Trusting the Journey

It was a little distracting…the exchange taking place in the row ahead of me.  Although I really wanted to shut myself in with God during our worship time, I couldn’t help but watch the situation unfold.

It was a mom with her two boys, who I would guess to be about 8 and 10 years old.  Mom was trying to engage with the music but kept getting sidetracked with the fact her boys weren’t standing.  She would motion for them to stand up, close her eyes and then one or both of them would sit back down.  Then she’d start all over again—sometimes motioning with her hand and other times whispering in their ears (somehow I imagine it wasn’t with the sweet mom voice).  Judging from the look on her face, I know it wasn’t.

Eventually both boys complied.  But one in particular made it quite clear that his heart wasn’t in it.  You have no idea how badly I wanted to have a conversation with that mom.  You see, I was that mom at one time.

When my kids wouldn’t stand during praise and worship, I saw it as a sign of dishonor.  And let’s just be honest, it was also embarrassing.  Especially when I would glance over and see other kids/teens fully engaged in the experience.

So here’s what I wanted to tell that mom—you can force your children to do the “right things” on the outside.  However, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a transfer to the inside.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with teaching your child respect.  It’s just that in this particular moment, witnessing the struggle between mom and her boys, it brought up a whole mess of feelings.  And I’m just going to be completely honest with you right now…I’m not in a good place as a parent.  I’m frustrated.  Confused.  Disappointed.  Discouraged.  Weary.

My kids were brought up in the church.  We were there a lot.  Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening.  They were involved in all kinds of children’s ministry—Sunday school, kids church, VBS, camp, etc.  As teens they were involved in youth group and a variety of other activities.

We read our Bibles at home and prayed.  My husband and I certainly weren’t saints, but we strived our best to be godly examples.  They were surrounded by Christian influence.  Outwardly, my children were doing the “right things.”  Same as many other parents’ children.  Yet all our efforts wouldn’t be a guarantee of hearts turned toward God.

Here’s what I really wanted to tell this mom who was demanding outward reverence for what is really something that should come from the inside.  We can get so caught up in the doing aspect of Christianity, we forget the importance of coming into a relationship with Christ as an individual.  Each one of us must develop a relationship with Christ.

It’s not a parent/child event.  It’s not a family affair.  It’s not even always something that really happens at the age of 3 when the little one asks Jesus into the heart and we count it all done.

A relationship with Christ is a personal journey.

The way I raised my children is certainly helpful in pointing them toward Him.  Yet I was never raised in the church and I still managed to turn my life around and surrender my heart to God.  I have to keep reminding myself that my children’s paths aren’t necessarily going to look the way I want or expected.

This is no easy feat.  I don’t care how much faith you have; it is painful to watch your child struggle.  Especially when you know a better way.   Yet in desperation for our children to live a faith-filled life, we can become an obstacle in their way when we cajole, preach, demand or nag.  While these methods might change outward behavior, just like that little boy sulking about having to stand, it doesn’t necessarily change hearts.

This has been an ongoing (as in, never-ending) lesson for the past 8 years in navigating one difficulty after another with my daughter.  The journey, in my eyes, is taking too long.  Don’t I get extra credit as a parent for raising her in a believing home?  Can’t I catch a break?

The answer is no.  My daughter has her own journey to take, to be walked out in God’s way and timing.  I can be a guide that advises and shows her the way but I can’t dictate her steps, nor can I know what is necessary for her to go through in order to fulfill the plan God has for her life.

This…is…so…very…very…hard.

Especially because her decisions don’t just affect her, they impact my two granddaughters.  So much more at stake.  Yet, they are in God’s hands too, and I must trust His purpose and plan for their lives as well.

My intention isn’t to discourage parents.  To suggest that raising them in a Christian environment does no good.  But I do want to warn against the false assurance of doing right things being a guarantee of “good” results.

Even if they don’t realize it, they’re learning the most about God when running from Him.  They discover what it means to endure hard times.  We spend so many of our years protecting them, they may not learn reliance upon God’s security.  Struggles are just one way of experiencing His preservation.

They come to realize the faithfulness of God.  Wrong choices, bad decisions may still lead to consequences.  Yet God’s grace will always come through.  Hands-on experience of a faithful God.

Most importantly, they come to see the danger of sin.  Those consequences I talked about, many times are exactly what’s necessary to open their eyes.  To understand the repercussions of living outside God’s will.

I will never sugarcoat the difficulty of watching a child live separate from Christ.  But I will also not allow my faith to be disrupted because of it.  Their steps are ordered of the Lord and He will see them through their journey.  The outside matters little when I can rest assured that God is working on the inside.

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Captive or Captivated?

I’m a little hesitant in writing this post because of concerns that what I’m trying to convey could be misinterpreted.  Know that I come from a place of imperfection and as someone who is still growing in the faith.  With that, I have a question for you:

Are you being held captive by the world or are you captivated by Christ?

More than likely, your instinct is to say that of course it’s all about Christ.  Duh!  I’m a Christian!  I attend church (most Sundays).  I pray (when I think of it).  I read God’s Word (except the boring parts).

Being captivated by Christ isn’t following a checklist of what all “good Christians” do.  You’re not more captivated by Christ because you’re inside the doors of the church every time they’re open.  You’re not more captivated if you pray from morning till night or read pages and pages of the Bible every single day.

If I may be so bold to say…somehow I think many of us believers lean more toward the side of being held captive by the world than captivated by Christ. I say that because oftentimes we’re lulled to sleep spiritually.  And we don’t even know it.

I’ve been there.  And if I were to be completely honest, in some ways I’m still struggling against being captured by this world, rather than being captivated by Christ.

Consider how both of these words are defined.  “Captivated” is to be enthralled, beguiled, enraptured, and delighted by Christ.  “Captive” is to be detained, imprisoned, and confined by the world’s ways.

To be captivated by Christ, our focus is solely on Him.  Not on our circumstances.  Not on what others are doing or not doing.  Not on ourselves.  We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

On the flipside, when we’re captive to the world, our focus is on the circumstances of our life.  Wrapped up in the worries and concerns surrounding us.  We’re more concerned about what others think and making sure our personal needs are met.

Being captivated by Christ is less about doing, and more about loving.  Compelled to love so deeply that we can’t help but do the things that are necessary to be set free from this world.  The doing is an end result of loving.  We love him first.  And if we don’t, it’s no wonder the things of this world capture us.

Do I love Christ?  Undeniably, yes!  Do I love him enough?  Am I truly captivated by him?  One look at some of the ways this world has held me captive, and I can’t deny that my love for him hasn’t been enough.

The fix for this is really quite simple.  You can’t truly love someone unless you spend time with that person.  It’s hard to love a spouse when you live apart.  Not that the feeling of love isn’t there…but the ability to put that love into action is much more difficult.

Christ is your husband…you are his bride.  How much time are you spending together?  How much effort do you put into seeking him?  Has prayer become nothing more than a quick utterance as you run through the shower?  Has your time in God’s Word become so rushed that you wouldn’t be able to recall what you just read?  Is church more like a duty, something to check off your list for the week?

These are some of the things I started seeing in myself.  Not until I began making changes, did I understand the truth that I wasn’t captivated by Christ and that instead, the world was holding me captive.  I changed some of my habits.  My mindset began to be transformed.  I started living what I was reading.  And although I remain an imperfect sinner, I find my love for Christ has grown.  As it grows, I no longer desire some of the things of this world.  The chains are coming off…

What about you?  When you look deep inside your soul, do you find it captivated by Christ or has the world been holding it captive?

The Prison inside My Mind

I will never forget the first time I stepped inside a prison.  My stomach was in knots.  Not knowing what to expect, imagining the very worst and questioning why I’d ever agreed to do this in the first place…my instinct was to back out of this crazy commitment.

That was about 10 years ago when I joined a prison ministry at my church.  On a regular basis we would visit Taycheedah Correctional Institution, a women’s detention center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  A group of us from church would minister to the inmates through the preaching of God’s Word, testimonies and worship music.

Through this experience I came to better understand the spiritual imprisonment these women were suffering.  Being locked in a cell, having lost all freedoms and being disconnected from those you love was definitely an emotional and physical affliction.  But even more, they were locked in a spiritual prison cell.  Most didn’t realize it.

We don’t have to be serving time for a crime to find ourselves in the same place.  In one way or another, we’re all spiritual prisoners.  While we might consider our outward struggles as the biggest obstacle in our faith walk, it’s the inward conflict that really takes us captive.

The prison inside our minds.

 

Someone who struggles with jealousy may opt to cancel their Facebook account, so they stop seeing how much “better” everyone else has it.  Yet the real issue is more likely discontentment.  Thoughts that tell us life is unfair…if only we had (fill-in-the-blank)…God must not hear our prayers or care about our needs.

So, I’m going to get a little vulnerable here with an area of my mind that has been imprisoned since I was young.  Life experiences taught me early on that you can’t trust too many people, including family.  Recovery from this mindset has been extremely slow.  When I became a believer, my expectations of being able to trust in likeminded people was quickly dashed.  I know the “easy” answer to this difficulty is that people are imperfect beings who will disappoint us.  It’s commonsense.  However, it hasn’t been enough to break my mind free of distrust and apprehension in forming relationships.

The iron bars that surround my thoughts are things like:

“I don’t fit in with that group.”

“She’ll get to know the real me and probably run the other direction.”

“I’m not ready to open myself up.”

These thoughts tighten the chains in our mind.  And where there are chains, there is no freedom.

It’s the prison cell of distrust that keeps me not only from forming new relationships but going deeper with old ones.  I hold people back at arm’s length, willing to go only so far.  I avoid situations where I’m the new person.  I feel uncomfortable with women’s ministry events.

Enslaved to wrong thoughts, we miss out.  In my case, it’s opportunities to develop new friendships…settling for surface level companionship…avoiding the potential to grow as a person…passing up the chance to hear from God.

The prison inside our minds.

We all have a prison cell (maybe several), where our minds have become enslaved to wrong thoughts.  They hold us back from the freedom that is already ours because of the punishment Christ suffered on our behalf.

If you’ve ever seen “Shawshank Redemption,” you’re familiar with the character in the movie who is finally freed from prison yet can’t cope outside the iron bars that once held him.  I won’t give away too much, just in case you haven’t seen it and plan to, but let’s just say he couldn’t handle freedom.  While it might not make much sense to us, the reality is that many of us live this way.

Christ has already unlocked the cell door.  All we need to do is swing it wide open and walk out.  Yet we fear the unfamiliarity of freedom and so we opt to stay comfortably captive.  The price He paid was too high for us to not accept the gift of liberation.  With God’s help, you can break out of the prison inside your mind.  And with His grace, you can walk in true freedom.

 

 

 

 

When it’s Okay to Quit

I’ve quit a lot of things in life.  When I was younger, much to my parent’s dismay, I quit clarinet lessons not long after I started.  When I was older, uncertainty about what I wanted to do resulted in quitting college.

I’ve quit things when they got uncomfortable or challenging.  I’ve quit trying when relationships became too difficult.  Yes, I have been a quitter many times in life.

You’re probably familiar with the saying, “Quitting isn’t an option. “  But I say that sometimes…it is okay to quit.

It’s okay to quit dwelling on past mistakes.

For many years I was the type of person who couldn’t let go of her past.  It clung to me like clothes in a dryer without fabric softener.  Shaking it off didn’t work.  There had to be some effort into pulling away from the past.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my lifetime.  Most are easily forgotten but some have either resulted in long-term consequences or they’ve led to feelings of guilt.

Breaking free from guilt is no easy matter.  Our emotional attachment to it can be powerful.  But here’s what I’ve learned from personal experience.  We will never overcome guilt until we are overcome by grace.

Hebrews 8:12:  “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Psalm 103:12:  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Romans 8:1:  “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Consequences might be a little more difficult to navigate because we can’t exactly change them.  However, we don’t have to allow our mistakes or those consequences to determine our future, nor should we allow them to define us.

It is okay to quit dwelling on the mistakes we have made.  We can choose instead to learn from them…to grow as a person…to recognize how desperately we cannot live this life without the grace of God.

It’s okay to quit putting your needs aside.

Selflessness is one of the ways we demonstrate our faith.  Putting others needs before our own is a biblical principle.  However, sometimes we take this to mean that our personal needs aren’t important.

Setting aside our needs may sound spiritual, but when it’s a detriment to our physical or mental health…when it negatively impacts our relationship with God—it’s a pretty good sign we’re out of balance.

Honestly, the best way to meet the needs of others is to make sure your needs have been met.  You can’t bake a cake without eggs and flour.  In the same way, if you don’t have the right ingredients (strength, grace, compassion, etc.), it’s going to impact your effectiveness.  Your stamina.  Your motives.  And sometimes, even your health.

It is okay to quit putting your needs aside.   It’s not wrong to take care of self…to make time for the things you need…to enjoy personal pursuits.  The “fuller” you feel as a person, the more you have to give to others.

It’s okay to quit that “thing” you aren’t supposed to do.

I can’t tell you the number of things I’ve been sucked into doing because I felt obligated or was pressured into by someone else.  I’m not talking about sinful choices.  I’m referring to good things.  What I’ve come to learn is just because it’s “good,” doesn’t mean it’s right for you to do.

Guilt is usually the obstacle that stands in the way of our quitting something we’re not supposed to do.  We have to come to the realization that guilt is never a good reason to continue doing something that God didn’t direct us to do.  I would rather disappoint someone else than continue doing something that is out of God’s will.  The consequences aren’t worth putting the feelings of others (or even myself) before His will for our lives.

It’s okay to quit when you’re doing something you shouldn’t.  Will it hurt feelings?  It might.  Could it make things complicated?  That’s a definite possibility.  But the temporary discomfort quitting might bring is worth the higher price paid for doing something you aren’t supposed to do.

Hello Disappointment…Come Meet Faith!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that all of us have experienced disappointment.  Anything from dissatisfaction in a meal, to not getting the job we wanted.  Sometimes we’re disappointed in another person or even life in general because it’s not turned out the way we had hoped.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe about the nonfulfillment of our wants and expectations:

Disappointments can either shake our faith or disappointments can meet our faith.

I’m reluctant to take you back to the story of Mary and Martha because it sometimes feels like an overused example in whether or not it’s more important to take care of the matters at hand or focus on Jesus.  Read Luke 10:38-42 to draw your own conclusion.  However, I find an interesting lesson in this passage of scripture that you might not guess as having something to do with disappointment.

Martha (which by the way, always makes me think of Martha Stewart—am I the only one?) naturally wanted to prepare for the guests who had come to her home.  I mean, come on…wouldn’t you be putting out the best place settings and food if Jesus was coming to your house???   I can honestly say that my first thought wouldn’t be to sit at His feet.  I would want him to feel welcome and provide him with the very best hospitality.  So, I get where Martha is coming from.  Yet at the same time, I admire Mary’s ability to focus on what was truly most important.

Here’s another thing I can relate to when it comes to Martha.  Doing all the work by myself.  Been there, done that.  It’s unnerving and seems pretty unfair.  Now here’s what I pull from the moment Martha complained to Jesus.  She was disappointed in him.  Don’t see it?  In verse 40 she says, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?”

Clearly, she was expecting Jesus to tell Mary that it was time to get up and help your sister out.  Enough sitting around!  In Martha’s eyes, he didn’t seem to notice the sweat and effort being put into preparing for the visit of Jesus and his disciples.

Yet, I can’t help but pay careful attention to the way Martha addressed Jesus.  Although she was expressing disappointment by asking if he cared, she also demonstrated faith when she called him Lord.  The full statement from Martha reads like this:

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

This is where I see disappointment meeting faith.  But it doesn’t always play out that way.  Sometimes, our disappointment can shake our faith.

If there is one area in my life where this has been the greatest battle, it’s in the raising of my children.  I don’t have bad kids, but I do have kids that have made bad decisions…which has definitely caused disappointment.

Sometimes, these circumstances shook my faith to a point that I almost lost it.  Disappointment that the Christian influences surrounding them didn’t produce the results I’d expected.  Disappointment that my prayers didn’t seem to make any difference.  Ever been there?  Maybe not with your kids but in some other area of life.  You’ve done your best—all in the name of Jesus—that it doesn’t seem right for things to go wrong.  You’ve sought God’s help in prayer, that you wonder if it was all just a big waste of time.

We can’t let disappointment shake our faith.  See, we can’t run from it because it’s part of life…yes, even if you are a believer.  We don’t get a special pass.  It’s unavoidable because we live in a fallen world, filled with fallen people.  What we can do is meet those disappointments with our faith.  That yes, we might feel let down…but it doesn’t detract from God’s sovereignty.  We might get treated unfairly…but God is just.  We may not see the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel…but God remains the Light of the World.

When discouragement comes knocking, answer the door and say:

“Hello disappointment.  Come meet faith!”

It’s Not Personal…It’s Spiritual

I bit my tongue so many times, it’s any wonder blood didn’t drip from my mouth.  My ears were being harassed by yet another negative comment…an unkind word about someone else…a blatant lie.  Daily resisting the urge to make a sarcastic or snarky comeback.  Most days I was successful—but a person can only take so much.

So often when we’re dealing with a “difficult” person, we make it personal.  It’s easy to do…I get that.  Especially if the person has attacked your character or said something untrue about you.  But when we focus solely on what is or feels personal, we get sucked into responding the wrong way.  We get personal right back.   And let’s be honest, most times that means a less-than-godly response.

The week before Easter I was on spring break.  After several weeks of a very unpleasant and challenging work relationship, I was more than ready to be away from it.  My very first day off I laid down to take a nap (I don’t know if there any other fellow nappers out there…but oh my, nothing is better than a midday snooze).

 

Anyway, my thoughts immediately went to that work situation.  I was rehashing in my mind things that happened and started to feel angry all over again.  So much for taking a “break.”  In fact, I got so worked up that I skipped the nap to write a letter to that person.  My plan was to send it through email during the week so there would be time for reflection on what I had to say.  What did I hope to achieve?  To clear the air…to be honest about my feelings…and to open this person’s eyes to what was being done.

While my letter was appropriate, addressed the issues succinctly, and certainly made me feel better…almost immediately I knew not to send it.  I was going to hold onto it until I felt a release from God.  Well, that never happened.  Because as I spent the next few days seeking truth from God’s Word and praying very specifically about the situation, I gained a new perspective.

It’s not personal.  It’s spiritual.

God showed me how I was attempting to handle what was really a spiritual problem with personal methods.  Biting my tongue wasn’t enough.  Feeling justified in a comeback wasn’t the answer.  Writing a letter expressing my feelings wasn’t going to solve anything.

I had to come at this with the help of the Holy Spirit.  I had to stop seeing it as a personal assault on me and instead, as a spiritual attack.  Which makes perfect sense, especially considering this person not only has no faith in God…this individual doesn’t even believe in His existence.

While I’m still praying for the challenges I face in dealing with this person and how I respond…I’m focusing more of my efforts on praying for this person’s spiritual needs.   Anyone who spends the majority of their time lying, saying unkind things about others and just having a negative attitude in general is clearly a broken soul.

Once I stopped making this personal (all about me and the effects it was having on my day) and started making it spiritual (seeking God’s direction and guidance), it was no longer such a struggle to bite my tongue because it’s had less of an effect on me.  It’s no longer a fight to hold back the perfect comeback because it’s not worth damaging any positive effect I could have on this person.  And it’s not worth sending a letter that makes me feel better but doesn’t better the situation.

Dealing with a difficult person in your life?  Consider that maybe it’s not personal…that it’s spiritual and requires a Biblical, godly response.

Sinless or Sin Less?

Every morning during my prayer time, on the days I have to work, I specifically ask God to help with my mouth.  While I rely on Him for divine intervention, I’ve also come up with a way to reduce the chance of engaging in gossip or saying something negative.  I go into each day with a determination to say less.  This way my chance of saying something I shouldn’t is at least reduced.

Somehow, most days, I still end up in this place:

“I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Romans 7:15

Can you relate?  Maybe it’s not your mouth that gets you in trouble.  But there’s probably something that you struggle with, despite every intention to win the battle.

Although I still have a ways to go, I can at least say this when it comes to my mouth—I sin less.  No, I’m not sinless, but there has been improvement.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of how far we have come.  Progress, no matter how big or small, is a step in the right direction.

In my earlier years as a believer, guilt was my constant companion.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to overcome certain areas of sin in my life.  Part of the issue was attempting to do it in my own strength.  But it was also putting unrealistic expectations on the process of sanctification.  In case you aren’t sure what that means—it’s the act of becoming holy.  Note the word becoming.  Not is holy…but moving toward it.

Sadly, sometimes other believers contributed to this undue pressure.  Instead of focusing on the aim of sinning less, it was the expectation of being sinless.  Whether it’s a lifestyle change or a bad habit, it usually takes time (sometimes a lifetime) of striving to sin less.

Think of it this way, instant change generally doesn’t require much reliance on Jesus.  Not that I’m taking away credit from His ability to do something miraculous in a person’s life.  I know people who have experienced immediate deliverance from substance abuse and other vices.  But from personal experience, when I’m striving to sin less, I rely the most on God.

And let’s face it.  While on this earth we will never, ever be sinless.  Just when we’ve found victory in one area of our life, there will be opportunity to seek it in another area.  At the same time, the closer we get to Jesus…the more we read His Word…the more we strive to live his Word…the greater chance we will sin less.

Taming the Rebel in Me

Confession…sometimes I struggle with rebellion.  Not sure if you can relate to this issue—especially if you tend to be more of a rule follower—but for me, a rebellious spirit has been a lifelong problem.

As far back as I can remember, rules were always made to be bent or broken.  By the time high school hit, I was paving the way to make my parents’ lives a little more “eventful.”  Let’s just say the high school I attended freshman and sophomore year suggested I look for another place to finish my last two years.

Fast forward to my early 20’s as a new bride.  My poor husband didn’t quite understand that if you tell me to do something or have expectations that aren’t my idea, well…let’s just say it isn’t going to happen!

Even in later years, after I turned my life around and became a believer, that old rebellious spirit would rise up.  While I had great respect for leadership in the ministry, I drew the line at “Repeat after me…”  You know, when the pastor would have the entire congregation recite a verse or some type of spiritual declaration.  I would clamp my mouth shut, refusing to repeat, because I didn’t like to be told what to say or do.

I know, I know…that’s pretty bad.  But this is why I stated from the start that I had a confession—you know, the whole admitting of doing something wrong.

Good thing my introduction to Christianity was based on grace.  Because if I had to “follow the law,” let’s just say I’d be on Moses’ naughty list quite a bit.

Taming the rebel in me has been a long (and sometimes painful) process.  One that requires a great deal of humility.  I am truly a work in progress.

Sometimes God’s commands can seem “too extreme,” especially for us boundary pushers.  We question, “Is it really wrong to do such and such?”  Or, “Is it such a big deal to…fill-in-the-blank.”  And then there’s the whole struggle with whether something is right or wrong because it’s not specifically addressed in the Bible.

Whenever I’m confronted with these types of issues, I try to go back to I Corinthians 10:23, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial.  ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.”

Whether you struggle with a rebellious spirit or sometimes you just aren’t sure if something passes the “Christianity test,” keep these two things in mind:

  1. Not everything is beneficial.

You have the right to do anything because God opted to give us a free will.  However, this gift from God wasn’t meant to be misused.  When considering whether something is right or wrong…when the rebel in you rises up…remember that not everything is advantageous.  In other words, if it won’t result in good, don’t do it.

I know this sounds so simple—almost too simple.  But how many times do we really stop and consider if something is going to benefit our walk with God?  If a choice we make could perhaps result in a harmful consequence?

  1. Not everything is constructive.

If it doesn’t serve a useful purpose, it might not be the right thing to do.  I try to think about the value of my choices.  Do they add something to my walk with God?  On the flip side, do my choices detract from my relationship with Him?

Too often we separate what we do from our relationship with God.  We compartmentalize parts of our life into this is what I do at work…this is what I do in the home…this is what I do, etc.  But everything we do is connected to our faith.  We don’t (or at least we shouldn’t) leave Jesus at the door before we step into our workplace, home, and so on.

Taming the rebel in me isn’t easy, nor is it always black and white.  The Bible is truth and it’s the blueprint for our lives.  If we don’t know it, how can we ever navigate the tricky parts of life?  Yet at the same time we have a responsibility to carefully consider the benefits and constructivism of our choices.  The best way to do that?  Ask God.  Seek His direction and wisdom.  You can never go wrong and you just might finally tame that rebel within.

Invisible Scars and Broken Souls

Unhealed wounds.  Unseen marks.  Minds bruised and battered.  Hearts left in jagged pieces.

These are the invisible scars and broken souls of many.  I have them…more than likely, you have some.  They’re oftentimes ignored, swept away in the corner, tucked under the rug, or covered with a self-inflictive “band aid.”

I’ve been feeling challenged lately to see beyond the surface stuff of people.  To not assume that the way someone acts (or reacts) is a character flaw, but instead, the residual effects of a broken soul.  To not dismiss someone else’s struggle but consider that underneath the rough exterior lies an invisible scar.

Some of my invisible scars are still in the process of healing.  It’s why I continue to struggle with trusting people and being vulnerable in a relationship.  Parts of my soul remain broken, which sometimes causes me to become easily defensive and unable to control the tongue.

These aren’t excuses.  My sin isn’t pardoned simply because I’m scarred and broken.  But it is forgiven when I seek God’s redemption…each and every day asking Him to cleanse my heart.

If I can give myself permission to accept God’s grace, why can’t I extend the same offering of grace to others?

I think that sometimes we take it so personally, we fail to see that it has absolutely nothing to do with us and everything to do with that person’s inner conflict.  For how can anyone get through life without being inflicted and as a result left with a scar?  Or manage life’s challenges without suffering some brokenness?

It takes humility to consider that someone else is hurting.  Especially when we feel victimized by that person.  It takes selflessness to look beyond the exterior and consider what’s going on within.  And it takes courage to step forward and offer ourselves up—in whatever means is necessary—to aid in that person’s healing.

Stop to consider…set yourself aside…purpose to seek what lies underneath.  For we all bear invisible scars and we all carry around broken souls.

God’s Sustaining Power…Even When Nothing Changes

Not going to lie…I’ve been in a funk for the past couple of weeks.  Forcing myself to come up with a blog post seemed pointless.  Too many personal issues swirling around in my head to come up with anything remotely spiritual, let alone helpful.

I’ve been trying really hard to do the whole giving of my worries and cares to God thing (I Peter 5:7), without much success.  At least, that’s how it feels because the problems are still there and my emotions aren’t getting any better.  But then I read Psalm 55:22, which talks about casting our cares on Him and how when we do that, He sustains us.

Sometimes, we have to look for the ways God is getting us through the hard things.  Because I guarantee you, He is most definitely giving us the strength we don’t possess.  This requires us to see beyond the issue(s), to the One who equips us with exactly what we need…sometimes moment by moment.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the problem goes away or that we feel any better…but we can still say with confidence that God is helping us to press on, to get through, and to cope with the difficult circumstances.

Let me share from personal experience how it might look.  One of the issues weighing heavy on my heart is a challenging work situation.  It’s been ongoing for a while and has actually been getting worse each week.  It’s definitely made coming to work more than a little difficult.

Yet I have been able to recognize that in the midst of my imperfect moments, God has definitely given me the strength to hold back.  The anger I feel inside, cannot be denied.  But my ability to keep it reined in…not my doing.  It’s all God.  He is sustaining me despite things not getting any better and regardless of my inner conflict.

By choosing to focus more on how He is helping me through the circumstance, I spend less time thinking about the issue itself.  If we can’t see the “good” in something, our only option is to dwell on the “bad.”  It’s not healthy.  It won’t move us forward.  And it certainly won’t change a single thing.

Casting our cares on God doesn’t diminish the issue(s) nor does it necessarily eliminate our emotional struggles.  They can both still be there.  The problem can remain.  The anger (or any other emotion) could still be a battle in our minds.

Part of casting our cares is being honest with God.  We cast (or fling) the problem we’re facing.  In other words, we pray.  But we also throw at Him the way it has held us back or caused us to react in a sinful way.  We may have to do this once a day or twenty times a day.  The more we do it, the sooner we will see Him move.  Whether that means changing the circumstances or giving us what we need to navigate them, He will be faithful.

Too many times we think Bible verses are a means to a quick fix.  They are truth and nothing can take from that.  Yet they aren’t a magic eraser that wipes away the problem.  Instead, they help us work through the problem.  And in the end, we come to see that regardless of the storm, God was faithful to sustain us.