Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Judge or Witness?

I read an article out of the Abilene Reporter News that really bothered me. In truth, it really angered me. I’m going to post the article instead of the link because it is relatively short. It is titled, “Abilene needs to clear up its alcohol addiction”

“One of the things that really bothers me is the amount of alcohol abuse in Abilene. This is something our churches could pull together and do something about. I was in 7-Eleven the other morning and a gentleman was buying beer at 7:30 a.m. He was already too intoxicated to buy, in my opinion, but the clerk sold it to him. Just think, how many beer cans, whiskey bottles and bags that hold the items people could get off our streets. The drunks sitting behind the stores drinking would be gone. Let's see clutter and drunks out from behind the stores. I can live without this. I know that it generates a lot of revenue in Abilene, but let's not get into greed. It might close a few stores that generate anywhere from $500 to $3,000 a day -- I don't see any of this money, so close them. It will all get down to pulling together and cleaning up our town, forget about the money. If you take a serious look at it, it's a problem. It causes prostitution, homelessness and an addiction that is almost impossible to get rid of. I know everyone wants to do something about this. So, get out from behind your desk, pull together and 'git er done.'”

There were several comments along with this article, some who agreed, many who did not. First and foremost, this is something that could have started with the gentleman who saw the man purchasing the alcohol. We, as Christians, are all called to be witnesses in one form or another of Jesus Christ. Instead of writing an opinion article about the “problem”, he could have had the first impact on this man. He says that “he” can live without the “drunks sitting behind the stores”. God warns us against judgment. In Romans 2:1-3 the Bible says, "You have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?"

The writer of the article also mentions to “not get into greed”, but where is his compassion, his love? People who are caught in the middle of an addiction are hurting people and we do not know where they are in their spiritual life. Many people do not understand addiction which is why it is so easy to “throw away” or get those “off our streets” who are caught up in this sin. However, it is a sin and only God can break them down to a place of brokenness and contriteness; we do not know where anyone is in their walk with God. It is a shame to make something as serious as an addiction about cleaning up a town; it should be about cleaning up a soul. This can start with you. That very person who is buying beer at 7:30 in the morning may be an alcoholic but if that is all you see them as then YOU become just as wrong as they are. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Luke 6:41-42) Sin comes in many forms, and Satan is deceitful. And writing and cleverly disguised opinion article isn't a the best way to rally your brothers and sister's in Christ to clean up what you may see as "clutter and drunks" in the town. They are people, they are also your brothers and sisters in Christ and they are also loved by God. The next time you see one of your brothers and sisters buying that drink, stop and ask yourself why? Why might they be hurting? Why are you? And what can YOU do to help them?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Incorruptible Love vs. Corruptible Love

"Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love." Ephesians 6:24

A question was recently posed to me what I thought was an “incorruptible love”. I thought this was a compelling question, which is why it has taken me a few days to respond. This verse calls us to love Him with an incorruptible love. To love Him with “all your heart, mind soul and strength” is the basic definition of how to love God and through that He will bless us with His grace. There is nothing in the universe more powerful than the grace of God, and there is nothing more valuable than an incorruptible love. It is only by the grace of God that we have any love, faith, or wisdom. Even so, none of these alone can bring us the victory, but everything is dependent on God’s grace. If we build our lives on the grace of God, then we will not just have love, we will have an “incorruptible love.” A love which will never compromise, never fall to the temptations of this world, but remain pure and undefiled until the end. Incorruptible love, or true love, is living for Christ. This originates with God, who created the first experience of love. The act of living for Christ means that you give one hundred percent of yourself and not keep count, and continue to do so until there is nothing left to give. If you decide that you have given enough then you cannot continue to give everlastingly. Love flows perpetually only if it is given unconditionally. You cannot truly love Christ while selfishly desiring more for yourself. Relationships in this state will not stand up against Satan’s attacks. This is especially true in marriage. God commands husbands and wives to love one another; Husbands to love their wives as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28) and wives to respect and submit to their husbands (Colossians 3:18). The true spirit of real love is to live for Christ. This will improve all of your relationships. This is certainly not conquered overnight. Satan hates love and hates God, which is why he tries to destroy God’s concept of love and wants to corrupt it. Any form of motive corrupts love. Any kind of holding back yourself from others corrupts love. Controlling corrupts love. Manipulation corrupts love. If one lies to oneself, one will lie to another person. Sexual immorality corrupts love. I believe that fear is one of the greatest things that corrupts love. In 2 Timothy 1:7 the Bible says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” Fear that we will loose the one we love at any time, for any reason, causes us to hold on too tightly to that person and causes us to distort how we love that person and how we experience love. If we hold to the spirit of power and love we will not be overcome by fear. 1 Corinthians 13 states that love is not jealous. Jealously also corrupts true love. What kind of love gets jealous? Love mixed with fear. Where does that jealously come from? Our fear we will lose the person we love to someone else. Anger also corrupts love. Speaking out of that anger with a loose tongue also harms the person that you love. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." If we each continue to love one another with the love that God has commanded us to love Him with, a selfless, caring, undying, perpetual love, then this is what I believe is an incorruptible love.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Little Things

The little things? The little moments? They aren't little. - Jon Kabat-Zinn

I was driving to a doctor’s appointment today in the miserable rainy weather that we are having, when I noticed something that isn’t often seen. A rainbow. There it was, colorful and brilliant against the gray, cold, rainy clouds. So, I reached for my phone to take a quick picture of it to show my husband, (yes, while I was driving…shame on me) and when I looked back up, it was gone. Just as suddenly as it appeared to me, it was suddenly gone. At first, I thought it was strange but then I knew…God sent me that rainbow, a smile from Him just for me. It brought a smile to my face and I thanked Him. I started thinking about all of the “God smiles” that He sends us and we miss, simply because of all of the distractions that are in our way. How many things in each day, go by because we don’t have the “time” to stop and look? Especially this time of year is a hectic time for many people, but those “God moments” don’t have to be missed and the real reason for this time of year doesn’t have to be lost in the shuffle. Each breath we take is given, not promised by God, and it is easy to take for granted that those moments will be there again. It is amazing to me how we can ignore some of the little things, yet they make such a difference. Take the time to tell someone you love them, smile at a stranger, tell someone how much you appreciate them, and exude Christ in all that you do. And slow down and be amazed at how many “God smiles” you will see.

"Therefore behold, I am going to make them know—This time I will make them know My power and My might; and they shall know that My name is the LORD."Jeremiah 16:21

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quote for the Day

“We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles but for the grace to transform them.”- Simone Weil

Friday, December 7, 2007

Compromise...The Slippery Slope

“No one will ever know”…”Just this one time”…and the BIG ONE…”God will forgive me”. These are the deceptively simply compromises that everyone makes. (Yes, I am generalizing, because we are all subject to the pitfalls of sin) Compromise is usually subtle at first, but then it explodes into something far greater than you intended for it to be. This is because as you take a step into the little compromises in your life, you conscience gets dulled. No one is immune to sin, and the pitfalls of compromise and temptation. First and foremost, compromise is costly. Eventually if you compromise your Christian walk long enough, you will loose sight of where it all began. Take for instance King Solomon. It would do all of us well to remember those who have fallen due to compromise, and King Solomon was one of those. Solomon's experience is a warning of what will befall us if we follow his example of compromise. He had great fortune and success, but it came with a strong warning from God. "You must not intermarry with them (his wives), because they will surely turn your heart after their gods. Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.” (1 Kings 11:2) 4 “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:4-6) Charles Stanley, one of my personal favorite preachers, said in one of his sermons, “It is impossible to compromise without giving up something. But what I receive may not be equal to what I give up. The question is, ‘What do I need to compromise?’ Purity? Honesty? Integrity? Our belief in the Word of God? Satan will whisper, as he did to Solomon, ‘Come on, no one’s perfect. Everyone has to give up on something to make it in this life.” Compromise is costly. It corrupts. It brings collapse, and ultimately drives you away from God…but He never leaves you. I know from personal experience that through my many personal moral compromises, that God never left me. I LEFT HIM. But through his own love, grace and mercy He accepted me home.

Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Life is good. So why can't you stop worrying?"

This is the title of an article I read on MSNBC.com today that is very insightful. One of the comments in the story was, "many women fret about the future, instead of savoring happiness now." I hope you find this article as interesting as I did.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:25-27

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sharing Yourself

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit” – Napolean Hill

I found this quote today in my search to find the words to start writing. I want to talk about relationships, but this is an exceptionally difficult topic for me to discuss. Perhaps it is because I have built a brick wall around myself for years, and over time I have had to tear that brick wall down piece by piece, (or rather, GOD has torn that wall down), but it isn’t still quite completely down yet. I thought for so long that this wall that I had built was there for my own self protection, like my own fortress that was impenetrable by anyone, but instead this wall lead to self isolation in a world where I was of no benefit to myself. In the face of adversity, my little wall was there, shielding me from any sort of pain. But unbeknownst to me, I was only causing myself more heartache, and more pain, and also causing others the same. I was failing myself God and those around me by my lack of willingness to deal with pain. What is God’s goal in adversity? I believe it is to draw us closer to Him, and through that draw us closer to others. Satan wants to destroy marriages, which is why he finds ways to stir chaos, and create adversity. But ultimately, every with the worst of circumstances and challenges, there lies the possibility for healing. One of the most difficult things for me to do with anyone, especially those I am in close relationships with, is to open up completely and truly be myself. Those satanic seeds of doubt begin to grow, and that is where the self-isolation begins and the mask of phoniness goes on. I have always struggled with self-doubt, low self-esteem, and complete lack of confidence in my abilities. The longer we allow ourselves to stay hidden, and wear that mask of artificial confidence, the deeper we isolate ourselves into exactly who God doesn’t want us to be. If you aren’t true to yourself, you aren’t allowing someone to love you for whom you really are. If we disallow people we are in relationships with to discover our true self because we are not willing to be who we really are, we ultimately cause damage to the relationship. The act of sharing our self causes us to be vulnerable. However, this act of sharing our self elicits the closeness and evokes the love of another. We deny ourselves the opportunity to be truly loved, and them the opportunity to love us. This comes from God. God loves us no matter how much of ourselves we give to Him, however, the more of ourselves we let go of to Him, the more love, and peace we will feel in our lives as well. God will then bless us to be able to fear less and give more to our spouses. I read an interesting article today about creating masterpieces. It stated that masterpieces aren’t created overnight. Michelangelo spent almost 5 years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Early Monks would often take a lifetime to create a single book. Masterpieces take time; it is the same with a deep and powerful relationship. It said, “While the instant attraction may be a thing of startling beauty, and certainly the romance is enjoyable, a deeply unified and emotionally fulfilling relationship takes time to emerge and become strong. When things are not going as we would like, when we don't see the results of our efforts, when our relationship seems less than the ideal for which we hoped, it is helpful to remind ourselves that we are creating a masterpiece. A masterpiece does not come instantaneously, nor is it simple. A masterpiece requires time and patience and dedication. Just like a beautiful, deeply loving relationship.” Challenges in life and in relationships make us stronger. Strength provides what we need to be able to heal our wounds, and healing allows us to grow. Growth provides a God given ability to see things and people and cherish them in a new way you never understood before. The very act of opening our hearts, revealing who we really are, an exposing our soul, is exactly what we need to allow the love of others to enter our awareness. And the gift that we give to our spouses as we reveal our true self is a real person to love.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mental Health vs. Spiritual Health

The mental health issue has plagued America for years. I have been caught up in this war for almost 10 years now. I’ve been told that I was depressed, bipolar, had psychosis issues, anxiety disorders, and have been “treated” for all of these. Around the age when I was first seen for these issues, the first treatment option was “…you need medication”. Now, years later, I am still battling the medication war. Should I be on them, or not? Have I done damage to my own system that is irreparable because this was the first line of “treatment” given, instead of addressing the WHY?
I read an interesting article today about Britney Spears. She has been all over the news and there has been wide spread word about her drug use, and what seems to be “a mental health problem”. Here is an excerpt from the article, “Spears once blamed some of her behaviors on being “country,” but according to mental health professionals, former employees and friends, Spears’ problems at best stem from deep issues with fame, or at worst, indicate a serious drug or mental health problem. (Britney) is a drug addict. It is an indisputable point,” addiction specialist and “Loveline” host Dr. Drew Pinsky recently told Us Weekly. Pinsky, who does not treat Spears, backed up his claim, which has not been directly addressed by the singer or her camp, adding, “We know that she is a drug addict because she's been admitted to a treatment center. You can't be admitted unless you’ve met criteria for addiction.”
When I read this, I ran through the gamut of emotions, from sadness, to anger, to plain disgust. There are so many things wrong with this statement in my opinion. To claim that someone is a drug addict because they have been admitted into a drug rehab program is completely absurd. Hollywood has made a mockery of the drug rehab program, and just because someone has been admitted into a rehab program does not make them an addict. People are drug addicts because they are trying to fill a void, an emptiness with a temporary fix, and once this temporary fix has been discovered, they want it again and again because it is TEMPORARY. Is Britney a drug addict? Possibly, I am not her, but to label someone with that label because they have gone into treatment is insensitive and obtuse. The article also stated, “it doesn't take a professional to see that her mood shifts from being overly happy and energetic to irritable and angry,” Brams said. “All of us get moody, but problems happen when our moods and behaviors change quickly and perhaps for no reason. She seems to be predictably unpredictable.” Predictably unpredictable…I believe that at a time in my life I was also stamped with this label. I will agree that it may not take a professional to notice mood shift, however, it does take a professional to label someone mentally ill; the problem lies in whether or not they truly are. Mental illness and drug addicts have a huge stigma in America, and often people with these labels are tossed aside and prescribed medication to “help” their supposed disorder or ignored completely. Drug addicts use drugs to dull the pain of underlying issues, to fill the big black hole that has been created by the lack of God in their lives. I believe that so many of these issues can be solved if “spiritual health” rather than “mental health” is evaluated first. I am NOT saying that there are not people out there who have true mental health issues, and do truly have the need for medication. However, I have realized through my own experience with the mental health label, and medication, and also drug abuse, that if our spiritual health is evaluated and treated first, that many of the problems that we have can be addressed and laid at the cross. It took me many years to get to the point where I was even willing to accept this idea, much less, put it into action. Even today, in weaker moments, I struggle with the idea that I might need medication. Satan speaks to our minds, and is very cunning in his attempts to do so. All of the feelings that went along with my journey were planted by Satan: guilt, worthlessness, anger, hatred, shame, the list goes on and on. If we allow Christ to enter our lives and turn all of these feelings over to Him, He will fill the void. Nothing else will ever do this and trying to do so alone is Satan’s desire for us, not God’s. It is easier for many people to believe that they must be mentally ill because a doctor told them they were, rather than spiritually ill. This was the case for me because I could rationalize why I might have mental issues, but I could not see or touch or rationalize my spiritual health. It wasn’t until I witnessed for myself the healing power of Christ that I knew my problem was that I was spiritually ill. Once I turned over my past and gave up the idea that I could not change my past, hope for the future set in. Christ is always with us, even in our darkest moments. It is up to us to recognize and accept His power. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or drug addiction, realize that God is with you and He has the answers. Turn to Him to fill the void, not the world, because the world is fleeting and could be taken tomorrow, His love is eternal. And if you are not struggling with these issues, and you are spiritually healthy, help those who cannot see the truth. Pray for people like Britney Spears, and those like her. And remember that “your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) But God understands, "for since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."(Hebrews 2:18)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rumors and Misunderstandings

As a child, several of friends of mine and me would often play “Pass It Down” or what is sometimes called “Grapevine” or “The Whisper Game". For those of you who have never played it, here is a basic description of what it is. Basically, one person whispers some phrase in another person’s ear, and then that person whispers it to the next person what they heard. This continues down the line until the final person repeats what they have heard to see if it is the same as the original phrase. I can’t think of a time when the final phrase was the same as the original phrase when we would play. This game was always fun as kids but it really did show what commonly happens in life through human communication. The game shows how information can become corrupted through indirect communication and how a rumor can blow up into a huge ordeal. I experienced a real life form of this game today. I was told by a co-worker that they heard that my boss called a previous employee to offer her my job. This rumor or misunderstanding all started as a joke. Unfortunately it caused stress among the people who knew about this phone call as to whether or not to tell me because they didn’t want to betray the trust of the person who received the call, but they knew they needed to let me know. So, I went straight to the source, and without naming names, I asked my boss if this was true. It was not, and it all started with a question posed to this person as to whether or not they would ever want to be in the same position as me, but not my job specifically. Once word got passed down the “grapevine” to me, it was a different story. As is always the case, God used this experience to teach me something about myself and my surroundings. I had a peace that no matter what the outcome turned out to be, it would be ok. Back in April, my husband was laid off due to the sub-prime mortgage crash, so I knew that even if I were about to be fired, God would provide and things would be ok. I was able to quickly overcome my anger because I am aware of how miscommunication can change reality. These are feelings that can only be given by the Holy Spirit and it is still amazing to me the avenues that He chooses to teach us lessons. Throughout my experiences, I have also learned that it is almost always easier to believe a rumor, or lie rather than the rational truth. This is another deception tactic that Satan uses. Had I immediately reacted, not only could I have blown up at my boss, but I could have caused my own self unnecessary anxiety. I am thankful for yet another lesson taught by Him that I hope can bless others as well. If you are confronted with a “whisper”, tell it to Him first and pray for discernment and wisdom, and try not to react on your first emotions. One of the sayings I have learned from Narcotics Anonymous, and usually hold true for me even today is “first thought wrong”. We as humans react on emotion, but with His guidance, we can react on faith.

"He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent." Proverbs 17:27

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change Courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.

This is a prayer that I have recited and have known for many years. It is most often associated with 12 step recovery groups, but on for the first few lines. It was originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr, who has no association with any 12 step group. He used this prayer as part of a sermon that he delivered in 1943. As I went through and re-read the whole prayer, I realized that it is one that we all can recite and if we would simply put to practice the words in this prayer it has a great potential to bring us an astounding peace. In this life, we are so consumed with changing things that we do not like, including ourselves, and others around us, that we forget where the ultimate source of change comes from...God Himself. If we would each take everyday, and every moment and live those to glorifiy God, and stop trying to control out own environments, then we would all face true surrender. God did not promise us happiness, but He did promise that their are better days to come. As a Christian, (and still in the "baby food stage") I have to tell myself almost daily, that there are always better days to come. If not in this life, then with Him, where we will all be "supremely happy with Him forever". Each day, each moment is not promised, which means that the hatred, the anger, the bitterness, and the past WE CANNOT CHANGE, can and will be made right if we trust in Him, and completely surrender. For me, it has taken years, and many mistakes for me to realize that the only thing I can change is my relationship with Him, and my view of myself. Today, I still work on the forgiveness part of my past, but I know that I have truly been forgiven by Him. This perhaps is the hardest thing to accept...when we realize that we cannot change others to fit our needs, or the environment around us for our comfort, or our past, we must realize that through this frustration that we must look up and go to our knees and bow our heads in humility and not wait for the day when we are bowing our heads in sorrow. Don't wait for that day, because that day may never come. Live today as though it is your last, and appreciate the things that God has blessed you with, even your afflictions.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding."Proverbs 3:5

Friday, November 23, 2007

Godly Strength, Human Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
This is officially my first posting in the blogging world, and I pondered for a while over what topic I really wanted to start out with. I chose this topic because for so many years, (even very recently) I had such a misconception on what true strength was, and I believe this idea is sadly misconstrued in the world as well. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly have not mastered the idea, or come to fully embrace it yet, but I can finally admit that through my own weaknesses, I have become stronger in my own faith with Christ. I certainly have a greater appreciation for the hardships that I have endured, because of the valuable lessons that I have learned. To admit that I am weak, in any form, has always made me feel “less than”, and that I am some sort of failure. I had to be able to control my own world and hide any sort of weakness that I was feeling, whether it was emotional, physical, or spiritual. The first hard lesson that I have learned is that, my life is not my own to control, and I am horrible at taking care of myself; that is a job than God never intended for any of us to have. It is my failure in this that lead me down a path into darkness, away from God, and into a world void of all love, grace and mercy. God allowed me to fall away from Him, and ultimately on my face before I realized He was the only place I had to turn. He showed me His power and extended His grace, and welcomed me home. God used my own suffering, and my own mistakes to humble me and in my humility, I became broken, and through my brokenness, my heart became contrite, and it was during this weakest point in my life, that I became strong. We will all continue to have difficulties, hurts, pain, and struggles, but God has promised that His grace is sufficient. He promised this because it will help us to all endure; it certainly helps me to this day. And although I still struggle, I am learning that “when I am weak, then I am strong”, because through my own weaknesses, God’s power shines through.