Monthly Archives: September 2015

CT SCAN OF MY HEART

bethesda-naval-medical-center-80380_1280Today I had a CT-Scan from which they discovered the source of a recent pain in my back–apparently I have two fractured vertebrae. The test was quick and painless, no prep required. I lay there, arms above my head, and rode the bed through the machine and back again, listening to the recorded male voice boom “Breathe Deep; Hold It.” “Exhale. Breathe.” When the test was completed, the technician told me the doctor would be getting back with me but he had 400 images to read so please be patient. WOW–400 images. Four hundred slices of film checking for anything that shouldn’t be there. God brought this verse to my mind:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

God focuses His attention on my heart. He wants to cleanse, heal it and mold it to be like His heart. I’m not going to be able to get one over on Him. No evil thought or bad attitude is hidden from Him–His Spirit sees it all more sharply than the doctor who will view my 400 images. He is taking images or recordings of my heart moment by moment, day after day. God is searching my heart for anything that is not focused on Him.

David is lauded as having a heart like God’s; yet he sinned. Was it the moment he took Bathsheba in adultery that sin entered his heart? No, it was the moment he took his eyes off of an Almighty God and placed them on anything other than Him. Where are the eyes of your heart focused today? If God were to do a CT-Scan of your heart, what might He see on those 400 images? Has a desire for material things taken top priority lately? God says,

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (I John 2:15 NIV)

For you to get a good report from Him, He needs to see a love for Him as He examines the images of your heart’s crevices. That love must not be crowded out by a love of anything else.

Stop by heaven’s radiology department each morning for a check up. You’ll find Him ready to infuse His love into your heart that you might radiate it to others.

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#heartmatters

The VALLEY

lago-bleu-200429__180Physical pain is not much fun. It seems I have a kidney stone and in simple terms–it’s painful. This on top of a nine month convalescence period with mono (which means isolation) is really just way too much. And while small, an emergence of a toe fungus and a nasty earache were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. But physical pain and isolation weren’t enough. I am an emotional train wreck due to a relationship crisis. And as we all know, the emotional trumps the physical. My book is stuck in limbo–probably because I’m stuck. Our house sale doesn’t seem to be moving forward. And I found out that I may have given my mono to one of my best friends and her entire family now has it.  Praise God she still loves me. Seriously, I feel like a 21st Century Job–maybe I should just call my husband and ask him to stop by CVS or Walgreens and pick up some salve because no doubt I’ll discover boils by bedtime.

Where is God? Did He forget He left me down here on Carrolton Ridge? Is He so busy elsewhere dealing with cancer issues and natural disasters (way bigger than my tempest in a teapot) that there’s no time for Him to engage with my problems today?

Ever felt like this? Well, if not, you are indeed the lucky one. Our Christian walk is not always a mountain top experience. In fact, it can be pretty dark down here in the valley. The shadow of the mountaintops makes it dark and it seems I might not find my way out. I’m not sure what good wallowing in self pity could possibly accomplish, so I must run in to my strong tower, my hiding place under His wings. He says He will not put more on me than I can bear but it’s pretty obvious He’s got a totally different perspective of my strength than I do. It’s at this moment the Spirit chimes into the conversation in my mind and says, “Exactly.” He reminds me that in my strength I can do nothing anyway–it’s totally because of His strength that I’ll get through and He is more than enough. I must begin to rely on His strength. It won’t be easy, there may be some rough days. But He promised to walk with me, so I must rest in Him.

The Spirit echoes that word “Rest” throughout my valley. Aw, rest. Maybe this is what He had in mind. As I looked at the analogy of the mountain tops and the valley, it struck me that streams don’t run through the mountains. The refreshing streams run in the valley. I ran to the Word to search what He has to say about streams or living water and I was renewed (as always) by His many promises. He knew there would be those times when we need a refreshing renewal, so He takes us through the valley where we can find rest and be refreshed by the streams of His living water–the Word. So today I am going to memorize and dwell in the following refreshing verse.

Isaiah 44:;3 “For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.” 

Praise God He’s promised to meet my needs and to irrigate the parts of my life that seem to be dry and parched. But more importantly, He has promised to pour His Spirit out on my children. I think that’s about all I need for today. He’s enough.

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CHANGE-Part 4–Can I truly love my neighbor as myself?

girl-15599_1280We’ve been talking a lot about change and the bottom line is that the only person we can change is ourselves. And I might add that it’s not up to us to change someone else. That’s God’s business. Counselors will tell you they don’t even try to change someone else. They strive to hold a mirror up to their clients so they can see themselves as others might see them. This allows their clients the opportunity to view and analyze themselves and consider changes they may want to make.

The one exception is the role of a parent or teacher. Those moldable years are so important. Unfortunately, I fell victim to a lack of knowledge during my parenting years. I thought that my role was to change my children to be like me. I will be the first to confess that my children did not want to be like me nor should they ever have even felt they should try. I was wrong to assume that my way was the right way–my way is just one way. The only time my way is the right way is if it is God’s way. And God’s way is based on love and mutual support. God’s way is a humble way, not one of superiority just because I was the parent and didn’t see all the beauty in God’s workmanship.

God has been gracious to me and led me to knowledge. It’s never too late to learn. The more I’ve learned, the more beauty I see in those around me. I no longer even want them to be like me. I celebrate them for who they are. I would encourage parents to learn the seven heart stages, to know the pillars of wisdom at play in your life (my book will hopefully come out one day). But for now, I would counsel everyone of any age to learn about the nine personality types (see 9 types.com). You should begin by taking the test yourself and thoroughly understanding yourself. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, know how to bring yourself out of a funk, etc. It is only in truly seeing ourselves that we can change ourselves. There are so many tools on that page that will unveil everything from your fears, your motivation, your speech patterns, your desires, etc. Then, type your family members, your coworkers, your friends. Spend time truly understanding them (it’s called love) and celebrate your differences.

In our family, we’ve got almost all the types. I’m a 3 (the Achiever); my husband is a 7 (The Adventurer); my son Jason is a 5 (The Thinker); my daughter Cherie is a 2 (The Helper); my son Jeff is an 8 (The Leader); my son Josh is a 9 (the Peacemaker), and the young man who lives with us (also named Jason) is a 5 (the Thinker). What a household.  My lack of knowledge blinded me to their greatness and their resistance to my efforts to make them like me went painfully askew. With permission from my husband and the young man who lives with us, I’ll give you a couple of examples:

Being a 7, my husband thrives on adventure. We are contemplating downsizing and he has decided it would be awesome for us to move to an island in the Caribbean (with no plumbing) — what fun! The other option he has come up with is moving to the Florida Everglades where he could fish and hunt for alligators every day. I might mention that he is a disabled veteran and going to the grocery store means he must park as close to the door as possible so he can get to a riding cart. Riding in this cart completely exhausts him for the rest of the day. And even if none of this was an issue, he has a knee that needs to be replaced because it is bone on bone and he cannot walk to the mailbox. Need I say more? The old Carol would have observed all this and been so frustrated she would be asking God what was He thinking when He gave her a lunatic for a husband. I’d be angry that he was so insensitive to my needs and let him know that I thought he had lost his mind. The truth is–I was the insensitive one–I didn’t understand his needs. So today I let him visit the adventure he craves and join him on this mental journey–I’ll even watch the videos of his dreams with him. I ask questions (hold up that mirror). He is a wise and practical person somewhere down in there, so he makes a wise decision in the end despite his desire for the adventure. The difference is in how I react to him.

The Jason who lives with us is a 5–the thinker. He overthinks everything. He makes plans for plans. If I’m to make dinner, that couldn’t possibly take a total of two hours to slow cook and that needs to be served by 6:00, he is nervous by noon if I haven’t started prepping for it and will start texting me about it–come sit down with me to counsel me that I need to get started. To say that he is not spontaneous is the understatement of a lifetime. He has his day planned out before he ever gets up. Any unplanned change to his routine–like needing to run to the store or the dry cleaners–throws him into a tailspin. Being a 3, I can change directions without any fanfare. But I’ve learned that I need to talk with him in advance and understand his plans and let him know mine. Then I need to back off and let him choose to change his plans if he wants rather than trying to force my plans on him–which is going to lead to a melt down between us. I need to respect his plans and his ways. His way is perfect to him–frustrating to me. My way is equally frustrating to him. I can’t change him–but I can change me.

In looking back over the last 67 years of my life I realize there have been so many misunderstandings that have come into play in our home. I now know all of them were simply due to our lack of knowledge and understanding of each other. And true love learns. So I’m sorry, kids. I was the one who was wrong. I hope you’ll forgive me and celebrate that even old dogs can learn new tricks. I’m so glad God gave me each of you–you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are all different and all wonderful.

Love learns. Love accepts. Love encourages others to be the best they can be. Love celebrates the other person.

I’m not like God. The good thing is that He knows it and came to earth to experience the temptations and trials I will face on my journey. He is faithful, patient, kind–and forgiving. Through His Word He gently shows me how to change myself to be more like Him and less like me. Together, all of my family members can take the journey of change to be like Him. His ways are perfect. But I need to let God draw them to truth, to Himself and His ways while I focus on what He wants to do in me. Indeed there’s so much work He’s had to do in me–we’ve had to deal with my lack of humility, my self-centeredness, my self-righteousness and selfishness, my facades, my habits, my lack of appropriate values. . .oh, the list could go on. And I know He’s only just begun. Praise God He is long-suffering and forgiving. Praise God He loves me in spite of my self. And I pray my family will forgive me and love me in spite of myself (if I promise to keep changing me to be more like Him).

All of us deal with the enemy of self. If we can begin to recognize the enemy of self in our hearts, we can start to remove it so there is room for God and His ways which will mean our hearts will be filled with the needs of others and not ourselves.  I could never understand how God could ask or even think that it was possible for me to love my neighbor as myself (that second commandment that troubled me–is that even possible). Now I know that the only way I’m going to find peace and joy is if I take the journey to know and love others for who they are. If I know them and love them for who God made them to be, I can love them as God loves me and thus I can fulfill that second commandment.

If you are struggling in any relationship. Start on a journey to knowledge–of yourself, of them, and of God’s way. Then watch Him begin to do a great work in you. Join Him in the effort on your knees. That’s where change in your relationships must begin–on your knees before Him. He’ll gently hold that mirror up for you as you delve into the pages of Scripture. Use the tools that are out there to help you understand yourself and others. Celebrate the people around you and know that they were given to you to help you grow, to smooth out some of your rough edges.

What’s holding you back? Start Learning–Start Loving.

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CHANGE-Part 3

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I recently read a quote by Jacob M. Broude “Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll realize what little chance you have in trying to change others.” God never tells us to try to change others. He suggests we pick them up when they fall, restore them when they stumble, comfort them, exhort them to good works, rebuke sin in their lives. . .and most of all, we are to love them. Face it, if there is going to be any change in yourself or in others, it is going to come from within. It is going to be through the inner working of the Holy Spirit as He gently and persistently conforms us to the image of Christ.

You can be confident that your critical spirit/mindset is not from God. It is a weapon the enemy uses against you to separate and divide. Take back the territory he has won. Ask God to help you see others through His eyes and to love them as He loves them. Lay down your pride and haughty attitudes (yes, that’s what we are carrying around when we think we are so high above someone else that we can actually pass judgment on them) and humbly ask God to help you love them (His children) well.

Following is a guide as you look for their gold. Do you see any good in them? Think on these things (Philippians 4:8). Focus on the good.

  • Heart attitudes: Tenderness, compassion, love, considerate, caring, helpful
  • Personal character traits: Hospitable, generous, thoughtful, hardworking or diligent, responsible, honest or thrifty
  • Gifts: Sing, write, act, teach, speak, etc.
  • Personal habits: Neat, clean, well groomed, organized, always on time
  • Personality traits: Humorous, warm, welcoming, caring, giving, humble, leader, motivator, thinker, adventurer, perfectionist, romantic

If they have recently rubbed you the wrong way, set your mind to remember when they have been a blessing to you. Review the good they have been in your life and reset your mind’s dial to gratitude.

Where do you begin this journey to reset your mind/jump start your relationship? The battle for your attitude toward others is fought in your mind. You will only win this battle on your knees. God has to change your mind and your vision of His children and that has to start with a changed perspective of yourself. Invite His Spirit to change your heart, your vision, your attitudes. When God’s Spirit finishes His work in your heart, you’ll be amazed how your perspective of others has changed. You’ll find a tender heart toward them has replaced your critical spirit. You’ll find you want to give to them to show them the change in your heart. You’ll be willing to sacrifice to ensure they have the support they need to grow to be more like Him. You’ll join God in His work to make them all they can be. Humility will replace your pride.

Only God’s Spirit can do this work in you. Only God can change them. Change yourself and you will change your world and your relationships.

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CHANGE-Part 2

door-673000_1280I should know better than to write about change. It’s as if you invite it into your life. After my last post, my agent and I parted ways–oh, it was on the most amiable terms. He and his wife have been true friends and taught me so much, and I am so grateful God let us travel this path together over the past year. But God changes our paths and sometimes that means we each must go where God is leading us. I did what every writer does when faced with such a change–cried. It seems the journey for most all writers is one of following an unknown path, feeling lost most days, hopeful then downtrodden and rejected. It is as if they are pursuing the impossible.

But I had a busy day in front of me, so there was no time for tears or “oh poor me’s.” Nine men were expecting me to show up and teach them about conflict in less than two hours. I hit my knees and said, “Lord, this is a change I didn’t see coming. I don’t think I did anything wrong and certainly my agent didn’t, so I’m assuming this change is from you. This is your truth, your book–so I will wait on your direction. Help me to rest in the fact that you will accomplish your purpose.” I got up off my knees, dashed off a couple of emails to fellow writers who have been walking this path with me, grabbed my purse and went out to do what God had set before me for the day.

After class, I checked my emails and there were the typical responses commiserating with, yet encouraging me, to stay the path God set for me. But one email from my dear friend, Katy Kaufmann (who has written two wonderful Bible studies and is an editor of an on-line magazine, in addition to her duties with her family’s publishing company) reached out in a different way. Basically she said she was sorry to be so happy about my disappointing news, but God had laid it on her heart to work with me months ago.  She had held back because she didn’t want to interfere with any work my agent’s editor might feel is her territory. So she saw this as a green light from God. She asked me if I would be willing to let her come beside me and guide me.

While I didn’t see this shift in my plans coming, God did. He wasn’t rocked off His throne at all by this news. No doubt He had been orchestrating it. The last week has been very busy as Katy and I shared documents, ideas, strategies and began to formulate a path forward. It is as if she is the wind beneath my wings that I’ve been needing. I have been feeling stuck–at a dead end. Her enthusiasm, love for God, servant’s heart, knowledge of the Word, amazing writing/editing skills are just what I needed. For those who understand the writing journey, she is currently serving as a development editor for me. We aren’t worrying about commas or dangling prepositions–just how will we package what God has given to me in a way that speaks to the hearts of those God calls to read the book(s).

On my knees I could not see a path forward that morning. But God had already worked it all out. Fortunately, this time I did the right thing. . .I found my way to the throne room where I laid it at His feet just as the young lad with the five loaves and two fishes had done. And He took my offering and called a disciple to my side. I pray He will use my small offering to feed a multitude. I thank Him for making my path straight.

Are you facing change–maybe a change you didn’t expect or one you certainly didn’t sign up for? Don’t despair. Give it back to God. He is still firmly seated on the throne and is ready to intercede on your behalf. I’m so glad though the things of this world shift and change, my anchor is firmly placed in the One who changes not (Malachi 3:6). He’s got this; He’s got me; He’s got you and your circumstances. Place your trust in Him and not in man and let the winds of change blow.

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