Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When God Gives Stones


Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11

Have you ever received a gift that you simply didn't know what to do with? Or maybe it wasn't what you had hoped for. You had your Christmas wish list, and frankly, what was under the tree didn't match what was on paper. We all have received gifts we didn't want or didn't know what to do with. There are times when we feel that even God isn't giving us what we want. We feel that somehow He misunderstood our needs, our wants and desires.

The fact is that sometimes what God gives feels more like stones and snakes...items that were never on our wish list. Over the past few years, I have received more than my share of "stones from God". Painful stones in the form of damaged relationships. They were "gifts" that I felt should never be given. Surely God was mistaken. Didn't He realize?

It has been a slow journey of trying to understand why He would give such unlikely gifts...

In the end, God does NOT give stones. It may have looked ugly. It may have hurt something fierce. But looks are deceiving and pain can be a pathway to peace. What I thought were stones were...

freedom
peace
a place of safety
favor bestowed on my sons
love
a position of honor
answers to my prayers

So the next time you think you have been handed a gift from God that resembles a stone or a snake...hold on. The gift may not be what you think it is.
  He knows only one thing:
 how to give good gifts.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fighting the Foes


I am not going to lie. I know the pain of depression and the fear that comes with anxiety attacks. There are days when all my mental energy works towards fighting the two off. I come by the duo naturally. All fallen creatures have something they fight off.  For me, anxiety and depression are my foes. One of the ways I struggle against them is a mind adjustment. Before you think I am totally weird let me explain. If your back is out of whack you go an get it adjusted. It is no different with your heart and mind. Gratitude for all God gives helps me change my thinking and keep me from sinking too low in my thoughts. Thankfulness breeds joy and peace. Two commodities I desperately need.

Here is my gratitude list for the week...

{4,660-4,673}

-Time with friends
-Re-doing our kitchen
-Quiet mornings
-Getting some school planning done
-Safety for a neighbor
-The reminder that life is precious and short
-A hug from a friend's mom
-Cuddles from puppies
-Getting some deep cleaning done
-That He carries me through the sadness
-Validation on some choices made
-Knowing that if others don't understand, God does
-A beautiful example of how apologies can lead the way to wholeness
-Reassurance

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Power of Snakes and Written Words

Photo by Harlan Humphrey @ Wild Scenic Nature

They are just letters strung together, but some slither and strike. Words with power to kill a heart, a relationship, a soul.

I almost can't open them, because I have lived a lifetime of ugly written words. It doesn't matter the format or delivery method...the ones wrapped in envelopes, the ones that ping in your purse as the text comes in, or the ones patiently waiting on Facebook in a private message. They coil ready to strike...

You deserved the abuse.
I don't think you should be teaching my kids.
You're the problem.
God is going to hurt you because you won't do what I want.
You are not loved anymore.
I don't want your gift.
That was an awful decision on your part. What were you thinking?

I try hard to push them down, but stuffing them only makes them bite harder and the poison seep deeper. I can't overcome those words written on the paper or the screen. They killed a part of me, and I am not sure I can ever revive what was lost or can I?

My dad has killed a snake or two. Grandpa...grandma...they knew how to confront the scary rattling sound in the grass to avoid the strike. You don't live on the prairies of South Dakota and not know how to overcome a snake. "Always be well-dressed (boots that protect the legs you stand on) and always use something more powerful to kill it (a shovel is an efficient tool)."

How do you destroy those angry, written words? What is more powerful than the words that struck your soul? WORDS

They are just letters strung together, but they help and heal. Words have power to kill the words that killed you.

I was just telling my sister what a wonderful teacher you are.
Your words were exactly what I needed.
I love you.
You are stronger than you think you are.
I am so sorry.
I am here for you.
What you wrote encouraged me. Please don't stop.

or these words, the most powerful of them all...

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Isaiah 49:15

Do not fear for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him how loved us. Romans 8:37

Or how about some loud words?!

He will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

They are just letters strung together with all the power in the world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Center of Shame {Three Practical Ways to Rid Yourself of It}


She has been shunned. Not because of what she did, but what has been done to her. Permanently kicked out of the household because she bore his son. No more family to lean on. No more home to live in. Her name is Hagar.

He had to flee. When you take justice into your own hands and kill a man it is bound to come to light. So into the wilderness he runs. No more family. No more friends. No more palace. His name is Moses.

They aren't allowed around others. When you look like that who would want you? They are filthy and not fit for human companionship. The law may keep them away, but it is the shame that keeps their eyes low. Their name is Leper.

When shame walks into a room relationships walk out. The center of shame is the absence of relationship. We have messed up too much to be in the presence of others. Or we have been sinned against so much that our only conclusion is that we must be unworthy like a leper. Shame creeps in.

We try to get rid of it. We blame another thinking that will cleanse us. But the "Shame and Blame Game" has been around since a snake serve up pieces of fruit in a plentiful garden and has never worked. Blaming our neighbor won't release us from it.

We try perfection. Funny, because it is our lack of perfection that brings on shame. Just maybe if we are good enough, kind enough, a servant enough they will accept us. You can't obtain perfection if you aren't perfect, and besides, perfection didn't work for Jesus. He was perfect, and yet unacceptable. They hated Him. Shunned Him. Rejected Him. Perfection won't silence the shame of rejection.

We try the "Great Cover-Up" also know as a lie, but it is like trying to cover up a hemorrhaging wound...there are no resources to make that look pretty.

Are we destined to live an isolated life? No relationships because the shame can't be blamed on someone else, perfected into something else, or lied into oblivion. At the center of shame is the absence of relationships, and we are stuck. Our shame needs to be stripped away, and the only One that can do that is the one stripped of His dignity so that we could have some. At the center of the solution to shame is a Saviour who calls us worthy. Not because of what we did, but what He did.

He is the Restorer....of our hearts, our souls, and our relationships.

Here are some practical ideas on how to deal with shame:

Confess. Confession to God forgives us {I John 1:9}, and confession to others heals us {James 5:16}. Trying to cover it up only makes it worse. Bring it out into the open and it loses its power.

Cast off the outcast mentality. If you feel like an outcast because of your own sin or what has been done to you then correcting your thinking is in order. We need to worry more about what God thinks of us than what others do. Their opinions don't matter in the ultimate end.  We are accepted and loved in Christ regardless of another's rejection.

Crave Christ. Shame is a problem of association. Association with sin and the people that contaminate us with it {sometimes that person is ourselves}. Working on your relationship with God will ease some of the shame. Our focus should be on Him first. Association with a Savior quells the shame.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lastest Bible Studies


If you have read my blog for any amount of time you know that I love doing Bible study. I even have a post here with a long list of different studies that I would recommend if you are looking to start one. This summer I have done two studies, Children of the Day: 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Beth Moore and Missing Pieces by Jennifer Rothschild.

I thought I would start with Missing Pieces, but when I picked it up I just couldn't get started on it. Why? I am not sure, but it may have to do with the fact that it was hitting too close to home.  I needed time before I delved into it. So I started with Beth Moore's Children of the Day.


I love Beth's studies, but I don't love them all equally. Children of the Day ended up being good, but not one that I would say I would go back and do again (which I have done with several of her other studies). One reason is that I prefer topical studies. This one goes through I and II Thessalonians so the topics jump all over the place as you move through the books. Her other study, James: Mercy Triumphs, does that too, but I seemed to connect with James more for some reason. That being said, I still gleaned some great concepts out of Children of the Day. Her lesson on hindrances, mending us in order to equip us, and on how cynics function in a church really hit home for me. So in the long run, I felt that it was well-worth the effort to go through it. I think that we are all at different places in life so a certain Bible study will hit us one way while hitting a friend in a totally different area.

Here is a quote or two from the study:

God mends our pasts to tend to our futures.

Joy in hardship is weird...People who retain delight while walking through demoralizing circumstances are not normal.

The irony is that inactive hands often spark overactive tongues... and ... cynics tend to run in packs.

Missing Pieces was the Bible study I thought I wasn't going to like after I bought it. Boy, was I wrong! It is just what I needed. I think I rejected it because it was exactly what I needed. Jennifer Rothschild focuses in on God and how we view Him when we are going through suffering. There are six weeks of study each asking a different question...

God, do you care?
God, are you fair?
God, are you there?
God, are you aware?
God, do you hear prayer?
God, do you err?

Jennifer asks the hard questions that we tend to push to the back of our minds because they are just too scary. Through the study she discusses God's compassion, justice, omnipresence, and omniscience. I have gotten so much peace from this study because I have been able to realize that God's love has followed me even through the hard times.

Here are a few quotes from the study...

Your pain is what God uses to expose the reality that you've been granted and sustained by mercy all along.

If we really want to experience our own wholeness, we must take God in His wholeness.

The Bible gives us if/then scenarios we can count on.

I would recommend her study if you are in a season of struggling!

Monday, July 21, 2014

On the Road to Gratitude


No one escapes unscathed. We all walk broken roads. Smooth paths are not always offered as we travel. The broken pieces become blessed pieces in our eyes if we will just give thanks no matter the traveling conditions. Gratitude takes the rough road and smooths our souls so that we can keep pressing on.

So I continue to give gratitude to my Travel Guide for all that He does in my life.

{4,646-4,659}

-Road trips
-Moose sightings
-Pizza places
-Working on school schedules for the boys


-Baked goods in the freezer
-Sharing what I bake
-Writing cards of encouragement
-Summer breezes
-Sharing from my garden
-Friends that help out
-Scheduling Spanish for the year and having some of it fall into place
-A good night of sleep after insomnia
-Reading Mark Twain
-Puppy snuggles in the morning

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's All in What You Wear


A few weeks back I listened to a sermon entitled, Who told you that you were naked?. Seriously! The topic was shame, and it got me to thinking about the shame that I have lived with for a long time.  The shame of broken relationships. The shame of not being worthy. Not being worthy to be treated with kindness. Not being worthy to state my feelings and be accepted, but "worthy enough" for several to make the effort of making critical judgments over my life. I have wondered for awhile...how can I measure up enough to be worthy?

Shame entered the world when sin did. It is that sinking feeling that we don't measure up. Sin and you don't measure up. Be sinned against? Another sign you don't measure up. Associating with another sinner? Do that and the world says you don't measure up.  Basically, when it comes down to it we are unworthy. Adam and Eve knew this as soon as they sinned. No one needed to tell them they were naked. They knew in an instant that they were exposed and needed some kind of covering.

Shame tries to hide the unworthiness whether it be with fig leaves or lies. Or maybe we use self-righteousness or self-protection. Whatever is employed won't work. Shame is one big giant cover-up because we don't measure up, and frankly, there aren't enough fig leaves in your closet or mine to make us worthy.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and the like the wind our sins sweep us away.  Isaiah 64:6

So if we can't measure up by covering up, what do we do? How can we get rid of the shame that haunts us? How can we even hold our heads up when deep inside we feel the unworthiness? A change of wardrobe. We can't cover ourselves enough to be enough. It won't work. There is only one Person who is worthy, and He one day decided to make Himself nothing so that we could become something. Christ is our covering. He is the one that makes us measure up.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness...Isaiah 61:10

These days I look to the real Fashion Designer...the only one who can cover my unworthiness. He is the one that gives us worth...

Dealing with shame? Check out this post with more links for these series.

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