Fight for Community

Today I had a conversation with a friend. My heart hasn’t been right, it was hurt. Our relationship  had been affected. I had let insecurities and other people speak their own insecurities and lies into my heart.  People's mandala - 12 handsFor weeks I had allowed the hurt to fester and grow. I was dangerously close to allowing the hurt pour out to others in anger and criticism. I was close to writing him off and being “done”.

But God loves His people. He doesn’t not want His children fighting against one another so He convicted my heart. His Spirit convicted me to the point that I had to make things right. I had to talk to my friend. I needed to share my insecurities, the lies I had believed and the things I had began to listen to from others.

To be honest this was not easy. It was very difficult. I was fearful of how he might react. I didn’t want to hurt him, but most of all I hated the thought of his disappointment. But his response was graceful. There was no condemnation or judgment. He listened as I shared my hurt, and my frustration.

He then walked me through three things. He helped me remember…

What he has done in the past. He reminded me of circumstances, and life decisions that spoke of his character. He reminded me of his consistency in his choices and the living out of his life.

His heart. He shared his heart with me. First he shared with me what I already knew about his heart, then he shared the things God was showing him.

Who our enemy is. He reminded me that we fight the same enemy and that enemy would do anything to stop the work that is being done in God’s kingdom. He reminded me that our enemy loves nothing more than to create friction and undercurrents in order to divide the body of Christ. He doesn’t want God’s people getting along.

There are parts of me that could go to the place I so often go and that is shame. I could beat myself up inside for forgetting who I know my friend to be. I have known him for a long time. We have worked along side together in ministry. Our families have broken the bread of fellowship together. I should know better. I could allow shame to cause me to withdraw, but I will choose to rejoice that Christ’s love won and the enemy was defeated in this battle.

As I have thought about this today it became very clear how easy it is for all of us to do this with our relationships (and with God). We let little things grow into big things. We do not confront and we forget.

So going forward I choose to do better.

I choose to go to my friend (or to God) immediately when I have doubts. No matter how small or petty I may think my insecurities or doubts are I will value relationship over looking foolish.

I choose to always remember who I know them to be. I will always choose to believe they want God’s best for me and would never harm me on purpose.

I choose to remember that our enemy seeks to destroy all healthy, godly relationships among God’s children.

I choose to believe that my friends, just like God, we always respond in grace and love not matter how silly my insecurities are.

Let us all remember to guard our relationship with our brothers and sister in Christ. Let us remember that we all fight the same battle…the same enemy.

What about you? Are you willing to go to your friend, your brother or sister in Christ, your pastor, Bible study leader or church leadership and fight for community. Are you willing to humble yourself and die to pride so that the body of God will be guarded? Will you, at all cost, protect the community of Christ against an enemy that seeks to destroy?

Who do you need to talk to today?

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Phil 2:1-4

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

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3 Ways to Help Create an Eternal View in our Children

Ambro, published on 02 November 2011<br />Stock Photo - image ID: 10063272Anytime we look back over our life we often see so much clearer. There are many things I wish I would have done, or not done, as a mother. I wish I would have seen then what I see now as the most important seed to plant in their young hearts. I don’t suppose I did it all wrong, they both are serving the Lord and following Him. But I can’t help but wonder if I could have done a better job cultivating eternity in their hearts. Could I have done better teaching them to live with an eternal perception? Could I have done more to help them live a life pursing eternal rewards instead of the worldly rewards?

Here are a few things that I believe give our children a better start to living with an eternal perspective. These are things I have done, seen modeled and wish I would have done better.

The first two things I see come from Duet 11:18-20 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul ; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall teach them to your sons,talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,”

1. Make time for God. This does not mean take them to church every Sunday or make sure they attend Sunday School, Awana, VBS, and have family devotions, although all of these things are good and valuable. But the problem comes when we separate “religious” training and our everyday life. If all that we do is the above without including God in the everyday moments of life then we begin a pattern of separating the sacred and the secular.

God should be spoke of daily, not in a forced way but in a way that is natural. A parent should look for ways to point their children to God in the everyday ordinary ways. Look for teachable moments. Look for opportunities to teach your children about God’s character and His truth.

For example, during the summer my granddaughter and I were outside when she spotted a bunny. She was so excited and began chasing it. She said to me after she realized she wasn’t going to catch it, “Nana I wish I could catch him and take care of him, he is so cute and cuddly!” My response to her was, “Isn’t it wonderful that God created something so cute and cuddly! God will take care of him because God cares for all the animals he created.” From there she began to ask questions about God and wanted to know others things He created. It was a small thing, and yet it planted truth in her little heart and opened up a conversation about the Creator God.

2. Make time for family. This is so important. Today in the pursuit of the “American Dream” we have lost the importance of the family unit. Quality and quantity time has been replaced with mom and dad pursuing their careers, and children pursuing sports, dance, music and the next top video game.

Today more than ever I believe the family is being sacrificed. Family no longer spend much time together. They are busy running to sport games, dance recitals, karate, and so much more that there just isn’t time for the family to sit together at meal time. Our family tried to spend several meals a week eating together around the table. I still cherish those meal times. It was there that we had wonderful conversations, laughed until we hurt and yes we even had some of out biggest arguments. But the point is we were talking, sharing and together.

Another way to build the family up is “unplugging”. Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and go for a hike, a picnic , go to the beach or camping for the weekend. As a family we loved all these things and our boys still speak of them with fond memories. Our boys didn’t have cell phones until they were about sixteen and driving, but even then it was before texting and the ability to get online with your phone. Today I think in order to help with the unplugging I would lock all phones in the car or maybe only carry one in case of emergency. (just a thought)

Be willing to make sacrifices for the family. What I mean is in light of every decision you make as husband and wife make sure you are putting the family first. I remember on one occasion when my husband had the opportunity to take a better paying job, it would have meant a lot more money and more opportunity for moving up. We talked and prayed about it for quite some time. Are boys were older and so we talked to them about it too. I remember one of them saying something about if we have more money they could have more things. THINGS. That wasn’t what we wanted for our children.

My husband ended up not pursuing the job for one reason, the family. This job would mean more traveling and more hours. Instead of being away from the family 40-50 hrs a week it would be 60-70 hrs. They let him know up front that those kind of hours would be expected. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice his family. As a result of that decision when it was our son’s senior year he was able to attend every home and away basketball game. He was also able to be there for every soccer game for our other sons senior year. My husband was able to be an involved father even during those moments that they might not care if dad was there or not.

3. Make time for others. John 13:34 reminds us that we are to “ love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  Galatians 5:13b says “…but through love serve one another.” We had an advantage in teaching our children to serve others since they grew up next to their grandparents. Even when they were quite young they would be over there helping in the garden, cleaning up the yard and collecting eggs from the chickens. As they grew there help increased to chopping wood, mowing, getting snakes out of the house and many other needed chores. They loved helping their Pop-Pop and rarely was it something they were “made to do”. The advantage of this was them learning to serve.

There were other ways we tried to help instill this principle also, like serving in shelters, helping with Angel Tree, mission trips, and serving a summer camp. I remember our youngest son desiring to serve at a youth camp for inner city kids the summer after his senior year of High School. We weren’t thrilled with the idea due to the fact that there would be little to no money saved for college, but we allowed him to go and it was life changing for him. He also had the opportunity when he was 15 to go to Japan on a trip to teach soccer and share Christ, it was another life changing trip. These opportunities should be encouraged even when we as parents may feel they should be pursuing a job or other things. It’s in service to others that our children learn the joy of serving the Lord and making sacrifices to do so.

As I said above, we didn’t do these things perfectly. I wish we would have spent more time in all three areas. I wish we wouldn’t have “bought” into the worlds views when it came to what was important to spend our time on. Our boys were involved in school and outside activities but God, family and others always were most important. We weren’t willing to make sacrifices in these areas, which included our children not being able to play in town sport leagues because they would have to play on Sunday.

Yes I know, I can hear the arguments now! But you know what? Our boys still played school sports in High School, and one even got offered a scholarship to play in college. (Unfortunately he blew his knee out his senior year and the scholarship offer was taken back.)

I am sure there is so much more to this topic of creating an eternal view in the hearts of our children, but I think these three things are a good start.

The Truth About Forgiveness

Forgiveness can mean that you must forgive again and again.

choosing to forgiveRecently I’ve had several hurtful things come up to surface again. They were hurtful experiences of betrayal by those that were thought to be on my side. Those that I considered friends. The wound was deep and I must admit caused me to withdraw from relationships once again. My standard in the past has always been to withdraw, build the walls higher, thicker and resolve within to never let hurt come again.

This time God wouldn’t let me build my walls. Instead God came worked on tearing them down. It took a while. He was patiently faithful in helping me see the need to forgive. To forgive not just in this but in past betrayals, past hurts that have caused me to prefer isolation over community.

As I said, He is faithful and forgiveness came. With forgiveness came glorious freedom and healing.

So now as I face this same emotion, remembering the past betrayal and hurt I am faced with a choice. Do I allow the enemy to use it making me angry again and feel the hurt all over? Oh my flesh wants to cry, kick and scream! I want to go back and make this right! I was wronged and there was no apology, no setting the record straight! The emotions and hurt threatened to rise up! In this moment if I would listen to my flesh (my enemy) I would sin.

But I  choose to forgive. Again and again.

Just so you understand, I am not speaking of one who hurt me again but of allowing the memory of a hurtful experience hurt me again. Both would require the same response. That response would be to forgive.  I use to believe that if a hurtful memory came up again and again it meant that I didn’t really forgive the first time. I no longer believe that for I understand that often my enemy will take those opportunities to tempt me to sin.

So when those times of painful memories arise thank our Father for the opportunity to forgive once again.

 

See Matthew  11:25; 18:21-35

Season, Reason or Lifetime Friends?

Recently I posted this picture on Facebook.friends The private comments I received were quite interesting. Since then I have thought a lot about friendship, friendships that last a lifetime. This is what I am processing…

When I think of my circle of friends I always find myself looking the example I see in the relationships Jesus had while on earth.

He had the multitudes whom he definitely had influence over as He traveled from place to place. He had His followers, those that would often follow Him from town to town to hear Him. There were His twelve, then His three, and some even narrow it down to His one.

I have those who are on the peripheral, those that know me to say hello or who may know my name and face but our relationship doesn’t go beyond that. They know me because we attend the same church, or they have sat in on one of my workshops.

Friends for particular season and reasons: Then there are those who know me because we have spent time with one another over a mutual project, ministry or for a particular crisis or event. We know each other a bit deeper but often it can still be a bit of a surface relationship for once the reason of the relationship is done we have very little contact.

I think along this same line is friendships that develop during certain seasons of our life. For example when my boys were of preschool age I attended a Bible study with other moms where we spent much time together encouraging one another. If it had not be for some of those mothers I don’t know what I would have done. But as we each began making different life choices about how to school our children or what church we would attend and become involved in I found those relationship fell by the wayside.

Even though I have not seen some of these season or reason friends for a long time I still consider them friends. When we run into one another on the street we hug, catch up and encourage one another with a smile. We will even connect from time to time on face book, following along as their lives change and grow.  And if they had a need, a prayer request, I’d like to think I’d be there for them just as they would be for me.

Lifetime friends: Then there are lifetime friends. These friends have been through practically every season with you. They have stood by your side through the good, bad and ugly. These friends often can begin as season/reason friends but they grow to be much more. Two of my lifetime friends came out of the young moms Bible Study, our friendship grew to depths beyond the time in study. Our commonality was more than the season/reason relationship.

Lifetime friendships develop out of a mutual connection of the heart. Just because I have known someone for more than 7 years doesn’t mean we are lifetime friends. A lifetime friend is one to whom your heart is connected. Neither time nor distance can separate you. You have cried over prodigal children, and hard seasons of marriage. You have cried with each other during times of suffering, bearing one another’s burdens, confessed sin and allowed them inside your heart and life.

We may not see eye to eye on everything, and there may be times of hurt feelings, but the relationship is far more important to us than a disagreement. We will talk it out with grace, love and forgiveness.

I do not know about you but my group of lifetime friends is small. In fact I can count them on one hand.  I have known these women anywhere between 7 to 25 years. But it is more than just knowing them for a long time, it is about our level of consistent, intentional involvement in one another’s lives.

So what is my point? I suppose bottom line is that just because you have known someone for more than 7 years it doesn’t mean we are “lifetime” friends. On the other hand we will always be friends. We will always be friends because of the moments we shared, the impact that was made, the season we walked. But lifetime friends go beyond that. They go to a deeper level of the heart and soul and they stay connected throughout the various seasons of life regardless of whether or not you still live in close proximity.

So what do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

The Battle of Hiding and Transparency

The last few days I have been wondering why am I so content to hide. In fact I prefer to hide. It’s my safe place, my default. The truth is there are many who prefer to hide also. We’ve been hiding for a long time, ever since Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. 

Maybe as women, we will always revert back to hiding. But it’s not what we were made to do. Christ came to set us free from guilt and shame. He came so that we could freely be who He created us to be. So why do we hide?

Hide - Copy (2)We hide because we are afraid. We have been wounded by others. People have sinned against us and we have sinned as well. We think that if we hide we will be safe, that somehow we will be protected. But protected from what? Another rejection? The betrayal of a friend or family member? Suffering? Pain?

We hide because we are afraid that others will see who we really are. We fear that they will see that at times we can be weak and frail. That we struggle and that sometimes we are even “needy”. Why do we feel that we must wear this mask of perfection and strength?

We feel  judged, shame and fear …so we hide.

In Staci Eldredge’s book titled Captivating she says “We become good at hiding. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing with drawls. We hide our truest selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe.We act in self-protected ways and refuse to offer what we truly see, believe, and know. We have spoken in the past and been met with blank stares and mocking guffaws. We will not do it again.” No truer words have been spoken. So often we do only offer what we think others want to know about us and we hold back the truest forms of ourselves.

I too have a real tendency to hide, to try and protect myself against more hurt or possible judgment. I believe though, that God has been calling me to be more transparent. God wants me to be honest, open and real. He wants me to be sensitive to the needs of others, to be available, trustworthy and most of all- to be a grace giver.

But I’ve tried this before. I have found that sometimes people just aren’t comfortable with our “confessions”. They are not truly open to accept the messiness in our lives. They will judge, misunderstand and your relationship may never be the same.

If I would become a grace giver to all those I meet would that not make others feel that they could be real with me? If I began to openly share my heart with those around me, regardless of what others thought, wouldn’t those around me do the same?

So what shall we do? First we need to understand that there is a balance between hiding and revealing too much. Second we must discern between those who are able to hear our weaknesses, struggles and sin with grace and those who can not.

So when and how often do we share our burden? What parts do we share? It’s kind of like getting a physical wound. If we injure our selves and begin to bleed we don’t just go around bleeding all over everyone. We bandage it up so that the healing process can begin. Sometimes the wound is too big for us to wrap ourselves and we need help, so we go to someone capable of helping. Once it’s begun to heal, we do not pick at it so that it bleeds, thus starting the process all over. No, we allow it to heal. While healing there are those who will ask about our wound so we willingly share-but only when asked. We do not run around shouting “Look at my wound!”

Our emotional wounds or life struggles are similar. When we are going through something we know those we can talk to, those who are safe and trustworthy, who will help in the healing process. So we go to them and allow them to help “bandage” us up. We do not run around shouting “my life is awful-woe is me” to anyone who will listen. One reason we do not do this is because they may not be able to understand the depth of your struggle. They may not be able to handle your burden.

On the other hand if someone notices that we are struggling and ask us about it, we certainly should share with them instead of saying “oh everything is fine.” But, again, we do not want to walk around “bleeding” all over them. We can be be open, honest and willing to share when God gives us the opportunity to do so without going into great details or making huge confessions that other may not be able to handle due to their spiritual maturity or lack of.

I am finding, especially as an “older” woman and/or a leader that women want to know about my struggles and how I walked through them. They want to know they are not alone in their struggles. They need to see the power of the gospel being lived out in the life of another. So I need to be more willing to share when asked. I need to allow others into my life, so they can ask questions. I need to be honest enough to share the work God has done in me in order to bring glory to His name.

One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness, and will shout joyfully of your righteousness.  PS 145:4, 7 NASB

Father, help me to be a grace giver. Help me to willingly open up my heart and my life so that you alone might be glorified.

A Longing Unsatisfied

unsatisfied_thumb.jpgI believe that there is a longing in every heart for a deep soul connection. A longing that often cries out to be filled.

We desire to connect with another person. To connect deeply. To be loved unconditionally. We desire to be accepted, valued, and complete.

Often when we get married we think that our spouse will fill that need, that longing to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. We marry thinking that every need, especially emotionally, will be met. We think that we no longer will be lonely or fill empty. We will have someone to share EVERYTHING with. We will have that one person who totally understands us.

Then comes reality. Our spouse cannot meet every need we have emotionally. Some will say that we need our girlfriends to meet our needs where our husbands can not. But again the reality is that I can have a good, healthy relationship with my husband, mother, sister or a friend but at some point in the relationship I will want more. At some point they will fail or disappoint me. Their love will never be enough to fully satisfy the longing. It’s impossible for any human relationship to fulfill that which was meant for God alone.

When we think others can fill the emptiness we set the relationship up for failure. To think your husband can or should fill your needs sets your marriage up to fail. God created each of us with a longing that can only be filled by Him. To expect anyone else to fill that longing will only bring disappoint in the end.

I believe marriages, and other relationships in our lives would be better, healthier and stronger if we would first go to God where we are completely satisfied. When we are in a relationship with Him the longing will be filled. Our relationship with our husband will not be enough if we have not allowed God to fill the longing in us first.

Once we are filled to overflowing by the Spirit of God we can then go to our husband without any thought of self. We are free then, and only then, to offer ourselves completely without any expectations to be filled by him because we are already filled to overflowing with Christ.

The beauty of living completely satisfied in Christ is that we no longer go to those we love in order to seek to be filled. We can however be free to give more fully of ourselves.

The only one  in this world that can fill the longing inside you is Jesus. It’s a relationship with Him, not our husbands that fully satisfy. Jesus says that He came to give you life, abundant life! (John 10:10) And in Colossians we are reminded that it is in Christ that we are complete. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Col 2:9,10)

Oh dear one, you no longer have to live a life of emptiness or neglect. Jesus longs to fill you with Himself so that you will know joy, peace and abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:13)

He waits for you. He longs to fill the emptiness of your soul.

Oh Father forgive me for the times I go to my husband to fill my needs when I should come to you. Even if my husband could fill all my needs it still wouldn’t fully satisfy apart from You. Jesus help me to live fully satisfied in your love. I want to be filled to overflowing with all of you so that I might not want from those I love but so that I can give of all I am to them. Help me to be a living sacrifice, help me to be an example of Your overflowing love. Amen

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13

How I Miss You!

Oh how I long for a visit with you. I have missed those times when you would come to me and we would just sit and share our hearts.

You would allow me to comfort you in your pain and sorrow. I would rejoice over you as you excitedly shared all that was happening in your life. A day wouldn’t go by that we weren’t connecting in our hearts.

Do you miss those times with me? Have you noticed an emptiness in the place where we use to have such beautiful fellowship? My heart aches for those moments that you would set aside for me.

Oh I see how busy you are doing my work. You are going about doing good and wonderful things, but don’t you see that it’s you I want. It’s your sacrifice of time that means the most to me. It’s those intimate visits with you that are most precious to me.

Your so busy I don’t know if you see that you are growing distant. I am here, I promised you that I would never leave or forsake you. I will always love you and I will wait. But what you don’t see is that one day you will wake up and feel distant from me, you may even feel as if it’s I who have pulled away from you.

But dear child I continue to wait for you. I continue to wait in our place of solitude.

Do you know what brings joy to my heart? When you want to be with me. My heart soars when you come to me to spend time in fellowship and worship. I wish you could understand that it’s not the doing of things for me that I long for it’s just being with you.

Oh Father, help me to see that it is me that you want. It’s not what I can do for you that matters. You desire my heart, my life, my all and you want to have an intimate relationship with me. You want to be first in my life. Help me to put aside those things I deem as important so that I can spend more time with you. Father it’s not just more time you desire but it’s quality time. Help me to take the time to sit before you and listen intently to your heart, to your word and what you desire.

Forgive me for thinking there is anything I NEED to DO for you other than just worship. Oh Father how I want to just worship you, to spend the days exalting your name. Oh how I pray that I can sit at your feet and just dwell there.