Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When Death Interrupts the Thanks-Giving.

* The candle in the darkness penetrates the night. * Lift the banner high.       * The things we don't understand is where we walk by faith not by sight.       * The darkness did not comprehend the light.
A friend of mine buried his thirty-four year old son on Saturday. As I drove four hours through fog and unclear skies to get to the service, I felt sadness blanket my soul, its compelling grief swirling in layers around me. It is so hard to lose those we love, especially when there is heartache attached, a rift that has separated the family unit.

Things begin to happen, a division, a misunderstanding, a schism, fracture in the family tie. The sides are taken. Sometimes there is a third dimension,as there was in this case. Sadly, the evil one uses our weak areas and our uncertainty as an opportunity to gain the advantage. He attacks families, using insidious weapons to cause division, suspicion of thought and purpose, to cause walls to erect that come between...even when one fights to stop this from happening. People must be vigilant, pro-active, to head off these advances that tear apart, that cause destruction. The damage may be permanent, destroying trust and good faith. Some things become lost to us forever. I feel for my friend. What is lost cannot be repaired.

He and his son were guarded, their words infrequent, the distance real through circumstances hard to deflect. It is painful to lose flesh of your flesh, the hurt penetrates the soul when walls have separated, silence has entered, and words have failed. For my friend, the end came before the relationship healed. It is unknown what happened. Suicide or homicide? It has yet to be determined. The pain of loss is cleaving the hearts of both parents and two grown siblings, several nieces and nephews, and also a young daughter that the son has left behind. Their world will never be the same.
Yet. Always. Why? Why, God, did you allow such a tragedy? Why didn't you stop it from happening? And what about our broken hearts? Will life go on? How can we be happy when there is so little to be thankful for? Will we ever be happy again?
Is God cruel? Is loving and losing part of His plan? Does God really care about our broken hearts and wounded spirits?  

This I know. God takes the broken things of this world and He touches them. Something is created from the ashes of pain that would not have been created aside from the pain. Not as a punishment but as a deepening trust in God, a reliance on Him for that which we cannot endure during the suffering. We can never figure out the why. That is an unending enterprise. We have not been promised freedom from pain and tragedy but it is possible to accept both the good and the bad that life dishes out. God has given us a Helper to hold our hand as we traverse the difficult unknown, to restore and heal, and to find hope somewhere beyond ourselves.

Does God care? I think so. Jesus wept at Lazarus' grave. He raised a nobleman's daughter from the sleep of death. He comforted Mary in the garden by the tomb. God stores our tears in a bottle. He carries our burdens and comforts our empty arms. 
"Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thankfulness that Counts



Authenticity and Thanksgiving - Part 2                              Thankfulness that Counts

Photo by Thomas Wieland

What Mary of Bethany did was unprecedented in the story found in John 12:1-7.  She was lavish in her expression of adoration to Jesus. It was a party for Jesus. Her brother, Lazarus, was at the table with Jesus. Sister Martha, was serving. Mary enters with a bottle of precious nard, an expensive perfume—worth a year’s wages. She pours it on Jesus’ feet then wipes his feet with her hair. Why? Why would she do something so unusual, bizarre--embarrassing? At an earlier time we have seen Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus in rapt attention, absorbing His truths. Why indeed? What is it that has captured her attention? The truth is, Mary understands the better thing. Her understanding of the beauty of Christ’s words and the deeper truth contained therein, have prompted to her to give lavishly out of her thankful heart. She desires to bless Jesus in a way that expresses what is in her heart. She gives because she has received.
THANKS + GIVING = THANKSGIVING

We do strange things sometimes. When we are authentic in our spiritual life, we believe in a bigger God—we live close to the Source. When has your thankful heart given way to expression? When have you shared Christ’s love? When have you been the recipient of someone’s expression of Christ’s love which came out as a blessing freely bestowed on you? It can make a huge difference.

Have you ever seen God work a miracle and then multiply the blessing? I have. Some of the miracles have been in my own life. Things I couldn’t do or was unable to change, special needs, and personal requests, then my gracious God came in and caused the miracle to happen. When things like that happen, we are not just thankful for our salvation and our healing, the positive result, in our gratitude we become willing to give—and God gets the glory. Every time someone gives us a truth in a bite-sized chunk of meat, when they share and we internalize the truth, it has the capability to reproduce in another conversation at a later time, providing meaningful content that helps someone--a multiplied miracle.

It is our personal responsibility to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to keep sensitive to the Source, Jesus Christ. Some of the most authentic humble people make the biggest noise when they use their small voice. Their voice is amplified when God moves it into the mainstream—the global community. Mother Teresa was this way. She spoke what God gave to her even when her popularity and world-audience clambered her way with praise. It didn't turn her away from her focus. She lived out her love for her Savior. Mother Teresa simply was the hands and feet of Jesus to the down and out in the streets of Calcutta, India ... and to the world. God used her as his megaphone to a world that had lost its way, the faithful who had forgotten to live the Christ-way, and as an example of one who followed the truths found in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ is the answer. In Him is found hope, healing, forgiveness and truth. As His followers, Christians should live in ways that are servant-oriented. To be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be authentic in the community around you, Christ-followers must open their eyes to the need. Then ask God for the opportunities. It will amaze how it plays out. What should we be known for? Are we known for our pessimism, criticism, our negative outlook and critical spirit? Are we known for our kindness, caring, helpfulness and our positive outlook? This matters. Running down people doesn’t help them—and it exposes pride and arrogance of spirit. Any of us could be the user, abuser, street person, or other ... and some of us have been. God’s grace is for all the world. Authenticity means loving comes first.

What can we do to become authentic? If you are stingy with your money, start giving it away. If you are stingy with you time, start volunteering.  If you tear people down with your words, start building them up. Meet problems head-on. Meet self-focus head-on. Change what needs to be changed. God wants us to do this through His spirit. In Him, we will be able to become new and changed, authentic and real, true followers of Christ Jesus. We will give out of our thankfulness to the One who is Real.

The solution isn’t simple. The words aren’t light-weight. Being authentic doesn’t mean problems disappear. We may find a wall we can’t scale, a forest too dense to walk through, a river too swift to navigate. There will be times that God seems impossible to reach or the problems beyond what we are able to handle. That is why we need community. It may take some extra help, a caring friend, a gratitude journal, a counselor with wise counsel, a pastor with a servant’s heart, or something unique to your situation to find your way. Sometimes we must seek help to get through the trial.

Give thanks for the gifts you already have, even the small gestures of love and kindness. Enjoy the beauties of nature. Look at the smiles of the children. Read a scripture. Read Christ’s prayer in John 17. Give thanks. Out of your (spiritual) abundance, give something away to someone else. If it’s just a smile, it will still bless someone and lighten their load for a brief moment’s pause. Before you fall asleep, count ten blessings found in the day just finished. Don't quit counting until you have ten, even the small quiet gifts are significant ... a kind word ... laughter ... a tasty meal ... a phone call ... a warm thought ... a song on the radio ... a good morning greeting ...
I leave with you a few words to ponder.
Mother Teresa "In Her Own Words"
http://www.slideshare.net/PAAVANJ/mother-teresa-slide-show-by-paavanj

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Set Free to Live Again, A Spiritual Reflection

HEALING STREAMS, A New Day is Here                                  #When a Woman Finds Her Voice
Oh, the joy of the healing streams.
I was thinking about the joys of the present. I delight in life. The days bring me much happiness and inner contentment. Many of my blog writings have mentioned the pains of the past that marred my inner self, unpleasant times in the desert place. This time I will share the joys of the present by way of the healing streams that refreshed during my journey in the desert dry! It was a process rich, full of grace and goodness, healing and hope. I am eager to share these with you. God doesn't waste anything. He doesn't.

"See, I am doing a new thing!
It springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness 
and streams in the wasteland."  
                                                                             Isaiah 43:19
There were many roads that led me out of my desert dry. They came in increments of help and belief. I was never alone even though I felt alone. There were people who joined me in my fight for survival, and there was God. Without God, I would still be a wounded woman on the inside pretending through a spiritual facade (and not realizing it!), wearing the mantle that says  I am Okay...(but not really). It had nothing to do with a lack of faith, I was a strong woman of faith, no, that wasn't it. It had everything to do with being wounded, those areas deep within me that I couldn't see or understand, and God. Then, it became an active desire on my part, to let God reveal the internalized messages so He could change me in those hidden places. It took time and willingness, both were required. It is so absolutely wonderful to be free. Amen.

~I wrote out a short-list to show what was used to heal my soul with its hurting, wounded places.~


BEING LOVED
A bouquet. Being loved can be a balm for the wound during times of heartache and stress. My family has walked with me through some hard moments in my life. One in particular stands out, and there are many that could be shared. On the day my divorce was finalized my siblings sent me a bouquet to comfort me during my sadness. They knew how hard the day was for me and how much I didn’t want the divorce. The bouquet made me cry, it was a comfort to me, a small healing stream in the torrid water of life. That night, I lit some candles and watched a movie with my children and spent some time writing. My identity had changed from married to divorced and I didn't even believe in divorce. It hurt. Every time I looked at the flowers in the bouquet, I found myself surrounded by the care that whispered, we can't be with you in person but we are with you in spirit. It is so wonderful to be loved. It means all the more when your world is upset.  
Thank you, Mom & Dad, Juanita, Marilyn, and Paul

BEING ENCOURAGED
A phone call. Though-out the years there has been one person who has kept me in balance spiritually. He seems to call me just when I need it. His advice always ministers to me. He always has something to give. It starts like this. “Hello, Norma, How are you doing?” We talk awhile and then he asks about each one of my children. He is my pastor. I’ve been under his teaching for twenty-one years. His advice is sound, practical, something I can use. Every conversation has given me something to chew on, to think about that I can apply to my circumstances. Most of these phone conversations last thirty minutes or so. Then he will pray for me and also my children. I have learned, been validated, and encouraged in my spiritual walk by his ministering grace to me.
Thank you, Pastor Peterson.

BEING CONSOLED
A time of silence. Reading my Bible has been a practice of mine over the years. Praying is a main-stay. However, meditating on scripture has been a deepening discipline for the last decade in my life. Times of silence and listening with a journal and pen in hand, the Word open to a passage that talks to me, tools to record the fleeting thought, are a pool of streams in the desert. This has become my practice, the most meaningful of all. There are many days when a large chunk of time is devoted to this practice. I almost always light a candle and keep the room silent as I seek God with my heart, mind, and soul. Much goes into this time of meditation. Confession, repentance, surrender, openness, singing, deep concentration, dissecting chapter and verse, meditative focus, blend together with an active asking and seeking--listening.  Thoughts of consolation enter. I write them down. They are warm in tone, rich in expression. Being quiet before God and listening for His still small voice is what makes me feel close with my Beloved, in a friendship relationship which speaks to my inner self.
Thank you, Father God.


BEING HEALED
Forgiveness and healing. Seeking God for my healing came when I was ready to take the next step forward. I asked God to heal me of the wounds in my heart, if that was possible. I didn't know if it could be done and I didn't really know what they were. I wasn't harboring bitterness, resentment or unforgiveness. I didn't know what it was and just asked him to show me. That simple. Scary. I wasn't sure what would happen, if anything. I asked God to show me the lies I had believed and internalized. I asked God to remove the pain that had seemed to wrap around my heart and stifled my ability to experience life. I asked for joy and truth, over and over. 
First, it was the forgiveness that came, in a deeper way than ever before. 
      Next, it was the sorrow for my part in causing pain to others, in a deep cleansing tide.
               Last, it was a process of my emotions being healed through spiritual interventions. 
An intense few sessions it took, revisiting the old wounds so God through Christ could set me free. By His stripes and by His wounds I was healed.  I was set free. I am whole.
Thank you, Christ of the cross, God the Father, and Holy Spirit, my helper.
 
Easter Sunday: I'm sharing about the cross using a folded palm frond.

BEING COMFORTED
A family place. You loved on me. You carried me in your hearts. You lifted me up when the burden grew greater. You prayed for me, over and over, day after day, year after year. You accepted me when I was feeling lower than a snake’s belly. The day you all gathered around me and prayed for every member of my family, that God would work a miracle and keep the enemy at bay and from destroying what God had blessed, was a day I will remember forever. The healing streams you sent my way were a warmth of love that cascaded down my shoulders and into my heart. It meant so much to be prayed for by my sisters and brother in Christ, my loving church family. We've been through a lot together, your stuff and mine, and you've always held me up and prayed as faithful friends. You are one big heart of love.   
Thank you, Vina Community Church.


BEING TAUGHT
At the table.  What would I do without the ability to learn? I’d die. I’ve learned and learned and learned some more. How precious is the ability to learn. The things I have learned are the things of life. From my pastor I’ve learned what it is to live out the Keys of the Kingdom found in Matthew 18. 
Bind my thoughts to the mind of Christ.  
     Bind my emotions to the Holy Spirit.
            Bind my will to the will of the Father. 
                Loose that which is not of God, my wrong thinking. 
                          the lies I’ve believed, the Enemy’s strongholds in my life 
                     Bind me to You, dear God, loose what is not of you.
Learning to differentiate between a thought and a feeling. To know what is a thought and what is a feeling. To discern what is true and what is not true about me, circumstances, and the past. To be able to discern what is best, not just better. To determine what is “best interest” and what is self-serving. Learning the parts of my soul that need remedial interventions that I might become healthy and whole in my personhood and as a spiritual child of God. There is so much more, this is a drop in the bucket of truths learned. Surrender to God must be all encompassing.
Reading and reading, thinking and applying. I've learned so much, been exposed to variant writings of Christian thought, absorbed truth with an eager longing for more. I read people who are inflamed with a desire for God that shouts to the glory of God, writings so rich that they make me weep, so deep that I have to wade into their depths. How blessed I have been by people, both past and present, who dared to live authentic lives of faith.
Thank you, Christian-thought writers and teachers
Yes, I am blessed. Praises to God for His abundant mercies and healing grace.  I don’t know if I would have made it on my own without these many helps. I
am blessed and fortunate.
It is wonderful to be free. It is a joy to be full. It is humbling to be loved so much. Praises to God. Healing Streams in the desert wasteland. But! God doesn't waste anything. He needs us to trust Him and then surrender ... everything. Joy comes in. It replaces the sadness and sorrow. New life in the inner places can be had. Don't give up too soon. Seek and seek, then seek some more. Open up to God and He will open up to you. I believe this with my whole heart, and it is why I write my streams in the desert.

* * * * *
Written in connection with JoAnn Fore's "When a Woman Finds Her Voice."  
To purchase this book:  AMAZON LINK
#When a Woman Finds Her Voice
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 18, 2013

Authenticity and Thanksgiving: Thankfulness that Gives



Thanksgiving: Thankfulness that Gives to Others
 
~give thanks and give out of thanks~
In the biblical story of the loaves and the fishes, Christ takes the ordinary, gives thanks for it, and then He makes the miracle happen. God is still in the business of making miracles happen and then multiplying the miracle. The bread of life is multiplied in our lives, and then, as a result, we become broken bread and poured out wine.  God’s grace in us pours out of this inner spirit of thankfulness.

Are you thankful?

Do you have a Thanksgiving spirit?

We give thanks. Could it be more?

There is a tie-in between being thankful to God and the desire to give to others. Out of a spirit of thankfulness something will originate into another manifestation. From within a thankful heart towards God, a selfless expression of care will be given out either in word or deed. There is an automaticity embedded in this, "thanks" found in the nucleus of a thought that often will propel forth into an act of giving. 
“Thanks” + “Giving” = Thanks-Giving.

One of the best advertisements for Christ is a person who is authentic. What does an authentic Christ-follower look like? What will their life exhibit? Through my observation of authentic Christians, I have formulated a conclusion which will be broadly defined. An authentic person is calm, peaceful, strong, has inner power and is well-paced. They aren’t in a hurry but they’re not late either. They have something to give but they don’t push their way nor force to be heard. They have an answer when the question is asked. They are truth-bearers. An authentic person can say the hard things but in a kind way, they won’t avoid the question even if it requires swimming upstream against the flowing current of public opinion. There is a gentle nature within them, they know what they’re about. Yet, they can listen to a contrary view without reacting. They care more about the person than the deed. They see possibilities in impossible situations. An authentic Christ-follower is knit to the Source.

When we are thankful to God for what He has done for us and in us, out of this thankfulness we give of ourselves to God and we give to others. When we are giving to others we are giving to God. The two intertwine. The more we give to others, the more we give to God.

In the story referred to above, found in John 6:8-12, we have Jesus, the teacher, with a hungry multitude of people. Christ is going to teach the people by illustration. Christ gives thanks for a simple lunch of five barley loaves and two fishes. After giving thanks, Christ makes the miracle happen. The lunch multiplies. Five thousand are fed. Baskets of food are left over. In essence, Christ gave thanks to the Father, then he gives something physical in nature to meet the people's need for bread. Christ multiplies the miracle of blessing. The physical need is met. Later, in that very same chapter, it is explained that Jesus Christ is the bread of life. He is the spiritual bread that will fill and also meet the people's spiritual need.

Christ is the bread of life. He is our spiritual meat, our life source. Christ multiplies the miracle, the work He is doing in our lives, even when we aren’t aware of it. When we become authentic Christ-followers, He helps himself to our willingness to be bread for others and He projects a miracle in our wake. We need God to feed us in all areas of our lives: physical, mental, emotional, and intellectual. God brings to us the opportunities to give to someone else especially if we ask Him for these opportunities.

Real authenticity? Christ-follower authenticity? Example? Answer: Christ. Read thoughtfully the life of Christ as He lived it. And, there you will find authenticity, the model to follow or the example to expose whether the life is authentic or not.
 -----

Suggested reading: Joshua, A parable for Today, and Joshua and the Children
                             by Joseph F. Girzone.

#Jesus #Christ #Thanksgiving #Bread of LIfe

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Hear Their Voices of Pain

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice

 I hear their voices.
My husband is drinking from the minute he wakes up on the weekends. I have to run the errands because he can't drive when he's like that. He gets upset with me when I say that we can't spend anymore on beer, that we've spent our limit. I feel like his drinking is more important than us. I am tired of doing it all. I don't think he cares anymore. I don't know what to do.

I had an abortion when I was eighteen. I didn't tell anyone. I buried it. But, a year ago I started thinking about it. I ended up going to a resource clinic and taking classes to deal with my past. I wish I had made the choice like _______, she kept and raised her baby and now she's a beautiful young woman.

When you're depressed and suicidal, you just want to know someone cares. It's like you're in a hole looking up, trying to find someone to help you get out, someone to give you a reason, any reason, to want to keep on living (fifteen year old).

Taking care of mom is getting harder (Alzheimer's). Last week at the doctor's office, Mom was accusing me of all sorts of things (neglect) in the waiting room. People were looking at us. She was making a scene. I've had to stop taking it personally. Her moods can swing so quickly. I never know what kind of day we're going to have.

My stepfather molested me when I was a teenager. When my mother asked me if he was fooling around, I said "No." I couldn't tell her. It changes you. I worry about some of the girls in our church youth program. I want to protect them.

My husband was a pastor. I found out he was going to "massage" places and doing "stuff." I confronted him. He was apologetic, embarrassed. Then he promised never to do it again. But, awhile later they sent him a 'thank-you for your business' letter. I couldn't believe it. The marriage was over. I couldn't do it anymore. My kids haven't recovered, especially one son. He suffers deep depression and doesn't have much to do with church.

Both my parents were drunks and used foul language. I never knew what it was to be treated with kindness, to not be cursed and yelled at. My husband had a nervous breakdown. We were in another country at the time, a military family. I held the family together. It was harder than anyone knew. I stepped up to the plate and took care of my family. I learned fast. It was difficult during his time away from us during his hospitalization. I had three young children and we didn't know what was going to happen. Mental illness is hard on families. Then I met the Lord. The pastor's wife took me under her wing. She taught me how to do things and how to organize events. I owe so much to her for teaching me how to study the Word.

My husband won't work. He doesn't support the family. He doesn't even keep the home up. I get tired of carrying the load. I try to help him to become more responsible but it's like having another child to take care of. He lacks motivation. I wish he would do something and treat me better. He doesn't appreciate what I do. It's so lonely. I just want to be loved for who I am.

He left me for an old high school flame. They got reacquainted at his reunion. She pursued him. We aren't divorced yet but he's left. I don't know what God wants me to do. He's not interested in spiritual truth. We used to have good times. We enjoyed our little farm. I guess it's over. What do you think?
They come to me. They whisper their hurts. They share their pasts. They're embarrassed.

I listen to them. I hear their pain. I see if they're growing or stagnated, depressed or hopeful. I give them what I can. I pray and I hope. I ask questions and I share lessons-learned as a co-seeker of God's grace. Most of all, I care. Pain isolates. Caring identifies. Love transcends the differences. 

I am only one. But I am one. I am only one voice. But I am one voice. Their hope is small. But my hope is big. I want them to catch the life-saver I'm throwing out to them, the life-saver to save their life, to bring them to safety, to a safe place--to a hope and healing place centered in the arms of Jesus, sweet Jesus, the Lily of the Valley the Bright and Morning Star.

You see, they know I've been there, that I understand what it is to hurt so bad, to hide the pain from view.

When my voice was silent, in the midst of a sea of women seeking God, I could not speak. I could not tell my story. I avoided events like this, afraid I couldn't manage my emotions. Here I was, though, Arco Arena, Sacramento, CA, Women of Faith event, top row tucked away in the peanut gallery, looking at the big screen because we were far away from the platform. 
Patsy Clairmont was sharing a story about a woman who she sat by on an airplane. This woman had been left by her husband for another woman. He and his new wife had the gall to move into a home on the same street where she lived (the family home where they had raised their daughters), then "they" proceeded to take over the family business. It was a bitter pill, especially at this stage in life. One day this woman was praying and seeking God in her brokenness. Slowly, her heart became full. She decided that her life was not over, the sadness would not consume her every moment--if she wouldn't let it. Later that day, she was ready to mop the kitchen floor. She turned on the music. Something came over her! She grabbed the mop and started to dance after turning up the tune to full volume. Just then, her adult daughters stopped by, in shock to see their mother dancing with a mop. Soon, her daughters were dancing with their mom, laughing and giggling. Life was not over. The woman was on her way to healing.
I listened to the story. My emotions barely in check. I wanted to cry buckets. I had known that same betrayal, more than once, but the women in my church did not know my hidden hurt. I was their Women's Ministry leader, a woman they looked up to. They didn't know my secret sorrow. I wished I hadn't come. The hurt was resurfacing and its alone feeling, even though I was surrounded by a multitude of women of faith.

A few years later my hurts would be healed and my life restored. I knew there were other women like I was, godly women, sitting in churches, hurting, and not being helped. I wanted them to know that there is always hope. There are ways to get help. And, there is God. I would begin to speak out, to dispel the darkness and expose the lies.

So, my unknown friend, you are not alone. Many have walked your path. If you are weary, if you are sad, if you have little strength, I want you to know, you are not alone. Some of us care. We care very much. We want to see you happy. We want to see you smile again. We want to lift you to safety out of the deep waters and into the raft above the danger. You can't do it alone. The Lord Jesus Christ will help you. He's good at it. Reach out to Him. He is reaching out to you. He is about living. The pain of circumstances is not the end. You must push through the circumstance to get to the other side. First, you must get into the raft. You must seek your own healing. It won't come to you without your personal initiative, a willing heart and the love of God. It is worth it, and it is possible. Trust me.

Here, let me help you. I'd like to help. Send me a private email if you need someone to talk to. 

Your Sister in Christ, 
Norma
nlbrumbaugh@gmail.com 

* * * * *
Written in connection with the book, "When a Woman Finds Her Voice," by JoAnn Fore.

 To purchase this book: Live Amazon Link











All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

THAT DRATTED ENVY

If only...   I wish...  Not fair....          OH NO! Stinkin' thinkin' crops up once again!

I have never liked it when I feel the pangs of envy. Often envy stems from a sense that someone else has it better than I do. My feelings of envy are not in the area of material possessions, even though I can wish for things like nice homes and beautiful furnishings, but that’s not where it gets me in trouble. My feelings of envy come out of a negative place of comparing myself to others in my accomplishments (or lack there-of), being envious of others when I see them achieve in areas in which I have wished to be successful. 

Like the person who gets the position I have hoped for, or gets the recognition I've never received. The people I watch who receive the promotions or get the jobs or other opportunities of which I have hoped would come my way. The writing contests and book turn-downs can feed this monster called envy--when I see others achieving while I watch on the sidelines after doing the hard work to try to get there. I've wasted a lot of time on empty hopes and dreams. Even those who have successful marriages with a mate who has remained by their side through the test of time can make me feel envious. I don't want to be envious...but it has a way of creeping up on a person.

Lately, envy has presented itself once again. A friend of mine who was just recently widowed is already in a loving caring Christ-centered relationship. My first thought was, “Why her?” “She had her turn.” See, how unloving and unkind the thoughts of envy can produce in me? Really, truth be told, I am happy for her. It’s just I get unhappy for me! In another area, I had a wish, the dream was to write a book that would sell and bless and lead to a ministry to help hurting people. It hasn't happened. I wrote and published the book but it hasn't made it to many readers. This makes me feel disappointed, because I know it is a book that has a message of healing grace. I know it's in God's plan to do with as He wills. Yet. ... Ironically, I became a  part of a team promoting a book for someone else so I can help her realize her dream for ministry. Truthfully, I am pleased for her. I am glad it is going well. It's a great experience and I've been in contact with many amazing women. But once in awhile it makes me feel sad of heart. 

I can feel envy even when I know I shouldn't feel that way. It can bite me. Every part of  this woman's ministry is similar to the ministry I had imagined for myself. In one week of sales, her book has already climbed the charts to a bestseller ranking on Amazon. Envy reared its ugly head again when I checked up on it. I felt wistful and wishful. Sour grapes anybody? Yet, I am happy for her and glad that she is following her heart and has put in the hard work, and I know it is exhausting, to develop a team of caring women to help her move this book forward. Honestly, I believe God has given her a passion for reaching others with a message of hope and healing. I know her heart is in the right place. I know without a doubt that this is God’s ministry for her. Again, I am happy for her, I really am. I bet in the ministry there is pastoral or church envy or the opposite, pastoral or church pride. But, I struggle with sadness for me. Too bad. I shouldn't be sad. I should be glad that God is at work in someone else's ministry. When I think on it that way, I do become glad. It is the grace of God which moves and directs all our paths. I should be good with that. 

The cool thing is, and there is a cool thing, is that I can get out of this funk by looking to my Savior. Who, is receiving "success," is not something I can determine. Only God knows the heart and the work he is doing. And, that makes it okay with me when others do well. I am a dreamer and a believer in the possible positive. Kingdom thinking is what is needed. It's not about others, their performance and successes. If I am where God wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do, and letting Him run my life. We're good. Real good. Knowing this frees me up.

I have matured enough to recognize envy when it knocks on my door. I don't want to sin in my thoughts. I want to be so close to God that none of that matters. I know better than to let it get the best of me. As soon as I see envy in myself I address it and talk horse-sense to myself. Then I give God the glory for what He is doing, even when it is for someone else. Envy is self-focused. I don’t want to be that way. It is my desire to be God-focused and Christ-centered.


I posted on Facebook about my recent bout with envy:
“I had an attack of envy today. I was thinking something wasn't fair because I am not as fortunate as this other person in a certain area. I just hate it when I feel envious of someone else. I don't want to feel that way. At least I realized it for what it was,,,and called it out. "Girl friend, you're feeling envious. Knock it off!" Some things jump up and grab us. We have to dismantle them in a hurry.”
A Friend of mine responded to my comment:
“You might be envious of a few but MANY are envious of you. You are a tough act to follow girl!”
Which just goes to show how silly it is to envy others when in reality, others are envious of us! I looked it up in the Bible, and yes, there are verses that speak of envy. To chase envy away, it helps to live close to the Lord. I think of Oswald Chambers. He said that we should be pleased and content even if we are put in the meanest place on earth. Our hope is Christ, our reward is in Him as well. That puts it all into perspective. If we live in a right relationship with God there will not be room for envy to take over. We can face it and dismantle it and then go on with life, letting God do what He is going to do and then to be content with it. Let it go, let it go, let it go, as the old song says.

Be happy today. 
Be grateful for the little things. 
Look for positives to celebrate. 
Be thankful for your eyesight, hearing, senses, and provisions. 
Recognize all who love you and care about your needs. 
Smile at people as you shop in the grocery store. 
Be friendly. 
Be kind. 
Be caring. 
Love the Lord.

A good way to chase the envies away. Yes!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Wise vs. Foolish Life



Biblical King Solomon considers and ponders throughout his lifetime the inter-workings of the many pieces which make up the whole. These capture his imagination. With flowing words and to-the-point comments, he shares his reactions be they angry, happy, melancholy, passionate, disillusioned, reflective, spiritual, or sad. Solomon writes at length, unpacking his churning thinking as to the meaning one attributes to love, wisdom, and life. He gets there--to the end--where reason meets truth, to an acknowledging of the Mastermind behind the scenes. He realizes that in the end it is all about God. In his own way stating that we as humans will be best off if we come to an understanding of God’s ways.

Solomon’s reasoning is unveiled for us to contemplate from his gift for pondering the truths and their inner wisdom found by studying details of life as it is lived under the sun. He looks at the reaction that comes as a byproduct result from the action. His book of Proverbs document how closely he was paying attention to the details. In Proverbs we uncover a subtle almost covert warning hidden within its mini messages. 

Solomon wants to caution us against foolishness—the human’s flirt with the wicked, and also to encourage the converse—the human’s desire for that which is righteous. 

It is truly a book to expose the truth and its consequences. King Solomon, the son of a humble shepherd-turned-king, tastes much of what life has to offer. He does not deny himself the pleasures of life. In the end, after much study, contemplation, and reflection, King Solomon states his thoughts on the matter using words that are common to life.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV)

           For King Solomon to ascertain and make this conclusion after extrapolating a copious listing of all the empty valueless properties in life is a monumental statement in its essence. “All is vanity.” says the Teacher. In this, he realizes one of the minute yet all-powerful views on life. He gets it. His world view is unfolding, he cannot contain his enthusiasm for his contemplations. His readers get a glimpse inside his head to see the depths of these ponderings. Maybe that is why I find his books refreshing, like the slices of meat, tomato, and lettuce arranged between two slices of bread. Don't forget the avocado! Power statements! That, which he finds in life as of worth and value is what is worth connecting with in spirit communing. Solomon concludes, simply stated, that which is real is what the human person is striving so hard to find. 

What is “real” is what gives meaning to life. And then there is a link that connects it together. It is this: That which is real is connected to the Creator in both wisdom and purpose. Solomon is seeing life by looking back over his shoulder, much as I am as I write. He finds that it is beginning to make sense.

My own experiences pale in comparison to Solomon’s. Yet they speak. My moments in life have a message common to experience as they provide a realistic view while seeking to expose some of that which is real in purpose and Presence The way  and how I find God in the midst of the crisis, person, or event. In this walk that is called “life,” a person finds very little that is predictable. If only it could be known  in advance what is “down the road and round the bend.” But, if it were possible to do so, people might not like it. In fact, I am fairly certain most would not be up for the challenge. The troubles that life has a way of throwing at unsuspecting humans seem to take a toll on the emotions, optimism, and belief systems. 

Stepping back from this reality and seeing the lessons learned or the personal growth it exacts can be difficult, painful too, this is true unless a person seeks to see the gifts the problems teach, bring, and give to us. Interventions, implemented by a Divine Love in anyone’s life, can assist us in seeing the bigger picture—the landscape of our human lives that God is painting for all Eternity’s view, a picture so amazing that some day those of us shaped by God will be able to stand back in awe, grateful for those things which seemed so devastatingly impossible at the time, requiring more of us than a person thought possible. In truth, all of life’s goods and bads can be used for personal betterment if a person will allow them to do so. Even the harder more painful episodes have at their core the power to teach, and offer opportunities to reach out in personal understanding, encouragement, and empathy to other co-sufferers. The experiences need not be wasted or buried beneath fractured selves and wounded images. 

The gift that age brings is the ability to see more of the Master Plan that is playing out in our own lives. In this way, we are able to accept the “whys” that seemed so elusive at the time. In-tune people are able to acknowledge the way in which little and big moments have shaped them into the beings they have become and were always meant to be. In this is found a quiet joy. We as humans find that our lives have meaning, value, worth, endurance, with the power to touch other lives. A kind word, a shared opportunity, a quiet gesture, a word of affirmation can give a hand-up to someone that may well last a life-time. A person rarely knows the impact they may have in any given situation, place or event. The gifts that he or she will give or receive that are spontaneous unintentional happenings have in their embodiment the power to reverse a negative message into a positive encounter that will remain as a blessing in our's or another’s life.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Courage Needed: Going to Court and a Custody Battle

He and I sat on opposite sides in the courtroom.
A day spent together hiking in the outdoors that eventful summer.
Here again. Different venue, but our tangle of emotions alive, sizzling, tense. The memories re-surfaced. We had been at a similar place eight years before, across from each other, lawyers by our sides; the dismantling of our twenty-one years of marital togetherness in the final stages of legal due process. Its finality undeniable. Unwelcome. His lawyer, my lawyer, and documents and legal agreements. He and I were polite, courteous, civil. My attorney had voiced surprise at our calm agreeable treatment of each other. We weren't the arguing type. Never had been. It had seemed strange that day, my mate across from me, not sitting by my side ... when in my mind were still joined as "one." My heart was cleaved in two during the proceedings and the events preceding his choice to exit our marriage and family unit. That had been hard, terribly hard for me. I had believed our marriage could be saved up until the moment of its death. An army of Christian family and friends had prayed for me that day. I had needed their prayers most desperately. 

Here we were again. Yes. Time and circumstances had changed me in the years between. He really had no clue as to how much I had grown in all areas of my life. Difficult growth but positive in every way. My emotional support group, prayer warriors, were at it again. How much I needed their prayers. I felt weak. The darkness was waging war with my family. The pain was back. The process of healing had taken years of repair, not yet complete. Why did we need to come back to this hurting place? It was hard to revisit its turmoil. The wicked darts of emotional warfare were touching all of us: my grown children, young daughter, my ex and me. 


The spiritual battle had descended. We were conflicted over the custodial arrangements for his and my youngest daughter who was twelve at the time. She was wanting to live with him in a neighboring town, no longer with me. When I resisted this plan, words were said. He felt I had turned our children against him. That stung. It was not true. I had  encouraged them to keep the door open. But this scenario was unexpected. I couldn't imagine it as being a good thing for her. After much prayer and advice, I knew that I must get in the fray. I hate conflict. It goes against my nature and beliefs. But, there are times you have no choice, not one you can live with anyways, you know you must take action.
"MY YOUNGEST CHILD DOESN’T WANT TO LIVE WITH ME any longer. The father of my children and my child announced this to me after sixth-grade graduation. It was stated as a fact, as if it had already been decided as a done deal. I was calm but inwardly felt devastated. I spent the week talking with people who have been through things like this, and I talked with others, like the school psychologist and my minister, getting their input and perspective before making my decision whether to agree or not agree to a change of primary custody. I never thought this would happen.

The court battle was upon me. I would be brave, courageous, meeting the challenges. But how to? I didn't wish to hurt him or to set off a negative chain reaction. I had never learned to stand up for myself. He wouldn't expect it of me. It would anger and hurt him. I knew his vulnerabilities. I would speak up for my daughter's sake. Fear. I was afraid. I knew what I was facing. And I knew it would not be well-received. I had become the enemy in this drama. The conflict was causing tension in my daughter. She and I were now at odds, unable to function as should a mother and daughter. Her opinion of me had altered. I was on the "outs." No longer was I able to speak freely, my authority compromised. Things I would say to her were no longer kept between the two of us. I became "suspect" in my own home. Scary and uncertain was this path. It was tense for me. My closest friends were like medicine, listening to me as I tried to figure it out.

My Pastor kept tabs. He heard my hurting heart after I told him about some negative communications that my ex husband had been saying about me to my older children. My four oldest were in varying stages of reacting, taking it in different ways, some in silence, others in words of pain. None of it good. This was upsetting to me. They were being put on a side. It was from the Enemy. His presence was all over it. I knew this. I could see it and feel it. My wish had been to begin a ministry to help hurting people. I had prayed the "Prayer of Jabez" about this desire of my heart. I was beginning to formulate a plan of action. Now I was side-lined into a place where I did not know the right way to proceed. I did know that most of all I wanted to do it God's way. How to do it His way, and also stand up for my daughter's future, was a mystery to me. I am a peace-maker, less a warrior.             
"MY PASTOR GATHERED PEOPLE TO PRAY FOR ME after the morning service yesterday.  Before the service started he asked me if this would be okay.  He was aware of the turmoil and comments directed at my adult children and me. Then, at the conclusion of the service, he mentioned the situation and that my family was in need of prayer. He invited those who knew our family and would like to pray to come to the front. I sat on a chair, and they gathered in a circle around me. He briefly explained my situation and cautioned them—that in joining in the spiritual battle by praying for me and my family, they could also expect spiritual warfare in their own lives.
Many prayed, some with tears in their voices. Two who prayed, a young man who is a father of two and a young woman who is a mother of one, both were peers with my oldest two children and knew them growing up in the church; prayed specifically for my four grown children. The young man stayed after to hug me; he said my sons are like brothers to him. I could tell he felt emotion. As people prayed a warmth cascaded around and through me; I could feel the light touch of someone’s hands resting on my shoulders. I felt that many were remembering back to years before, when our family unit of good standing came apart in their midst, and my children and I suffered such deep hurt.
After they were done praying, I told everyone, “I feel loved.” I've never been prayed for in that way before. They love my child, my older children, and me. Two sweet friends gave me hugs, and they spoke with sad voices. I told one friend I had been hoping for healing in my kids lives this summer, but instead it’s been more pain. She said, “God can use this.” How wonderful to be prayed over. What a blessing; the prayers spoke to every area that need speaking to—and with charity toward my ex-husband. Amazing. Before the circle prayer, some who couldn’t stay told me they are praying, and I know they will."
Oh, beautiful loving friends of God. You came in when I needed the extra measure of courage and stout-heartedness. You loved me when I needed so much to be loved. Standing with me. Holding my hands. Trusting Jesus for the outcome. You went with me as I entered the fiery furnace. You cared about all of us and were kind and nonjudgmental. Thank you. You were real love to me.

"TWO DAYS AGO I FACED A GIANT. The giant came in the form of facing my ex in court and facing the fear and intimidation it represented for me. I had to present things that would not set well, and I knew it. Courage. I had to pull up the courage to say what needed to be said without losing my dignity and soft-spoken way. I had to confront my own timidity and fears before I could speak the words I knew I needed to say. The prayers of God’s people supported me as I walked into that room. My twelve-year-old daughter’s destiny held in the balance. The verse God gave me this time was, “The battle belongs to the Lord”; such true words. Emotional, critical-to-life thoughts drain me.
Terms of the agreement documented a change in primary custody. My daughter moved to her father's home. My "win" was the agreement for her to attend a private Christian school in my town. It was something I pushed for as a safe-guard for her. I felt grief the days and weeks following her exodus. I worried about her. I continued to walk on egg-shells when she was with me on my weekends. A darkness seemed to hover. She reacted to almost anything I would say. Over time the scene began to change. She started spending more time at my home after school, a mid-week overnight, playing the piano, scarfing down my home-made meals, less defensive, more talkative. I did some changing. Lots of soul-searching and a reassessment of my parenting. God took me to a new level of trust.
 
Piano recital that spring.

And, I realized a true fact, she really just wanted to have a dad. She had no memory of him living with us and I had never remarried. She needed a dad, and more attention to her needs. I had been so busy with teaching school, farming, and church, that her needs were not being met. Especially, her need to be heard. I was forced to reevaluate my busyness.

Going to court is hard. We both want to raise our children. I learned something amazing from the experience. God helped me see His faithfulness as he protected my child and cared for her when I could not be with her. The tide changed again eighteen months later. We faced it with a peaceful resolution.
"THE SUN IS SETTING. NO FOG AFTER A WEEK OF DAMPNESS. My heart is full of happiness. God has answered my prayer. My baby, my little girl, my sweet daughter has chosen to return to my care. It has been a sorrowful road, but today she decided for sure. Soon she will live with me again. I had to come up here to mark the joy in my heart and thankfulness now that is mine. Her father called yesterday. He was so pleasant, kind, courteous, different. He seems more aware, even wished me luck on the house I made an offer on yesterday. He said I deserved it, and he hoped I would get it. Wow. I still feel stunned.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you with my whole heart. Thank you for my daughter, for my ex, and his willingness. I praise you, I adore you, magnify you, glory in you. Praise be to God for his amazing grace and ever-faithful ways. During joyless weeks, I found my true joy in you, dear Father God. So blessed by your presence I have been. You moved so quickly after an eighteen-month wait—a long time in which I learned to find my rest in you. You alone give rest in the midst of emotional and physical crises in my life. How good you are to me. Your comfort fills me. ... I wish more people had eyes to see your beauty."
We learn through all of life's experiences. How glad I am that God gives me what I need when the battle is upon me. I am also grateful for the times when the battle is over, when I can look back and see the goodness of God that kept and helped and interceded during the trial and times of woe. Praise Him! ....                                      
I wrote on the subject of courage for Jo Ann Fore's author site. Acting with courage has been a challenge for me. There have been many times when I have asked my Father God to give me courage during times of insecurity and trouble. I heard my teenage daughter telling a friend recently, "You are stronger than you think you are," a throwback from one of my quotes to her! We don't walk alone. God walks with us.

If you haven't read it yet, you will be blessed by reading 
Jo Ann Fore's book. Chapter 8 goes into detail about the part courage plays in the process of becoming a woman who will speak.

"When A Woman Finds Her Voice" will bless and encourage you. It may be purchased by following this link:   Amazon Book Link is Here

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