweetness of revenge that drains the vitality of relationships grant a satisfaction, while turning people away from an innocent person that we project false guilt on to? To drag a reputation through the mud to elevate a temporary false victimization, that’s vindication, right? Isn’t that fair?

Enough of that. When it becomes the destroyer of reputations it is unfair and wrong. It’s actually a form of bullying.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)

What are God’s thoughts towards us?  Even though every one of us have sinned against God and fallen short, this says His thoughts are …”of peace and not evil, to give you (us) a future and a hope.”

What about thoughts towards those who we perceive to have sinned against us? Are they of peace?

We need to get this right. God will hold us accountable for our words and our actions. No matter how justified we believe we are.

The Power of Life and Death

When things are changing, like life constantly seems to do, and tense moments take over our reactions and thoughts, our tongue can be our worst enemy. The phrase from Scripture in Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit”, has been echoing through my thoughts all day.

It’s honestly a pretty rare thing for my husband and I to fight, I mean really fight. We snap on occasion, we argue, we disagree, but for the most part we don’t really fight. So, this past weekend while we are both going through so much in our own emotions about this whole stressful moving process, well, we got into an argument, and then a full on fight. And I realized: fighting with my best friend really just sucks.

I have been aware for sometime of the necessity to build others up because the world is constantly tearing us all down. And, sadly, it’s not just the “world”. It’s those closest to us who know our vulnerabilities, and in that heated moment of arguing, swoop down and sink their words into the jugular of our trust in them.  Seriously. Who doesn’t get into an argument and fight with every motivation of doing or saying everything possible to “win”?

It’s hard to rise above our tempers. It’s hard to forgive so things don’t build up.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “”In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” Anyone who knows me, knows that when there is a conflict, I try to talk things out both as soon as possible, and as thoroughly as possible. And, those who value me and any sort of relationship with me, they talk with me and pray with me. Because we cannot live at peace with someone when we are hurt or angry, and I sincerely do my very best to not ever let the sun go down on my anger, because then the sinning comes in the form of mean thoughts, hardness of heart towards the person things are unresolved with, all sorts of things. My mind and emotions become the Devil’s playground, and I don’t want the Devil anywhere near my thoughts or emotions.

I have lived and learned: no good comes from harboring anger or not acknowledging it. It leads to the death of relationships. It leads to the death of dreams. It leads to the death of being effective for Christ in our everyday lives.

There is no “winning” when there is death because of what we say and/or how we say it.

My daughter’s youth Pastor had her group do an activity where they hammered a nail through a piece of wood. Then he talked about how that wood was damaged. Sure the nail could be removed, but there would still be a hole. Then he told them that’s what our words can do. You can say something , and even apologize, but it still makes a “hole”. You cannot take back your words.

That’s definitely some “food for thought”.