Monday, September 30, 2013

Hiding in Our Place of Security

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice, no. 4

Come out of the shadows and into the light. 
It is where freedom to be yourself can be found. 
To be your real self is to be close to God in abandonment and delight.
To savor His presence.
To become fully who you are and always were meant to be.

I found out I was wearing a mask and I didn't even know it. I wore it to prove my worth to others and to hide those things which made me feel 'less-than' other people I saw as successful.

We all wear a mask, do some pretending now and then. It becomes a problem when the acting isn't recognized, the actions becoming a mask, a performance,  a way of living out what we think others want of us or what we think makes us look normal or effectively hides our areas of inadequacy or helps us seem as more together than we really are or . . . you get the point. 

For many, the hiding of our real selves originates out of our painful experiences. We don't like who we are or the things that have happened to us. There is insecurity, shyness, fear, embarrassment, negative self-image, feelings of failure, learned behaviors, feelings of not being good enough, shame, or not measuring up, guilt, depressive negative thinking, and the list goes on. 

Mostly, we wear a mask to hide our pain issues and inner insecurities in order to project a positive image to the people around us. In the church, it can be an image of the good Christian who is quite capable and productive, who is well-liked and well-behaved, spiritual and holy. 
If it is genuine, no problem. If it's an act, it's a problem.

The mask is something we hide behind, an invisible outer garment of a performance trap. We are unable to see who we really are or we don't want to know the real truth. Outward influences reinforce this faulty thinking.

Sometimes we wear a mask to protect others like our children, parents, colleagues, and friends, to respect their story by protecting it, and to not cause pain by exposing that which would be unpleasant. We know they would be hurt if we tell our story because it is also their story. There is a balance in this, but we fail to understand what is appropriate in our given situation. We say too much or too little. We need healthy boundaries, wisdom, and to quit hiding behind secrets that divide or destroy relationships.

Other times we wear a mask because we've been threatened with repercussions by a person who has harmed us in some way. This is a self-protection that we heed out of fear for ourselves or for those we love. We are told that something bad will supposedly happen to us if we "tell" or take an action contrary to the will of the person threatening us. It keeps us in hiding, fearful of revealing the truth.

At times we wear a mask until the day we experience healing and renewal in our inner person. We are confused about the real us, that part of us which has been hiding from our truth. It is hard to access our real selves in the painful state in which we live ... and this has nothing to do with a disregard for God. Christian people wear masks. They are afraid of what people will think if they were to be their normal self. We think people won't like us if we let down our guard or don't live up to the cultural or religious expectation. 
Once we are whole and healthy, this guard no longer matters.

The mask is unhealthy. It harms rather than protects. The mask encourages duplicity, acting different ways according to the situation. It makes people dishonest in their relationships. Acceptance is something needed for happiness, rejection by others is something to be feared, so one pretends to be what one is not.

Sadly, sometimes we don't even know who we are and we are unaware that a mask is hiding our true identities. Counselors, friends, and ministers often try to help us see our real selves by asking questions aimed at revealing our person to us.  Harbored resentments and bitterness, hurts and shame, may layer in ugly bands around our person, an effective tool to mask our real selves.

In skillful ways and through personality tests, counselors help the person explore the many facets of self, the personality, reactions, interactions, struggles, and inner perceptions. They help us see ourselves. It may take an act of God to reveal the mask with its protective layer, an invisible world of pretense and pretending, the mask of who we think we are in contrast to the true identity of who we are when there is no mask.

Some people never take off the mask. Simply put, they are trapped in a world of make-believe walls. They don't know what it is to be free, to live, to be themselves, or to be happy. Their world is a pseudo world, their performance and productivity seen as the measuring of their self-worth and identity as a successful person. 
Say it ain't so. But it is.

When my mask peeled off, it was a painful process of tearing away the false layers. Mine had been in place for forty-six years. I had to take a look in the mirror. It took exposing first. Father-God helped me see my mask. Then He went to the business of removing it layer by layer. I'm so glad He did!

The day my husband chose to leave our marriage of twenty-one years, he said some negative statements about me that tore into my self-perception and was critical of my Christian walk. At first, I was in denial. Of course, they couldn't have merit, or so I thought. In the year that followed, I found myself asking God to show me what was true about me and what was not true about me. I was open and honest with God. I wanted to KNOW. Each of the harsh statements my husband had said were considered. One by one I held them up to the light of God's mirror. I found out that some were true and some were not true. In some ways I had become a robotic Christian, acting out my faith to meet the expectations of my Christian family and Church family. The false layer of self-righteousness began to be removed. Other areas that were constricting my life began to shed off. Whew!

A year later, at the insistence of one of my five children (some were teenagers at the time), we met with a Christian counselor for a lengthy session. The counselor talked with the children the most, spending time with each one individually while we all listened. The topic was the divorce and how it was affecting them. Past family situations were revisited. Parenting by their two parents was discussed. Opening up with the counselor unleashed something, the plug was unplugged and the comments gushed out. Pent-up emotions came out fast and furious. That day I got an earful, how they saw me as different at church or with my family than when I was at home. How I acted much more animated and perfect with other people than who I really was. How I acted like I had no problems because I never acknowledged my errors or mistakes, and so forth. Some of it was overstated but, in reality, what my children had seen was my mask, my pretense. My mask was an outward form of security that hid my inward insecurity.

My children's words hurt me even though they hadn't meant them to, feeling like an attack on my character. I felt wounded and couldn't seem to stop crying. They regretted having said anything because they loved me dearly. My lack of confidence in myself, caused my wounding in this. Yet, good came from this despite its awkward delivery. As I said earlier, I had promised God that anything he wanted to show me about myself, I would seek to know the truth. In the end, I could see that there was merit in what was said. It made me change, remove the mask, and become genuine. I am thankful it happened because the outcome refined me and made me look at what I was doing.  

Another mask came off as well, a mask caused by pain and suffering, an invisible wall to protect my bleeding heart. This is a whole blog in itself to be saved for another day.
Come out of the shadows and into the light. It is where freedom to be yourself can be found. To be your real self is to be close to God in freedom of abandonment and delight; to savor His presence and to become fully who you are and always were meant to be.

I am one that didn't know I had been hiding behind a mask until the mask was removed. I didn't know my real self. I didn't even know what I was good at, my thinking tended to be negative in content. God doesn't make mistakes. We ALL have something to say. We all have something to offer. And, we all have a God who wants us to be free. Seek Him, then begin removing your mask, whether it be a performance mask or a bandaid mask to hide the injury,  they both need God's interventions.  

Amazon Book Link is HERE
 These thoughts prompted by the content found in the book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, by JoAnn Fore.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

IN REMEMBRANCE: Lois Faith Brumbaugh

My Little Sis: Lois Faith Brumbaugh 1960 - 1993

A bright light went out the night we lost Lois. 
She was my little sister. I can remember staying with my Cripe cousins during the time she was being born. My father came over and the adults were having a discussion of what my baby sister's name was going to be. Later, I remember going to my Grandma Weigold's and seeing my mother with the baby next to her in the bassinet. Lois was a beautiful baby. She had dark hair and large brown-black expressive eyes. 

I always felt protective of Lois. Although I was five years older than she was, we would talk about life and things. She seemed to have the ability to attain what she wanted, even with my parents. I would be in awe. I was always proud of her many accomplishments and abilities. I liked her sense of style, humor, piano playing, intelligence, and innate sensitivities. We weren't very much alike but enough alike to "get life" in a similar way.

The five of us. Lois. Lois and me (bottom).
Let me tell you some about Lois. God gifted her with a sharp mind, natural musical ability. She had perfect pitch and musical intelligence. If she could hear it, she could play it. Lois was quick with her wit making come-backs at just the right time. She also had a sensitivity toward people, noticing their moods or struggles. 

Her giftedness was appreciated by her colleagues, former college friends, close friends and acquaintances. Many shared with my family the ways she touched their lives, going the extra mile, or sharing a cup of coffee at the right time when they needed it. Her bosses told us how Lois would be in the same interview as them, but she could see something that was under the surface that nobody else noticed. She would pick up on the little things that matter. 

She was a fun-to-be-around co-worker. Lois liked fashion. She made her own jewelry, wore dangling earrings, could put clothing together in a way that set the outfit off, sometimes sewing her own clothes. I liked watching her become a woman who overcame her shyness and learned to present herself well.

Lois was beautiful. We shared the brown eyes, they run in the family. Hers flashed brightly. I loved Lois. The night I got the news that she had left us, it felt like I was walking in shock, like the world would never be quite the same. Similar to the way people felt when Princes Di's crash was broadcast, interrupting the evening's programming, Dan Rather's voice quivering with uncharacteristic emotion. Lois moved people that way. A person wanted her to succeed and do well, but we could see her vulnerabilities as well. 

I wanted my sister back, to talk to her again. She had been my encourager, calling me up once in awhile and saying things that made me feel appreciated. Lois noticed those small things that others never commented on. She wanted to help my husband and me because she knew my family was going through a lot. My children, and the other nieces and nephews, thought she was the greatest. She always gave the "fun" quirky gifts at Christmas. They called her "Aunt Lou." My oldest two remember her best. They were nine and eleven when she passed on.
The Brumbaugh Sisters - Norma, Marilyn, Juanita, Lois. 

The day we drove to Oregon to say our goodbye, was a long day. There were several vehicles with family members, cousins, my grandma and others. While stopping at a rest area and viewing the river as it flowed, my young daughter, LaVonne, said to me, "I wish Aunt Lou was Sleeping Beauty and a handsome prince would kiss her and she would wake up." 

We arrived in Stayton, Oregon at my sister, Marilyn's, house. Soon it was overflowing with people. Everyone was in disbelief and shock. We were devastated. My oldest son, Joshua, arranged the alphabet magnets on the refrigerator to read, "Aunt Lou still loves us." It was hard for my family to say good-bye to her. She was too young. Her death had come too soon and not in a natural way. 

The memorial service was full of tears and sadness. When my brother, Paul, spoke he said, "It's not right that we're here today." My sister Juanita read the Word.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:16-19. NIV
Mrs. Odell, a former pastor's wife, spoke of Lois in children's church as a little girl, making eyes at Richey S.. We all laughed, imagining her as a little girl. At the end of her speaking. Mrs. Odell paused. Her eyes scanned the room, then she said with a confident voice, "God is still in control." So much we needed to hear those words that day. The service concluded with all the verses of Amazing Grace being sung as we stood together. The voices raised loudly as one. There was energy in the air and power in the words. It felt as if we were claiming a victory over the darkness that had snatched my sister away.

One scene from that day is etched in my mind. We are standing next to her fresh dug grave that is now her final resting place. The sod and dirt are slightly damp. We are on a hill there in Stayton, Oregon. Most of the mourners have left, but we remain. My siblings, Paul, Juanita, Marilyn, and me, are standing next to my father. We are all alone for a few minutes. My father's long arms enclose us as we huddle close together, heads bowed, unable to speak, sorrowing in solidarity through our broken hearts and flowing tears. It is just the four of us and Dad. He shakes his head and says he never thought something like this would happen. We find ourselves agreeing, shaking our heads, overcome with a grief that takes your breath away and penetrates the inner core. 

Then some of us wander over to where baby Sharon Elisabeth Brammer's marker tells of another sorrow, when the family grieved a few years before in 1982, when we lost my sister's eleven month old to leukemia, the firstborn grandchild of my parents. I see the marker with her name. Fresh tears flow, and I feel the loss afresh.  I am glad my sister is laid to rest near her niece. It seems right and fitting.
Here is our last family picture with Lois. I am at the bottom left, Lois at the top to the right of Dad. 1991
I write this today because this week it will be twenty years since we lost Lois. I have never liked September since. I still miss her and wish she was here. Every once in a great while, I will have a dream with her in it. She is vivacious and charming. I will ask her, "Why did you have to leave us?" and she will smile at me and then fade away. Then I wake up. It always makes me sad and happy mixed together. For those of you who knew her, I want you to remember her smile and the gift she was to us. That is what we should think about at this time. The happy memories of Lois Faith Brumbaugh, beloved daughter, sister and friend.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Relationship with God

A Relationship is the Starting Point
Going Deeper with God  no. 2
~A continuance of  Going Deeper  no. 1., entering near the conclusion of Lesson 1 from a series of lessons I taught for an adult Sunday school  Class. My objective in teaching the class was to draw the listeners into desiring a more intimate relationship with God. This blog starts abruptly because of entering at a mid-point in the lesson.
Seek until you find Him. It is God's way. 

We all have them:  
What are some of the frustrations Christians internalize but think would be unchristian to acknowledge?  People of the faith get frustrated with God. Really, they do. Sometimes it seems ligitimate but other times, it seems like they're spinning their wheels,  getting nowhere fast. I confess, I am that way at times. I lose my focus. Then the complaining begins. It can be disheartening listening in on other's on-going complaints about almost anything and everything especially when they are things that can be brought to God in prayer.  Soon you realize it's true. The Christian faith out-lived is not what many claim they believe it is, it is failing to deliver, they say one thing but live as if it couldn't possibly be true. How so? 

I believe it is a surface problem.  The walk doesn't match the talk because it lacks depth. Christian believers tend to be duplicit. They live intellectually with a Christian-ful mindfulness, an academic belief, but in practical living their faith is weak, sometimes not that much different than their unbelieving family, friends or colleagues. It seems that this may stem from some incorrect thinking in regards to God. This conception is a limited viewpoint even if the theology is fully formed. The walk of faith can be more, much more than we have come to accept as "normal." It takes some understanding to see where we've gone misconstrued this concept of the Christian walk. The premise is faulty.  Our view of God and how he relates to us may be the reason we get confused.

Believing Christian people tend to see God as someone to use for their good.
They put God in a box. It is a human trait, but in error none-the-less, a limited view of God, limited to what is humanly observable to our way of thinking, those things which are obvious, what we can actually see God is doing here and now. It is also limited in what a person expects and wants God to do.  It seems that not only do people live their lives in a limited spiritual box but they also put constraints on their view of what God can and wills to do in their personal lives and in the world around them.  Many Christians act as if they believe God isn't active or alive these days, that everything in the world is going to hell in a handbag. They have it all figured out. This is a limited view. Such thinking is mostly a secular perspective. The, living in fullness of God's Spirit, is missing in this scenario. Believers wild do well to be freed from this way of viewing spiritual truths. I will try to explain what I mean.

Whether they are aware of it or not, people often see God as a magic cure-all, a magic fix, to set everything right.   
When something is wrong they go to God to fix it.  When something is too big, too large for them, or too beyond their control, they storm the heavens.  Is it any surprise that there is calamity in their lives?  How much better it would be if everyone could just love God for who he is not for what he does for us, although the two cannot be entirely separated. God is not a dispenser where A + B = C (if I do "this" plus "this", I will get "that"=the reward).

-Why is it so easy for Christians to see God in this way?
-What could break this habit, this view-point, of seeing God as someone who is there to make us happy, to fulfill our needs, and to fix everything?

What to do????  That is the QUESTION!!!  A Relationship is the starting point.

It is my belief that God made all people for having a close RELATIONSHIP with him. 
I think William Shakespeare got it right, “To be or not to be? That is the question.” Although our purpose is to glorify God while on earth, which brings him glory, relationship with God is another facet in the spiritual journey.  God doesn’t intend for his children to wing it, to do the best they can while pleading with him to help them (a desperate, weak supplication).  No, that is a limited view of what God desires in his relationship with us.  The point has been missed. It is backwards in some way.  In this way of thinking, the person has failed to see what God truly desired when he created Adam and Eve, when he formed man as the center created being of all plants and animals.  Embedded in man by being created in the image of God, is a capacity for a real relationship.  God made the human being to want more of him, to seek him, to find him, to find their satisfaction in him. He wants humanity to see that there is more to life than the face value of ordinary living.  In Christ’s redeeming of lost humanity, it became possible. The relationship was restored that was broken during original sin. Humans can now commune in oneness with all three persons of the God-head, called the Trinity.  In fact, we as Christians are adopted into God’s family.  We become family!  How cool is that?

We aren't used to thinking in terms of relationship when talking about God. 
I never used to either. Through years of seeking God and finding him in realness, it finally dawned on me that what I had with God was an intimate relationship. He was the strong one in the relationship. During the initial stages of the relationship, I was dependent and a woeful, hurting child. In time, I grew in strength, more mature in my faith and also in my ability to discern. Godly wisdom began seeping into my thinking and outworking in my human connections with others. It was a miracle, a beautiful miracle of divine grace. All relationships have a give and take dynamic. Christianity that is limited, is often bereft of this relationship component. It is rigid, unbending, unhappy, and sometimes, even angry or unloving. This should not be.

God made all humans for relationship. 
We feel unworthy. Of course we do! Except for the finished work of Christ, we have little to offer in this relationship. But, God calls us to himself. We are precious to him. He is a loving Father with his children. As in any solid union, there is a key ingredient necessary for this relationship to work and to become a solid unit.  That ingredient is TRUST.  God knows that his children struggle to develop into mature Christians, and that many try their best to become servants of all, an endeavor that can be enablized from human effort.  He knows his followers put forth amazing energy into doing (the best they can) which is good but not the perfect reason for living it out.  God understands how all of us get misled or get stuck in a doing, doing, a form of spiritual works in our spirit lives. It comes quite naturally. We are used to performance as the indicator of worthiness, the measuring rod that dictates (spiritual) success.  In a secular, merit-based society, it is easy to miss the spiritual truth that all of this doing is truly secondary to being fully what God wants his loved-ones to know and enjoy.   It fails to meet the inner need for oneness with God, a closeness that brings close fellowship.

God seeks us.   
When a person seeks back, truly seeks God, willingly opening their heart to God's ministrations, a miracle of divine love penetrates into their being.  A mystery begins within which will unfold much as a seed that grows, forms, and blossoms, and then produces fruit.  It is in the form of an intimate, beautiful, loving, reciprocal relationship, the beloved with the lover, the lover of our souls and of our beings. 

A young man I know has begun to experience this relationship. 
First, it was God speaking to him by anchoring a verse from a Psalm during a time of immense emotional pain in his life. A couple of years later, he's visiting a church, the minister is speaking, the words are just for him. The walls start crumbling down. He begins to weep in church, feeling as if he could cry and cry without end, could sob his heart out. He sees his sin for what it is, he acknowledges his own pain, and also the pain he's caused to others. Something has taken root. The year continues on and he finds himself praying often. He begins to sense God communicating with him especially when he is alone in the evening hours viewing the sun as it is setting. This young man finds someone to share what is happening to him, an openness ensues.  It is not easy for him. He is sensitive, hurt by life. There is much inside of him that needs to be cleansed and healed, much pain and anger, and things to learn and ways to grow. A year or two later, he finds himself reading and seeking God's ways, overwhelmed by a sense of God's great love for him. A few weeks ago he shared his story with me after the process had been in place and growing him. He is experiencing first-hand the love of God for him, and it is humbling, precious. It is everything. This young man knows the type of spiritual relationship that I am talking about, real and vital, life changing real.

Let's talk about relationships: Historically, conceptually.

-What is the oldest relationship that ended; the great divorce in heaven?

-What is the next recorded relationship that ends, in willful choosing of self-want, self-actualization, over God?
-How did Christ bridge this chasm between God and man?

-If all your children went their own way, rejecting you for generations on end, yet you continue to love them dearly, anyways, how would you feel? 

-How do you think God feels when his children really want him, because he is a God who loves them dearly, not for just what he and his Son did for them at salvation, and for the good things he provides for them?

We have a role to play in God’s loving intention for this universe.

SPIRITUAL EXERCISE:  Get alone with God.  
In quietness ask God to reveal to you how he sees you in your world.  Ask him to show you your heart, to reveal your sins, to show you your fears and things you cannot see. List them out. Picture yourself in the New Testament times, walking with Jesus as he heals blind Bartimeus, casts out demons, raises a young girl to life and so forth.   Read through the gospels.

Think on Jesus.  Who he is. What he is doing. Begin the practice of bringing God into your thoughts throughout the day. Remind yourself by touching your heart, wrist, something tangible every time you think of God at work in your life or in the world.

Seeking God to find him: My journal, Bible, prayers, meditations.
Do not be afraid to approach God.  
He is not a mean ogre who wants to punish you. He is not unapproachable or vindictive.  He IS approachable. He desires you to reach out to him, to seek until you find. You will be amazed what will happen when you open up yourself to God. If God seems unavailable or you feel anger toward him for a reason known only to you, I challenge you. Go find a place where you can get alone with God in uninterrupted seeking. Pray and talk to him until you are different. Do not stop until something happens in your person. One thing is required, total honesty with openness. No personal agenda allowed. This may take hours. Persist. Don't let fear stop you.
Fear is often the antithesis of faith.

May you find God to be enough, everything, and wonderful, today, tomorrow, and always. 

#God  #Meditation  #Relationship

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reflecting on Life's Goodness


Quiet moments bring refreshment to the soul
 Childish laughter hastens joy to the parent's heart

A warm embrace is ever to be cherished
A smile, a word of cheer, makes the heart glad

Many times we fail to see the sunrise
   are  too tired to appreciate the day
Too busy to help those whom we love
   and miss what is most important

     Reflecting on this thought
        I feel gladness rise within me
     Happy for the times I've said, "I love you"
        Thankful for a tender heart that says, "I care"

Often on this walk of life
   we see our glaring inadequacies
Failure seems to loom at every turn
   We struggle to keep striving forward
      without  a bitter heart

     Yes, life is good 
        when one quits looking at the bad
     The troubles that never end as each day passes
        But someone cares and makes it right

A life with love, and God's blanket of care
   brings light to life's darkest hour
If we could see the angels in the unseen midst
   we would know God's gracious hand 
       touching our lives

     Thank  you for this moment 
         of quietness
           to reflect once again

November-1992 N. L. Brumbaugh
From the archives, from when my family lived in
a mountain village in Northern California. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Teacher Wisdom.Self-Worth. Philosophy of Learning

Teacher Talk: A couple of ideas--

Some things are just good practice for transmitting messages and a sense of emotional and intellectual climate in the classroom. Over the years I have taught all grades, K - 8, with most of my energy spent as a reading teacher. I can say that some "extras" are needed to add-on in addition to the basics of academic acquisition of knowledge. This blog contains a couple of these ideas that I used as a side purpose, a type of affective filter in my classrooms.
During my years of teaching every year I would display the same poster on a bulletin board. The two statements found on the hand- written poster contained my philosophy about the reason for learning, which is to become an independent learner who will be able to think on your own. I knew I wanted to give my students something to take with them that conceptualized a deeper reason for taking their studies seriously. To come up with the exact words, precise and clear in statement, I spent several days mulling over the words that would say it well. These would contain what I believed the teacher-to-student objective should be, the bigger picture that frames the question, and the core importance of knowledge acquisition with personal initiative in learning. This same poster outlasted all my years of teaching. We discussed the statements the first day of school. I would use it as a reference throughout the year. By the time the year was out my students could tell me its content from memory. I hope it has been internalized by some.

It is my job to teach you to think.

 It is your job to think for yourself.

The words say it all to my way of thinking. Adults would often comment on its words when they came into my room and would wonder who I was quoting. "It is my philosophy for teaching" was my response.
Another concept I formulated was a series of self-image statements to teach individual worth to my students. I believe some students never feel valued or appreciated for who they are or for their unique qualities. Someone needs to emphasize the importance of children knowing the personal value of their part in the world. These were posted in a set. You are welcome to copy them for your own use with a credit notation. They are original with me.

     A   R E C I P E   for  L I F E

1. You have been given many gifts
    These are your talents and abilities.
    Work hard to make them useful.
    Develop them. Nurture them.
    Increase in value.

2. You have been given a gift
     And that gift is your mind.
     Use it well. 
     Develop it. Nurture it.
     Increase in knowledge.

3.  You have been given a gift
     And that gift is your personality.
     Use it to enrich your life.
     Develop it. Nurture it.
     Increase in satisfaction.

4.  Take the gifts you have been given
     Mix them liberally with common sense,
          kindness, virtue, and wisdom.
     Allow time for them to grow.
     Increase in integrity.
5.  Share your gifts with others
     Use them well.
     Develop them. Nurture them.
     And you will live a life that counts
          for the better good.
     This is called,"A life well-lived."

Now, ... do it ... and make me proud!
                                 Your teacher
                   BTW, ... I know YOU can!
#teacher #philosophy. #affective filter. #self-image #students

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Heaven worth the Hell on Earth?

Meridian Minute  no 19

I believe Heaven is worth the Hell on earth. Our view of Heaven is too limited. And we struggle with constant challenges. Yet I believe heavenly life with the Savior is going to be amazing beyond prediction. That's because He is amazing.

My thoughts are on Heaven today. I'm preparing a lesson for two groups of children, a kindergarten through second grade group, and a third through sixth grade group. I teach a lesson to both groups once a week. I am going to talk about  Heaven. I don't believe heaven is on the radar with most kids. Can't even say it's on my radar all that much. It's too out there, in another life. The present life seems a bit too frantic to even contemplate heaven during the daily busyness of living.

Why would anyone want to go to heaven ? Why would anyone not want to go to heaven? We've all heard the arguments. 

What do you think heaven is really like? It's a good question is it not? We have a scattering of ideas that come from passages sprinkled throughout the scriptures. People have written big books on heaven. I'm wading through Randy's Alcorn's life's study on Heaven. A good read and convincing. Yet there isn't all that much concrete information. There's conjecture. But, what is it really like? What can we expect? Why would someone look forward to being there? In my lesson, I will talk about what is not in heaven: suffering, pain, sickness, evil, and so forth, and I will talk about what is there: tree of life, book of life, celestial beings, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, homes, gold and jewels, people who have gone on before us, and so forth. Yet, it still can sound sort of tedious or boring. Is it boring? I have an opinion on some of what we may expect. The more I come to love my Savior and Father God, and to experience The Spirit's life in me, the more I know that it will not be not possible to bored in Heaven. Life starts to get interesting once God takes control. Not boring in the least, contrary to what others may think who've not supped at God's table.

The real reason heaven is so wonderful, is that we will see with our eyes what we have by faith believed in our hearts.

In my thinking, there is only one true reason that Heaven will be the most amazing place ever. It has all to do with son-ship. In heaven we will be family connected to the Source of all things living. This relatedness to the Triune God will put into our lives full acceptance and love that we only have in limited exposure/measure here on earth. I have this feeling that everything will be brighter, more intense than in this shadowland we call earth. Once we aren't mortals but immortals, we will rejuvenate and become ALL that we have ever wanted to be. There won't be the endless striving and disappointments of the earthly journey. I am certain we will be more incredibly ALIVE, more radically FULL, more fully COMPLETE than we can even imagine.

Can you imagine that? What it will be like when our faith becomes sight, when we see our blessed Lord, the scars in His hands, the wounds n His feet, and we know Him in His heavenly presence.

I have long felt that the earth in its groaning and suffering, with its struggle under sin's curse, is like something bound in a closed system. At times there are glimpses into the heavenly realm. For the past few years I have been seeking God with an intense fervor. I want to know God. At times I experience a joy and fullness that is overwhelmingly beautiful. One time it happened while I was singing in church up in front with the worship team. There was such spontaneous joy inside of me that I could barely contain myself. I felt like shouting and jumping up and down. It felt as if beams of light were radiating out from me. My smile was so big that I probably looked foolish. This happened to me during a time of personal crisis in my life, when I was drawing deep from God's well. My church is not demonstrative in that way, so I capped it, containing my inner joy. I wonder if that will be the way of rejoicing and worshiping in heaven? I sure hope so.

 Heaven will be a "safe house," a home that is welcoming, serene, loving and radiant. I love it that before Jesus returns to heaven to be with God, He says to His disciples, "In my father's house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you." We're "family" in Jesus' "Father's house."

Another time, I was writing at the computer after spending a long while in prayer and meditation. It was in the morning. I was looking out the kitchen window. The clouds were glorious and I was watching them change shapes. For a moment, just a moment, I saw varied colors transfusing the sky in indescribable colors, rich and bright. Then they were gone. I wondered at it. Was it a glimpse into the heavenlies of God?  It was as if I saw through a veil into a place of grandeur. There are many reasons to anticipate Heaven. Just to walk with Jesus will be a miracle of peace and joy. The #hell of this earth will fade away into oblivion. Past hurts will lose their hold on us. People who have wronged us will be fully forgiven and enjoyed in renewed relationship.

Jesus says, " I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." The Bible is the road map giving us the information. Jesus is the way, the Gatekeeper, we must pass to get there

The Bible is the roadmap that tells us the directions to Heaven 

#Jesus Christ  is the #Way to get to #Heaven. He is the #Truth and the #Life.
There is no other way. No shortcuts or bribes or good deeds that will be enough.
A person cannot pay their way into heaven. ... Not to worry.
Heaven is a by-product of a life hidden in the bosom of Christ. 
We are saved by Christ's redeeming love through His shed blood on the cross.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Words that Uplift and Bless

Invest in your mate. Put into their love bank. Say words that build up. Be genuine, sincere. Show and give affection just because. A few statements like these will go a long way.

Honey, I love you.

I thank God for you.

I'm so glad I married you.

I'm so glad you're in my life.

I appreciate the way you have cared for me (all these years).

You've made me a better person, thank you.

You make me look good.

You made me better because of my relationship with you.

Honey, I'll   ________   for you. (Something they like)

These words are nourishing, emotional  statements.  A form of a blessing. They are healing words, have a healing effect on the other person. Positive statements can help turn the relationship around. Sincerity, genuine caring, and a upbeat outlook will help. Gone, must be the holding each other in ridicule by saying unkind comments and digs at the other person's expense. What your partner/mate/special friend really wants is a safe relationship where they feel significant. Look for the beauty on the inside of the other person and act from the beauty inside of you. 

Say those things that build up your relationship, marriage. You will become a better person. There must be a spirit of honor and respect between the husband and wife, the people in the relationship. It is destructive to be in competition with each other. A person wants to be appreciated and loved, not just seen for what they do  and not for who they are. Marriages can become so much about function that one forgets the simple graces that transmit love and appreciation, value and honor. These types of words will promote a spirit of honor and respect between the husband and wife, the people in the relationship. Love is a way of life

God does "home improvements." God passes over the external to get to the internal. He will change the heart. Let Him change your heart first. It's a step in the right direction.
Blessings ...

-concepts gleaned from a sermon by Rev. Larry Petersen.

#marriage, #God, #emotions, #relationship

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Networking with a Community of Christian Women

#When A Woman Finds Her Voice. No 3

It arrived in my email inbox. "Norma, I thought you might be interested in this." The email was from the mother of my teenage daughter's friend. Hmmm. What is it? It looked like an application to join a group of women to help launch a book. I'd never been a part of anything like that. I had read about #Michael Hyatt's book and the concept of book launches. I didn't give it another thought.

I arrive in Colorado to help welcome my grandchild. During my visit with my daughter and her family, I decide to reread the email about the book launch. This might be a good thing. Maybe I could make some contacts in the Christian publishing world, something I didn't have. It might provide a way to meet other women. Why not fill out the application. No harm in that. The application takes me all evening.  I keep running into road blocks with the links as I cut and paste on my IPAD, not my favorite communication tool. But I persist. Finally done, I send it off, not overly optimistic that I'll be chosen to join the 101 women to be selected for the book launch team. I remembered back to the year before, the writing of my book. I had been lacking in outside support. What kept me focused was a belief in my dream and that God could use my words for His glory. It would have been mice to have some additional encouragement. Writing a book is no small task. Even overwhelming when you're new to the trade. The more I thought about it, the more I knew and believed it would be good for me to support Jo Ann Fore in her authoring efforts, todo what I couod to help out, and also see  the process from a different view.

I'm in. Made the book launch team. I have no idea what to expect. I really hope I will like Jo Ann Fore's book, #When A Woman Finds Her Voice, since I'll be helping promote it over several mediums. I'm particular about good writing and wouldn't want to recommend something in which I have reservations. As a team member, I wait in expectation. The first communication arrives.. I like Jo Ann's "welcome" to the women on her "team." Sounds on the up and up. Soon we begin the process of getting the word out through social media. At first, it's getting acquainted. Next, it's writing and making contacts. We are given an email attachment with a preview of the book's draft. Ladies begin posting lovely Pinterest quotes from the book. I am amazed at the creative imagery and quality of their work. But I wonder, what do I have to offer that is unique? I decide to just be myself, whatever that means. I add my voice when I feel prompted to do so and write my blogs and tweets. I don't have the base of knowledge in tech savvy, but that seems to be okay.

I download a preview copy of the book. The assignment is to preview the book and then write a blog with some quotes from the book. I choose Labor Day to do this. I stretch out on the couch with sheaves of papers and a pen in hand. I "star" the quotes that resonate with me. I find her story compelling. It's interesting. A challenging journey. A woman who hides because she must in order to survive the situation, doubly hard as a Christian working for a Christian organization. She is also masking the pain caused by abuse in her childhood. Her reactions have a similarity to my past. Now I'm tracking with her. She's avoids friendships and outside contacts just like I did. I felt a similar fear, but mostly I had avoided situations where my emotions might engage, fearing the avalanche of tears if the dike should come unplugged through emotional connection. Her transformation I could relate to as well. I have gone through the same process and experienced the amazing healing touch of God. This would bring me wholeness, freedom, and joy---and also, a death to ugly strongholds like pride and self-righteous attitudes. Like Jo Ann, I found myself on a new journey, with its message of hope, healing, and God's part in the process. We both had to be willing, to be serious with God, and open to His ministrations.

The gift of networking with other like-minded women. I have to confess, I was some-what skeptical about the whole book launch idea. I shouldn't have been. What I have found is a community of Christian women intent on helping one woman, Jo Ann Fore, meet her dream of helping women find their voices and healing, taking hours of their own time to do this, women who love The Lord, willing to be vulnerable with their own lives, and growing with the process of launching this book. I observe us reaching out to each other as sisters, and caring, praying for each other, encouraging when someone needs some TLC. It is beautiful. Beyond all this good stuff, I see a major positive. God is in this endeavor. The hand of God is all over the place. The enemy is paying attention. He realizes the potential to change lives through the written words of this particular story. Women on the team are feeling Satan's darkness in various ways. We persevere on, knowing this is God's work. Fulfilling our commitment to Jo Ann Fore, and to God.
* * * * *
Written in connection with,"When a Woman Finds Her Voice," by JoAnn Fore
Amazon Book Link is HERE