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Then David got up from the floor, washed himself, put lotions on, and changed his clothes. Then he went into the Lord’s house to worship. After that, he went home and asked for something to eat. His servants gave him some food, and he ate.

2 Samuel 12:20 NIV

I feel like I’ve been in mourning for a very long time.  It all started many years before I’ve tended to acknowledge, but the fact is I’ve never really let myself get up from the ashes and fully step into a new season.  I hadn’t realized this until recently, but a conversation with someone who is very dear to me has opened my eyes to this truth.

As I have shared on this blog in the past, I was raped at the age of 22.  My life up to that point had been filled with depression and anxiety over various family issues, but I had never expected to be a rape victim.  It was someone that I had trusted and for years, I couldn’t even tell anyone what had happened.  I handled it very badly, turning my fear and anger inward on myself.  I drank and turned to promiscuity, albeit very targeted promiscuity.  I was on a mission to get my power back.  What had been taken from me was the very core of my being.  It shook my sense of self to the extent that I took on an identity that wasn’t mine to take on.

For years now, I’ve been trying on different personas.   I’ve tried to be a wife.  I’ve tried to be a savior.  I’ve tried to be an activist.  None of these have actually fit me well.  I’m a mother.  That seems to be the thing I love most.  I wouldn’t change any part of it other than what my daughter went through when my ex-husband and I divorced.  My daughter has been my saving grace and I am forever grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to be her mother.  As David struggled with the impending death of his son, he fasted and cried and he prayed constantly for healing to occur.  He says in 2 Samuel that he figured if he did all of these things, the Lord would feel sorry for him and that He might let the baby live.  But when the child died, David saw no reason to continue his mourning.  He had done all he could do to try and bring about a miracle and it simply hadn’t worked.  He got up, cleaned himself up and began moving forward.  He didn’t stay there wallowing in his pain.  HE GOT UP!

The big mistake that we often make is to continue our mourning far past the point of effectiveness.  Maybe we think that if we are sad long enough, God will take pity on us and give us what we truly want.  If we continue to beg Him for mercy, maybe He won’t take away that person or thing that we are clinging to so stubbornly.  Surely, He doesn’t want us to suffer this much.  Surely, He wants to give us the thing that we so desperately want.

The truth is, no, He doesn’t want us to hurt.  But sometimes we are so convinced that we cannot live happily or live at all without the thing we desire that we forget that God has already planned this all out and He has good reason for adding or removing people and things to and from our lives.  He knows better than we do whether or not the course of our lives will be improved or diminished by the loss or addition of any person or thing.  He is in charge, but all too often we forget that.  So, instead of walking in faith, we allow our grief over not getting our way to be stronger than our belief that God is actually in every situation and He is allowing some things to move forward in hopes that we will get up and move in the same direction.

He allows us to sit there and wallow, but it doesn’t sway Him in His execution of the plan He has for our lives.  He knows that when we finally do GET UP, we are likely to find the peace we need tucked somewhere between each step we take in faith.  He has given us free will, so it really is up to us to decide how long we want our sadness or discontent with a given situation to control our direction.  I’ve been sad for a long time.  I often choose to hide it under a crazy sense of humor or an extremely busy schedule, but the truth is that I haven’t allowed myself to fully let go of the things that He has clearly shown me I need to let go.

I’ve spent too much time being sad over the inability of someone I love to be everything that I needed him to be.  I’ve spent too much time being dissatisfied with outcomes and simply chalking it up to yet another injustice that I’ve been forced to suffer.  I know better than to sit still and allow life to dictate the degree of momentum I gain as I continue to seek my purpose and God’s plan for me.  I’ve allowed distractions to prevent me from moving forward…mostly because I wasn’t sure I could handle what lies ahead for me.  You can do this for a while, but eventually you begin to wonder why you stopped standing up for yourself.  Where did you lose your spark?  When did you stop wanting to become a better version of yourself?  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that it was somewhere between the tears.  And that’s completely okay.  We all need to take a break and give ourselves time to heal when we’ve been hurt.  But we cannot stay there forever.  There is so much more for us to experience and we cannot do that if we’re sitting still.

It’s time to GET UP!  It’s time to allow myself to move forward even if the ones I want to bring with me aren’t quite ready for the trip.  If they are meant to be there with me, they’ll eventually catch up.  If it is God’s plan for us to be a part of each other’s lives, they will somehow cross my path again when we are both in a better place.  For now, it is so important that I keep moving forward and that I keep trusting in God’s plan.  For now, I have to be willing to step into the next season and accept the fact that the distractions are not meant to be the focus.  They are simply things we need to get past in order to reach the finish line.  And eventually, the sadness won’t overshadow the joy.  ❤

What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:9 – 3:11 NIV

 

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See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.

~Deuteronomy 30:15 NIV~

Sometimes what we think we see isn’t what is happening at all.  We cannot ever know a person’s true motivation for the choices they make.  Most often, our anger or frustration with someone comes from our perception of why they have done something we didn’t like or agree with.  In reality, their decisions likely had nothing to do with us.  In reality, they are choosing a particular option because of something they are feeling or based on what their experience is telling them is the best way to go.  It usually doesn’t have a thing to do with them not loving us enough or with them discounting our great, expansive knowledge about something.  Yes, although we may think we have all the answers, our answers may not be the right answers for anyone but us.

I’ve experienced this in many different situations.  I’ve been in relationships with people who, for whatever reason, decided that they didn’t want to stay with me.  My first thought was that I was not enough.  I didn’t have what they needed.  I wasn’t attractive enough.  I wasn’t successful enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  In reality, I was actually too much.  I had already cleared the hurdles that they were still stumbling over and my willingness to help them make it over was just too much for them to take at that moment in their journey.  And even though I have made some good progress in my own struggles, the fact that I’m not willing to accept that I no longer have to live in the struggle in order to keep my relationships going shows that I still have a long way to go myself.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so helpful until I get past ALL of the hurdles?  Or maybe I just need to learn which relationships are supposed to make it over the hurdles with me and which are supposed to be left on the track?  This remains to be seen, but I think I already know the answer…at least as it pertains to me.

Other situations where I’ve had to back down some have been with family.  There have been many times when I thought I knew what was best for a loved one and they had already made up their mind to do something else.  When I was younger, I didn’t have the experience to know better.  Now that I’ve gone through some things, I still have had only my own experiences.  So, yes, while our experience qualifies us to give advice or offer suggestions, it does not give us authority over someone else’s choices.  We can only hope that their history with us and our past interactions have instilled in them some level of trust in our motives for offering advice.  After all, when we love someone it can be difficult to know or think we know what would be best for them and watch them take off in a different direction.  We really don’t know that our way will bring the best possible outcome…we only hope that it would.

The key in all of these situations is that we trust that God’s hand in the matter will guide it to a favorable outcome.  Sometimes we have to lose people.  Sometimes, they weren’t supposed to be with us in the first place.  Sometimes, we have to let God walk people through the most difficult situations they are dealing with.  He won’t lead them down the wrong path.  So, even if someone else has greater influence over them than we do, we cannot discount God’s influence there as well.  I don’t agree with every choice my loved ones have made.  They haven’t agreed with all of mine either.  But we can only go as far down the path with someone as they will allow us to go.  It is their choice whether or not they try to do the rest of it on their own or if they allow God to do what He needs to do to get them to their destination.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV~

 

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
~Matthew 26:52 NIV~
I’ve been going through a very long season of trying to figure out how to avoid dealing with what is happening in the lives of those that I love.  This is what I do.  When something is beyond my control, I back away from it.  I involve myself with anything and everything but the thing that I can’t resolve because I don’t want to be there when it falls apart.  And it isn’t because I’ve chosen not to draw my sword.  It’s because my sword isn’t sharp enough to kill what needs to be killed.  My sword is useless.  And I don’t like to feel useless.  Especially to those that I want to protect.
Since it isn’t necessarily about me, it seems really stupid to talk about how much it affects me to see those I love go through difficulties.  And it seems that over the last year or so, the devil has attacked each person that I love.  To varying degrees, he has made things painful and distressing for each of them.  And I have had to sit by and watch this happen because I had neither the energy, nor the resources or ability to fix any of their problems.  Of course, God never told me to fix their problems.  He has always only told me to have faith in His ability and desire to fix their problems.  He has always only told me that I need not worry because He has this under control.  But like most people, I don’t listen.  I think to myself, surely God will let me fix this.  Surely He needs me to do something here…because I can handle so much on my own….right?
In spite of what some people may think about me, I do not believe that I know more than God.  I’ve never felt that I know even an inkling of what He knows.  This is why I talk to Him constantly.  This is why I’m asking Him to help me with everything all of the time.  This is why I’m so frustrated when I can’t hear Him; because I need to hear Him so that I can take a step in some direction…any direction.
Several years ago, when my grandfather became very sick I watched my mother pour her time and energy into taking care of him.  I could not be that close to the situation because it hurt too much to see what was happening to him.  But my mother was right there with him through the whole thing.  I stayed on the fringe of things because that was as close as I could get without falling apart.  I’ve always wanted to believe that I was a strong person but the truth is that when it comes to losing the people I love I am probably weaker than most.
So much of who I am is wrapped up in the people I love.  I am the person I am because of the grandfather who taught me how to tie my shoes, and the aunt who took me to church with her, the uncle who always told great stories, the friends who made me laugh, the men who told me they loved me, and the aunt who showed me it was okay to be silly.  I cannot imagine how I’m going to deal with losing others like the mother who showed me how to fight for my daughter and myself, the sister who has shown me how to handle any kind of adversity that presents itself, the sister who has shown me how important it is to use your God-given talent, and the father who has shown me how to have a sense of humor in spite of how painful life has been or is.  And the daughter who is so much a part of me that I could never imagine living this life without her by my side.
So, yes, when it comes to thinking about life without any of these people, I’m hiding.  I’m shutting down.  I cannot do this life without them.  At least not the way I want my life to be.  I want my life to include everyone that I love and I want them all to be okay, all the time.  But I know that isn’t how this works.  Of course, God could do that.  He could make everything better right now and we could all be happy and healthy…but that’s not the point.  That wouldn’t really show us how much He loves us.  We need to lean on Him.  We need to show Him that we have faith in His plan.  We need to let Him give us things and even though it hurts, we need to let Him take things from us.  But He knows what He is doing and He gives us everything we need to both receive and release.
I don’t want to live this life without the people I love, but there will be a time when I have to do just that.  I have no control over it.  I can only pray for guidance and strength as these people deal with the things they need to deal with.  I can pray for supernatural intervention and hope that God decides to show off when nothing else seems to work.  He has done it before and I know that He will do it again.  But if He chooses not to show off in every situation, I have to pray for understanding, peace and wisdom so that I can continue to move forward whether to receive or to release what He has given me.  I don’t want to, but this is what I have to do if I trust my God.  And even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, I do trust Him with all my heart.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

–~Ephesians 6:16 (NIV)~

Loving is a process-Meme 1-2017

A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

~Proverbs 17:17 NIV~

A few days ago, I posted a status update on social media that simply said, “I miss my friends.” Of course, a few people responded by saying they were still with me. Yes, for the most part, I have many people whom I call friend who are indeed still speaking to me and will interact with me if I reach out to them. I meant no offense to them. I value the people that I have had the opportunity to interact with during my life. I feel that people are put in our lives for a reason and I don’t want to take them for granted. I also know that we sometimes disconnect and there isn’t always a good reason behind the lack of contact. Somewhere along the way there is a point where we stop asking about each other and it can leave the other person feeling hurt and confused.

To restate this and hopefully clarify, sometimes we go through things and we aren’t able to fully express what we need from each other at the time we are going through it. We either cocoon ourselves and lose touch with friends and loves ones or we purposely push someone away and they give up on us in order to protect themselves from whatever is hurting us; thinking that if we can’t handle it, then we surely don’t want to see what their problems can do to us if we hang around. Sometimes, when we push others away, we do it to protect them. Sometimes, we want them to rescue us. Sometimes, we are so lost and confused that we don’t know what we want. We have just reached a point where the way we are feeling and acting isn’t working for us anymore and we need for something to change.

Sometimes, nothing makes sense and although we don’t want to be without the people we love, we simply cannot continue to do the same things we have always done or be with the same people we’ve always been with until we get it together. Having been through this a few times in my life, I can honestly say that I’ve been surprised by the number of people who didn’t even ask what was going on with me. Although I like to take care of things on my own, sometimes it is nice to have someone hear you out or help you see things from a different perspective. I get that some people may not be comfortable reaching out or that maybe, they are going through things themselves. But if we are friends, shouldn’t we want to know when our friend is hurting? Shouldn’t we want to be support to them? If we reach out and they reject us, then we have done what we can do. But if we have a friend who is dealing with a particularly difficult situation and we simply don’t want to deal with their drama, are we being a good friend? There is a very fine line between supporting our friends and meddling in their lives when they need space. It can be difficult to know if we are doing the right thing by asking someone if there is anything they need. Should we hang back and just wait for them to ask us for help? Or should we step up and let them know that we are there if they need us? Either way, we leave ourselves open to rejection. But, in letting someone know that we care what is happening with them, we are doing what God would want us to do. We should never withhold love or concern in the interest of convenience.

I understand that we all have things going on in our lives, but it takes less than five minutes to send someone an e-mail or a text and ask them if they are doing okay. If you have friends who are struggling, take time to tell them you care what is happening in their lives. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to tell people what you are going through. The best way to heal is to confront the issue and to actually use the support system you have. Friends can’t help you or offer support if they have no idea that you’re struggling. Yes, we may want to be strong and to take care of things on our own, but there is no shame in having someone around to talk you through the difficult parts. Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. Sometimes it only causes further injury and it ensures that the healing process will take even longer.

Healing takes time. Healing is a choice. Healing must happen on purpose. Healing requires feeling. And the way we get to healing is through knowledge. I do miss my friends. But I know that in some cases, there was a need for us to separate and go our own way. In some cases, I did all I could do for them. In others, I did not. Going forward, I hope that the people in my life will know that I am here to listen when they need me to hear them. I hope that if I am ever able to help, that I will do so. And I hope that if I ever need someone, there will be someone there for me.

For more information on healing, please visit our blog for Higher Ground for Life.  Healing for Life is a series on understanding what it takes to recover from personal trauma.  Just a few pieces of information to help you get started on your journey toward healing.  I hope you’ll take a look.  God bless.

Healing Requires Knowledge-Meme 5-2017

 Will your idle talk reduce others to silence? Will no one rebuke you when you mock?

Job 11:3 NIV

I can’t really remember where my head was at when the illness started, but I know that right now, my mind is somewhat blank.  I’ve had so much time to think about things that I’m all thought out.  Several weeks ago, I was working on several different projects.  I was writing.  I was publishing.  I was taking care of several things at my “day” job.  And I was helping my daughter with various things.  I was busy.  As we often are.  But I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled.  Things were getting to be stressful and before I knew it, the stress became a weakened immune system which then disintegrated into a full-blown case of bronchitis.  Since I have fibromyalgia and arthritis and a genetic predisposition to immune disorders, I know that stress is a surefire way to invite illness in.  I tried to keep going, but my breathing was seriously hindered by the bronchitis and my energy levels pretty much bottomed out.  I was down for the count.

Right before this illness set in, I had met a major milestone with my writing in that I published the tenth book in the mystery series that I have been writing since 2005.  My goal had been to write the tenth book and release it during the ten year anniversary of the series.  I met that goal, but instead of feeling good about the accomplishment, I started to experience a bit of anxiety about what to do next.  Although I have a list of story ideas that I am now free to start on, I’ve not been as motivated to write these things as I would have thought I would be.  I tried to sit down and write some since I couldn’t do much of anything else, but all I could think about was why couldn’t I breathe?  Why wasn’t I getting better?  Was I ever going to feel good again?

Aside from the writing, up to about the last year or so, my life had been centered around getting my ministry going and stepping out and making a big difference.  But suddenly, it was as though all the desire to minister had completely left me.  I had begun to feel as though no one was listening anyway, so why bother?  And now, when I had finally reached a point where I could begin to take my writing in a new direction without feeling confined to finishing out a certain series, I suddenly felt a twinge of hopelessness.  The same notion kept rolling through my mind.  No one was listening anyway, so why bother writing?   It was happening at work as well.  I wanted to step up and do some different things, but no one wanted to hear what I had to say.  This point was being reinforced in everything I did.  No one wanted what I had to offer, so why was I going after anything?

I had always thought that if I had something to say that might help someone else through a difficult situation, then God had given me the ability to say it for a reason.  That was a good thing.  But by the same token, my tendency to speak my mind has also served to drive a wedge between myself and others at times.  Sometimes because I was being a jerk, but sometimes just because people didn’t want to or weren’t ready to hear what I had to say.  In response to this, I’ve made some mistakes.  I’ve either stopped trying to talk to some people, I’ve filtered myself when I do talk to them, or I’ve stopped talking altogether.

This, however, is exactly what the devil wants us to do.  He wants us to either become so disgusted with the process that we become so negative that we are in no danger of speaking life or he wants us to shut up and say absolutely nothing.  Our words have the power to build people up or tear them down and sometimes we may get so bogged down in our own misery that we don’t realize which of these things we are doing most often.  Some of us never figure out how hurtful we have been and it all starts to pile up into an ugly mess.  It is possible to clean that mess up.  At least we can try to.  But it takes courage and a desire to fix what was broken.  It may take everything we’ve got, but the effort is worth it.  When our defenses are down, we may believe that it is impossible to make things right again, but don’t ever believe that God can’t bring about healing.

Today, the illness is mostly gone and the feeling of depletion has dwindled significantly.  There will always be challenges, but trusting in God’s healing process is the key.  Illness may slow us down, but living in His strength is the greatest prescription.  Nothing else compares to His healing power.  I pray that your healing washes over you like a flood.  That when it is all over, nothing broken will remain.  Nothing you have been through will be wasted.  He has a plan for it all and if we trust Him, there is no challenge that cannot be overcome.

 

“‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.  I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.

~Jeremiah 33:6-7 New International Version (NIV)~

 

 

 

 

 

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Ephesians 6:24 New International Version (NIV)

We may never live up to what we think God wants us to be.  We can try and try, but still fall short.  This doesn’t mean that God won’t love us.  It doesn’t mean that He won’t show mercy to those who still struggle to put themselves back together after someone has torn them apart.  We will make mistakes.  It’s who we are.  It’s part of being human.  And He knows, better than any of us, that trying to be more than human simply isn’t possible for us.  If we love Him (and He knows who genuinely loves Him), then He will draw us into His arms and bring us the peace we need when we need it.

I’ve done some things in my life that I’m not particularly proud of.  I’ve fallen short.  I’ve missed the mark.  I’ve been, what I would call a failure.  But I’ve come to terms with all of that.  Why? Because I’ve spent many hours in prayer, asking Him to help me be better.  I’ve asked Him the hard questions and the answer I received was this, “If you hadn’t gone through the pain, you would never appreciate the peace.”  Amazingly enough, this is probably the truest statement I’ve ever heard.  If there had never been any struggle, I would never have known what it feels like to be healed.  I would never have had faith in His ability to take what is broken and make it new.

In receiving His grace, I also learned how to give grace.  I began to understand that we can only do what we can do.  If we are in the midst of healing…or haven’t figured out how to start the process, we don’t have a lot to give to others.  You can’t pour from an empty vessel.  And sometimes, it takes a lifetime to reach the point where we no longer blame ourselves for the pain we’ve endured.  I encourage you to give yourself a break.  You are doing the best you can with what you have.  And even at your lowest points, you are loved.  If you are still hurting, then you are still in need of healing.  You don’t have to be perfect…nor can you ever be.  You can only learn to accept the blessings and the lessons that He gives and move forward.

I don’t say this enough and it has become very clear to me recently that I may not always have the opportunity to do so.  But I love the people in my life more than I can ever express.  I don’t ever want them to think that I hold a grudge or that I was harmed by something they said or did in their brokenness.  I have long-since forgiven any trespasses and now enjoy the freedom of having faith in your healing process.  I’ve seen great things happen and I know He isn’t done impressing us with His awesome power.  When the healing is all done, I know that we’ll all be ready to walk the path He has set for us…and we will walk it together.

I wish you all the love, healing, and peace that you will ever need in this life. ❤

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

~Luke 19:37-40 (NIV)~

So many people are afraid to say what needs to be said.  Entire families have been ruined because one or more individuals were afraid to confront issues with each other that were already obvious to everyone around them.   People love to debate things like sports and entertainment, but shrink back when the discussion turns to the very real substance of this world’s problems, especially as it relates to God.  For that matter, there are those who won’t even discuss their own family’s issues and that tendency to try and hide from our reality is what feeds and breeds dysfunction.

For example, some people get bent out of shape over discussions about religion and politics, but fail to be appropriately or even comparatively appalled at the complete and utter lack of moral decency in which we are being slowly boiled each and every day.  This culture seeks to throw us into the pot and slowly turn up the heat until one day, we realize that we have passed the point of no return.  By then it’s too late; we’re cooked.  And who is stirring this pot?  Those who wish to obliterate God’s presence.  Those who fail to acknowledge His sovereignty.  Those who continue to believe that their way is infinitely better than His way and that we shouldn’t have to follow His rules.  Yes, all of the above.  I have news for these people.  No matter how effective you believe you are in moving God out of the picture, He will never leave us.  You may leave Him, but He will always be.  You will not.

I prefer to say what’s on my mind.  While I may not blurt it all out at the moment I notice that it needs to be said, I take time to consider what should be said and why and then I put it out there.  I prefer not to argue with people, however, I also know that sometimes a good argument is absolutely necessary.  There are times when it is simply not appropriate to be quiet about things.  I also understand that in every argument we have a choice.  We can either choose to say what is on our mind and take the consequences like a grown-up or we can sit back and simmer in silence when we hear others discussing an opposing viewpoint.  In either case, there are only so many possible outcomes.

For instance, if we decide to speak up and voice our opinion on something, we can expect one of two things to happen; we will either be “heard” and thus, feel better at having taken the opportunity to vent or we will be rebuked by our audience and end up either feeling self-righteous at having evoked an angry response or feel convicted by a sudden understanding that we may not have been open to hearing other viewpoints all along.  It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story.  Whichever way we go, there will be an outcome…we may not like the outcome, but the important thing is that we not shrink back when we feel that something needs to be said.  We’re either going to be right or we’re going to be wrong.  And though we may never fully acknowledge which of these we are, we must never be afraid to talk about the things that are impacting our mental and spiritual well-being.

Imagine what would have happened if all of the bold people in our history had been afraid to talk about politics or religion.  What if people like Martin Luther King had decided that it was just too risky to speak out?  What if Emmeline Pankhurst had let social norms dictate how she approached liberty?  What if Rosa Parks had decided that it just wasn’t her fight?  What if Abraham Lincoln had taken a step back because his views on slavery weren’t popular?  What if Mother Theresa had been afraid to acknowledge poverty in her midst?  What if Thomas Jefferson had decided to let someone else write the Declaration of Independence?  What if Jesus had taken a look around and decided that we weren’t worth dying for?

We can’t make a difference if we’re afraid to face reality.  And yes, there are so many people out there who would rather focus on anything but reality.  These people stay medicated, they stay tipsy, they stay pre-occupied.  They focus on any and every little thing except the larger, spiritual picture.  There is a war taking place right now.  It is happening right before our eyes.  It’s non-denominational.  It’s bi-partisan.  The evil that started this war reaches across all boundaries and seeks to destroy any and everyone who would oppose its goal to dominate this world.  And even though it has read The Book, it persists in trying to change the outcome of the story so that things will fall in its favor.  We can either choose to help evil push its agenda or we can take every opportunity to speak out and spread the good news.  Depending on which side we take, our outcome will be very different.  It’s either a lake of fire or streets of gold, my friends.

Speaking out only works, however, when we are speaking out against evil and for what God intends us to be.  There are many people out there who have no qualms about voicing their opinions, but from what I see they are usually fighting under the wrong General.  This is why our world is in the shape it is in today.  We need to understand who the real enemy is and stop allowing ourselves to be duped by propaganda and misinformation.  If our eyes are truly opened, then we will have no trouble understanding why the world we are seeing is so scary to some people out there.  Why do we live in a culture where perfectly safe people feel that they need “safe spaces” or need to wear inappropriate hats to assert their rights to freedom?  Why do those who are currently so adamant about equality make it their business to present themselves as dominant over others in our culture?  My guess is that these individuals aren’t really looking for a fight with their fellow man inasmuch as they are seeking to overpower God Himself.  Maybe they believe that if they ring their bells loudly enough, He will turn away and they won’t have to acknowledge Him at all.  Rest assured, you’re fighting the wrong enemy.  God is not your enemy, He’s your creator.  He is the one who sees fit to love you even when you are unlovable and the only thing He is trying to give you is love.

Our culture is inundated with individuals who seek to be greater than God.  They are under the mistaken impression that they hold the same power as He does.  They treat people badly.  They live lives that spit in the face of Jesus, Himself.  They lie, they cheat, they steal.  They fight for any cause that diverts attention from the big picture.  They prefer to fight with the masses to try and drown out the voices of those who are trying to uphold God’s word.  They do this because God’s word brings conviction.  God’s word doesn’t uphold the perversity that they have grown accustomed to supporting.  God’s word is pure and true and it will not change.

No matter how much God’s people change, His word will NOT change.  We are tasked with speaking out and speaking His truth.  Will you be too afraid to do so?  Will you be too wrapped up in your own truth to talk about His?  The stones will cry out.  If we are too busy or too self-important to tell others what God has done in our lives, the stones will indeed, cry out.  One day, all that we’ve been fighting for will be considered alongside His word.  He will judge us based on how well or how poorly we’ve lived out His word.  Look at everything, watch what is happening around you.  Pay attention.  If it doesn’t line up with His word, it doesn’t matter if it lines up with society’s norms or with your church’s expectations.  It doesn’t have to fit into our neat little compartments to be right.  It only needs to align with what He has already said.

So, with all that said, my point is this; don’t ever be afraid to speak His truth.  You may be met with scorn or rebuke, but if you know that what you are saying is true and that it lines up with the word of God then you have nothing to fear.  For those who will fall away, will fall away.  We cannot help those who refuse to hear.  We can only be those who are not afraid to speak truth.  The rest is up to our God.  He will deal with those who will hear only their own truths.

Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!”  He answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

~Numbers 23:11-12 NIV~

 

 

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

2 Samuel 22:29 New International Version (NIV)

At the beginning of each year, God gives me a theme word.  This is a word that I apply to everything I’m going to do in the next twelve months.  This year’s word was ‘unencumbered.’  Ironically, one of the first things I encountered this year was an illness that sidelined me for the better part of six weeks.  In fact, I’m still not 100% healed from the illness, but at least I believe the worst of it is behind me.  The first six weeks of 2017, I felt anything but unencumbered and at times, I wasn’t sure He had anything left for me to do at all.  I was slowly, but surely, being depleted of all hope.  One of the major goals that I had set was becoming more and more elusive as the medications I was on caused me to gain weight when I was in fact, trying to lose.  Needless to say, by the time I was feeling better, I wasn’t sure which way was up anymore.  I was feeling extremely encumbered and very much in the dark.

They say the harder we pray and the more we attempt to shine the light that God has placed in us, the harder the devil works to extinguish it.  This has been proven in my life time and time again.  Every time I have gained any momentum toward the vision that God has placed in my heart, there has been a major setback.   The most obvious of these occurred even before I was fully walking with God again.  For several years in my marriage, my now ex-husband and I were trying to have more children.  I had miscarried one time before our daughter was born, so when I got pregnant again about a year after she was born we were hoping everything would be okay.  Unfortunately, I miscarried early on.  But we tried again….and again…and again.  Each time, I would get further into the pregnancy and each time, I would lose the baby.  By the fifth miscarriage, I was so broken that my depression and anxiety threatened to overtake me.  I also hadn’t realized that after my daughter was born, I suffered with post-partum depression.  I thought it was just me being me.  I had always had issues with depression and I figured it was just more of the same misery I had been carrying for most of my life.  Even though it felt different, I just chalked it up to my tendency to be depressed.  But this is where I found God again.  There, in the darkness and pain of all that loss.

The thing about hitting bottom is that when we finally reach the point of all despair we really only have one choice.  That choice is to pick ourselves up and find a way out of the darkness.  Some find a glimmer of light here and there and they allow that to sustain them, but that glimmer only serves you for so long.  You find yourself right back at the bottom wondering why you can’t fix it.  But there is something very different about the light that God provides.  When we seek Him, we find something that won’t let darkness overtake us again.  When we are truly trying to develop our relationship with Him, He carries the light.  The more we let Him in, the more the light lives within us.  If we only seek Him superficially, we only get the most superficial part of the light.  It is much like the difference between a light fixture in your home and a small flashlight.  When the light is installed in you home, it brings light to a much larger area than that of a small flashlight.

Imagine if all you had to work with in your house was a handheld flashlight that you carried from room to room.  Some of us go through life just like that.  We carry the smallest possible source of light with us in hopes that it will somehow illuminate every area of our lives.  Most of the time, it leaves us vulnerable to attacks from things we simply cannot see in the darkness.  The solution:  We need a bigger light.  We need a brighter light.  We need a more constant light.  Only then will we be able to see what we need to see to operate in the fullness of God.

It may seem like a silly analogy, but it really makes sense.  Where there is darkness, we stumble.  Simply put, when we can’t see well or at all, we are at risk of getting hurt.  There are those who swear that light doesn’t make a difference.  They don’t care if they get hurt and they don’t seem to care if they hurt others while operating in that “blindness.”  Darkness, for them, hides all of their flaws.  It keeps people from seeing anything that they don’t want others to see in them.  But what they are forgetting is that it also keeps others from seeing what’s good about them.  And it keeps them from seeing what is good about everyone and everything else.  How much light are you letting in?  Can you see everything you need to see?  Or are you still stumbling over things that are hidden from your sight?  I challenge you to turn on the light.  You won’t need any extra bulbs and it’s not going to drive your electric bill up.  All you need to do is pray to God to light the way.  He is your source and His light is everlasting and full of power.  And in it, you will be able to live unencumbered.

The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.

Isaiah 60:19 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV

In these days when everyone is scrambling for their fifteen minutes of fame, I sit and think about whether or not I want to be a part of any of it.  I’m an author…a writer…a hack who likes to share my feelings, perceptions, opinions, daydreams, etc.  But in truth, I’m really nothing special without God’s power.  And I don’t even think there is anyone that I would want to be if God isn’t a part of the equation.  So, it boggles the mind how so many people can be trying so hard to be noticed for who they are when who they are really doesn’t matter if God isn’t a the center of it all.

We all have a story and it is very important that we share those stories with one another.  But not so that we can be recognized for the story we tell.  The point of sharing what we’ve been through and how we got through it is to bring glory to God.  He is, after all, the only reason we make it through any of what we endure.  Superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson used to do a bit whenever he would come out into the WWE ring.  He would start talking to whoever he was facing off with and then ask them their name and before they had a chance to answer, he would abruptly say, “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME  IS!!!!”  This could be the best possible response to any and every person out there who is trying doggedly to get people to notice them and to notice what they are doing. It really doesn’t matter what your name is.  It doesn’t matter who you’re wearing, what brand you’re using, who you’re following or who’s following you.  I don’t care what you are writing, making, selling, supporting, etc. if the sole purpose of all you do appears to be to bolster your own ego or somehow validate yourself by gaining the acceptance of a culture that has no clue why God is important.

The harsh reality is that no matter how hard we work to be accepted here, in this world, it will never be enough.  If our focus is on how many people we can get to “buy” whatever it is that we are putting out there, be it a product or a persona, then we have missed the point.  While it is all well and good to promote our work, the point of all we do should be about so much more than how much of ourselves we can get people to buy into.  It’s not about us.  It’s about using this life, this body, these skills and talents to reach out and help others overcome challenges and obstacles.  It’s about seeing someone in need and knowing that if we just take a minute to talk to them or we spend some time showing them a better way to live that we will have used what God has given us in the way that He intended for us to use it. It’s not about a hashtag or getting more likes.  It’s not about seeing who can get the most followers or bring in the most money.  If we’re not truly reaching out to others, then all we are doing is the busywork of living in Satan’s world.  If you’re not Kingdom-building, you might as well be watching paint dry.

Kingdom-building is about talking to that young cashier who’s having a hard day or saying hello to the old man sitting on the park bench as you walk past him to get to work.  It’s about stopping to have a conversation with the people around you instead of trying to see how many people we can move through each day without making any real connections.  It’s easy to just encapsulate ourselves and act like we don’t notice the people around us.  We can all soapbox until the cows come home about abortion, women’s rights, immigration, the economy, and whatever else tends to be the hot topic of the day, but how many of us would be willing to take time out of our busy schedules to seek our opportunities to talk with young girls who are at risk for unwanted pregnancy?  Who among is willing to talk directly to women about how they can break free from a cycle of generational oppression?  Who is willing to take immigrants into their home to prove the point that love builds no walls? Who would sponsor a single mother for a month or even a year so that she doesn’t have to grovel and jump through the many ridiculous hoops set up by a dysfunctional welfare system?  Who of us would set aside our own need to be heard or noticed just to take the time to make a real difference in someone’s life?  Would you?

If every person out there took up any one of these causes in this way, the world would be a very different place.  It would no longer be about the masses fighting perceived injustices.  It would be about each individual person, using the resources that God gave them to show the love of God to one another.  Is it likely that we will ever see this in our lifetime?  I certainly wish it were.  The sad truth is that it is so much easier just to sit back and complain about everyone else’s shortcomings that we’ve almost convinced ourselves that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to take actual initiative to make changes.  God never meant for this life to be one big audition for a reality show.  He means for us to live it and walk out the principles of His word.  He wants us to show Him that we understand what He means when He says to love thy neighbor.  He wants you to be an example of His love and grace to the people around you.  The more we show Him that we understand how to do this, the more we will begin to see widespread change in this world.  This world is not our Creator and we did not create ourselves.  All we create is an identity and that identity, if it is to mean anything at all, needs to be rooted and grounded in Christ.  Anything else is simply not who we are.

 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

1 John 3:1 NIV

 

Introduction

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. My spiritual journey has led me to many questions about what is right and how to live out the purpose that God has set for me.

I am finding that after considering all other possibilities, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without living a life that acknowledges the blood of Jesus we are lost. Yet, there are many who claim to know Him and understand His teachings who spew hatred and look for any and all opportunities to judge others instead of seeking them out to lead them to Christ. The goal of this blog is to work towards removing the animosity that exists between followers of Christ who subscribe to different doctrinal approaches and beliefs about what is expected of a "good" Christian. Also to draw the unbeliever closer to Christ through practicing His love and patience and to help all followers understand that love and true faith cannot co-exist where hate, intolerance and a sense of superiority live.

I also hope to open a dialogue with people from many different religious backgrounds and to work together with followers of this blog to break down some of the barriers to harmony that exist in our society. I hope you will join in the conversation!

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