Thursday, September 5, 2013

Martha or Mary?

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

I have read this passage many times over the years and always knew I was a Martha. I have a very hard time sitting still, especially when there are tasks to be done. In fact, I get giddy when I can check things off my to-do list!

But this story of Martha and Mary has spoken to me at a new level this week. It started this past Sunday at church when we sang “Fill Me Up” by Jesus Culture. The words are simple: “You provide the fire, I’ll provide the sacrifice. You provide the Spirit, and I will open up inside. Fill me up, God. Fill me up, God. Fill me up, God. Fill me up, God.” I sang it but my heart wasn't really into it. Like Martha, I was distracted.

Then one of our pastors shared a Word. He said that when he asked God to fill him up, God gave him the image of someone filling a glass, except they kept moving the glass! The pastor went on to say that God wants to fill us up, but that we keep moving. We are too busy to slow down and stop so that He can fill us up!

You ever have those moments when you feel as if God hit you over the head with a spiritual two by four? This was one of those moments for me. God had spoken his Word directly to me. I could not deny it.

And I already knew it. I have been thinking a lot lately about how I am too busy. I am a wife; I am mother of four, three of whom are still at home; I run our household and all of which that entails. In addition, I am on the pastoral team at my church where I teach classes and mentor women, I do the books for my husband’s business, I help a friend with the books for her business, I am the president of a non-profit organization, I cycle with a bike club, and more. Whew! Life seems chaotic, unorganized, and unfocused. I certainly don’t have time to stay on top of everything. And what have I pushed to the back burner? As always, my quiet time with God.

One of my main goals in life, what perhaps should be my only goal, is to know God more. Because if I know God more, that takes care of everything else. But how do I do that? I need to be like Mary instead of Martha. God addresses this very directly in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still. I need to stop doing, like Martha, and just be, like Mary.

As of yesterday, all of my children are in school full time. I think this is finally the year that I will be able to step back and rest. My youngest went to kindergarten, my second grader is in a great school with the resources to help her with her special needs, my fifth grader is gaining independence, and my eleventh grader is almost completely independent. I am not so needed!

So how will I fill my time? I have actually committed to NOT filling my time. I want to know God more. I want to find rest in Him. I want Him to fill me up. So I am going to be still. I am going to sit quietly and listen. I am going to set aside my Martha self and ignore the distractions. I am going to become more like Mary and sit at the Lord’s feet listening to what He says. I am going to choose the one thing that is needed.

Will you join me?

P.S. Here's a link to "Fill Me Up":

Friday, August 9, 2013

Quit the Pity Party!

We all face challenges in life. No one is immune. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble." Peter reiterates this when he writes, "Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." (1 Peter 4:12)

So if we know this, why do we have such a pity party when the challenges come?

And let me tell you, when it comes to pity, I can party with the best of them. I sulk and moan and cry and complain. I ask, "Why me?" I wallow in the negatives and focus on all that is going wrong. I embrace the challenge as if I am a martyr, being persecuted almost unto death. I want life to be easy and comfortable, not hard and painful. Can you relate?

Some of the challenges I have faced brought me to such a place of darkness that I felt it was going to overtake me. I was in that darkness after my teenage daughter ran away. We have now been estranged for over two years. She lives with her dad and we have very little contact. I tried hard to make her come back, to control the situation with my own power, but the harder I tried, the worse things got. I ended up pushing my daughter further away. I went through a serious pity party!

Finally, I just gave up. Not in a bad way like "I can't win anyway" giving up. Instead, it was so completely trusting that God had it all worked out that I just had to give it up to Him. It wasn't easy and I have to continue to give it up daily. But I have come to a place where I am certain of what I cannot see (Hebrews 11:1); I know that God sees the end from the beginning (Revelation 21:6); I believe that He has it all worked out (Romans 8:28); and I trust  that He "has plans for me, to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). 

The peace that I have experienced since I gave it up is tremendous. I am truly living Philippians 4:7, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." My heart is also filled with great joy (Psalm 4:7) that no one can take away (John 16:22).

I encourage you to leave your pity party. Stand on God's truths and may He "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)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bitter Roots (Part 3)

The enemy is relentless. He wants to destroy your life and uses any means necessary. We must fight him and clean up the bitter roots that grew from the seeds he planted. Here is an example from my own life of how I overcame a bitter root...

A few years ago I was struggling with anger issues. I was a big, bad, mean momma! I yelled at my kids and was even physically aggressive with them. I knew it was wrong and I hated doing it but I couldn't seem to stop. I cried out to God often, asking for help in dealing with this. Why was I like this?

Slowly God started giving me answers and sending information my way to help me overcome my anger. The first was a resource called "She's Gonna Blow" by Julie Ann Barnhill. Here was a woman who admitted to her anger and shared very personal stories to which I could totally relate. In reading this book I realized two things: I was not the only one (it is so good to know you are not alone) and I needed to get to the source of my anger.

I. Identify the Source

Often the source of our issues comes from childhood. You may have had trauma in your childhood like sexual abuse. You may have been raped or witnessed domestic violence. You may have been in the foster care system. For me, the source originated in my childhood with insecurity and low self-esteem that were then intensified as an adult in an abusive marriage. 

Whatever the source of your trauma, one thing that is common among all of them is a feeling of being out of control. That is a horrible feeling! And it can manifest itself in many ways. Some people withdraw; some overeat; some turn to alcohol or drugs; some get angry. I was the latter. And the anger reared its ugly head whenever that out-of-control feeling came again.

As a mother, there are many times when I feel out of control. Kids have a mind of their own! When I was struggling the most with my anger issues a few years ago, I was dealing with a teenage daughter who wanted to leave my home and a newly adopted daughter with major emotional and behavioral challenges. My life was total chaos! Each day was a journey of survival. I often prayed just three words, "Help me, God!" And He did, slowly.

Once I identified the source, I realized I needed to work through the grieving process in regards to my abusive marriage. I thought I had done that already, but in reality, I had just buried it and embraced my anger, holding on to it like a security blanket. 

II. Break Through with Force

I was determined to fight the enemy and overcome this stronghold. I found scripture verses about anger and started declaring against my anger. Here are a few that really helped me:

  • "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." (Proverbs 29:11)
  • "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)
  • "Love is not easily angered." (1 Corinthians 13:5)
  • "A hot-tempered man commits many sins." (Proverbs 29:22)
  • "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for a man's anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires." (James 1:19-20)
  • "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith." (1 Peter 5:8-9)
  • "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil." (Ephesians 6:12)
  • "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22)
I read these scriptures over and over. I wrote them on cards and hung them above my desk. I started declaring that the enemy does not have a hold on me and I cursed his plans against me. I began to feel the pressure lifting. Next, I needed to enlist some help.

III. Get Help

I confided in a close friend about my anger. It was a difficult and humbling conversation to admit I was having this struggle, but it actually helped to get it out in the open. The enemy likes to keep things in the dark but God brings all things into the light (Ephesians 5:11). My friend shared my burden (Galatians 6:2) and began to pray for me and hold me accountable.

In addition, I started seeing a professional therapist who specializes in women's issues. She helped me dig into my past and finally deal with things once and for all. She gave me excellent and practical ways to manage my emotions and to realize that the only person I can control is myself.

IV. Embrace the reality of who you are in Christ and who He is to you

Through all of this, I began to realize that I am forgiven, righteous and whole in Jesus. He is my strength, my healer, my protection and my peace. I am His child and He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

Finally dealing with all this does not mean that life is not perfect. I am still estranged from my teenage daughter; I still face many challenges with my adopted daughter; I still feel very angry at times. But I have learned to let go of the anger and let God handle the situation. I know that He will work all things for good (Romans 8:28) and I have found a place of peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I encourage you to dig into your past and remove that bitter root. It is not easy but it is definitely worth it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bitter Roots (Part 2)

How do you get to the root?

 I.          Identify the source

Getting to the root issues requires some real soul-searching. You must dig into your past to identify the source of you pain.

-          Were you abused as a child – sexually, physically or emotionally?
-          Did you witness domestic violence?
-          Were you raped?
-          Were you raised in the foster care system?
-          Did you have an abortion?
-          Have you lost your parents or a child?
-          Have you experienced trauma as an adult such as divorce, abuse, or domestic violence?
-          Are you estranged from your parents, a child or another family member?

This list cannot cover all the possibilities of the ways Satan will attack your life. You must seek God for revelation of yours. As women, we tend to bury the hurt and think that we are over it. But burying it is what causes the root of bitterness to grow.

II.   Grieve

Once you identify the root, you must grieve. If you don’t grieve and feel all the emotions about the pain in your life, you will never get over it. This is hard. It can hurt so bad to go back and revisit the pain. No one wants to feel that. But it is the only way to true healing.

There are many stages to the grief process as initially documented by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. These stages are for any type of trauma or loss, not just death.

The first stage is shock, in which you are paralyzed about what has happened. You then move to denial, burying the pain and refusing to deal with the effects of what has happened; many people get stuck in this stage.  During the grieving, you also get angry and you might lash out with very strong emotions. At some point, you try to bargain or try to get out of the pain. You might also fall into a depression, sometimes lasting a very long time. Eventually you test out solutions and finally accept your situation and move on.

These stages do not provide a straight, linear path. They can come in waves, in any order, and sometimes repeat themselves. You might go back and forth through multiple stages several times before you reach acceptance. But one truth stands: until you go through the cycles, you will never completely eliminate the root.

III.                Break through with force!

Pastor Stan Ellis of Christian Life Center taught once about breaking through barriers and invading the unlimited. He spoke on Matthew 11:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Pastor Stan said the word “violent” means forceful aggression (spiritual, not carnal). We must use force to break through our past. It is a fight! It will not come easy and the enemy is relentless.

“Our struggle is not against the flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

You must fight in the spirit every minute of every day. You must make the choice over and over again to do things differently. You must seek God for strength and perseverance. He will walk with you through the battle.

IV.                Get help

Pastor Stan went on to suggest that to break a barrier you need two people: an intercessor and a predecessor. I believe this is true when breaking through our past as well.

You need an intercessor – someone in whom you can confide and who will lift you in prayer on a regular basis. Remember, it is a battle and you need all the support you can get.

You also need a predecessor – someone who has been through something similar and has broken through. They can give you advice, support and, most importantly, hope – if they can break through, so can you! In addition, they can also help you identify pitfalls and challenges that will come your way as you force your way to breakthrough so that you can keep your guard up and stay strong in battle.

You may find a predecessor in an individual relationship that God sends your way. You may also seek to join a support group to be around multiple people who are going through or have been through a similar experience. At Christian Life Center there is group called Celebrate Recovery – a program designed to help you get over whatever is holding you down. I encourage you to attend. (Go t0 to find a location near you.)

In addition, you may need to seek the help of a professional counselor. A professional counselor can help you dig into deeper issues while maintaining objectivity to guide you through the healing process. 

Whatever path you decide to take, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone has been through something and we are all on this journey together to help one another.

V.                  Embrace the reality of who you are in Christ and who He is to you:

a.       You are God’s daughter, a princess, the apple of His eye.
b.      You are forgiven, righteous and whole in Him.
c.       He is your peace, your protection, your provider, your healer.
d.      He is with you always and He is not mad at you!

 John 10:10 starts by stating:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

That is only half of the verse. Jesus goes on to say:

“…but I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

God wants good things for your life: joy, peace, prosperity, abundance! I encourage you to dig into your past, eliminate the roots of bitterness, and become all God created you to be!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bitter Roots (Part 1)

The enemy is relentless. He plants seeds of destruction in your heart through abuse, hardship, rejection, and any other means necessary. That seed, when rooted within, grows and takes over. It is like a weed in a garden – if it is allowed to grow, it takes over and kills any good, healthy plants around it. It must be pulled out at the root. If any part of the root is left, it will rejuvenate and grow again.
Interestingly, some weeds are actually quite beautiful. Look at the Crimson Clover to the left. It produces a dark red flower that appears lovely and healthy. However, its beauty is deceptive because it is very invasive and can choke out healthy grasses and plants around it.

That’s how many of us are in our lives when we bury our past. We look like everything is okay on the outside; like we have dealt with our past and have moved on. And even we can believe that things are okay. But in reality, all we have done is bury the root. In the darkness of our hearts, that root grows and eventually it will push through. If we let it go long enough, it will take over and choke out all the good in our lives, just like the clover in the picture below.

Are you struggling with materialism, anger, food addiction, drugs, alcohol, adultery, fornication, or any other type of vice? Those things are just the symptom of the root inside.

The Bible addresses this directly:

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12:15)

Bitter root grows when you don't deal with your issues, which causes the fruit of your life to be bad. You then seek relief through other means: anger, materialism, food, drugs, alcohol, and other vices. You also become toxic to other people and draw other evil spirits to you.

You can't change your past, but you can change your attitude about your past and the impact your past has on your present and future. This starts by dealing with and working through the pain and allowing God to penetrate deep into your soul. It is difficult and painful, but definitely worth it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Take your thoughts captive!

Sometimes the enemy attacks in very obvious and overt ways. More often, though, he attacks subtly by putting negative thoughts in your mind about yourself. He uses these thoughts to pull you away from God and away from your destiny. 

The enemy is relentless and will continue to pound you down until you stop him. And you can stop him. You are in control of your thoughts. You can take captive the negative thoughts and make them positive. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (emphasis mine)
My pastor says that he doesn't want any thought in his mind about himself that God doesn't have about him. We must do the same. So the next time a negative thought comes into your mind, replace it with a godly thought. Here are some examples:

I am ugly.                    I am made in the image of God and I am beautiful!
                                    (Genesis 1:26)

I am stupid.                 I am smart and I have the mind of Christ!
                                    (1 Corinthians 2:16)

I am a loser.                 I am a conqueror!
                                    (Romans 8:37)

I can’t do anything.     I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!
                                    (Philippians 4:13)

I’m no good.                God is good and He instructs me in his ways!
                                    (Psalm 25:8)

I’m not worthy.           God has numbered the hairs on my head – I am worthy to Him!
                                    (Matthew 10:30)

I have done awful        I am forgiven!
awful things.                (Psalm 130:4, Acts 10:43, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14)

Start today to take control of your thoughts. Changing your thoughts can change your life!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Struggling to find balance?

You juggle so many things: marriage, motherhood, family, work, friends, health, ministry, exercise. You continue to give of yourself, pouring into those around you, often at the expense of yourself. You might even be at a place where you are completely worn out and feel like you have lost yourself amid all the other pressures of life. You struggle daily to find some balance.

The truth is: balance is elusive. You can strive and strive for it, but as soon as you think you have attained it, something new is thrown in the mix and you get off balance again. 

I'd like to suggest that instead of striving for balance, strive for RHYTHM.

Rhythm, as defined by is "the effect produced in a play, film, novel, etc., by the combination or arrangement of formal elements to create movement, tension, and emotional value in the development of the plot." This applies to life as well. You have elements in your life that are combined and arranged every day, sometimes regularly scheduled, sometimes completely out of order. There is movement, tension and lots of emotion!

Think of it like waves in the ocean. There is an ebb and flow to life that you must ride just like you ride a wave. If you fight the waves, you just get tired and worn out. But if you cooperate and join in the ebb and flow of the the waves, you find a rhythm that is manageable and often peaceful.

Here is an example from my life. I love to work out. I lift weights, run and cycle. My ideal world would allow me to work out 6 days a week and occasionally that happens. But more often, I can fit 3-4 workouts in, and some weeks, I don't work out at all. I used to get really upset when I couldn't work out. I would feel like I had been cheated out of something and worried that I would lose the fitness level that I had worked so hard to attain.

A few years ago, when a friend shared the idea of rhythm instead of balance, it occurred to me that I needed to apply this in my life, specifically to my workouts. I have found that life sometimes gets in the way and so I now just go with the flow, the rhythm of my life. I work out when I can, make the most of it, and am grateful for that time. When I can't work out, I know that it is not a permanent situation and that my fitness level will not die off for missing a few days or even a week or two. I feel much less pressure and have more peace.

I encourage you to shift your thinking. Accept the fact that balance is unattainable. Begin following the waves and find the RHYTHM in your life.