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

When No One is Watching

This walk of faith is not always an easy one. I am inspired every day to make changes in my attitude and in the way I live my life. Years ago there was a bracelet that many people wore: “WWJD,” a reminder to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” in any given circumstance. For me, a bracelet is not enough. I have to feed my heart and soul regularly to know what God would have me do, especially when no one is watching.

What are you doing and saying when no one from church is watching you? What activities are you involved in that you hope no one finds outs about? What words are you using that you would never use in front of your pastor? How are you feeding your spirit when you aren’t sitting in the pew on Sunday morning? What behavior is living inside you that takes you away from being that person of faith you wish you were?

In his letters to the church in Rome (Romans 7:14 – 25), Paul asks himself these very same questions about his behavior and his heart. He knows what the right thing to do is; but still he finds himself drawn away from that. He struggles, like most of us; to do what his heart tells him is the right thing to do. He thinks he is forever trapped by his sinful nature. But he does have an answer for us.

How are you speaking today? Are you speaking with patience to the person waiting on you in the store that might be working their second job for the day and is doing the best they can? Are you smiling and letting them take their time and thanking them for being there for you? Are you holding your tongue when you feel words like “idiot,” “stupid,” or “reject” enter your mind and replacing them with “child of God,” “and “fellow human?” Can you not cuss out the driver that cut you off, especially since he can’t hear you anyway? Can you instead ask God to make you a better driver and an example—even if no one is paying attention? Can you let someone in when they need to merge and pass on that behavior not what you just experienced?

What are you watching on TV? What images are you filling your mind with? Are you watching porn when no one sees you? Did you sneak a movie in while you were on travel because no one will know? Are you watching shows that make fun of other people? Are you filling your brain with negative responses and examples or are you looking for positive reinforcement for good behavior? Can you change the channel and find something else to do? Can you ask for help—go to Celebrate Recovery—to break the bonds that porn or other negative images have on your thinking?

How are you spending your money today? Did you go buy something new instead of paying a bill? Did you hear about a friend in need and think “wow, they are really messed up,” or did you think: “how can I help?” Did you borrow money from someone and really need to start paying them back because you are doing better now? Can you help someone else out without judging them? Are you not giving at church or to charity because you are afraid you won’t have money to buy that thing you don’t really need anyway? Can you find a way to start giving a little today and commit to giving regularly? Can you volunteer somewhere to make meals or reach the homeless?

Are you standing so firm on being right that you have lost compassion for those in need? Have you buried your healing from brokenness so deep that your redeemed life is hidden from others? Is there someone suffering from their bad choices that you feel better than and can’t be bothered with? Are you feeling self-satisfied because you don’t have “that” sin in your life and forget you have others? Are you willing to step down from your pedestal and reach a hand out to help the wounded and hurting that they too might know God’s grace? Did you ask someone if you could pray for them? Did you invite them to your home—to your church?

These things I struggle with. There are things I wish I did differently today and I am taking Paul’s example and I am asking Jesus to free me from these negative behaviors. I am praying to act better today. I am asking that he change my nature. I am asking what to do when no one is watching and that what I do is positive and honors his example. I will fall short. I will fail. And I will keep moving forward, closer to who he wants me to be and how he wants me to behave—when no one is watching.

If this is helpful to you, please feel free to share my posting and blog with others. Together we can grow stronger and live better examples of Jesus in our lives.

© maggiemarcum.com

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

Managing Energy Drainers

Energy drainers are those things that distract an individual from reaching their goals (Collins, 2009).They may be short-term obstacles that we can handle for a brief period of time without derailing our progress. Other energy drainers may pull us way off track and require us to take specific steps to reduce the negative impact. That said, there are a few things that I have allowed to stop me from doing what I believe God has called me to do and I am slowly finding ways to stop letting these things derail my progress. Some of these will be quick fixes while others will take longer to accomplish and require more of a change in my behavior.

Finances

One of my primary goals is to reach financial security and to get my spending under control. The first step for me was to pray and then to seek out a program that would bring success. I have taken some pretty drastic steps to get the ball rolling, including holding a yard sale to get rid of things that I didn’t need and giving away pretty much everything else. I moved out of a large house into a manageable apartment that costs me a fraction of what I was spending. I am building up my savings for emergencies and have a plan to pay off my expenses. I am more deliberate in my regular giving. It will be a long slow process, but I truly believe this is what God is calling me to do today. And from this will come one more testimony about transformation that I can share with others.

Family and Friends

I have a great relationship with my daughter; however, I have a real tendency to drop everything to hang out with her when I should be focusing on writing or my other tasks.  And I have a bad habit of spending money that I have budgeted for bills or savings on spur-of-the-moment outings with my daughter or with friends. I used to claim it was “single mother syndrome” but really it was just neglectful planning.  I have found it necessary to set boundaries in my relationships—to say “no” even when my heart says “yes.” I am committed to the Dave Ramsey[1]  financial plan which means I have to make changes in my overall lifestyle. Part of that change includes setting new priorities while keeping the focus on reaching my long-term goals.

Emotions

I guess you could say that the primary energy drainer for me is fear and panic. The fear is a byproduct of my financial insecurity and it has kept me from moving forward. I have learned that the most positive thing I can do is stick with my budget plan and continue to pay down my debt without acquiring more debt. And I am working with a spiritual director as well as a healing minister who are helping me to see God’s plan instead of my plan. I cannot begin to explain the newfound peace I have discovered in my obedience to praying, writing, and talking with others.

Home

Ok—I will admit it. The TV probably is the largest energy drainer in my life. When I feel insecure about my ability to step into this new role of story teller and author or I am overwhelmed by my financial situation—I retreat to mindless TV. I may spend hours at a time watching TV and avoiding the world outside.  Additionally, TV is sometimes a crutch for not spending money on things with my daughter and so we will sit together watching movies or TV shows rather than going out. This obstacle also keeps me from being more physically active, which is not a good thing for someone trying to live a healthier lifestyle. For now I will work to set aside time to walk instead of watching an hour of TV in the evening. I am sure I won’t avoid TV completely; however, I do need to set boundaries in this area as well. This may be one of the harder areas for me and it could continue as an energy drainer and stressor if I don’t get it under control.

Reflection

I have found it is useful to identify things in my life that are keeping me from reaching my goals and to consider the changes I need to make in my life. Some of these things were not easy to confront, especially since it made me realize how much time I have wasted.  It also became apparent that I cannot make these changes on my own and that I need to be honest with people who I trust about the obstacles in my life. It is equally important to have people in my life that will hold me accountable and encourage my success. One step at a time, I move forward.

Reference

Collins, G. R. (2009) Christian coaching: helping others turn potential into reality. NavPress. Colorado Springs, CO

[1] Dave Ramsey provides Christian-based financial counseling and provides a strategy to help individuals achieve financial freedom. Refer to: http://www.daveramsey.com/home/