Search

maggiemarcum

Living Life with Purpose

Month

June 2015

Less is More

We live in a society that focuses on having the next best gadget, the newest car, the designer outfit, and all that the ‘rich and famous’ have in their lives. We go into debt to prove that we have successfully attained a certain life-style. Our hearts sink a little when a new cell phone comes out and it isn’t time to upgrade our plan yet. We enter beautiful homes and begin plotting how we can model our house after their home. Or, we look at others and think, “I don’t know why she wears that same outfit day in and day out. What a mess!” We have become the people of envy, greed, judgement, and hollow existence.

We have forgotten that it is living a life of giving and caring that matters far more than a life full of things that may disappear in an instance. Continue reading “Less is More”

Advertisements

Celebrating Life

In the past week, between my church family and my work family, we lost four pillars of our community. The week will be a series of funerals and memories of people gone from our lives. It has been a devastating time for our church family in particular as we watch two incredible ladies, now widows, support one-another and comfort us as we try to find the words to say to them. My daughter said that she is beginning to see the people who have been around her most of her life, now depart this place.

Death is hard on all of us.

The personal loss comes on the heels of the senseless murder of nine Christians in Charleston. It seems the whole world is struggling to make sense out of the senseless. And it is senseless. It would seem from reading our Bible that God never planned for us to live this way and yet, here we are. Losing lives to the violence of relentless disease and illness—yes even mental illness—is difficult to grasp. And yet we have seen an outpouring of forgiveness, hope, and a belief in salvation on the streets of Charleston. What a model of what Christ means to those of us who believe in forgiveness and eternal life through him.

These can be overwhelmingly sad times for us left behind. Watching these women walk through their grief, I see the sadness in my sister’s eyes remembering the loss of her husband. When we say goodbye to another Godly man on Saturday, I will watch my daughter struggle with the reminder that her father died 11 years ago that day. As the world watches Charleston, we are reminded of other mass killings of not just the faithful, but the innocent young lives such as those we lost in Sandy Hook. It seems that death always surrounds us. And yet Jesus promised that with the Holy Spirit our sorrow would turn to joy and that because of Jesus we would be victorious over death.

“O death, where is you victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NLT)

And strange as it may seem, I have begun to find joy in attending funerals celebrating these lives. It is hard to explain, and I will try my best to share my sense of peace. Yesterday we celebrated the life of a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a steady hand in our congregation. Yesterday our church was filled with old-time members who had left for other congregations/denominations, but never left the family. There were gasps and hugs and smiles as the Body of Christ came together to share the life our brother Ken lived. God was pruning again and as he snipped a piece of the vine he brought forth the steadfast trunk that we would all know—he is still moving among the family. The family—HIS FAMILY—is still strong. We just don’t meet up every Sunday like we used to. Through his grace, we are still one family.

I love listening to the family and friends speak at funerals. We never hear the bad stuff at a funeral because just as Jesus cleanses our hearts, we cleanse our memories in honor of the departed. Last winter I went to the funeral of a friend’s father. They spoke about his military career and they spoke about his love for the Lord that trickled down throughout the family. His faith inspired sons to enter into ministry and others to simply devote their lives to following Jesus. Where there could have been great dread and despair in their loss, there was great hope. I left feeling better than when I came and inspired to go deeper in my faith.

I have talked with others after the funerals or memorials for devoted followers of Jesus and almost always I hear someone say: “I hope they say things like that about me when I die.” We want to be remembered for our good deeds. We want to know that we inspired others to follow Jesus. We hope that the room will be packed with friends from all over who come because they saw Jesus in us and because we lived the love he commanded us to live. We hope that our lives will be ones well celebrated. These God-inspired lives can motivate us forward if we ask God what he desires from us and if we are willing to make changes to live for him.

If you are struggling through the loss of someone dear to you, regardless of when that loss occurred, I urge you to seek Jesus and ask that he send the Holy Spirit that your sorrow become joy, knowing that you will one day be reunited with your loved one. I urge you to look into your own heart and life and ask his forgiveness that you might forgive others, including the one who has left you. Ask God to show you his love, to wrap you in his warmth, and to comfort you in your sadness. Ask that you may have the eternal life he has promised to those who believe in Jesus and chose to follow him. Ask that he would use your life and transform it into one of service and a celebration of life today. You don’t need to wait for others to celebrate the life God has given you—you can start celebrating and living it today.

Heavenly Father, I pray that my words are pleasing to you and that those who read them may find your peace and love today. I pray that we would all be one in you and you in us and that we would fix our eyes and hearts on you.

This is written in honor of Ken, Elsie, Scott, and John—Well done good and faithful servants.

Please read the book of John; Chapter 17, Philippians 3, and Hebrews 3.

 

Honoring our Parents Doesn’t Stop When we are Adults

As my baby boomer generation gets older, I am increasingly hearing stories of parental abuse and neglect of people my age and older. I remember my parent’s generation—a generation that planned for and expected to care for their parents. Today we buy expensive long-term care plans so that we won’t be a burden to our family or out of fear that our children won’t be there to care for us. Frequently it is women who feel especially trapped in these somewhat abusive situations just so they can maintain a relationship with their children and grandchildren.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) provides statistics that indicate this is the largest population of over 65s in a decennial history. By 2050 approximately 20 percent of the US population will be over 65—at least 19 million will be 85 or older. They define abuse and neglect as “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or person in relationship with the elder.” They claim that most of those in such situations are women; women who won’t report out of fear that they will further be hurt or cast out by the family. I contend that abuse and neglect is not always intentional—it often is the result of children too busy or too concerned with their own lives to consider the needs of their aging parents.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 ISV

I have seen friends of mine do everything they can to care for an aging parent. It is not easy for them and it requires a good bit of personal sacrifice on their part. They take parents to the doctors, they help with groceries, they take care of their cars, and they worry every day about balancing care for their parent and care for their family. They often neglect their own care because there just isn’t enough time in the day, week, or month to do for themselves. God promises a long life for these care givers but if the truth be told, they aren’t so sure they will have enough energy left to enjoy their later years.

And sadly I have seen people, mostly women, taken advantage of by their children. I have spoken with so many women lately whose children see them as glorified unpaid babysitters, as maids, as drivers, and free landlords. Many of these women find themselves alone because of divorce or the death of a spouse who did not leave them funds for the future. These children have lost respect for their parents because they are aging. Many of these women are living on very limited fixed income and some are unable to work because of health issues or because they are caring for a sick spouse. They endure foul language and abusively critical comments from their children and they take it so that they can maintain some semblance of a relationship. Sadly, much of what I have seen is coming from their daughters who most of us would expect to be the loving compassionate caring ones. It pains me to see children living life well and neglecting their parents or ignoring their parent’s financial needs.

To honor someone is to respect an individual and to treat them as if they have value and worth.

I wish I still had my mom around to care for. I may not have done as good a job at showing her my love and respect as I could have. I did try to care for her in my own way by taking her out to things I knew she enjoyed, by having her over, or by learning how she cooked certain things that I might carry on the family tradition. My sister was the real care giver. She gave up her job, a huge sacrifice for her own family, to care for my mother. She was the one there when she passed over. She was the one that took care of the funeral arrangements and made sure mom looked good! I know that if she had outlived my father one of us kids would have taken care of her. It would have been hard, but today I would give anything to have that opportunity.

So what can we do? Start by talking to your friends who may be in an abusive or neglectful situation. Be gentle in how you ask questions as they will likely be defensive and in denial. If you can help them for a period of time, offer your home until you can help them find a new safe place. Maybe they just need a few dollars to make it through the month. Give it to them in a way that is helpful. Give them a grocery card. Better yet, take them grocery shopping and pay the bill. They can’t fuss too much in line. Make a fuss over them! Be there. Listen. Hear. Most of our friends just want to be heard and to feel valued again. Find out where they can get help in your or their area and direct them. If it is a full-on physically abusive situation, contact NCEA or local government organizations and report the situation.  You could be saving a life.

Part of just right living is to consider not only what is good for you, but how you can share your God-given gifts and talents for the betterment of others. NCEA has suggestions on how you can become more involved in your community. Maybe your church would want to hold seminars on this topic to raise awareness and to consider how they can help elders in and out of their congregations.

Let us not live just for ourselves but let us live that others may know God’s transforming love because we have shared it with them.

Holding onto the First Stone

Social media has increasingly been lit up with negative comments, finger-pointing, and divisive language over our ever-changing culture. We sit in wait for those with whom we disagree to slip up—no we wait in joyful anticipation for them to fall off the cliff. We are quick to call out the sins and errors of our opponents or of those whose world view differs from ours. We are ready to stone and destroy anyone who threatens our sense of what is morally right. I have been amazed at the sheer volume of glee exhibited in the face of bad behavior or failure. I am talking predominately about celebrities and politicians over whom we happily celebrate their public humiliation. But we also wait to see colleagues, ex-friends and lovers, family, and even churches to which we once belonged tumble. Somehow it makes us feel better to point out the error in their ways. I think the negative postings are showing our own hearts and an overwhelming desire to be more right rather than to understand what has happened and to talk about what we want for ourselves and society.

There is a wonderful story about a woman brought to Jesus at the end of the Feast of the Tabernacles.  The woman, likely a married woman, was found in the bed of a married man who was not her husband. The church leaders bring her to Jesus to stone her according to the Law of Moses, although in reality it is to set a trap to see if Jesus will agree to stone her or let her go. What he does instead puts the decision back on her accusers by saying: “If any of you are without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Of course they all drop their rocks leaving the woman behind to go free and change from how she is living her life. We too need to drop our rocks.

It saddens me when a politician, of any party, messes up. It is an awful day for all of us when someone we entrusted to make good decisions for our country is found to be an adulterer, a molester, a thief, or reckless in some other way. It doesn’t matter which side of political fence you are on—this is bad for all of us. But the truth is: we are not without sin. Maybe not their sin, but we have our own. Before we gleefully celebrate the fall of a man or woman in power, let’s pray that God will deal with their behavior and pray for their recovery. And let us take time to ask God to show us our own failings that we too might change. Let’s be hurt and disappointed as well as compassionate instead of  flooding Facebook or Twitter with comments pointing out how they have, expectedly, fallen so far down. Put the stone down.

Maybe you are upset about changes in laws regarding same-sex relationships. Maybe you are angry about a former athlete who has made dramatic changes in his life to live in a way that goes against everything you believe. You may be angry that your belief system is being circumvented. You may hate what you believe to be a sinful nature. However, are you looking past all the rhetoric to see the people involved here? Regardless of what you believe, can you not see the hurt in these people and pray that they will find peace and joy from the inside out?  I am not asking you to walk away from your religious beliefs, I am asking you to look at them with love and kindness. You know, Jesus walked among the sinners. He stopped and talked to them about themselves. He knew already knew about them but he still listened to their stories. He compassionately talked to them about their behaviors and encouraged them to accept a new way of life. Maybe if we take time to listen and to better know each other, we can get beyond our hateful behavior and grow in God’s community together. Maybe we can stop making fun of people and start seeing who God sees and love as he told us to love. Maybe we can see God in them and love them too. Maybe we can drop the rock and see the person inside—a person made in God’s image.

When the celebrities we idolize for their good looks, their money, and their success fall into drunkenness, drug abuse, or marital woes, could we not laugh and celebrate their private failure gone public? Could we first stop idolizing them as earthly gods and see them as people just like us who are going through a painful time? Could we remember that as a part of humanity we all have the potential to find ourselves in the same sorrowful situation? Rather than flooding social media with all the articles about these public failures, maybe we should first look at our own lives and areas in our relationships that need improvement. Maybe we can ask God to show us if we are heading down a slippery slope that might end in addiction or divorce so that we can change the progression down our own path of self-destruction. In today’s world of social media we begin to think that these celebrities are people we actually know. Rather than focus on them, how about we look around and see if there is someone close to us that we can help. Is there someone you see suffering some form of addiction? Do you know of someone in a troubled relationship? How can God use you to help them? Can you put down the stone we throw to hide our own shortcomings and work for personal improvement? Take the stone they are carrying and help them.

These are but a few examples of the way we react to adversity today. If we go back to the story of the sinful woman we hear Jesus say that he is the light of world sent to bring light into our moral darkness. HE brings the light—it is not our responsibility to be about casting stones. I am not suggesting that anyone abandon their faith-led beliefs or worldviews. What I am suggesting is that we step down from the roles of judge and jury and we step into a world of discussion and clarity. Anyone who wants to change the mind of another must first understand the heart of the other and share their perspective in a loving way. So yes, put down the rock. Drop the name calling. Stop crucifying those who you believe live in sin or who may be in trouble because of their life choice. Stop making fun of people who live in a way you just can’t wrap your head around and ask them to help you understand. Stop looking and waiting for someone else’s missteps and look at your own vulnerabilities and behavior. Then you can begin to talk about what is going on in the world around you without animosity. Take the time to look into the eyes of those on the other side. See their heart. Reach a hand across the table and as you hear their story, share your story. Let God take care of what God needs to take care of. Become a real lover of man.

Drop the Rock.

Joyful Anticipation

Author and coach, Gary Collins writes that our visions “must be about potential for the future but anchored in the realities of the present.”[1] Our vision is about where we want to go and are best achieved when we are enthusiastic about achieving our goal(s). Having a joyful anticipation about our future will keep us moving forward when we encounter obstacles or stumbling blocks on our journey. We need to be mindful that there will be times when it seems like there is little progress forward. If we are not careful, those are the times our vision might fade.

So you have a vision. You wrote it down. You shared it with another person. You prayed. You asked others to pray. And now you are thinking about implementing your vision. When your vision began to emerge you probably were excited and overjoyed because you could see a purpose for your life. You knew what God was calling you to do. You were overjoyed and anticipating living the dream.

And then you realized that the end goal is farther away than you would like. You can see where you are and where you want to be and it is a huge cavern.

There are times when the anticipation of achieving our goals or living the vision may overwhelm us and we avoid setting smaller, achievable target goals. I’m what StrengthFinders calls an “activator.” I want to get on down the road. I have a ‘let’s get it done” mentality. I don’t do slow. I am frustrated because I have been told by experts that it may take three years or more to successfully achieve my vision. At times I have lost the joy and questioned the vision, only to talk to others and realize that I am not working the plan. I am trying to cut corners and becoming frustrated because I haven’t laid a strong enough foundation to keep the process moving forward. The joy returns when I am willing to step back and do what needs to be done, trusting that with every day I am moving closer to the goal

This is the building the bridge to fill the gap time. This is the time for thinking about short-term goals that you can readily achieve and upon which you can build some success. This is the time to start asking the tough questions about where you are, where you want to be, and how you will get there. It is time to develop an action plan that you will commit to executing. Bridge planning is critical to closing the gap and maintaining your joy while keeping the vision in your sights.  You need to start from where you are. If you start building your bridge without laying those first few planks—boring as it may seem—your bridge will collapse and you may begin to think you were wrong about your vision.

Don’t let your lack of planning undermine your joy and take away the anticipation for your future. If you have been fortunate enough to discover your vision, articulate your vision by writing it down and sharing it with someone you trust. You are looking down a long tunnel and it is important that you clarify the image of your vision. No matter how clear our vision seems it will become blurry if you fail to also articulate the steps you will take to get from here to there. Don’ t let a lack of planning steal your joyful anticipation for the future.

“Passion is empowering. You may bludgeon it, suppress it, squash it, or lose sight of it, but it is a given, a constant. Your passion is ready and willing to provide all the stamina and inspiration you need.”

Richard Chang, The Passion Plan as read in Christian Coaching, Gary R. Collns.

[1] Collins, Gary R. (2009) Christian coaching: helping others turn potential into reality. NAVPRESS: Colorado Springs, CO

Woman at the Well

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of the Samarian woman who encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well. It is one of a handful of stories that I relate to my transformation story. When I read this story, it gave me hope that I too could turn my life around, find forgiveness, and leave old patterns of living behind me. My hope began when I read how Jesus spoke to a woman that belonged to a group of people that Jews would not normally speak with. In fact, most people avoided Samaria because they thought themselves better than the people living there. Yet, Jesus deliberately went to Samaria and sought out a woman with whom to share his love and forgiveness. Jesus had a way of stepping into the dirty waters to bring the lost into fresh clear waters. Jesus called out her sin and offered her new living water to fill the empty spot in her life that caused her to keep seeking out something that was ultimately detrimental to her. Not only was this woman’s life changed but she carried back the story of her transformation so that others would find new life as well.

From a personal perspective I related to this woman because of my own lifestyle. Having been through multiple relationships and marriages as I tried to find that ‘real love,’ I came to understand that with the love of Jesus and the Father, I could finally stop looking. I could let go of a past that was influencing my future and damaging my heart and soul.  Above all things in sharing my transformation story, I want other women (and men) to realize that they will never find the perfect love and joy they want by jumping from one bed to another. That momentary high is just that—fleeting and momentary. I needed a love that was lasting and life changing. Once I was able to accept God’s love and to see myself as he does, I was able to accept that my life has value and to begin to live and look for the best in my life.

I sat with my transformation story for a long time. I was still embarrassed by my failures and lifestyle choices. I worried about what others would think if they knew how I lived and how long I lived like I did. I simply wanted to get on with my life and hide the past. I think we would all like to forget the pasts we have left behind and simply keep moving forward. I think God wants us to realize a new birth in his forgiveness; however, like the woman at the well he wants us to share the joy of our new freedom. He wants us to share his story of new water poured into our lives. He wants us to go out and spread the word, telling who we were and who we are today.

Life-giving transformation is a gift and it is God’s story, not my story. I can share the joy I have in not living as I once did and I can share the source of the new life without shame. Our testimonies are the revelation that God is still working with us, Jesus is still walking with us, and the Holy Spirit is still guiding our steps—if we are willing to step into clearer waters. Elmer Towns writes that when Jesus offered the woman at the well “living water” we should see this water as: “1) producing growth, 2) cleansing, 3) refreshing, but Jesus was using this expression to show her how to find 4) satisfactions in life.” [i] As I celebrate what God has done in my life, I want to be like the woman at the well and rush out and tell others the Good News—that you too can let go of past behaviors and embrace a new way of living. You too can have a story of transformation to share and live a more satisfying life.

Do you have a message of transformation too? Have you seen your life in the stories about Jesus’ walk on earth? Have you been changed in such a dramatic way that you just have to run and tell someone? Are you willing to step into muddy waters and share your transformation story so that someone else might embrace the change Jesus is offering for their lives? Are you willing to deliberately go and talk to someone from a group that you would normally avoid and share God’s forgiving grace with them? Start making a list of people and places where you could share your story and them plan how to open the door to new life for them. I know of no greater gift that we can give to another than to share our Jesus story.

 

[i] Towns, E., (2002). The Gospel of Joh: Believe and Live, AMG Publishers: Chattanooga, TN

Measure Your Day

It’s a new month. It’s the start of a new week. It’s time to evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and what you need to do bridge that gap. It’s time to plan for the month, the week, and the day ahead. It is time to make every day count.

Each day that we are given is a day to build on all the previous days and each one of those days lays a foundation for our future. Therefore, it is important that you invest your time doing something, no matter how small, to move you closer to reaching your goal. What’s that you say? Yesterday was awful. You couldn’t find time to do anything to support your goal? You are stuck in a job that doesn’t align with your long-term goal.  Are you filled with “I can’t…,”  “I didn’t…,” and “I wish…” statements that are holding you back and focused on your lack of success?

If you look back and all you see is failure and you feel like you will never get to where you want to be; it is time to change your thinking about those situations!

Every day provides an opportunity for you, even the days that didn’t go so well for you.  You have to be willing to find that opening, rather than focus on all the other thousands of moments that don’t match your plan. All it takes is one action each day to keep moving forward. You have to decide what that action is today and then do it. Maybe that action is looking at what didn’t work so well yesterday and correcting how you will respond today. Maybe it is looking for something new that supports your long-term goal, even if it means taking a risk. And maybe it is as simple as accepting that you are where you need to be today because this is the point from which God wants you to grow. Maybe you aren’t stuck; you just aren’t seeing the potential in where you are in your life today.

It’s the season for basketball and hockey playoffs. I have watched these players rise to the challenge after a night of demoralizing loss. They have a choice—throw in the towel and book their flights home or come out ready to win. They have to believe that they can rise above their setback and believe that today they can be more productive. Some teams will of course end up packing their bags as another team moves forward toward the shiny trophy. For those who leave unsatisfied there is no question that they will look at what didn’t work and make a correction—build on their ‘failure’ to improve in the next game or the next series. Even the winners are looking at what didn’t work so that they can improve their odds in the next game. They never stop trying to be better. They never stop working their plan, even if it is to watch tapes or talk to someone about their performance.

Are you looking at your ‘failures’ and ‘mistakes’ as a way to improve? Are you capitalizing on what doesn’t work so you can find what does?

If you are going to focus on what has yet to happen for you or what you did wrong or how difficult your journey forward is, you will never reach your goal. I can almost promise you that. However, if you are going to look at the missed opportunities or mistakes in the previous days, I suggest you do it with an eye to make some course corrections. Do not focus on what didn’t work but focus on how to improve today. Although there may be some things beyond your power to change right now, you have the power to make where you are work for you. Ask yourself what you can do in the midst of your circumstances to build a bridge, plank by plank, in your plan. Don’t waste another minute measuring your failures. Measure your day by what you have done right and what you will do right in the moments ahead. Measure your day by what God is doing in your life and find joy in knowing that you can learn and grow and keep moving forward. It will change everything you do to simply measure your day well.

“What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient?” Job 6:11

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

The Lighter Walk

Finding Peace with God and Nature

Busy K Blog

You must do the things you think you cannot do. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Lucca's Blessings

a little of my life<3

Friends in Cold Places

Friends of the Washington Capitals

NoVa Caps

A Worldwide Community for Washington Capitals Fans

maggiemarcum

Living Life with Purpose

The Portrait Writer

Rosemarie Fitzsimmons

Georgetownrose

from glory to glory...