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maggiemarcum

Living Life with Purpose

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February 2015

Reinventing Ourselves

I was wowed by Lady Gaga’s performance during the Oscar Awards this week. I think most of America was stunned by the transformation we saw. This lovely woman, who has been hiding behind the theatrical personality she created to make a name for herself, took a huge risk in front of the world. In the business they call it “reinventing,” and often it is considered a market ploy or a sign of new maturity. These star-studded changes are noticed and critiqued around the world. Their transformation is discussed by the talking heads with skepticism or as a great long-overdue achievement.

I think we do the same thing when we witness a transformation in the people closest to us. We know all too well their faults and failures and often question the reality of their change. Perhaps we know someone as a drunkard or drug addict who has gone through treatment and is fighting for their sobriety. Maybe it is a young person whom we have watched grow up in front of us whose adulthood we find hard to recognize. Or the woman at the well who has had multiple lovers and now has decided to wait for the right man. And there are those who are stepping into new careers or callings without a proven record, who have a strong drive to succeed. Many were changed by a new commitment as part of their faith journey.

How do we react to these changes? Do you let the person know that you are seeing a positive change? Do you encourage them? Or do you hold on to an image from the past and wait for them to slip up? Are you moving forward with them or tugging the chains from the past in hope that they will stumble and prove that nothing has changed? Are you shining a negative or positive light on their steps forward? Are  you looking for negative or positive behavior in them?

How you answer these questions is a reflection back on you. I find when I am skeptical it may be that they have hurt me in the past and I am not sure I can ever trust them again. In other cases I am jealous that they have done what I would like to do—successfully move forward. Or maybe I am jealous that they have something I wish I had in my life—a new relationship, a better job, or financial stability. I hope that my response is to celebrate their success and let their transformation inspire me. If I can see the possibility in their life then maybe I can accept the possibility in my life.

These are the choices we make for ourselves regardless of someone else’s journey forward. Let us not crush those who seek to reinvent themselves. Let us be encouragers and hope givers. Let us be encouraged and hope-filled for our own journey. Let us celebrate transformation and release the past into the past. Let us see today as a good thing and pray that tomorrow will be even better.

May God provide an encourager to you today as you take the next step forward. May you stand firm in your new life and celebrate the blessings you receive as a result. May you cling to your transformation even when others may not yet see it. May you share your joy in a way that encourages others to seek out the same transformation in their lives.

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From Here to There

I am standing at the corner of the street.

There is a path ahead which I know I am to travel.

There are benches where I sit and wait.

I see the arrows pointing forward, yet,

I stand at the corner, afraid to move.

I watch as others move down the pathway;

Their steps moving them forward–closer.

They advance, step by step, as I watch in envy.

Confidently they pursue their dream.

Yet I watch and wonder if ever I will move.

I look at the branches off this path;

Diversions from the journey.

The excuses that keep me from moving.

The fear of failure and criticism.

Frozen, I wait for divine assurance.

Like a drifting boat, rudderless on the path;

I reach for the horizon ahead.

I pray, I calculate, I question.

I must move; I must heed the call.

He is waiting…HE is waiting.

One small step on the path is all I need

One move from here.

Then another, and another to there.

Trust, belief, faith.

We can do this. HE and I.

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Fifty Shades of Pain

There are a number of reasons I am skipping the Fifty Shades movie. Yes, I read part of the book, until it became too sad and painful to continue. I am not a prude. I love sex; good fun adventurous sex. I, however, abhor abuse. I abhor someone taking advantage of my vulnerabilities. I abhor pain inflicted in the name of love–physical or verbal.

I was raped as a young girl. I was raped as a young woman. I was battered in the name of love by two of my husbands. I was verbally abused and talked into things I wish I could undo. It was not fun. It didn’t get easier the more I complied. I also was in a number of emotionally twisted relationships that evolved into the kind of sex in this movie. It was not fun. I was not happy. I was naive and wanted to be loved and so I went along with it. A movie that replicates and romanticizes a similar abusive relationship rips off the scars that have taken many of us years to heal. And it sends a message to women still in these kinds of hurtful relationships that it is a good thing.

We watch with outrage as sports figures and their abusive relationships are paraded in front of us. Celebrities take to the screen to say “no more,” while they line up to endorse the same sad harmful relationships played out on screen. Real people are fired for what this man does to this young woman. Nowhere in this book or movie do we hear this is wrong—that this destroys women’s self-esteem and sense of worth. Rather TV show after TV show glorifies the bondage toys that are flooding our market and laugh that although they would never do this; they can’t wait to see some other women be emotionally and physically tortured.

The kind of relationships I was trapped in made me feel like I belonged as they left me in fear that I would be alone if I didn’t comply. I won’t go into vivid details here but I can tell you that those men manipulated me, they broke my spirt, and they caused me to make decisions that I regret. I regret allowing sex to take the place of love. I regret allowing men in power to make me think I had no choice. I regret staying in these situations far longer than I should have and for thinking this was the best I deserved. I allowed them to use me for their perverse need to be in power and control.

Today I am free of that bondage. I was freed from sexual and love addiction with the help of the good people at The Meadows. More importantly, I was set free through my understanding that Jesus loves me far more than these hurtful men. I was made new and able to leave the past in the past and forgive myself for my behavior. I was able to accept God’s forgiveness for believing when others told me that I was not important to him. I came to believe that I have worth and value on this planet. God transformed me into a person who respects herself and has earned the respect of others through this healing process. I learned to say “no” and to protect myself.

If you are in a relationship where you find your partner making demands on you that leave you troubled–tell someone. I didn’t for many years. If you find yourself searching for sex in the hopes that someone will love you, find a counselor who will help you to see your value. You are valuable! If you are afraid your partner will leave you if you say no to what he/she is asking–leave before you are hurt. Don’t allow the secrets they ask you to keep about your relationship destroy who you really are. You ARE stronger and more powerful when you walk away.

As women we need to encourage each other to look for and to expect the best in all of our relationships. As Christian women we need to pray for each other and to inspire each other to seek the face of Jesus in our relationships. As humans, we need to remember that we are created in the image of God and to treat one another as valuable treasures. We need to turn our hearts and our minds to the things that motivate us toward that which is positive and purposeful. We need to speak truth to each other and to listen to the words that might change our lives. We need to speak the truth to one another and we need to listen when we hear words that could change our lives.

I hope that in sharing our stories we will bring truth to what this movie really represents—violence against women. Were we to hear this woman’s story in the news I doubt we would celebrate what happened to her. This is not a story to celebrate—it is NOT entertainment. It is glorifying what many of us have spent years fighting against—oppression of women. Let us stand as survivors and encourage and celebrate healthy relationships. The kind of relationships where the love is great and so too is the sex. Let us honor the joy of sexual pleasure rather than sexual bondage.

Today I pray you will skip the popular movie and spend and evening encouraging and loving on good friends. I pray you will know true love and joy. I pray you will seek the best God has for you in all your relationships.

The Art of Saying “No”

I think many of us are taught as Christians that we need to follow-up our faith with action; however, sometimes we become so action-oriented we forget why we are doing what we are doing. It is easy to find that we have joined one too many ministries or agreed to one too many projects and are overburdened by our commitments. We say “yes” every time someone asks us to participate or we feel guilty when no one says “yes,” so we jump in to fill the gap. We become the “face of the church” because we are everywhere doing everything. It is great to volunteer or to lead ministries, but we need to learn to do it in a prayerful and reasoned way.

I wrote an article a while back about energy-drainers. They are the things we place in our way that stop us from reaching our goals. Saying yes to every ministry opportunity can create obstacles to following the plan God has placed in front of us. I think that God calls us into certain areas—these are the things that we are most passionate about. Laurie Beth Jones (1996) challenges us to identify those things that excite us, anger us, and call us into action. They are the things that, when we pray, we find the Holy Spirit is leading us to commit our time and our energy. All the other things are nice to do, but they may not be the things that relate to the mission God has placed on our heart.

Learning to say “no” when asked to serve in church leadership or to volunteer for the next event may be difficult for some of us. We have all heard the, “pray about it and let me know” line which we often interrupt to mean—“just say yes.” And so we do, because we don’t want to disappoint or appear uncharitable. We must, however, actually take time and pray. We need to ask God to show us if this fits with what we have heard he is asking us to do individually. We need to ask if this is something that will extend or broaden our ministry and not deter us from the path head. Sometimes we need to say, “No” and do it unapologetically.

I found myself in this dilemma and I realized that having said yes to leadership of a ministry, for all the wrong reasons, was draining my energy. I became frustrated that I did not have the insight or ability to lead. I began to spend hours trying to get better at that position while neglecting what I am supposed to be doing—studying and writing. I found myself with massive headaches and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was frustrated because “I” couldn’t make things happen. I had said “yes” even though I knew the right answer was “no.” So I finally said, “I can’t do this. It isn’t what God set on my path.” It was hard. I’m sure it was disappointing and frustrating for others to receive the message, but I know it is the right thing. How do I know? I woke up today for the first time wanting to write and excited to finish my class work. I feel inspired and ready to burst with energy. I know I am where I need to be and doing what I need to be doing.

What have you said yes to that should be a no? What do you need to back out of so that you can focus on your personal mission and vision statements? What obstacles are draining your energy? Are you ready to get back on the path you see for your life and let go of those things that don’t fit? Pray about it and when you see the answer—yes or no—go with it!

“The Lord will always lead you.” Isaiah 58:11

Jones, L.B. (2006) The path: creating your mission statement for work and for life, Hyperion Press, NY, New York

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