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A Psalm 25 Study for Personal Transformation

A series on personal development and transformation inspired by Psalm 25.

Facing our Behavior

It isn’t easy to face the truth about ourselves and our behavior, yet failing to do so can cause our situation to grow from bad to worse. David, in Psalm 25, found that the more he resisted change the more his problems multiplied. He had to face the truth about his actions and behavior and be willing to seek God’s forgiveness if ever he were to move forward to live a life of purpose.

The more we sit with whatever negative behavior or thoughts we have; the more likely we are to continue to repeat our negative behavior. The more we stay where we are and refuse to “face the music” for our action, the more likely we are to add on in an attempt to cover up or to justify our conduct. Sooner or later these things will become unbearable. God will let us sit in our mess until we are ready to acknowledge our actions and the pain leads us to seek forgiveness and transformation. Forgiveness, however, is not enough unless we also commit to changing our lives.

I know on my journey out of the darkness it took reminders from people close to me that what I was doing was self-destructive. I needed friends to speak the truth into the situation, even when I did not want to hear what they had to say. Several bouts of broken hearts and depression finally led me to hear what they were saying and to seek professional help. As part of that professional help I found that God was walking with me and standing with open arms to accept me, to forgive me, and to transform my life. It took many years and much anguish, but today I can say that God has released the bonds that trapped me and I have been rescued from a devastating life style.

Have you found yourself stuck in a behavior or activity that is causing you anguish and keeping you from the things you should be doing with your life? It could be something as simple as using your credit cards to pay for things you want rather than paying off your bills and finding financial freedom. Maybe you are holding a grudge against someone and it colors not only your reaction to the person you think slighted you, but it also colors how you interact with other people. You may build walls to protect yourself and you may be missing a greater blessing. It could be as serious as needing to seek professional help with an addictive behavior—be it drugs, alcohol, food, or sex. Maybe you did something that was unethical and haven’t owned up to it yet, so you live in fear of being found out. Freedom comes with speaking truth and sharing.

Whatever is keeping you on the darker path, remember that God will not abandon us. He may let us suffer in our mess longer than we like, but when we reach out, he will be there. I learned for myself that the longer I stayed in destructive relationships, the sadder I became and the more I removed myself from relationships with my friends. Today I am humbled and blessed to be able to share with others just how God inspired me to change by letting me hurt so that I would ask for help. I hope today you will be motivated to seek help to change your life too.

© maggiemarcum.com

“My problems go from bad to worse. Oh save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins.” Psalm 25: 17-18 New Living Translation

Letting Go of Resentments with Mercy

Holding on to our resentments does less to the person we are angry with and more to hurt ourselves. Learning to release the person who offended us from our hate list may take real effort on our part, especially if they have been on the list for some time. Did you know that resentment is just another word for jealous? Did you know that mercy is the greatest gift you can offer another and yourself at the same time?

Offering mercy may take a deliberate effort on your part. It means offering forgiveness and meaning it. It means treating the other person with God’s love when your love isn’t there. It means being kind and treating the other person with understanding that we too are not perfect and we may have some responsibility for the situation. It means being compassionate when they hurt instead of laughing. And it does mean celebrating when good things come their way, even when we would like to think the good fortune should be ours. Mercy is sincere—it can’t be faked because above all, mercy means that we pray for all things God would have in their lives. We especially pray that they know the Lord and are transformed by his love and mercy. We ask that we too are transformed as we pray for them.

My daughter is one the greatest examples of a mercy-giver that I know. Even as a teenager she could find a way to forgive or overlook a person’s misdeeds toward her. She always seems to take the high road in relationships and give it one—or seven times seven— more chances. I have seen her rekindle relationships that I would never have gone back to and I have seen her grow more as she let go of her resentment. I have seen the freedom that comes from her mercy. She is the kid whose friends turned away from her when she wouldn’t go down the path they were heading, and still she managed to re-establish friendships with some of those people years later because she was willing to let the past be in the past. Like many young women, she has been hurt in relationships, and yet she has found a way to forgive and accept rich friendships on new terms. She has even shown her old mom mercy from time to time, understanding that I make mistakes and sometimes my problems have caused rather uncomfortable circumstances for us. She keeps moving forward and she inspires me to be all those things Jesus told us to be. She is one of the best examples I have of living a life in the image of Jesus.

As we ask for God’s mercy when we are in distress or have acted in a way that does not honor him, let us ask that he show us to whom we need to extend the same kind of mercy. We ask that he change our hearts and save us from carrying a burning coal that eats through our own heart. We ask for all things good for those we resent or envy and that we can be happy for their success. We ask to see them as God does, knowing he loves them. We ask that he inspire us to get on a path that takes us forward and frees us of the burden of disdain we carry.

Do you have a way you approach others with mercy? Do you have a success story of a time you gave or received mercy? I would love to hear your story. Please share it in the comments below.

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and in deep distress.” Psalm 25:16
© maggiemarcum.com

Stuck

There are days when the mud seems to rise too high for us to fight it back. Maybe we have become entangled in a net and can’t get loose. Stuck, trapped, snared, and unable to move. We have forgotten what light looks like anymore and we fear we may never see it again; if we ever really saw the light in the first place. It is a hard place to be and even harder to explain it to another.

I can remember those times all too well in my life. I would lie curled up in my bed and ask myself: “how on earth did I ever get into this mess?” Sometimes I knew it was because of the decisions I had made, other times I wasn’t as sure. You know that feeling: your stomach churns and the tears flow and you hide from your family and friends because you don’t want to be a burden? Those are the days when we don’t even want to see our counselor or hit a meeting because we are so sure that even they would never get it.

What if you could see just a sliver of light? Would you be willing to take advantage of that sliver of light and believe that maybe, just maybe there was more where that came from? For me it started with a prayer. Oh, I couldn’t pray it. I had to ask someone else to pray it until I could. Yes, that meant I actually had to answer the phone or the text!!

I needed a rescue. No one I knew could give it to me; however, there were people who would help me to find it. I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling forever and the only way out was to send a distress signal out to a friend. That friend needed to be someone I could trust and someone who I knew would send up prayers on my behalf. I knew my eyes needed to be on God to get out of the mess, but I just didn’t have it in me.

Slowly, I was able to look forward because looking back did no good. I couldn’t change what had happened but I could change the present and thus the future. Those prayers eventually became my prayer. Psalm 25 became my strength. I couldn’t read it all but I kept asking God to show me what to do next, even if next was only getting up and going to work. Hours became days became weeks became months became years.

My ability to stand up and let go of the pain did not come overnight. It came by having someone else help me cut the net from my feet and pull me out of the mud. And once out, it took my commitment and motivation to change. It is a daily struggle, because life is a daily struggle. Today I get out of the mud a lot faster. I tell others quicker. I pray before I slip into the mud bath and I don’t get tangled up like I used to.

Please, please; reach out today if this is your story. If there is no one you know, look up a church with a prayer line and call them. Just tell them you hurt and you need prayer. Get up and find a counselor whose name you like and give them a try. Go to a Celebrate Recovery meeting or other 12 step and meet people who have walked where you have walked. Look up. God is there and you will find his love and his strength until you have your own.

“My eyes are always looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me from the traps of my enemies.” Psalm 25: 15

Coming Home

Coming Home.

Seeing the Right Path

I think we all have times in our lives when no matter what we do we just can’t seem to find the right fit or we think we are stuck in some life situation and we will never find our way out. Fear sets in. Despair takes over. A dark cloud seems to be our only friend. No matter what we do; we just can’t find the right direction to head and all we do seems for naught. We may see the future but something seems to be in the way of getting to it.

Finding the way out can be difficult. We hear that God is “fair and just” and “does what is right” for us, yet we struggle to believe those words apply to us. And yet, if we can take the first step forward, we might come to believe that God will lead us step-by-step in a new direction and place us back on the path of success.

It is helpful if we can develop an attitude of moving toward something rather than away from something. Ask yourself what it is that you love to do and what makes you smile when you think about it. Develop an image of what you would look like if all the pieces fell in place and you were where you would like to be. Now walk back from that ideal situation and ask yourself how you got to that place. Write the story of your success all the way back to where you are today. What steps did it take to reach your goal? Which people did you need to stop listening to? Did you need to go to school? Did you need to network with others in the field? Did you need to stop doing something so you had time to focus on your goal? What did you need to do first?

This method may seem unrealistic to you, but if you have a dream that you have been holding in your heart and not acting on, it may be that God placed that dream in your heart and is waiting for you to take the first step on the path. You may need to take a risk and step forward in a way you have never done before. I am doing that today. I know where God wants me—I have seen the end goal—and today I am taking the first step by writing this blog and getting a new degree to support me.

There is a path for you. God is with you. He will lead you there if you spend some time in prayer with him. Ask someone you trust to help you sort out your journey. Find a spiritual guide or a coach that can help you learn how to see God’s plan for you. Start today by taking one small step, even if that step is just getting out of bed or turning the TV off!!

“The Lord is god and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way.”
Psalm 25: 8-9

Forgiven with Love and Compassion

It took me a long time to accept that this Jesus whom I claimed to believe in would actually forgive me for the things I had done, and would do, in my life. Yet Jesus gave us the prayer in which he directs us to ask for forgiveness—and to forgive others (Matthew 6:9-15). He tells the paralyzed man that he, “the Son of Man have the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). He even forgave those that crucified him, and yet, I couldn’t believe that he would forgive me and my sins or acts of bad behavior.

I didn’t know about “unfailing love” or “compassion” growing up. There were expectations and measurements for good and bad behavior and I believed I usually fell far below any set standards. I was usually told that I didn’t measure up and would never measure up at the rate I was going. Even after committing my life to Christ in my 30’s, I still felt judged in my churches and less than worthy to be there. I may have been judged by some, but mostly I was judging myself and comparing myself against other people—who were most likely hiding their own shortcomings and failures behind a mask of service and pasted on smiles. I constructed my own roadblock to accepting the love that I read about and believed was only given to the really good people surrounding me on Sunday. I heard stories of change and mercy given but I didn’t think that was meant for me.

And then, sitting in the chairs at a prayer service one night, I finally gave in. I laid down on the floor facing the cross and I said “I’m sorry for what I did.” I cried and began to let go of the things I was holding on to. I began to walk through my youth and my brokenness and to ask God to forgive me for those things. One-by-one, he brought to mind those times I hurt others or hurt myself by my behavior. And one-by-one I felt the burden of carrying that shame lifted from my life. Little by little, I came to believe that God loved me, ME personally, just as much as the nice person sitting next to me on Sunday. Little by little I came to know his mercy and layer by layer he changed my life. I started to laugh again. I could hold my head up. I could smile at someone and reach a hand out and tell them God was there, I was there, and we would make it out of the dark together. Just as I learned to see how God sees me, I am learning to see others as he does, with “unfailing love and compassion.” May you too come to know that peace—it is a prayer away.

“Remember, O Lord, your unfailing love and compassion, which you have shown from long ages past. Forgive the rebellious sins of my youth; look instead through the eyes of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.”
Psalm 25:6-7 New Living Translations

Truth Seeker

I grew up in an era of sweeping things under the carpet and hiding our real lives from our neighbors and friends. It didn’t matter if the whole neighborhood heard the fights and saw the bruises—we did not discuss it. And many of us thus were taught to be hiders of truth as well. We even learned how to hide the good things like promotions and awards that we should have let our friends celebrate with us. Today I still hide the truth to protect those I love; except those stories will soon come to light on these pages as the God who saved me from shame and healed my brokenness prompts me to share more. My desire today is to be taught and to share what I have learned that others may learn too.

Things are different for people in today’s society with social media peeking into our lives every day. We post pictures of our trips and adventures. We post cryptic messages when we are angry or sad. We blast at people who have hurt us. We take self-portraits of our moods so everyone knows if we are happy, sad, or drunk! What we don’t do is talk about how we were abused as children or spouses. We don’t talk about addiction in our family. We don’t talk about abortion or the child we gave up for adoption. We hide our divorces in our new marriages. We hide if we are living with someone or in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. We hide if we want or have a relationship with someone of the same sex. We don’t talk about the missed suicide or the suicide that we deny occurred. We hide that our family is struggling with financial burdens or is crying every night because they don’t know how to help their ADD, autistic, or mentally ill child. Those things we still hide from one another.

I have a new truth today. My truth is that God loves me. He sent his son Jesus to save me from my sins and to give me hope in a new life. This God has inspired me to openly share with you the many many sins of my life, and his redemption of that life. Those things above—he let me walk through most of them. God didn’t heap burdens on me that I might fail in life or feel worthless. He taught me to give him my burdens and to let the Holy Spirit help carry them. He gave me you to lift me up when I thought I should die. I want to learn more from him so I spend time in the Word of the Bible. I spend time listening to your stories and I am motivated because I see the potential for change and growth in our lives.

It starts with speaking the truth. Share your burden with someone today. Ask for prayers. Send me a request—it would be an honor to pray with you. Pray for me too. This journey I am entering is not easy. It has painful moments. But I have hope today, hope for you and hope for me. God bless you and bring you truth and hope.

Maggie

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5

Digging Out

As much as I complain about winter and snow, there is something cathartic about digging out a pathway through the snow. I usually start out alone, clearing the dusty snow as it falls, hoping to stay ahead of the storm. I will go back at it over and over. My daughter shakes her head at me wondering why I don’t just wait until the snow stops. I tell her it is because it will be too much to do all at once and it is better to clear away a little at a time. Eventually she will join me outside and together we clear the snow away in half the time it took me. And usually there are snowballs involved and much more laughter than when I am alone with my deep thoughts.

Sometimes I think my walk with Jesus is like that. I am digging out and trying to make the right choices on my own. I keep going back at my problem area and trying to figure out how to get out of the latest mess, only to find the path covered up again and myself set on repeat. As I have said, I tend to be a slow learner which is Maggiespeak for “stubborn” or “self-willed.” If I say that I trust in the Lord then why do I not trust in the way that he shows me? Why do I insist on doing it my way? Why am I so afraid of accepting guidance or assistance?

My personal focus these days is on my financial situation. Because I made decisions about the path I would take—one that made it look like I was affording to live the upper middleclass life in DC—I am now drowning in debt. Over the years I made some bad choices about where to live and how much I could afford to spend. I put myself in situations that were too costly, hoping that if I had enough stuff surrounding me I could avoid the pain inside and appear to be successful just like everyone else. And it was working—for everyone but me.

Today I am digging out again but this time I am doing it with guidance from God through others. And it is HARD!! I am getting better at giving back to God what is his. I am better at giving of my time to help others. I am better at reading the Bible and learning more about these principles I hold so dear. I am sitting in a small condo/apartment having given most of my old stuff away to people who actually needed it. I am living on cash only and saying “no,” even when my mind says: “buy it, it will be ok.” His path; not my path. His guidance; not my desires. Slowly I am seeing the light. Slowly the snow is not covering up my mistakes and I am resting for longer periods. Slowly God is turning my life around once again. Little by little the path is clearing. I’ll let you know how it goes but I am thinking this time the path may just stay clear ahead.

Show me the path where I should walk, O, Lord; point out the right road for me to follow.

Psalm 25:4 New Living Testament

Shamed

“Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.” Psalm 15:2

As a young woman, I carried the shame of being sexually abused with me into nearly everything I did. Pia Mellody, founder of The Meadows, developed the concept of “carried shame,” that which we bring into our adult life from events that occurred in your childhood. These are the events over which we had no power and that sets the stage for negative behavior in our adulthood. Until we can acknowledge this shame, we are somewhat powerless over our behavior. Without validation for what has happened to us, we may think we are worthless and therefore not allowed to be in respected or valued.

The shame I carried with me stemmed from my abuse and the reaction of those who knew back when it occurred. My memories are fuzzy, but I do know that in that era the victim was usually held at least partially responsible for what happened. It didn’t matter that I was only 8 years old. And there was nothing really done to the perpetrator other than to separate them from the child. To this day I am not sure if anyone really understood, including myself. I do know that I went from being one of the girls that the neighborhood boys treated like a princess to the butt of their jokes and sexual harassment. From then on I came to believe my body and my life was of little value. And for the next 40 years I acted that way too.

And then, at The Meadows I found out that this was not my fault. I was not protected by the people who should have protected me. I was a naïve young girl, desperate for someone to notice me, who was noticed and taken advantage of by someone we all trusted and admired. I did not understand how that period of time had polluted my thinking about myself. And in the desert of Arizona I found that God loved me and would rescue me from the shame others inflicted upon me. I could make the decision right then and there to accept God’s love as an incredible gift and to remove the hooks that held me to this carried shame. The shame was that of the man who hurt me. It was the shame of the parents who neglected me. It was the shame of the friends who turned their back on me. It was not mine anymore. God created a new person that day. I began to walk without shame, having sought forgiveness for my own behavior and a willingness to live a different lifestyle.

I was freed.

© maggiemarcum.com

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