This has been the summer I fully embraced the community of my church family. The one where I attend services and the one that has connected me with some life-long friends and acquaintances. It has been a summer of gathering together socially and spiritually. Mostly, it has been the best time I have had in years and I am beyond grateful.
Each one of us has a different version of the “perfect day” and some days simply turn out to be “perfect” without even trying. For me that day usually means I have spent time with people. As an extrovert on the Myers Briggs, I need a dose of people to feel energized. I’m not a strong “E,” so the introvert in me also loves a day spent home recharging. I have found that I need people in my life and I need to reach out and touch someone daily. Thank goodness for social media and texting which makes it easier to feel as if I am connected, even on those days I stay home.
August is drawing to a close and many of my readers are sending their children back to school and thinking that the lovely perfect days of summer are coming to a close. Some of you have sent your young adults off to college. Still others have helped their older adults move into new homes as they take off on their own journey of life. We may become nostalgic and a bit sad as our children move on and away from us, especially if we are single parents. But isn’t this what we planned for all their lives?
Jesus is the best example I know of someone who cared for the people around him with no concern for himself or how it might look to others. He didn’t wat until it was convenient to help someone, in many cases he actually went out of his way to talk to someone or to help them. He broke protocols to care for people on days when it was illegal. When his disciples said “it is too much,” he said: “come.” Jesus never brought shame on a person for their circumstances—he asked questions and spent time listening to them. He walked with them and told them it would be better with him. He willingly came to the mentally ill (demon possessed), the untouchables (the hemorrhaging woman and lepers), and the ones living in sin (the woman at the well, the tax collector).
It’s a beautiful day outside. I should feel inspired by the cool breeze and the time I have to myself today. Unfortunately, I lack the motivation to write. I am taking in the inspirational words and enjoying the beauty of a spring day—but I am not finding the words to put on paper to inspire others to think about transformation or change in their lives. So today you get a little piece on what it is like to feel empty or as my friend said the other day, to be in a season of “dry bones.”
I still remember when my friend, Robbie Pruitt, first read The Valley of Dry Bones from Ezekiel 37 to our youth group. I had never heard the passage before. It paints a pretty dark picture of dead dry bones in the valley which the Lord commands be brought back to life. The breath of God brought new life to the bones—from hopeless to hopeful. I have reflected on the story and Robbie’s teaching many times in the years since.
When my friend said she was in a season of dry bones I knew what she meant. I didn’t admit that I too was in that state. I mean come on, how am I the encourager and hopeful going to admit that I’m just not feeling it? I have been through the fire and have come out the other side. I see the light. I believe I am forgiven. I believe…..but I’m not feeling it. So how can I write words of encouragement when I am discouraged?
Today I am better. My spiritual director and blessed friend and I talked. She helped me see that I have not lost faith but maybe I am on the cusp of more change. I can feel it coming and I’m terrified. I may lose some friends in the process. I may open myself up even more to criticism and negative support. I may have to leave behind the familiar. And today I know it will be ok.
When we find ourselves wondering in the dry desert, feeling like a sack of dry bones, it is really important that we reach out and share that with someone who will pray with us and let us express our thoughts without judgement. Maybe that person is a spiritual director, a coach, a pastor, or a Godly friend. We need to get out of our own heads and hearts and let someone translate what we are saying and to see the light. It might not happen the first time, but we need to keep extending our hand and asking for that revelation about ourselves.
God has never left my side. I have read his words and I still believe. And as I come out of this fog I know that there will be a new blessing. I can see a glimmer of hope and realize I still have a faith that just as God has done before, He will lead me where I need to be. I need to be patient with myself as I move through this. Mostly, I have to keep moving because this is not where I want to be stuck. I pray you too will seek out the wisdom of someone you trust if you are stuck in the fog. The light is so much better!
Blessings on your journey,
I was wowed by Lady Gaga’s performance during the Oscar Awards this week. I think most of America was stunned by the transformation we saw. This lovely woman, who has been hiding behind the theatrical personality she created to make a name for herself, took a huge risk in front of the world. In the business they call it “reinventing,” and often it is considered a market ploy or a sign of new maturity. These star-studded changes are noticed and critiqued around the world. Their transformation is discussed by the talking heads with skepticism or as a great long-overdue achievement.
I think we do the same thing when we witness a transformation in the people closest to us. We know all too well their faults and failures and often question the reality of their change. Perhaps we know someone as a drunkard or drug addict who has gone through treatment and is fighting for their sobriety. Maybe it is a young person whom we have watched grow up in front of us whose adulthood we find hard to recognize. Or the woman at the well who has had multiple lovers and now has decided to wait for the right man. And there are those who are stepping into new careers or callings without a proven record, who have a strong drive to succeed. Many were changed by a new commitment as part of their faith journey.
How do we react to these changes? Do you let the person know that you are seeing a positive change? Do you encourage them? Or do you hold on to an image from the past and wait for them to slip up? Are you moving forward with them or tugging the chains from the past in hope that they will stumble and prove that nothing has changed? Are you shining a negative or positive light on their steps forward? Are you looking for negative or positive behavior in them?
How you answer these questions is a reflection back on you. I find when I am skeptical it may be that they have hurt me in the past and I am not sure I can ever trust them again. In other cases I am jealous that they have done what I would like to do—successfully move forward. Or maybe I am jealous that they have something I wish I had in my life—a new relationship, a better job, or financial stability. I hope that my response is to celebrate their success and let their transformation inspire me. If I can see the possibility in their life then maybe I can accept the possibility in my life.
These are the choices we make for ourselves regardless of someone else’s journey forward. Let us not crush those who seek to reinvent themselves. Let us be encouragers and hope givers. Let us be encouraged and hope-filled for our own journey. Let us celebrate transformation and release the past into the past. Let us see today as a good thing and pray that tomorrow will be even better.
May God provide an encourager to you today as you take the next step forward. May you stand firm in your new life and celebrate the blessings you receive as a result. May you cling to your transformation even when others may not yet see it. May you share your joy in a way that encourages others to seek out the same transformation in their lives.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5 New Living Translation)
Over the past few days I have been disheartened by the way I have seen some Christians treating other Christians. I know that none of us are perfect, however, when we make it known to others that we are Christians,we must recognize that we are examples to everyone around us of what that means. I believe Jesus died for my sins and I believe I am forgiven. I also believe that to be forgiven means to be transformed. It means I live differently. It means I love differently. It means I give differently. If I am to be an example of Christ’s love in my life then I must treat everyone in my life with the same forgiveness, love, and compassion that Jesus has shown me.
If my life as a Christian isn’t transformed and lived differently because of Jesus’ love for me, than why bother to believe in him and follow him?
My daily reading from the Life Application Study Bible says “there is more to Christian living than loving other Christians. We must be responsible in all areas of our life.” It is a reminder that we do need to treat our fellow followers with love, as well as all those who cross our paths. If we can’t start in our own families and with the people closest to us, how can we share Jesus with those who don’t yet know him? How can we model grace and mercy for others if we aren’t willing to show these principles to the ones sitting in church with us? How do we build Christian leaders in secular jobs if the examples we have in Christian organizations are no better than those outside?
I am far from perfect and I do look to Christians around me to see how they live out their lives. I want to see how they are motivated to live transformed lives and what they do in uncomfortable or tough situations. I look to our leaders in the Christian community to be examples of love, mercy, and respect for others in lower stations of life or in need of healing and forgiveness. I find hope for change in the Bible I read and I pray that I will be a better leader; but I need good examples. I am thankful that while I have seen some pretty bad examples lately, I have seen some pretty great ones too.
I am thankful for dear friends who know I am a work in progress and who forgive me when I screw up or disappoint them when I make a bad choice. I am thankful when they call me on my behavior and inspire me to do better. I am thankful that there are leaders in my community that I can learn from as I grow in my leadership role. I am thankful for preachers in my church who share the truth of the Gospel and make me squirm a little in my seat. They motivate me to grow. I am thankful that Jesus still loves me and still forgives me when I mess up and then gently guides me back on the right path. I am thankful for grace and mercy and hope I pass that on.
My prayer is that in my comings and goings today I be an example of the love and forgiveness of Jesus and that those I come in contact with see I am transformed because of him. May you too be transformed by his forgiveness and may you too be an example.
“You are blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Matthew 5:5 from The Message)
Acceptance and contentment; these two words might seem to be at odds in our lives. I may accept my circumstances but I don’t have to like them, right? Or, I might be content having reached my goals but I am not willing to accept that I am where I need to be. And yet Jesus said in his sermon that those of us who are humble or respectful of our situation are blessed or have joy in accepting all that God has given to us.
We, who have walked through the refining fire, or are smack dab in the middle of it, are right where God wants us to be at this time in our lives. When we are willing to accept the work needed to transform our lives, we will find that we have everything that we need to be content, especially if that transformation brings us into a closer relationship with God. Jesus calls us to change our character to one that accepts all things, good and bad, to lay down our self-will, and to trust that God is walking with us and meeting all our needs. Accept where we are, what we must do, and that God, through the Holy Spirit, will guide us on our path. Set aside our anger and disappointment for what we wanted and ask what it is he wants for us instead.
When I look back at my life and the decisions I made that led to the turmoil in my spirit, I am humbled by what God has done and proud that he has made so much out of my lowly life. I am ecstatic that he has filled in the chip on my shoulder and lighted the burdens of the past that I was carrying. I am happy with whom I am today and excited for all that I get to be in the future. No matter the circumstances of my life today, I can be glad knowing that God will use me if I just quit whining and seek out his plan for the day. I can accept that the changes in my life today are for the good, knowing I will grow if I keep my focus forward.
What is keeping you for being content today? What piece of your life are you not accepting needs to be changed? What steps can you take today accept the changes God is calling you to make that could lead to greater contentment? I urge you to ask these questions or to seek out someone who will help you to find God’s peace and hope for your future.
My search for something meaningful or purposeful about my life led me down many paths, and not all of them were roads I should have traveled. I tried devoting myself to work and taking jobs that I thought would make me feel important or relevant. I tried relationships that I thought would meet all my needs but they never filled all the gaps. I tried a different sort of ‘religion’ in Scientology, and that only confused my life more. I tried drinking and drugging in my younger days to fit in and that was all pretend living too. I tried just being “spiritual” but failed to find any real direction and ended up listening to my own messed up self for guidance. It took me several tries over the years to come to a new point in my life:
“God blesses those who realize their need for him” (Matthew 5: 3—The Beatitudes, NLT)
I was looking in all the wrong places! The NIV version says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” while the Message says, “You’re blessed when you feel you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” I was like a beggar trying every new spiritual movement out there in the hopes of feeling fulfilled in my life. I knew Jesus. I grew up with Jesus. I just didn’t think he was enough for me and I hungered for something more to make me feel relevant in this universe.
I didn’t need to be one with the universe—the same universe that God created. I needed to be one with the creator. I didn’t need to empty my head; I needed to breathe in the Holy Spirit and divine inspiration. I didn’t need to draw energy from another human; I needed to draw inspiration from God’s word to us and through a quiet time of prayer with him. I didn’t need a new religion, I needed to grow in my own faith—the one passed down through generations of believers. My dedication to hearing God’s word spoken for me led me to a spiritual awakening like no other.
I need God in my life. I need Jesus in my life. I need prayer and meditation in my life. I came to the end of my rope and God was waiting for me. Waiting to pick me up, dust me off, forgive me, and set me on a new course. For me, there is one God in whom I trust. Today I only look for ways to grow in that relationship and if work, relationships, spiritual groups, or things I put in my body don’t lead me in that direction, then I don’t need them.
Do you need something more in your life—something other than your own voice in your head? Are you looking for a new spiritual life? Do you want to experience a transformation that brings you peace and joy? Are you ready to step into the light and feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit? I encourage you to reach out to someone today that can guide you in that direction. Find a life coach, counselor or religious leader and tell them you are ready to start exploring this kind of spiritual life. I promise you will never be the same.
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.
“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
I am convinced that there is something wrong with the thermostat in my apartment. I have programmed it to warm up the apartment just before I get out of bed so that I’m not stepping into the freezing cold. It, however, seems to think it is much warmer than it actually feels—at least in my bedroom. So most mornings I get up and manually turn it up a couple of degrees to take the chill out of the air. Then I realize it is too late to warm up my bedroom because I’m already up and out of my comfy covers. I keep repeating this behavior, thinking this is the morning it won’t be so cold. Ha!
Blind spots. Those things we don’t see or aren’t willing to acknowledge about ourselves. My thermostat is reading the air near it. The living room area is much warmer than our bedrooms and so it doesn’t think it needs to do anything. Our bedrooms are its blind spots. I have a blind spot in setting the thermostat to match when I wake up. After several cold mornings I need to make an adjustment if I don’t want to get up in a cold room. And I STILL haven’t fixed it. Part of that might also be because I don’t want to accept that winter is coming and I hate the cold.
Life coach Georgia Shaffer says that we all have blind spots that impede our process forward. One of those areas in which we get stuck is not seeing the reality in our situation. In my example, the reality is nothing will change in my morning ritual unless I do something to change the environment and circumstances. We may be living out a fantasy in hopes that what we wish for will come true. It can be painful to look at our situations and realize that we are the problem. I have to accept that I don’t live in California and it is getting colder. In some cases, we may be stuck in a make-believe life because the alternative is unknown and scary.
Do you find yourself sitting in an office day after day and feeling that something just isn’t right with the business practices or the people you work for? Do you tell yourself, “it will get better” or “I’m just imaging things” and go home feeling drained a little bit sick. Are you waiting for a promotion or raise that is never going to come? We tell ourselves a lot of things out of fear when really we should move on. Are you refusing to see the reality of whatever situation is not benefiting you at work when it is time to find something new? Are you missing beneficial opportunities because you don’t know what to expect? Has someone told you this is as good as it gets and you are lucky to have this job?
Are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you or treat you well? Are you hanging on because most of the time it is ok and ignoring the other not so great times? Are you thinking that the longer you stay the better it will get—that they will come around? Are you compromising who you are so you won’t be alone? Reality check. Most times the person we are in a relationship with is not going to change. If you have shared your point of view and it is ignored, the chances are it is not going to get better. Are you willing to commit to someone that steals your joy and who only makes you happy if you ignore all the other stuff? Are you conceding who you are so that they will love you? Your blind spot may leave you committed to something that compromises who you are and stops your personal growth.
There are many areas in which we have blind spots. I can’t seem to lose weight but maybe that is because I am sneaking in candy bars. I can’t pay off my bills because I cheat on my budget. I am not getting promoted because there is no opportunity or I am not putting enough effort into the job. I can’t find a job I like but I am not putting much effort into preparing myself for a career. I’m not growing spiritually but I’m also not making time to read my Bible or to pray or go to church.
I can’t…I don’t…I won’t…Those are killer words that might indicate you have a blind spot that is holding you back. Ask yourself what the truth is in your situation. Ask yourself if you want it to be better. Ask yourself if you are really ready to stop ignoring the things that are clear to others and make a change. Are you negotiating which truths you want to believe in to the point that you don’t know what you value or what truth means anymore?
You matter. You are valuable and worthy of success and good things in your life. You have the right to make decisions about your happiness, even if there may be some pain along the way. You have the right to reset your thermostat and greet the day with hope and promise. You have the right to set a new positive course for your life. Start by being honest and pulling back the curtain to let the light into your blind spot. Breathe in the truth and make the changes that align you with that truth.