Trusting Spirit

 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.

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Reaching for the Light Ahead

It may be difficult to keep our goals in front of us, especially if the goals are long-term and will take many months to achieve. Even if you have a mission statement and know what the end-goal is for you, it might help to set achievable milestones along the way. Mini-goals—if you will—that are realistic to achieve and that will help you to measure your progress forward. Collins (2002) writes that our goals should be specific and should stimulate you to action. Small wins along the way can help you to move on to the next goal and once step closer to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m a very visual person and I need to keep my goal in front of me to achieve it. I offer the following as some ideas for you to consider:

School: Have you set on a new career for yourself that requires you to improve your skill set? Have your just started out with school and the end seems so far away? Try creating a wall calendar and create a box for each class you need to complete for your program of study. You don’t need the exact names of your courses, just the number of courses needed to complete. If you have a few tough classes coming up—for me that would be math—specifically title a box for each of those classes. Just like counting the days down; count your classes down. You will be able to see your progress and plan for the future.

Big Purchases: As I follow Dave Ramsey’s guide to financial freedom I have learned that I need to plan for future big purchases. If you know you will need a car in a few years, or if there is that dream vehicle you have to have—plan for it. Don’t grab the dream only to end up with a debt that will weigh you down. Get a poster board. Find a few pictures of the car you want. Cut out tires, the steering wheel, bumpers, and other parts of the car. Draw a template of the car on the poster board. Take the overall price of the car and break it down into manageable parts—maybe a couple hundred dollars a month. As you set money aside for your car, add a piece of the car to the template. Little by little you will build your car until you are ready to purchase it. You will have tangible evidence that you are saving for the car and buying it piece by piece. You can do this with a house, living room furniture, new kitchen appliances, a new wardrobe, or whatever big expense you need to plan for.

Losing Weight: Do you know the weight you should be for living a healthier lifestyle? Do you know what size is the right size for you? Go to the department store of your liking and pick out a pair of jeans or a tight skirt that fit you today. Take a picture. Take a picture of the next size down and so on, until you are to the size you would like to be. Print out each page and staple them together at the top. Post it in the kitchen or wherever your weak spot is. Tear off the size you are today because you are putting that size behind you. As you start your healthy eating and exercise plan, keep an eye on the next size down. Just one size is all you need. When you are comfortably wearing that size, tear off that page and focus on the next size. Do that until you are at the size you want and then go celebrate by purchasing the new garment for yourself.

I’m a big proponent of keeping it simple. I think if we can take bite-size chunks at our goal, we will get through the tunnel and to the light of our goal. We may get stuck from time-to-time, but if you can keep the near-term vision in front of you, the long-term goal should be just around the corner!

What strategies do you use to reach your goals? Do you have visual aids you use or other moving forward tools? I would love to hear about them. Please share in the comments here or on Facebook.

© maggiemarcum.com

Reference: Collins, G. (2002) Christian coaching: helping others turn potential into reality, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO

The Healing Secrets We Keep

These days I am rather transparent about the life I have led and the choices I have made. I share my experiences because many of them, by the Grace of God, are now behind me. I share my secrets so that others might believe that God still loves them. I share my stories that others who struggle may know that a new life awaits them. I share my story so that others don’t make my mistakes, and if they have made similar mistakes, they know it is not the end. I share hope.

All too often those of us who come through the refining fire refuse to share our stories. I think it is selfish not to tell others how God has changed and redeemed your life. I also believe, that the secrets of our mistakes that we keep hidden, could be the stories that save lives. Yet, many still continue to hide behind some veil of shame refusing to tell others this wonderful thing God has done in their lives. Yes, there may be pain in talking about the past, however, that shared pain may just be what another needs to hear as they struggle with the choices in their lives.

Have you lived through an abusive relationship and are now on the other side living free from fear? Your story of courage and freedom may be what someone else needs to hear for their freedom and to save their life. Share your fears and how you were able to get away and are free to live with joy today.

Have you had an abortion and lived through the tears to finally find forgiveness. Would you do it differently today? Your story could save the life of a child today. Your story could help another woman avoid the pain and loss you experienced.

Did alcohol or drugs once control your life? Did you live with someone abusing alcohol or drugs? Have you found recovery and a new day? Get over anonymity! Share your healing story that another drunk or addict might ask to go to a meeting with you.

Were you once so far in debt or without money that you weren’t sure if you could feed your kids? Have you ever been without a home or a car? Are you out of debt and in control of your finances today? Let go of yesterday and share how you did it with someone like me. Teach us how to work a plan.

Is suicide a part of your family? Have you lost, or nearly, lost someone because of mental illness? Is depression something you have struggled with? Is there hope today that you never had before? Tell your life-giving story that someone who wants to die might live. Share so someone who has lost a loved one might come to understand and feel freedom from guilt. Save a life today.

I could go on with examples. We all have a story. Even those of deep life-long faith have a story. Let your testimony be real. Make what God has done in your life something you don’t think twice about sharing. Share your secrets—especially if you are drowning in your secret today. Reach out and share with someone you trust that they may walk with you. Don’t let your secrets destroy you.

Pass along the gift God has given to you. Multiply his mercy and grace. I encourage you to read The Parable of the Buried Treasure found in Matthew 25. Invest in others. Don’t be the one whose gift is lost.

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