My life today is nothing compared to what it was even five years ago, let alone 30 years ago when I began my Christian journey. God planted a seed of change; however, it took almost 20 years to stop living according to my rules and listen to his desires for me.
I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
As I begin to understand what message God has for me in The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), I have to take some time to understand the context of the message. Remember, I’m no theologian, just your average Christian taking courses and studying the Bible in order to understand and grow. I do, however, think it is important anytime we delve into the word, especially something as rich as these passages, to have some common understanding. So for this series, this is how I understand the words given in a language many of us struggle to understand.
The Sermon on the Mount, those words given to us from Jesus represent his instructions on how to live our lives as his followers. They were intended to be taken as a whole, not ones that we would pick and choose to import into our lives. That said, healing, recovery, and living a life with purpose is a journey of learning and growing. My hope is that by starting with the eight The Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-10), I will be inspired to make changes in the way I think and live my life.
Blessed—having God’s grace, his favor, and his forgiveness. The Beatitudes represent the conditions of our lives and give us hope that God is with us. Even in the darkest of our times, we have not been abandoned. I know what that was like in the past and even today I have those moments. I have to remind myself that God is aware of and involved in every aspect of my life. Does it mean life is rosy and perfect now? Hardly. What it does mean for me is that I trust God will see me through to the other side and I will experience personal and spiritual growth as a result.
The New Living Translation interprets this passage as: “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.” In today’s society I think we all have a tendency to say, “I can do it—leave me alone,” until we can’t do it. Then we find ourselves calling out for God to fix our mess. Today I want to start by saying I need God. I need to pray and wait before I run ahead with my own ideas. One of the ways I pray when I find myself at a crossroad is to ask God to firmly close the doors that should be closed and to show me an open door through which I should pass. I say firmly because I am known to keep opening doors just in case there is a sliver of a chance that I can make it work out my way. And I take time to wait before I cross into something new.
In my previous profession I was required to prepare somewhat technical briefings about military systems. I was not a technical person and so instead I worked to develop processes to help others do their work. The problem was, I had to present the information, usually in front of some very technically educated people. And it scared me to death. After I retired I continued to dabble in the area in academia. The fear really never went away there either. At the same time I was looking for a program of study to become a life coach or a counselor. Nothing I tried seemed to work. And so I prayed for the closed/open door and boy did I get it. After two years of struggling, my work with defense programs ended abruptly. I was working another job part-time and it filled the financial and work void for me. And I found a program that seemed to fit all the things I wanted and that I could finance. God opened a new door. Additionally, I found a spiritual director who helped me see that what God had placed on my heart years ago and here I am writing about it.
And just as I thought things were going my way, something happened at work to make me uncomfortable. Again I prayed about it, trying to discern if I should stay or go. Within two weeks I was “relieved of my duties,” I kid you not. I was on the fence but when I was willing to ask God to show me, he did just that. Then last night I went to bed wondering what I was going to do next and if I should consider going back to doing what I had done with before to I could bring in more income and get out of debt fast. I went to sleep praying and worrying. Now I don’t know if it was just the prayer or because I was reading about theories related to dream interpretation but in my dream I was giving a presentation and it was HORRIBLE! I literally woke up shaking a bit. And I had my answer. Don’t go back, keep going forward.
I am blessed to understand my need for God in my life. I am blessed to be able to pray and to have learned to wait before acting. It isn’t easy but it is a whole lot better than making bad choices and going in the wrong direction. Today I want to align my will with God’s will and in doing so I will find a piece of God’s heaven on earth.
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
Shortly after I graduated from high school I moved to Los Angeles and began to live a life far different from the belief system I had growing up. Like most young people, I wanted to get as far away from my parents as possible. I also wanted to make decisions for myself, because at 17, I was oh so wise!
My week-long visit to California turned into years and my journey to “find myself” led me to change my religious commitment. I became enthralled with Scientology and grew to be a new recruit and staff member. I began a journey into what I would later learn was an occult-like cult. I had already opened the door with my Ouija board experience in high school. Scientology simply pulled me further away from the faith I had known all my life. I won’t go into detail now, but suffice it to say, Scientology took control of my life in a way my church never did. I was happy for quite a while living in this community; getting to know celebrities, and throwing my new life in the face of my parents.
Scientology told me I could still be a Christian and believe in God. They even bastardized the crucifix for their symbol to convince believers like myself. And then they told me all the problems I was having in the present were the result of the past. If only I would reach back into the past I could be set free. Of course their past was many past lives, which they manipulated me to believe I had lived. They promised I would be happy beyond belief and have some special supernatural abilities. At that point in my life, I needed to be something more than just the lost invisible child with no future. Anything was better than where I was.
Fortunately, I had praying parents who knew that was all they could do to convince me to come home. During a trip back to Virginia I caught up with some old friends and began to see outside the fog of Scientology. My friends helped convince me not to return to LA and little by little the grip Scientology had on my life was released. As much as Scientology tried to pull me back, I found a supernatural peace sitting in the pews of my church. Although I was back in church most Sunday’s, I worried that others would find out I had strayed and judge me for the disobedience to my faith. I kept a barrier between me and God, just in case this didn’t work out for me either.
Finally, many years later I would be led by our pastor to acknowledge the occult hold Scientology and the Ouija board had on my life. I prayed with others and asked Jesus to be lord of my life instead. I invited the Holy Spirit to be my guide and set me on a new path. I prayed for a purpose that I never had. I discovered that even though I had walked away and broken my relationship with God, he remained faithful and forgiving. On my knees that morning, I discovered the freedom of a loving God and started on the long road of redemption to where I am today.
If something is keeping you from walking back into church, let it go. God already knows all about it and he is waiting for you to come home. No matter how far you have wondered, the door is always open. Sneak in the back if you have to. Sit quietly and wait for that still quiet voice to tell you “welcome home.” Believe that once you cross the threshold into his house, you will feel like you never left. Ask a friend to go with you if it is too hard. Just take a baby step toward God and he will do the rest.
“The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his degree.” Psalm 25:10
Humbly I come to you, having lost my way.
Wanting your forgiveness for my pride;
I sought my way and stumbled on the path.
Your words call out to me, pulling me back.
Yet I hold on to that which I know;
Hoping you will follow my lead and direction.
My plan has gone astray, the door has closed.
I have no choice but to surrender my will;
I’m left to accept that you have a new plan.
Where now shall I go amidst this turmoil?
How do I trust this new plan you have,
When I can’t yet see the light ahead?
How, O Lord, do I trust you when I have failed?
How, O Lord, do I trust me?
How do I even start anew?
And yet trust I do, as I cry out for your direction.
I breathe in all I know of you and wait;
I wait to hear your calming reassurance.
I wait to take the next step, leaning on you.
I wait; and then I slowly step forward,
Trusting you to open a new door,
Leading me into a new life.
A new path emerges and I see you in it.
All that is good has come from this my journey of change.
Protected Ransomed Refreshed Regenerated