Monthly Archives: April 2015

FIGHTING FAIR

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Couples who say they have lived together for 50 years and never had a disagreement are either lying or fooling themselves. The only other option is that one of them is not thinking or sharing their thoughts with their spouse. So let’s get real. Couples get married thinking they have everything in common only to wake up and find that they are total opposites. God intended that a wife complete her husband and vice versa. That definition means she is everything he isn’t, thinks in ways he doesn’t. This is a good thing. As the old saying goes: ‘Two heads are better than one even if one is a cabbage head.” In order to navigate the obstacles life throws at a couple/family, it’s almost imperative that both partners be able to think and articulate their perspectives and solution ideas. As long as both partners see the same path forward, things move along smoothly. But let’s just say that is not always the way this marriage thing works for most of us.  WHY?

1.  We come from different backgrounds, maybe even different parts of the country/world.

2.  Our family dynamics were different which means our expectations and indeed parenting styles will differ.

3.  Our education backgrounds may vary.

4.  Our ages may involve a “gap.”

5.  We process information differently.

6.  Our communication styles differ.

7.  Face it. . .one of us is from Venus and the other is from Mars.

 

So what do couples do when they find they are on opposite ends of a spectrum?

1. Take a time out. HALT–first check point–is either party Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If so, postpone the discussion until these things are remedied.

2. Embrace the conflict. It’s a good thing that together you are able to view all sides of an issue.

3. Set a time and place to talk–after the kids are in bed, at a private restaurant, etc.

3. Prepare your case. I can assure you there are merits to each side. Consider you are a CEO and President of your family and take time to prepare your case for your family’s advancement. It’s time to think logically, not emotionally.

4. Listen respectfully to your mate’s perspective. Be curious. Ask questions.

5. List advantages and disadvantages of both sides. Find points of agreement.

6. PRAY TOGETHER

7. Look for options. Make concessions. Make a joint decision. If none can be reached at this point, the wife should let her husband lead–he has heard her case. God will hold him accountable and bless his leadership when you are supporting him.

 

But what happens when things just break down? You’ve forgotten the rules and emotions take over. Maybe one party has hurt the other party and the issue isn’t about making a decision, it’s about an open wound. Now what? There are still rules of fair play. You can ask forgiveness for your words but you can’t erase them, so choose them wisely during these times. It’s still best to HALT.

1. Never. . . EVER. . . NEVER call each other a name or label each other. This destroys the soul of your mate. The disagreement may blow over but harsh words go deep into the heart and no excavation will bring them back out. Just don’t do it. NOTHING is worth it.

2. Be specific. Avoid words like ‘always’ and ‘never.’

3. Talk softly. Have a whispering contest.

4. Keep the discussion about the issue, not each other. And stick to the issue at hand–don’t use a bait and switch tactic.

5. Express your feelings.  “I feel ________when you ________ because_________.” Do not use the word ‘angry’ as your feeling of choice.

6. Never ridicule the other person’s feelings or thoughts. NEVER put the other person, their ideas or feelings, down just because you don’t agree with them or cannot see their viewpoint.

7. Be the first to say you are sorry.

 

When my husband and I got married we set some ground rules.

1.  We would never go to bed angry. We’ve sat up really late a lot of nights until one or the other of us decided it wasn’t worth losing sleep over.

2.  When one of us makes a concession to the other, the ‘winner’ must buy the other one a gift of appreciation.

3. Touch gently. We would hold hands when we have a serious issue to discuss. Our favorite way was to call a tribal meeting and sit facing each other cross-legged as we held hands. In other words, we gave up our defensive position and came to the meeting with love.

4. Keep it private. Don’t discuss our disagreements with others.

6. Always honor each another publicly.

7. No violence of any kind permitted.

 

Have we always kept the rules? No, but we took them seriously so we remind each other of them from time to time. And since we know them and agreed to them, we have tools to help keep us on track and to get us back on track. God teaches us how to make this marriage thing work with two words.

Gals, your word is HONOR. Figure out all the ways that you can show this word to your husband–determine you are going to be the best ever at this.

Guys, your word is LOVE–God says as much love as you would lavish on yourself. Go before God and understand how to love. Even when those Christ came to save rejected Him, He forgave and chose to die for them/us. This is the model you were given for the depths of your  love. Your wife expects you to demonstrate it by laying down your way for her good from time to time.

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How Do I Forgive Myself?

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I teach a class on forgiveness to men transitioning from a recovery program for the homeless. These men are broken: emotionally, spiritually, financially and relationally. Their addiction(s) have taken them down until they are each a human Humpty Dumpty–lots of broken pieces. Having worked with over 350 men, I can tell you that the stories may be different, but the issues are all the same. They have been wounded deep within their souls and the only option they see for handling their hurt is self-medicating. The rest is just a matter of their drug of choice. Solution: heal the wounds, give them tools to help them guard their hearts so they have other options for dealing with misunderstandings and hurts, and empower them to live again. As we work through the class, the emotional changes happening on the inside begin to be mirrored in their facial expressions and demeanor. Many who could not look at me as they introduced themselves begin to seek my face asking the hard questions that have burdened their souls. Invariably we get to the hardest question of all:  How do I forgive myself?

The Ten Commandments are boiled down into two main commandments:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, might and soul–with your whole being; and love your neighbor as yourself. And if you boil these two things down to their purest form, it is all about LOVE! So we drill down until we find the source–when did they violate God’s commandment to love?

First step, make amends as best you can to those you have wronged. But no matter how we wrong our fellow man, the root issue is that we have disobeyed God; we have wronged him for each of our brethren are His children, created and loved by Him. He wants us to love one another. And until we receive His forgiveness, we can never be clean.

I John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.

Step 1. Acknowledge your sin to God

Step 2. Ask His forgiveness

Step 3. Believe Him when He says He will forgive. . .He is faithful and just

Step 4. Let Him cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness.

I love to take a shower after working out in the yard. I’m dirty and sweaty and tired. And if you looked, you’d see I’ve managed to grind dirt under my nails and into my pores. I need a bath. . .not just any bath, but a real cleansing. That’s the way we must come to God and let the washing of the Word cleanse us of our sin and unrighteousness.  He’s going to want to get out the loofa and deal with the callouses. No doubt he’ll need the nail brush to get all that dirt out. But you can bet when God gives you a cleansing, it’s going to be a good one. The best part of this whole shower thing is that I come out smelling good–not of perfume particularly, but of soap, of cleansing–I smell clean. I can close my eyes and breathe in clean. This is what God wants for us. He wants us to come to Him with the dirt we’ve picked up along the way and lay it at the foot of the cross. His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. I like to picture myself kneeling before Him as I confess my sins and feel His cleansing blood drip from His side as it covers my sin. Then I let the Word remind me of His love for me even though I was a sinner, He died for me. And I let it heal me and cleanse me. Sometimes this process can take a few minutes, sometimes it may take years. But when His cleansing is complete, I breathe in the sweet smell of purity–clean made possible by His sacrifice, by the cross. Forgiven, cleansed.

As I tell the guys, it’s not about us forgiving ourselves. We are made out of dirt–what could we have possibly expected from vessels of clay? It’s about receiving His forgiveness and cleansing. Praise God, He stands ready to cleanse us and sanctify us (set us apart) for His use. In fact, God specializes in using broken and empty vessels. So take your guilt and shame to the cross and receive forgiveness and cleansing. Praise God He says He removes our sins as far as the East is from the West. If He had said from the North to the South, those are distinct points on the globe and we all know He would be able to find them again. But no matter where He turns, He can never reach the East or the West. . .they keep moving as one turns. God has given us an analogy that demonstrates He has moved our sin out of His sight never to be remembered against us again. It’s time we give our sin, guilt and shame to Him and let Him remove it from us. If He can forgive us; we can forgive ourselves. Our sin will be remembered against us no more. And remember, God doesn’t condemn (John 3:17) so if you have thoughts of self condemnation, they are coming from the deceiver. Rebuke him…remind him that the Word says you are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. . . and he will flee from you.

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That Ole Devil is a Sly Old Fox

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I hate being tricked. It makes me feel foolish and usually there is some type of pain or loss involved. Satan is just full of tricks. From our first introduction to him in the garden (Genesis 3), we see him displaying sly tricks that have continued to be effective through the centuries. So let’s focus on them and see if we can begin to spot him at work in our lives. Victory comes when we begin to defeat the enemies of our life. These can be enemies in our relationships, our health, our mind, the usage of our time, our conversations. . . . lots of room for Satan to wield his weapons against us. Oh, he is roaring and wants to devour us.

First, of all, he disguised himself as something good. How do I know this? No woman would be near a snake if he presented himself to her as a talking serpent. Let’s just say he must have looked a whole lot better than any snake I’ve ever seen. I can’t tell you if snakes talk or not because I have no first hand experience with this because I’m not hanging around long enough to find out. So moving past my hatred of snakes. . .he at least presented himself as intelligent, able to discuss issues and reason with Eve. And he presumed to know more than God.

1.  He questioned God’s Word–placed doubt as to what God had said.

2.  He denied God’s Word.

3. He appealed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–the hooks that took Even down.

4. He is the author of confusion. I Corinthians 14:33 tells us God doesn’t write confusion into our life’s story. . .guess who does. Eve was so confused she thought God said not to even touch the fruit.

5. He’s an exchange artist–He gets to you exchange the truth of God’s Word for a lie. She exchanged God’s truth that death would be the end result for Satan’s lie that she would just know more than God.

6. He rationalized sin and the penalty for it.

7. Appealed to her sense of rights.

8. He is a condemner. God says that when we confess our sins He removes them as far as the East is from the West. So if God isn’t looking at out sins and failures and bringing them back up to us, guess who is? You can bet he is the one that showed up and told Adam and Eve they were naked.

 

In researching tricks of Satan, I found a website (http://www.roadtobetterliving.com/HTML/SatansTactics5Tools.html) that listed Satan’s tricks as D-words which I thought worked well for remembering the tricks of that ole DEVIL.

Deception: Satan’s most successful tool.  He wields this tool with devastating results.

Doubt: Makes you question God’s word and his goodness.

Discouragement: Makes you look at your problems rather than God.

Diversion: Makes the wrong things seem attractive so you want them more than the right things.

Defeat: Makes you feel like a failure so you don’t even try.

Delay: Makes you put off something so it never gets started or completed.  

 

Bottom line, he is out to trick you. He wants to devour you. Now if you are a child of God, He cannot pluck you out of God’s hand, but he wants to rob you of all the riches God has laid up for you. He waits until you are at your weakest point (e.g., He approached Jesus right after a time of fasting in the wilderness). He knows when to come after you and he has a big bag of tricks. But if you have an enemy, it is worth your time to get to know him. That way when you are vulnerable and don’t know what is coming at you, you can call a time out, compare what is happening to the tricks you know of the Deceiver, and back him up. The Lord says if we resist him, he’ll flee from us. So put on your whole amour, be wise, take notes on your enemy and stand strong in your faith. Tell that ole devil to just move on down the road–you are going to stand on the Word of God.

 

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TIME TO WATER

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Ecclesiastes speaks of a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . .a complete crop cycle. But in between the planting and the plucking up, there’s work to be done. There’s soil to til, watering and fertilizing, weed pulling and waiting. . .oh, and the joy of the harvest; eating the fruit of your labors. I personally am all in for the planting and harvesting parts of this cycle. I can even endure a little tilling, watering and fertilizing. But I do not like weed pulling. And most of all, I hate to wait. Why is it we put the seeds or young plants in the ground in April/May and don’t get a tomato or a bell pepper for months? Nonetheless, we scurry out to the garden every day just to see if a shoot has come up. We check under leaves to see if a small vegetable is forming. We watch it carefully til it is of full size.

Relationships are a lot like that. We plant and then wait for it to grow. That’s why some of our oldest friendships are the most dear to us; they’ve stood the test of time. We’ve watered and fertilized and waited as it turned into something very sweet. Unfortunately, we also invest in relationships that sometimes never grow or they are plucked up and taken away by a job relocation or family move. Often responsibilities or the desires of their hearts lead them in other directions. Sometimes we can accept these shifts with some sense that it is right and cherish the time we had together and the fact that God allowed them to enter our life. Yet at other times it seems we hurt because selfishness, greed, a critical spirit, lust for money, misunderstandings, etc. are the root of our relationship loss. The dreams you had for the relationship disappear into thin air and you are left wondering if you should have used more fertilizer, watered morning and night, etc.–what did you do? What can you do? And so you wait, taking the relationship before the God, the redeemer of your relationships–the God of peace. Your prayers for the relationship are watered with tears. And you wait–the hardest part (but the most important part) for God must change hearts. Sometimes its your heart that needs a change; sometimes it is theirs. Most likely change is needed in each heart. Heart changes are God’s work. Wait on Him.

So what is your work? In John 6, Jesus fed the multitude and then admonished the disciples that they sought him, not for the miracles that He did but because they were fed–they were interested in the material things. He admonishes them that their labor should not be for temporary things but for that which endures for eternity. The disciples regrouped and and asked Him what they might do to do the works of God. John 6:29 (AMP): “Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger).”  It’s just like our gardens. We do what we can, but He is the one that brings forth the fruit. He will do the work needed in hearts. Your work is faith. Wait I say on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

Solomon goes on to say in verse ten: “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.”  In other words, our trials are given to us by God to be exercised. These experiences make us wiser, stronger, more grateful for the true relationships in our life. Most of all they point us to God, our true friend. He never changes. His love is unmeasurable. He will never leave nor forsake us. He never condemns. We are always welcomed by Him. And day by day, experience by experience, He teaches us how to be a true friend.

What relationships in your garden need tending today? Watch and pray. Wait on the Lord. He is faithful and true and our Redeemer. May your crop be bountiful.

 

A Time to Plant!

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I love spring with the bright colors of green and blooming trees. But with it comes some work. There’s grass to be dealt with lest you have dandelions, bushes and roses to trim (and all those trimmings to burn/haul off), beds to clean out, mulch to spread and pots to be filled.

Last year we added a new element to our yard–a raised garden. We had so much fun planting all kinds of things. We considered it a learning year for us–what would grow, what wouldn’t. It was a lot of fun and we certainly enjoyed the reward of our labors in so many way. But here we are at spring again and there are decisions to make–what will we plant. It’s time to plant just as Ecclesiastes declares.

We often think of New Year’s as a time for resolutions. Maybe spring is our time to plant something new in the garden of our hearts. Here’s some ideas:

1. Memorize a verse (or chapter).

2. Get involved in a volunteer activity

3. Create a family service; e.g., taking something (a song, bookmarks, flowers, cookies, ink pens) to the local nursing home.

4. Read a good Christian book.

5. Set aside time to pray for your family, friends and church. . .maybe even for your company, boss and coworkers

6. Take a walk in the country with the dog.

7. Spend some time at the ocean reflecting on the majesty of God.

8. Play a game with the family.

9. Take a day trip — make some memories.

10.  Start a journal of the things you are grateful for

Plant a little  joy in your life. You’ll be glad you did!

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My Time to _________.

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and time to die; a time to plant, and time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

My girlfriend related a story of a time many years ago when her feelings had been hurt. Normally she was very active in her church and S. S. class. But she had been going through some new territory physically which had caused her to step back. She now knows those were the early days of her fibromyalgia. The changes in her health had sidelined her and she was fearful of what was going on–did she have cancer? What was going on inside her? She had no strength to do even the basic routines of life–and she was in pain. An acquaintance said, “You never do anything.” It cut her to the core (as it would have me). Now the gal probably didn’t mean it in the way it came out of her mouth, and no doubt she could not see the physical struggles my friend faced. But nonetheless, her pronouncement felt like an indictment, a sentence that described my friend as worthless. I could feel her pain. I’m a born doer. But lately I’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching others do because I have chronic mono–which means I’m flatlined (bedridden) for months on end sometimes.

What is God doing? Doesn’t He want to use me? What am I good for like this? What must people think? To look at me, I look fine, but there is no energy to do even the little things we take for granted–like shower or go downstairs for a meal. It would be easy for people to judge if they went on outward appearances. Aren’t we glad that God looks at our hearts? And aren’t we glad we have a God who made and understands the seasons of our lives? At this time, I’m experiencing a time to heal. It’s a quiet time, a still time–and it involves a lot of alone time.

But even in this still, quiet time, God has met me and strengthened my heart, renewing my faith in Him. It has been a time to reorder priorities and adjust plans. It’s been a time to research and pray. It’s provided a time to think and special times to talk with loved ones. It’s been a good time. As I looked at Ecclesiastes 3 and the seasons of our lives, I realized I’ve probably walked through almost all of them at one time or another and in various ways. And looking back brings perspective:

1.  Whether it is a good time or a bad time–it is only for a season. Seasons change. Hang in there. Time changes all things.

2.  Each season has its beauty if you look for it.

3.  Winds blow and rain falls regardless of the season.

4.  Dress is different for each season. Let your wardrobe protect you from the cold when necessary and be a colorful manifestation of your joy in good times (let’s just say I’ve worn out a few pairs of PJ’s).

5.  A true friend will join you in each season and help you grow and move on.

6.  It’s always time to love.

Whatever season you are going through, give yourself space and time and permission to walk through it at your own pace. Don’t worry about what others say or think. God has appointed this time between you and Him. Your only goal is to walk beside Him in His mercy and grace that you may please Him. Walk on. . . .

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WHERE IS THE FUNNY BONE?

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They say the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone and the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, etc., but where is the funny bone? Do you have one?

My husband missed his calling. He truly should have been a stand-up comedian. He loves jokes of all kinds. His mind is so quick that when you say something his mind compares the words you used to everything that has a similar meaning, sounds alike any word you may have uttered, etc. And quick as a wink, he has a retort, a quip that is sure to make you think and smile. He can provide you with a lot of entertainment. His email in-box is filled with services that provide him with daily jokes. Heaven forbid I laugh at one–he will call all his friends and relatives and re-tell it to them to see if he gets the same reaction. And if jokes aren’t your thing, he has card tricks, magic tricks and things he can do with coins (like pull them from behind your ears) that will provide you with hours of entertainment. He definitely has a funny bone (or two or three). And for most of our married life I thought he must have gotten mine, too, because for the life of me I can’t tell a joke and it come out right.

But I was wrong.  You don’t have to “be funny” to have a sense of humor. Apparently I like humor because I chose someone who loves to tell me jokes and make me laugh. And there are so many types of humor–slapstick, sarcasm, ‘potty’, sitcom, etc. And just like we each have a preferred hairstyle or unique wardrobe style, we each have unique things that make us laugh.

The important thing is to embrace the joy of life. Here are a few rules to help you find your funny bone.

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’ll screw up; everyone does. Laugh, pick yourself up and try again.

2. Don’t overthink everything. Do what’s right and move on. If something isn’t working out, change can be a good thing. Ask for a do-over.

3. Never use “put down” humor–it’s not right to laugh at someone else’s misfortune or mistakes.

4. Don’t even try an offensive, tasteless, racist, sexist, crude, political or religious joke in polite company. Save them for the 1-2 people in the world who know your heart and will forgive you for being a complete idiot. Even then, you might want to just ditch those jokes. They aren’t funny. . .ok, maybe the occasional blond joke is funny.

5. See the bright side of life; look for the silver lining.

6. Let things roll off your back. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 years?”

A person with a good sense of humor can laugh at themselves and situations; they take life as it comes. They have learned to have fun rather than feeling the need to be funny. I’m thankful for my comedian husband for he keeps me laughing. But I don’t have to feel something is wrong with me or that I don’t have a funny bone just because I can’t remember punch lines. I just need to relax and have fun. Find time every day to take off your glasses, close your PC, turn off your phone and just look around you and let the beauty of your world fill your heart with joy. Laugh at the bunny that thinks if he holds still you can’t see him. Chuckle at the patio chair cushion that now has a big hole in it where a major big bird took a bite from it to build its nest–bet that baby bird has a great nursery. Giggle at the fact your tulips didn’t come up because you planted them upside down. Just laugh.

Laughter is the BEST medicine!

SMILE!

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A CLINGING VINE

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John 15:5 

My literary agent emailed this afternoon to say they had posted my picture with the other authors they represent. Immediately I felt excitement. I rushed into the house to tell my husband and show him the site with my picture on it. My dream was coming true. But as I looked at that sight, expectations began to swirl in my head. I need a website. I’ll be expected to write, to blog, to tweet—what in the world is a TWEET! What if they want me to write something else, something new and fresh? Suddenly, just as quickly as my excitement rose, it dissipated into thin air only to be replaced by fear and self-doubt

We’ve all heard the phrase “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies those whom He calls.” That sounds noble and lofty until you are the chosen unqualified one. It’s just plain scary out on a limb. Most of us can identify with Moses and the burning bush. What? Me, Lord? What are you thinking? WHY? And then there’s Peter. In his excitement he got out of the safety of the boat and, when his self-doubt and fear arose, he sank.

Scripture began to flood my mind of those God had chosen but were not qualified or confident: Joshua, Noah, Gideon, Joseph, Esther, Ruth, Simeon, the disciples, Paul—just to begin the list. Doubting themselves, fearing failure, they each forged ahead depending upon their God for the outcome. When you (and indeed everyone that knows you) might say something like: “What, her?” “SHE wrote a book?” “Who would buy or read a book she wrote?” And, you can agree with them that the answer is “pretty unlikely, eh?” Then you know that your efforts thus far, and indeed through every step of this journey, must be “All of HIM and none of you.” You can agree with God that He is the vine and you are nothing more than a branch that can do nothing and will die apart from abiding in Him.

God brought David and his slingshot to mind. This young man had no fear. He had a confidence and indeed a lack of fear when the strong cowered. He was an anomaly among so many whom God chose to use despite their fear. What was different about David? Where did he find this confidence? David was not a seasoned warrior; he was a child, a tender of sheep. No doubt he spent many nights out on a hillside with no one but the sheep. He had to be alert. He had often had to defend them, so his skills and confidence with his slingshot had been tried and tested. Alone on that hillside, with no one to commune with but God, no doubt he had been in the presence of the Almighty on more than one occasion—so much so that God said He had a heart like His—A HEART LIKE GOD’S. So when the people, not just the sheep, needed protecting from the oppressor, he relied upon the same source he had been walking with on the hillside—and God used him to defeat the enemy.

When you are bombarded by self-doubt and fear, remember that confidence comes from being in His presence and run into Him. Your confidence will strengthens as you experience Him working through you despite your weaknesses. Apart from the vine, you are nothing; but in Him, you can be confident and victorious.

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CLOUDS OF DOUBT & FEAR

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How many times in the day does the voice in your head tell you “You’re not good enough?” Have you ever walked into a room of people and felt so out of place that you wanted to fade into the wallpaper because you know there couldn’t be one person in that room who would really want to talk with you? Do you wonder what gifts you have or at least realize they are so small and insignificant that no one could possibly find a use for them? Do you wonder what on earth God could do with or through you? Do you feel like you give your all to others only to receive the heartache of rejection. Does it make you fearful to give or love again? Are you afraid to try things because you already know in your heart you’ll fail and people will laugh at you? Me, too.

My only strategies for dealing with all my insufficiencies and fears are to work harder than everyone else and to stay in the background as much as possible.  In school I wasn’t smarter; just studied harder. It wasn’t that I wanted the A, it’s that I didn’t want to be made fun of for a low grade. In the middle of the pack it is safe; maybe no one will notice me. As I entered the business world, I went to extreme lengths to dress in a way that no one would notice me. . .not too stylish but not too shabby. Black, navy and brown are safe colors for blending in. Have you ever tried these things? And then, with no warning or fanfare, God thrusts me out of the shadows and onto a stage. Why would He do such a thing when He surely knows I’d much rather be the person supporting others? It’s scary. What if I fail? Surely I’ll make a fool out of myself. And even though I hear His call, the fears feel like fog clouds rolling in that totally obscure the light. Oh, God, could you take me above these clouds of fear and let me see you?

Luke 5:1-7 details the story of men who were doing what they do every day–fishing by the seashore. They had spent a long night fishing and it was an ordinary morning doing ordinary things they were comfortable doing — like washing their nets. And then the Master came by and He brought along with Him a crowd of people who wanted to hear from Him. Jesus steps into one of the boats. Suddenly without warning or fanfare, their fishing boat became a platform Jesus could use to tell others about Himself and the Kingdom of heaven. It wasn’t a big fancy yacht; it was an old worn-out fishing vessel. As the sermon draws to a close He looks at the catch (or lack thereof) the men had brought in from their night’s work and tells them to launch out into the deep–a place where they were probably not comfortable even under normal circumstances. He then instructs them how to cast their nets–on the other side. Now they were tired and had already been fishing all night. They hadn’t caught anything and couldn’t believe that this would work–and after all, it’s work to take the boats out into the deep. There is risk involved in deep waters. They would look crazy if they did this and came back with nothing. What did this prophet know about fishing–it was rumored he was a carpenter. Yet, they believed and trusted Him. They said, “Yet at Thy word, we will cast down our nets.” And so they did exactly as He told them to do . . . and we all know about the abundant catch they pulled in. And with no warning, these ordinary fishermen moved from safe obscurity to become gospel giants–the first of the 12 apostles given the task of carrying the good news.

If you are a person like me (the gal in the first paragraph) or like the men comfortably fishing by the seashore, and God steps in one day and says “This is what I want you to do for me,” get ready. I can tell you right now it will mean you are going to have to do something that is uncomfortable, indeed overwhelming for you. You will have to launch out into the deep–go places you’ve not been before and do things you are not sure will work–things you don’t know how to do. Because, you see, the Master uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in unconventional ways–things they could never do by themselves. So if you look at your own strengths and abilities, and you already know it isn’t going to work, but He won’t take “no” for an answer. Get ready. This is your time to look at Him and say, “OK. I’ll do it your way.” Why does He use ordinary people like you and me? So we and others will know it is all of Him and none of us.

II Corinthians 12:8-10. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'” I love to tell people about some of the extraordinary things God has done for me because I am sure they can see nothing extraordinary ever came from me–the girl in the first paragraph. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out I’m a small town gal from East Texas. But God. God makes the way; God gives the increase. It is His plan, His work, His power. He just lets me come along for the ride because no one (least of all me) would expect anything special of the gal in the first paragraph–therefore, He will receive the glory and praise for He is worthy. My only claim to fame is the same as the fishermen–I could see my way wasn’t working and decided to try things His way. The story tells us they called their friends to come help them and to see what God was doing. It’s called testifying of what He is doing. When God shows up and uses you, your prayer will be as John’s in John 3:30 “He must increase, and I must decrease.”  Oh, there will be those that think you are bragging about the big catch; don’t let them deter you from testifying of Him. God wants them to want His power in their lives, too. But first they’ll have to give up their ways and seek His. Those who see with spiritual eyes will see the miracle you see–and, most importantly, the Miracle Maker.

I pray one day you’ll be doing ordinary things–washing your nets–and the Master will come by with a multitude that wants to learn from and about Him. Remember: just because He shows up and calls doesn’t mean it’s easy to say yes. In fact, it will be nothing short of terrifying. It will require a measure of faith that Abraham had to manifest when he took his son up to be sacrificed, trusting God to provide. Moses struggled with these same fears and insecurities when God met him at the burning bush. But when you are at your weakest, He will be your strength. When you cannot see a way, He will lead. Trust Him. Step forward, do what He is asking you to do and watch Him fill your nets and make you a fisher of men. Trust Him and His plan to give you a ministry–a way to point others to the Savior. Face your fears by looking into His face, for there your insufficiency will meet all sufficiency.

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I’d Rather Do it MYSELF

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The word AUTHORITY brings a mental and physical response to us all. Face it, none of us likes to be told what to do. We want to steer our own ships. We have rights.

Unfortunately, rights come with responsibilities. And authorities come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of flavors–some we find savory and some not so much. Throughout life we each have several authorities in our lives. Obviously parents start us on this journey and no doubt we’ve all kicked against them at some time or in some way. You remember: the rolling eyes, the sassy retort, the slammed door…just a little way of saying “No way do I like you telling me what to do.”  Then there are teachers who insist we sit still, do homework, etc. . .and the ever so dreaded principal’s office. Doctors and nurses can do their share of insisting we say “AH” so they can put a stick on our tongue and peer into the abyss of our throat; and heaven forbid they decide to give us a shot. No way did I want that. Surely I have rights and can say no. In these early years, we had to do what we were told–others were bigger than us. But as we aged, we became physically equal and we assumed that made us equals in every other way. Unfortunately responsible decision making is not embedded in our DNA so that it grows as we do.

We are told to submit to authorities whether they be God or His Word, governmental rule, the family authority or work authorities. These rulers are appointed by God as protectors over us. I was taught to think of an authority as an umbrella–a protection from the storm. As long as we stay under that umbrella we are safe. For example. As long as a child stays under his/her father and mother’s authority, they provide for and protect them. God holds the parents accountable for the child and deals with the child through the parents. Once we move out from under their umbrella of protection, we stand before God on our own and He deals directly with our sin. Unfortunately, most of us do not view our authorities as a protector, which means we move ourselves out into the storm unnecessarily.

When one does not understand the role of an authority, rebellion takes place. In simple terms, that means you refuse to do what you are told to do–you think you know better and take the reins of your future into your own hands.

Five evidences of a spirit of rebellion: are bitterness, stubbornness, an unteachable spirit, undisciplined living, and argumentation.

1. Bitterness. Deuteronomy 21:18,“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him. . .” In Hebrew, the word for “rebellious” is “marah” which is translated as “bitter.” Following are some evidences that a root of bitterness may be at play.

  • Difficulty in resolving conflicts
  • Acts of vengeance
  • Withdrawal
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Subtle attacks
  • Condescending communication
  • Criticism
  • Suspicion and distrust
  • Intolerance
  • Impatience
  • Disrespect
  • Misuse of authority
  • Depression

2. Stubbornness. The literal meaning in Hebrew for stubborn is “to turn away.” A stubborn person refuses to open his/her heart because their position will collapse under the light of truth.  Signs of stubbornness are:

  • People would describe you as independent–standing alone against authority.
  • You insist on handling things yourself.
  • You would sacrifice the best to say you did it your way.
  • When confronted with truth you become angry rather than repentant. 

3. An unteachable spirit.  Deuteronomy 21:18 tells us a rebellious son will not listen to teaching from his parents (and no doubt their boss, etc. as they mature).  The word “listen” means “to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc).” If you have a teachable spirit you will be an intelligent listener or one that makes an extra effort to understand what someone is trying to teach you.

Proverbs 15:31-33 says, “The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility. The signs of a teachable spirit are:

  • Hearer
  • Humble
  • Wise
  • Honored

4. Undisciplined lifestyle. “They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” (Deuteronomy. 21:20) Profligate means to be loose morally which is undisciplined activity. Drunkenness, over spending, over eating, no regard for time or appointments, slothfulness, laziness, etc. are just some of the indicators of a lack of self discipline.

5. An argumentative spirit. Proverbs 26:21,“As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.”

Manifestations of rebellion in our lives will place us in a position of bondage or slavery. Sometimes that may be an emotional or financial bondage; other times it may be a physical bondage. But rest assured, an authority will give you wings when you line up under their authority but will take measures to restrict your movement if you are kicking against their umbrella of protection. This is easy to picture when we think of someone breaking a law and having to stand before a judge in chains. Obviously they have rebelled against an authority. While you may be obeying the laws of the land, if you are in rebellion to the other authorities in your life (e.g., a husband, boss, etc. you will feel the pinch of bondage). When this type of rebellion enters in, the relationship begins to crumble. If you have a relationship that is crumbling, look to these five areas in your life and see if there is any correction needed.

I was taught “Foolish children bring grief to their father and bitterness to the one who gave them birth” (Proverbs 17:25 & 10:1). This is a good standard for making decisions. If it would make your parents proud of you–it is the right path. If it causes them grief or bitterness, you are on dangerous ground.

Unfortunately rebellion and its attributes have strong roots that wrap their tentacles around our hearts and minds. They direct our actions in inappropriate ways. We’ve all fallen victim at one time or another. They are tools/weapons that Satan forms against us because He desires we be in emotional, spiritual, mental and physical bondage. Determine before God that you will humble yourself and make amends where you have allowed rebellion into your heart and life (your relationships) and watch the chains fall away. 

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