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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The Beatitudes: From Healing to Transformation

This morning I find myself asking: “What do you want me to do?” In my time of meditation I almost feel a crushing desire to be more, but I’m not sure what that looks like or how to get there. I have ideas. I know that I can’t get there without help. I know I can’t get there without dedication. I know I can’t get there without turning my will over and letting God direct my steps. I see a glimmer of his vision for my future and I realize that I have to make a plan and take the steps to get where I believe he is calling me. But how do I do that?

Just as I am sure that God led me to Psalm 25 for healing, I believe he is leading me to Matthew 5, specifically a study of The Beatitudes, to learn how to live a transformed life. These eight principals are complex guidelines given to us by Jesus on how to live our lives as people of character and purpose. I’m no theological scholar and my intent here is not to develop some new understanding of what Jesus meant. Rather, my goal is to gain a better understanding of what these principals mean for my life as his follower. Join me on my journey as I ask questions and hopefully motivate you to think about what Jesus wants from you at this point in your life.

I’m the first to admit that I wondered aimlessly through most of my life with no plan or direction. I was fortunate to have many doors open for me professionally but my private life was a mess. I had a bit of a hippy “go with the flow” attitude and was up for anything that looked like fun. That fun put in me in some situations that I wish I had been smart enough to avoid and might have avoided if I had a better plan. Nothing really inspired me except trying to avoid feeling pain. The only thing that really motivated me was to prove to others they were wrong about me and to paint a bright picture that I had it all together by living a lifestyle someone else told me I should. After I crashed and burned, I rose from the ashes ready to transform the person I was into the person God wanted. It is a slow ongoing process, but I am now willing to listen.

The Beatitudes are that for me. A time to sit at the feet of God made man and to listen to how he says I can be happy. The Sermon on the Mount—the complete teachings that day on the mountainside—are the words I need to inspire me. As we hear and pray on those words, I hope we will all be motivated in a new direction. I pray that at the end of this series, we will all feel that we are transformed by God’s grace.

Matthew 5 New International Version (NIV)

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn,     for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek,     for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful,     for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart,     for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers,     for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Life is Not a Hallmark Movie

Every year I get hooked on Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. I love the ones where the Christmas spirit changes a person’s heart and everyone lives happily ever after. Ok, I admit, I especially love the movies where the star says they will never love again because somewhere along the way their heart was broken. And yet, in a few brief days (TV hours) they meet the perfect person and find love again—and live happily ever after. Healing and moving forward happens quickly in these movies. Lives are fixed and tied up in a neat bow in record time.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a Hallmark movie. Healing our wounded hearts and souls usually requires more than a few nicely placed words of encouragement. For some of us, healing may take years of counseling and support from family and friends before we see a breakthrough. For others, full healing never really comes. For some of us it may be years after we were hurt that we are even willing to acknowledge our hurt. We hang on for dear life, put on a Sunday smile, and make believe that all is well. Before we can have a healthy relationship, we need to be healthy ourselves through that process we will better understand what we are looking for in a life-long relationship with another.

I think that we are all seeking purpose in our lives and most of us are hoping to share that purposeful life with another person. It doesn’t matter if we are young and seeking our first romance or trying to get over our first love. It doesn’t matter if we have lived long and divorced or lost a spouse to illness or an accident. It doesn’t matter if we have never had a true loving relationship and don’t know what that looks like. We as humans seek relationship with others and most of us are looking for that person who shares our passions and will support us in fulfilling our dreams.

So how do you have your Hallmark moment? I suggest you start by praying about what God wants for you today and in the future. Seek out a counselor, spiritual director, or life coach who can help you discern what that is for you. If there are hurts that need healing—seek healing first. Then build your life around your purpose. Be where like-minded people are likely to be. Volunteer where your gifts can be used and meet other people who are using their gifts in a similar way. Turn off the movie, get off the couch, and head out the door.

Will you find your life partner there? I don’t know. I can tell you that if you truly seek God’s call on your life and you put your energy into areas that support your life mission; you will find people with whom you can share your life. You see, it may not be about finding the perfect partner but about finding the best way to live your life and finding people who support you on that journey. And maybe, just maybe, you will cross paths with the person of your dreams and maybe, given time, you will find your Hallmark ending.

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy its food. Find your delight in the Lord. Then he will give you everything your heart really wants. Psalm 37:3-4

Make Me an Example

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.

In Need of Inspiration

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.

Blessings,
Maggie

Keeping the Faith

It can be hard to keep the faith and journey forward when life throws you a curve ball. I learned that I will soon be out of a job and am struggling to see God’s hand here. I know it is there, but when the sting is fresh, it is hard to believe life’s upsets are part of his plan. “Remain steadfast,” I tell myself when everything seems be unraveling before my eyes. “Persevere,” I see in my own writings. But: “how?” and “why?” and “what now?” cloud my thinking right now.

There is a verse in Proverbs 16:9 that says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” This goes with the old Yiddish saying: “Man plans and God laughs.” I was reminded by someone that God saw this coming even though I did not. It would be easy for me to become frantic about my finances and my grandiose plans for the coming months, but the truth is—those were my plans. There was a part of me that realized that I was riding on the edge again with some grand schemes I thought I could circumvent the process just a little to get what I want.

I…me…want…

You see, this is what happens when you step on the God road forward. The road may have bumps in it. You may steer clear to avoid them only to land in the ditch. Once back on the path, the road may smooth out for a while, until the next pothole throws you out of alignment. Correction follows correction. Gripping hard to the steering wheel of self will is only likely to send you flying in the wrong direction. Loosening the grip and gradually steering down the road of change is more likely to get you where you need to be. Hold firm instead to God’s promises and live to see the solutions unfold.

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” Proverbs 16:33

These bumps today lead me back to where I can trust that God will provide for all my needs. Jesus tells us not to “worry about everyday life” and to be content that we have enough to cover our basic needs. There is nothing to be gained from worrying about tomorrow. If I allow those thoughts to dominate my thinking, I will most likely derail my progress by thinking that all has been lost. I would much rather stay hopeful and believe that all these pieces fit together for my good, as he would have it.

I am learning that I have to adjust my plans to better align with God’s plans. I have learned not to doubt that there is purpose in these bumps. If I can remain steadfast, I can also get through to the other side of pain and discomfort much faster. God has hit me with the two-by-four again and has closed the door. I prayed and he answered. I dug my heels in when he said: “go” and now I am gone! It will all be good. I will grow. I will be stronger. And I will be right where God wants me to be. Where I have needed to be all along.

How do you deal with life’s curve balls? How do you keep moving forward when your plans have been upset? I would love you hear what scriptures help you keep on the path when life knocked you off.

What Day this Day?

Sunrise is outside my window.
People are rushing in the cold air,
Into their cars or off to the bus.
I watch from my warm perch.

The day is firmly upon us.
Work and school are calling us to them,
Forcing us into this new day now.
And still I sit: watching.

Streams of “must do” thoughts fill my head.
Coffee in one hand, pen in the other,
I contemplate actions for today.
Knowing I can’t just watch.

I turn now from my window perch.
I’m just like the leaves flowing downstream,
following a path set before me.
From watcher to doer.

What path this morning of new days?
What achievements for this day of days?
What simple steps do I take forward?
The answers lie outside.

Into the world we throw ourselves.
We need not go it alone or blind.
Draw from the stream of his words and life.
Set the day on his path.

This day before the sunset comes.
I pray I saw more clearly God’s path,
for with his love and grace I moved on.
This day of days is his.

© maggiemarcum.com