How to Not Let Them Get the Best of You

Monday, April 20, 2015

Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. Luke 6:27 {The Message}

Cut open and bleeding hurt can bring out the monster in us. After all, hurt people hurt people. We are never at a greater risk of hurting others than when our souls ache. Sin gives birth to sin. Hurt only breeds more hurt. We want to lash out. We want to take our burden of pain and lay it in the lap of another....preferably the one that caused ours.

And yet, God knew there was only one way to rid ourselves of the ache. We need to put down our weapons. And turn on our enemies. You turn them over to the justice God gives. You turn the other cheek. Return love for hatred. Give them our best in turn for the worst they gave us. It is the only way for them not to get the best of us, but rather to bring out the best in us.

But how do you do this? You do the impossible. You love the one that hurt you, your enemy. Here are some ways to do the thing you think you can't...

Pray for them. One of the hardest things to do is to pray on behalf of someone that hurt you. Yet, it is the very thing that will create heartstrings for that person. When you have heartstrings there is no hatred. Praying for the helps your heart change and forgive.

Assume the best of them. Regardless of what behavior you see coming out of them, assume the best. Even if it isn't their best behavior you can think of it in a more positive light. For example, if they are lashing out again in their behavior to you try to realize that they may be doing it because they are suffering {actually, that is almost always the case.}

Bless them. Remember when your momma used to say, "If you don't have anything good to say then don't say it at all."? This applies with your enemies. Bless them by speaking well of them when you can. I am not saying you need to lie about them, but actively look for the positive in them and proclaim it when the opportunity arises.

Do them some good. How can you treat them with kindness? Can you help them in some way? When they cross your path can you offer a hello or a smile? Take a step {no matter how small} to show them kindness when you can. Once again, this will allow forgiveness to flow. Sure at the beginning it will be hard, but the more you show kindness the easier it will get.

To read more on how to forgive, see this.

Bravery for The Anxiety-Ridden {Five Ways to Be Brave}

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

As Beth Moore has said before, "I have anxiety about my anxiety!". Life isn't easy when you live with a constant foreboding. Just getting through a day can be a challenge. Just getting out of bed is a challenge on certain days. I am pretty sure I was born nervous. It is so natural for me to fear. As a young child, I remember the fear. It didn't change as I hit the teens years. It actually got worse. By my thirties I was dealing with some really hard relational angst that only intensified the fear. In my early forties I was having panic attacks in the very place where I should have felt safe and loved. But my biggest challenge hasn't been the anxiety, it has been learning to be brave. No small feat for a girl whose storehouse of courage is non-existent. 

So how do you fight the fear and battle to be brave? After forty plus years of struggling I now have a few weapons in my arsenal...

Realize Who is really in control. Anxiety is really a control issue. You want to dictate the outcome so that it is always a good one. You want to make sure you are safe. You desire no pain. No heartache. No conflict. The fact is that you are NOT in control. You need to trust the One who is. When I came to realize that God really had my best in mind the anxiety started to fade. Even the worst event can be used for our good. Which leads me to my next point...

Understand that the very thing you fear will be the thing that conquers your fear. I still don't understand this concept, but it has totally played out in my life. My biggest fear? People. Let me restate that: Rejection from people. And that is exactly what happened to me. I was massively rejected by about four or five people that I cared about. When I say "massively" I mean they tore me apart. My biggest fear became my reality, but then God used it to break the fear. Do I still fear people? Yes, at times. I don't think I will ever be totally rid of it this side of heaven, but I have become braver with people. After the rejection it is easier to tell myself that if I can survive what happened then I can survive future run-ins with others. These days I stand up for myself more and worry less about what people think.

Tell yourself that fear is not a reality. Maybe you have heard this acronym for FEAR? False. Evidence. Appearing. Real. Fear is really a made-up scenario in your head of a potential disaster. It has nothing to do with the facts at hand. Anxiety-ridden people are great "fortune-tellers"; however, they tend to be wrong most of the time. Worrywarts are people with great imaginations. Just because you can imagine it doesn't make it so.

Remind yourself that "This too shall pass." Part of my anxiety is hormone-related. So there are times when I just have to tell myself that there really is nothing to fear and these feelings will pass. I choke down the fear by telling myself to hold out a little longer until I get past it.

Camp out on God's Word. Ann Voskamp writes, "All fear is the notion that God's love ends." Running with that idea, I have made the conscious effort to search God's Word to find out how much He loves me. Whatever it takes I need to know His love because His perfect love casts out fear. {I John 4:18} 

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession... Deut. 26:18

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine." Isaiah 43:1

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 {NOTE: With this verse I always interpret it this way..."If God is for me, then what does it matter that others are against me?}

In a desert land He found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; He guarded him as the apple of His eye. Deut. 32:10

The Lord God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:6

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Psalm 27:10

It is my prayer that if you struggle with anxiety that He will make you brave!

Studying Psalm 119

Monday, April 13, 2015

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I knew about it. I could quote a verse or two from it. I have read it all the way through. To be honest though, I had never really study Psalm 119. Earning the right to call itself the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119 never was on my radar to study in-depth. Maybe because I thought it was repetitive. Verse upon verse of description of God's Law. Maybe for the simple fact that it IS long I decided to not spend a lot of time there. However, I am so glad I decided to slow down in this chapter and really study it. 

Lyn Smith has written a study all on the longest psalm called Word: Psalm 119: a study in 22 meditations. Honestly, I had no idea what this psalm had to offer, but I have to say that it can speak to our daily lives. I thought it was all about God's Word, and don't get me wrong. It is. Yet, it is also about how the Scriptures can get us through life. This chapter has so much to offer and Lyn Smith's study walks you through it!

Here are just a few tidbits that I never knew existed in Psalm 119:

{The sentences in boldface are actually Lyn's words.}

God is more interested in our hearts than our behaviors because He knows that the condition of our hearts determines our behaviors.

One of the running themes? When others mistreat us we need to run to God's Word for help. His Word can get us through those tough relationships.

God's Word can give us hope. {So true as I am doing a series, Verses of Hope, this year.}

Suffering is part of the process of realizing God's goodness.

As we abide in Christ, others want to abide with us.

I loved this study because Lyn makes great connections and ask questions that really make you think. I am so glad that I have taken the time to actually see what Psalm 119 was all about! His Word is more than we can ever imagine!

Bible in 90 Days {Starting soon!}

Friday, April 10, 2015

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About five years ago I did something I had never done before...I read the Bible {cover to cover} in under 90 days. At first I thought there was no way I could even do it. Way too much ready, and I was sure that Leviticus would be the end of me! However, a "rapid read" through the Bible is far easier than the Bible in a year. I KNOW that sounds crazy, but it is so true. You get through the hard reads {think Leviticus} faster and you don't lose your focus like you can with reading in a year. Also, one of the big benefits is that you get to see a wonderful overview of God's Word and how it all fits together on the surface. It's a view of epic proportions. 

When Amy from Mom's Toolbox sent out an e-mail this week asking for mentors I knew the timing would be right for me to not only mentor, but to read along with those that I would be mentoring. I absolutely love being able to encourage others to get into God's Word!

So are you game? Want to take the challenge? Hop on over to this page and sign up! And then get ready for April 27th. What do you need to get ready? Just a Bible in whatever version you like. Amy will provide the reading schedule. However, there is a The NIV Bible in 90 Days that you can purchase that already splits up the readings within the Bible. It is the one I have used for two of the times I have done B90 {I used a chronological version the last time I read through in 90 days}. So as you can see you can get the B90 Bible or not. Either way works. 

So pray about it. If you feel led please go sign up! It's a life-changing experience!

Websites to Help You with Your Walk with God

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I know you are probably thinking that the title of this post is all wrong. Wouldn't it be better to get OFF the internet and spend time with God? You are exactly right! However, there are several site that I use to actually help guide me in my time with Christ. Here is a look at a few...

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The first one I will mention is a dear friend of mine. We have known each other a long time even though we haven't met face to face. I love His Mercy is New! Candace has several devotionals that I have gone through in which she teaches you to pray through the Scriptures. My personal favorite is Wait Only Upon God in which you spend forty days focusing on what it means to wait on Him. She recently posted a series of devotionals {They are free!} on HOPE.

She Reads Truth is another great site to find Bible reading plans. There are all kinds of can read through different books of the Bible like Hosea and "The Peters" or you can do something more topical like hospitality or thanksgiving. With each Bible reading for each day there is a short devotional thought to go with it.

Another site that I have used in the past is Women's Bible Cafe. You can sign up for online Bible studies with other women. I tend to use this site though for new ideas on Bible studies that I can do as the owner of the site tends to be in the know of new studies that are out. I am probably going to do Anonymous: Discovering the Somebody You Are to God sometime soon based on the site's recommendation.

When I want to listen to a sermon online I tend to go to North Point. I have gleaned so much wisdom from Andy Stanley, the senior pastor of North Point, and the other pastors that work with him. I really was convicted by one of the newer series called Brand New in which Andy talks about how we as Christians should treat those around us. It isn't about the rules {not that we should ignore them}, but it is about relationships. Besides, all the rules that God ever came up with had to do with our relationships to God and others.

So where do you go for resources to maintain your walk with Christ?

Nine Ways to Overcome Bitterness

Monday, April 6, 2015

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But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

Life hurts, and sometimes so do people. You can't be on this planet and avoid hurt from others. It just isn't possible. How we deal with the hurt makes all the difference in the world when it comes to our emotional well-being and quality of life. God knew this. He knew that if we hang on to the hurt the hurt would hang us. We would become bitter and destroy our lives and the lives of others.

In my early adulthood I made the conscious decision to not be bitter. I had seen what it had done in the lives of family members. God gave me the unique opportunity to see the "bitter or better" phenomenon in the lives of two of my grandparents. Both had experienced heartache. One became gracious and loving in spite of it. The other became full of spite. I promised myself that whatever happened I wouldn't let bitterness take over my heart.

Sure enough I ran full face into hurt. It has been a tremendous struggle to keep it from settling in my heart and taking root. There are days I fail at it. There are good days when I overcome it. Along the way this is what I have learned about trying to escape the clutches of bitterness...

Acknowledge it and confess it. After all it is sin. And sometimes it needs to be confess again and again, because sometimes an old hurt can be triggered by current circumstances. Unforgiveness has a way of seeping into our day-to-day.

Leave justice to God.  There are days when I wish the Bible actually said, "Vengeance is mine", says Debbie {or fill in the blank with your name}. Unfortunately, God is pretty clear that we are supposed to leave the offense in His hands. He knows the offender's heart and what needs to happen to them as a result of his or her sin. Every time we seek revenge and withhold forgiveness we are rewriting that verse. We make ourselves "God".

Stop rehearsing it. The most surefire way to hang on to a hurt is to keep rehearsing it in your brain. Resist them temptation to go over the past. Why relive the hurt if you never wanted to live it in the first place?

Get out if you need to. I know there are people who are going to disagree with me on this one. It seems so "un-Christian" to decide to end a relationship, but if the situation is toxic enough and there is no sign from the offender that he or she is repentant, it may be a signal that it is time to get out. Getting rid of bitterness actually may be easier if you remove yourself from the situation than to remain a target to the icky behavior.

Realize your enemy is just like you. As Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, "I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." Take a good, hard look at yourself. Are you broken? Have you ever hurt another human being? Do you sin? Have you made a few mistakes? We all have. You and your enemy have more in common than you think. So if you give yourself grace, why not to them also?

Expect NOTHING from them. Expecting anything from an offender means that it is easier for bitterness to creep in. I learned this the hard way years ago. I thought I had forgiven someone, but I was still hoping for an apology. It wasn't until I gave up that expectation that I was finally free from my own bitterness. It has been my experience in life that nine times out of ten the apology {and/or true repentance} never materializes. Give up the expectations for apologies, restitution, and the like. You will be happier in the long run.

Pray for them. Matthew 5:44 is one of the hardest commands in the Bible. Praying for your enemies is tough. You don't think so? Give it a try sometime. The goal is to really pray for them, and might I a positive way. Sure, you can pray for them by asking God to bring down curses on them, but I am pretty sure that wasn't His intent. He wants you to pray blessings over them in order to create a heart connection with them {which is what happens when we pray positively for someone}. He knows that if there are heart strings there is less chance of hatred brewing in your heart.

Do good to them. Proverbs 25:21-22 talks about heaping coals on your enemies. This almost sounds like a chance to make your enemy pay. Wrong! Heaping coals was actually a kindness. You can read about it here. Once again, doing good to our enemies will ensure that we aren't bitter. You can't hate someone you are actively trying to bless.

Read about it. Sometimes it is helpful to read about the process of forgiveness and how it works. It will help you see what forgiveness is and how to avoid bitterness. Here are some great books {one is a Bible study} on the topic.

Encountering the Healing Power of Forgiveness

Total Forgiveness

I Should Forgive, But...: Finding Release from the Bondage of Anger and Bitterness

Forgiveness: Overcoming the Impossible

The Devil in Pew Number Seven- This an AMAZING, true story of forgiveness. You think you have just cause to be bitter because of what someone did to you? Read this book. I am willing to bet that Rebecca Nichols Alonzo had more reason to harbor bitterness than most of us out there. Rebecca's last chapter has a great explanation on forgiveness.

Wisdom from JRR Tolkien

Friday, April 3, 2015

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It's been a long while since I have read Tolkien's works, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, but there are so many great lines in these books that are filled with wisdom! Here's a look at a few (Quotes are boldfaced.)

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. How we spend our time in life shows where our hearts are. What are our priorities in life?

There is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for. There are times that I feel that there is no good. Evil can be overwhelming. The negative can overshadow the positive. The good, however, is worth working towards no matter the obstacles.

Revenge only breeds more revenge. At some point, someone has to back down. Healing only comes with grace and forgiveness.

You may only come to the morning through the shadows. I love this statement because it is a reminder that we will have to go through hard times to break through to the blessings of life.

Short cuts make long delays. Sometimes it doesn't pay to cut corners!

Fair speech may hide a foul heart. We need to wisdom when dealing with others. People's hearts can harbor negativity even when they sound lovely. The trick is to be wise without being judgmental. Just because someone says one thing doesn't mean that is what is hiding in his or her heart.