Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Two Reasons to be a Forgiving Person

release butterfliesToday I am writing about a loved one. Before we get started, don’t try to guess who it is. And if you are reading this, don’t assume it is you. The truth is this dear one is no longer alive, so it’s highly unlikely he or she will be paying attention to my blog. The sweet wonderful lady (now I’ve gone and given a little of it away) had a lovely heart and endeared many people to her. But she had a very scary habit of holding grudges. If someone offended her, especially the people closest to her, she would cut off all communication. She refused to forgive and she refused to try to work things out. If you hurt her, you were stonewalled, sometimes for life. It was hard for me to understand how someone so gracious, generous, and kind could also be so hard and unforgiving.

Today I am also writing about a subject that affects us all. Forgiveness. It’s human nature to hold grudges. It’s an instinct to protect and preserve ourselves from further harm. Isn’t it fascinating that we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our own motives and intentions? However, when someone else does the same thing to us, we react with doubt and suspicion. The Lord, in his perfect wisdom, knows that relationships are messy and he asks us to forgive.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).

The Lord, in his perfect wisdom, also has our best interests in mind. Here are two of many reasons we should pursue forgiveness, even when it is difficul

It is healing for us.

Unforgiveness is like pouring poison into a cup and then drinking it yourself, hoping to get back at the person who hurt you. Does this analogy sounds ridiculous to you? It does to me. However, it is what happens when we refuse to forgive. We get stuck in the past. Bitterness takes root and makes us toxic. However, when we forgive, we open the door to God’s forgiveness in our own lives. We realize we ourselves deserve no forgiveness, but the Lord extends his grace to us liberally. When we extend the Lord’s gracious forgiveness to those that have harmed us, we loosen the chains that grip our souls.

We take the high road of hope.

When we refuse to forgive, we pass a condemning sentence. In our minds, the offenders will never change and the damage they created can never be undone. That can be the case apart from the intervention of the Lord. But, take a moment and think of your own past. Has the Lord delivered you from bad habits or unhealthy ways of relating? Are you the same person as you were five, ten, or twenty years ago? God has been patient and views you through the lens of who he created you to be. He sees you with the lens of possibility and potential, that transformation he has planned. Don’t take the low road of judgment. Take the high road of hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. Hope for a change of heart. Hope for a change of lifestyle. Hope for a change in perception.

A word of caution…forgiveness does not mean subjecting yourself to on-going abuse. Yes, God can do great things in the heart of the offender, but you aren’t required to be close friends. Sincerely wish them well, and continue to pray for their transformation. Take the high road of hope and freedom.

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matt. 18:21-22).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and forgiving. In the midst of painful and difficult relationships, help me to walk in forgiveness. Remind me that you have poured out abundant grace on me, and empower me to extend grace on my offenders. Give me the assurance that You protect my heart and keep me safe from harm. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

One Way to Change Your Perspective

book and light

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. One of the downsides of being emotionally sensitive is that I am prone to depression and thinking negatively. I have come a long way since childhood. As a kid, there were times I felt intense hatred toward myself. I would beat myself verbally with harmful words, and even physically on occasion. When I became a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit began to transform the way I thought about myself. As I learned what God’s Word said about me as His dearly loved child, I began to speak those truths as personal affirmations. Slowly my self-talk and self-treatment became more positive, reflecting the affirmations I began to believe.

Today, affirming what God says about me is an important part of changing my perspective and thriving in the midst of challenging circumstances. Like every person, I am more susceptible to destructive thoughts and emotions when I am tired or hormonal (the joys of womanhood) or haven’t taken time to care properly for myself. If I am not aware, I can easily spiral into a deep pit where hopelessness resides. There I imagine every part of life falling apart, with me left alone unable to pick up the pieces. As soon as I realize what’s going, I start using affirmations.

Affirmations centered on God’s Word are powerful, because they change my perspective.

When I feel like I am too weak to accomplish what the Lord has called me to do…

  • I affirm that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  • I affirm that His grace is all I need, because His power works best in weakness. He is my strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • I affirm that I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me (Colossians 1:29).

When I doubt that my life has meaning and purpose…

  • I affirm that God has a purpose for me and He is fulfilling it in me (Psalm 57:2).
  • I affirm that every day of my life matters. God’s thoughts about me are precious (Psalm 139:16-17).
  • I affirm that I am His masterpiece, created anew in Christ, so that I can do the good things he planned for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

When I feel unloved and alone…

  • I affirm that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).
  • I affirm that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:38).
  • I affirm that God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Affirmations can address any area of struggle. They are personalized statements in present time based on God’s Word, declared out loud. Affirmations are powerful, but they aren’t magic. It isn’t enough to mindlessly recite an affirmation over and over again. Affirmations must be believed and then acted upon. They certainly do not take the place of hard work. However, when believed they will change your perspective of yourself and your world, making healing and growth possible.

I encourage you to identify an area in your life where healing or growth is needed. Find Scripture that relates to that area. Make it personal and declare it when you find yourself thinking or feeling otherwise. Trust the Holy Spirit to transform the way you think and help you thrive.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the work of Your Spirit in my life. You see where I am, the places I get stuck, the places where I am broken. Help me to believe Your Word and declare Your Word as truth about me. Take the affirmations I make, and change the way I think. May I develop a positive perspective about myself and my situations, knowing there is always hope. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

The Healing Journey

I recently came across this blog post that I wrote three years ago. It was before I started working through my childhood trauma and now my family’s current traumatic event. Interestingly though, it applies just as much now as it did then…

new life through Christ

God has called us to participate in His journey of healing. We may be sick in body, or we may need to be transformed from unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. Regardless of the type and degree, God longs to show Himself as our healing God, the One who restores us to walk in His health. We all want healing to happen quickly, even miraculously. Right now would be perfect, thank you very much! While healing–spiritual, physical, and emotional–does occur miraculously at times, it is usually a process, a journey. This journey is full of the riches of discovery with plenty of opportunities to trust and become more like Jesus.

The healing process hits close to home right now, as I had my gall bladder removed one week ago. Even in the midst of a straight forward, easy recovery, I am aware of my restlessness with the healing process. I don’t like feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable. However, I am also aware of God’s still small voice encouraging me with gentle and loving instruction.

He has been reminding me…

God’s time table for me is unique. I can get easily discouraged when I look at the progress of others. At least a dozen people have shared their gall bladder removal stories with me. Their accounts–easy, in and out procedure, up and around in no time. One friend had surgery on Thursday and was back to work on Monday. I am definitely not on her time table! God has His own plan in motion.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
Psalm 139:13-14,16 NLT

I trust God’s good plans along with His timing. My process may not look like everyone else, but it doesn’t have to. This is a journey God intentionally designed for me.

Patience with the process is necessary. A part of me prefers the idea of quick fixes and immediate solutions. Another part of me realizes how superficial that is. To be honest, we all experience the consequences of decisions made over a long period of time. Why do we expect to step out of it immediately? I find it interesting that even though we are instantly forgiven and become new creations when we trust Jesus Christ as Savior, we are still called to engage in the transformation process.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

Changing the way you think and learning to know God’s will are not one time occurrences. Rather, they are on-going, active practices that contribute to growth over time. My part is to abide with Jesus, access the power He provides, and let God do the transforming in me. When I realize that God is the One at work, that it’s not all on my shoulders, I am able to rest and approach the process with patience.

God gives me the strength I need for the journey.  I confess…
There are days I feel like I don’t have enough energy to get out of bed.
There are days I feel like I have no encouraging, faith-filled words for others.
There are days I feel like life is unraveling at the seams and I simply cannot fix it.
I am weak.

Thankfully the Holy Spirit never allows me to wallow in this mess of feelings for very long!
Yes, I am weak, but my Jesus is strong. In fact, I have His promise that His power works best in weakness. Jesus offers me His grace, and it is the strength I need for the journey (2 Corinthians 12).

And just in case, this passage in 2 Corinthians 12 isn’t inspiring enough…

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

God has given everything I need for the journey He has set before me!

Whatever healing journey we are currently on, our loving heavenly Father has made all the provisions for our success. Will we trust Him to transform us through the process?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I come before You and acknowledge my need of You. Thank You for giving me new life through Jesus Christ. Thank You for providing me with all I need for becoming more like Jesus. Help me to trust You during this healing journey. Help me to be patient with the process. Help me to rely on Your strength in times of weakness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith

Living By Grace

grace

What was your life like when you surrendered to Jesus?

What would your life be like today if you had not trusted Him as Savior?

My husband posed these questions at church during a Sunday morning gathering.

I remembered my pain and desperation as a young teenage girl looking for unconditional love and meaning in life, and coming up empty. When I heard the message of Jesus, I opened my heart to Him, and was radically changed.

Then I imagined myself without Jesus. A woman who never found purpose and hope. A life marked by substance abuse, addiction, ravaged family relationships. Emptiness, despair, depression, attempted suicide, death.

These mental pictures remind me that I still desperately need Jesus, thirty-five years into this journey with Him.

I am an ordained ministered, and I direct a non-profit, Christ ministry. I have thirty years experience of mastering the ministry lifestyle, with the appropriate godly exterior and accompanying conversations. My struggles do not involve blatantly sinful behavior. I am not usually tempted to return to old habits or to leave my husband. Every so often though, pride subtly wraps itself around my soul, a silent weed slowly choking out spiritual life. I feel content by my condition, cloaked with smugness as I entertain the lie that, while not perfect, I have arrived. Apathy takes control until I can no longer ignore the nagging, gnawing dissatisfaction.

God, in His grace, reminds me of the truth. I realize that I stand today only because I am saved by grace, transformed by grace, and I live by grace. Christ in me makes me who I am and ignites my spiritual passion. Left to the devices of my old, sinful nature I am truly lost, selfish, without hope. Underneath my carefully decorated veneer, without Jesus I am a broken mess.

Thankfully I am not left alone. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in me, my new Christ-like self is in control. I am a child of God. I no longer live as a sinner. But I will always be a woman in need of my Savior. I will never arrive. I will always be in need of His grace.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless (Galatians 2:20-21a, NLT).
I simply cannot go through the so-called Christian motions. I cannot rely on my own human efforts to become transformed and live a God-honoring life. It is not enough to complete my checklist for Bible reading, prayer, fasting, giving, serving, and other important practices. These things are an extension of my love relationship with Jesus, an expression of His grace. I am absolutely dependent on walking closely with Jesus, abiding in His life-giving presence, being constantly aware that He lives in me.

Every moment Jesus extends His grace. Every moment I must live by His grace.

My life is demanding. There are times when being a leader feels overwhelming. The truth is I do not have what it takes to accomplish what God is asking of me. But He always does. Thriving happens when I stop striving and instead trust and rest in Him.

In the words of Ida Lewis, a courageous woman in the 1800s who spent her life as a lighthouse attendant and rescued dozens of people from the sea, “I am not that strong , but God  gives me the strength as I need it.”

Truly, there’s no greatness in what you see in me or in the things that I may achieve. Through it all, see the grace of Jesus. Amazing grace.

The Lord extends an invitation to you to live by grace. Will you accept it?

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I depend on You, but sometimes an independent spirit gets a hold of me. Open my eyes to see my need of You in every area of my life. Teach me to rely completely on You and Your grace. May I live and move and breathe by Your grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Personal Development

First Steps To Successful Change

Image result for steps of change

He was drunk. He had called me, asking for prayer. His words of confession flowed as freely as the alcohol he had consumed. “I have a drinking problem. I’ve made so many mistakes and hurt so many people. I really want to change.”

I assured him that Jesus was in the life-changing business. Jesus loved him and was there to walk with him to complete freedom.

After I prayed, he thanked me and said he would see me at church next Sunday. He was true to his word. He came to worship service, sober and smiling. He was excited about the good things that were ahead. He was ready to change. That was the last time I saw or heard from him. Many years have passed, but I still wonder about him. To me he is a reminder that change is difficult. Change requires more than wishful thinking.

You may not battle with addiction; however, the need to change is something we all face. Our eyes are opened to where we are, and we long for something different.

It may be our eating and exercise habits.

Or the way we manage money.

Perhaps we have a short temper and lash out at others.

Or maybe our negative attitudes sabotage our progress and relationships.

Like the gentleman in this story, we feel inspired and start off strong. Our intentions are good, even great. Unfortunately our old habits have a way of following and eventually overtake us. Without an understanding of what is required to change, our change efforts will run out of steam.

The 12 Step Program developed by Alcohols Anonymous, and used by other addiction support groups, offers guidelines for lasting change that can extend to any area of our lives.

Step One states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Again, we may not relate to substance abuse as our issue. Substitute your own area of struggle for the word “alcohol.” My word would be “chronic depression.” Whatever we face, we will not change until we recognize that we are powerless. It won’t be enough to exert our own willpower. Left to our own devices, we will not improve. This realization can be discouraging until we experience the next two steps as well.

Step Two: We “believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step Three: We “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…”

For the Christian, our higher power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is He that will restore us, if we turn our will and our lives over to Him. We surrender to the Lord, admitting our weakness to conquer our bad habits and responses. Before we experience God’s strength, we must come to terms with our weakness.

The second part of Step One is that we admit that life in the present state is unmanageable.  Until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, we will continue on our current course. The pain we know is safer than the unknown, and will keep us rooted to where we are.

Once we start moving forward into healthy choices, we must remember the pain from where we came, and remember it often. Otherwise we end up being like the Israelites who were miraculously delivered from slavery and in a few short days began complaining about the good life they had left behind in Egypt.

The addict begins to romanticize the effects of the substance of choice and forgets that destruction is the price tag. The person given to anger begins to justify his behavior and blames others, overlooking that relationships are being damaged. Speaking from experience, the one struggling with depression stops examining the deeper issues that brought her there when her mood temporarily lifts.

The other nine steps are also helpful in establishing a new way of life. However, these first three steps, when practiced continually, provide the foundation needed for successful, lasting change. Admitting our weakness and then surrendering to the Lord—moment by moment—are key to moving in a positive direction.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You that a transformed life is found in You. Please take my life and make it what You desire it to be. I surrender my (mention the area needing change) to You. I admit I am powerless to change. I turn my will over to You. Have Your way in me, and empower me to move forward. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

How to Stop Worry In Its Track

My husband was late. Thirty minutes had passed since his typical arrival, and I hadn’t heard a word from him. His cell phone went straight to voice mail and he hadn’t responded to my texts. I tried to busy myself and not worry about him. My hands were active, but my mind was racing with possible tragic scenarios.

Perhaps he was in an accident.
Or maybe he had a heart attack and nobody was around.
Or he was involved with a younger woman.
Or he had been mugged and shot.

I settled on the health issue and dismissed the other situations. Before my husband walked through the door, I had imagined myself as a widow with no place to live and no place to go. When he arrived, he was greeted by an emotional wreck. I had allowed worry to run roughshod through my mind and it had taken control.

Worry—(noun) the act of tormenting oneself with or suffering from disturbing thoughts.

Worry starts out subtly and, if left unchecked, can grow into enormous proportions. There is nothing about worry that is positive. It is problem oriented, focuses on the negative, presumes worse case scenarios, and is without hope. The root of worry is a lack of trust in God and His goodness, or what He has promised in His Word.

Some people seem to think that worry simply can’t be helped. “It’s a normal part of life and everyone does it.” Contrary to the opinion of these habitual worriers, we can ward off worry. It does not have to rob us of peace and health. We can thrive, even as we face difficult situations.

The following are steps that I recommend to stop worry in its tracks.

Be aware of your worries. Before you can stop worry, you need to recognize when you are worrying. Some people wear a rubber band on their wrist and snap it every time they realize they are entertaining anxious thoughts. Some people make tally marks in a journal or electronic device. It may surprise you how often you worry. In addition, take note of the things you worry about. What are the areas that cause the greatest amount of worry?

Turn worries into prayers. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” As soon as you recognize that you are worrying, refocus your attention on the Lord.

Declare Scripture over your problems. God’s Word is powerful and transforms our thinking. Find promises that address your situation and speak them out loud when worry rears its ugly head. Choose to believe what the Lord says rather than entertaining worry.

Learn to relax. Prolonged worrying can have significant effect on health. It impairs the immune system and can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and more. Practice deep breathing techniques and meditate on God’s Word to relieve tension. Find activities that help you unwind.

Don’t allow worry to steal from you. By retraining your thought patterns, you can turn your concerns over to the Lord before they grow into worry and anxiety.

In what areas of your life are you prone to worry? What steps can you take today to stop worry in its tracks and walk in God’s peace and calm assurance?

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me. Teach me to cast all my anxieties on You because You care for me. Help me to trust You in all things, to be still and know that You are God. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Lent–Making Time for More of Jesus

Last Wednesday was the start of the Lenten season. Whether or not you observe the Liturgical Calendar, Lent can be a powerful time of reviving our faith.

I wasn’t raised going to church. From the time I trusted Christ as Savior and Lord in my teen years, my involvement has been with Evangelical-Pentecostal churches. Several years ago, I discovered that I connect deeply with liturgical worship. I enjoy praying with The Book of Common Prayer. I observe Advent and Lent, and introduced them to my congregation.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” That seems to be the question of the day. The focus is on sacrifice. Others focus on adding an element of service or giving. For me, Lent is a season to intentionally make time for more of Jesus. Sometimes it does involve a sacrifice, like fasting a favorite food or activity. This year it involves opening my schedule in order to read one chapter a day of an inspirational book, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me through the pages. Whether sacrifice or adding, the goal is the same though—making time for more of Jesus.

We bring who we are, with our strengths and weaknesses, to what we do and how we lead. I cannot separate who I am from my leadership ability. The way to grow as a leader is to grow as a person. The way to grow as a person is to become more like Jesus.

Consider this profound relationship with our God!

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19 MSG).

We become more like Jesus as we live full lives, full in the fullness of God through Jesus Christ.

Here is my exhortation: Whether or not you observe Lent, make time for more of Jesus. Make a plan to create more room for Him this season. When you do, I’d love to hear from you.