From Unsettled to Settled

I have heard it said that the way a person decorates their home is a reflection of the things that are most important to them. For the past year my walls have been bare except for some sports memorabilia and a few crosses hung in my office area. The only thing I hung in my bedroom was a gift from a friend who lives on the other side of the world. Our furnishings too have been sparse. My home has been a true reflection of the empty slate of my life. It is a reflection of the somewhat aimlessness state of my being as I have prayed and sought God’s desires for my life in these post-retirement years.

This time last year I was homeless. I had packed up the belongings I felt I needed or those few things that I wanted to hold onto out of sentiment. I had given family, friends and neighbors who were in the process of resettling some of the things they needed for their homes. I threw away gobs of unnecessary clutter. And I gave everything else to charity. And then I packed my bag and left for the sunny skies of California to contemplate my future. I had no idea if I would return home to Virginia and even if I did, I wasn’t sure I would find a place to live that I could afford. It was unsettling to have no place to call home and no idea what I was going to do with my life. Continue reading

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Faith Search

I search for you,

In the rooms  I enter,

In the quiet of my fear;

I look for you.

Are you really there?

Do you see me?

Do you really love me?

Is it me, or is it you?

I am weak.

I am unsure.

I am alone.

And yet, I feel you near.

Fill my heart.

Fill my mind.

Change my heart.

Change my life.

Out of the shadows I come,

Into your light I run

Into your presence I sit

Here you are real

Here I believe.

Here I thirst.

In the light I find hope.

In this corner I grow.

Forever changing

Forever healing

Forever searching

Forever Finding You

Beyond our Past

It is easy to get stuck in the past and to carry the heavy load of our hurts, our failures, and our struggles with us into the new day. They can become like old familiar friends that, in our minds, define who we are and how we live. We can even become dependent on these burdens we carry to see us through. Some become our addictions and our excuses for not moving forward. I can’t lose weight. Drinking makes me feel better. You don’t know what happened to me. No one understands what I have been through and why my life is so hard.

Have you said those things? Are these the things that are keeping you from experiencing joy today? Are you afraid of what your life might look like if you don’t’ have those friends with you anymore?

Did you know that you are God’s masterpiece? I used to scoff at that notion given my lifestyle. But Paul said that all of us screw up at some point in our lives and God still wants us in his life and he wants to give us a fresh start that will allow us to live lives of purposes. (Ephesians 2: 1-10) Even as God is calling us to walk with him and to change; we must be seeking him to escape from our past (Laminations 3). He is there, waiting for us to build a life-long relationship with him, one in which we will receive his gift of love and forgiveness and new empowerment to change. We can find our true selves in God’s love.

I do believe that a relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit is the “silver bullet” to healing. I know from personal experience that I needed the help of a gifted treatment program and gifted counselors to make the breakthroughs in my transformation. I also know that it was not until I was willing to see God smack dab in the middle of my life, that I found healing. I know that he wants a renewed life for me to live. I know that he has plans for my life. I know that I have purpose in sharing what he has done in my life. I know that I am no longer alone or abandoned—my relationship with Jesus brings me a sense of belonging and wholeness I never found in any man or woman.

What is keeping you stuck where you are today? What is keeping you from feeling joy? What first step can you take today that will bring you out of your pain and start you on a path of purpose? What is keeping you from saying, “yes” to freedom and new life? What is stopping you from first asking God to walk with you?

“You turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.” Psalm 30 New Living Translation

Painting by: https://donnalynyates.wordpress.com/

Second Chances

I believe in a God of second chances because I have seen that in my own life. I know forgiveness through first-hand experience. I know the freedom that comes from confessing my negative and harmful behavior. I know what it is to live a new life every day because of that forgiveness and a second chance to do it better the next time. My spiritual journey and growth are constant factors in my life as I continue to pray about ways to improve my behavior and actions. Some days are better than others, but when I mess up, I know where to go and I know I can start over.

Jesus gave us a prayer to pray (Matthew 6:9-13) and as part of that we pray: “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us (NLT). The Message version translates the prayer to: “Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.” I like this version because it reminds me that just as I am forgiven through Jesus, I must forgive those around me. This commandment isn’t something to take lightly and in some cases it may be very difficult for us to do. But with forgiveness comes freedom to move forward in our lives and a first step toward breaking the ties to the hurt and pain someone may have inflicted on us.

It took me a while to forgive my father for his behavior toward my mother. I had to come to understand that in his time there was no one to teach him that it was wrong. I had to forgive him for ignoring me and putting me in a position to seek out another male figure that would later abuse me. I had to find a way to let God deal with the person who hurt me and to stop letting them influence my behavior many years later. I have forgiven my mother for not being who I wish she was and accepting the wonderful things she passed on to me—including how, as a Christian, to forgive those closest to us. I have had to learn how to forgive those who have hurt my daughter and allow her to forgive them and show me how to forgive as well. That one is probably the hardest but I am thankful to see her model a forgiving behavior passed on from her grandmother.

With forgiveness comes a requirement for change. If we are inspired by the words of Jesus to seek forgiveness and to forgive others, then we must also be willing to make changes in our lives that will keep us from making the same mistakes. The Message version says: “keep us safe from ourselves and from the Devil” (Matthew 6:9-13). It may mean that we remove ourselves from people who are not good for us or who might influence negative behavior in ourselves. It may mean holding others accountable for the way they treat us and setting appropriate boundaries. It may mean that we who forgive also mentor and pray for those who hurt us when they seek our forgiveness. And when we see change in another, then we must be willing to give them a second chance at living a new life. We must release them from the bond of shame and allow them to become the new person Christ has made. If we only remember the fault and don’t see the transformation, we end up carrying a burden that no longer exists and we hold back those forgiven and transformed.

Forgiveness and second chances are probably two of the hardest things for us Christians to live out in our lives. We want forgiveness for ourselves and we see it in our lives, but we refuse it to those closest to us. When we refuse to see that God has created something new in the forgiven, we miss the blessing of Jesus lived out on earth. Who are you holding a grudge against that you have not forgiven? Who do you say you have forgiven but have not reconciled with? Who do you know needs your forgiveness and your help in building a new life forward? How can you model what Jesus told us to do for another? Who needs you to give them a second chance?

A New Year of Giving

Christmas Day is behind us but the spirit doesn’t need to be gone. After days of watching sappy Christmas movies it hit me–2015 needs to be a year of giving. What would your town or your neighborhood be like if you kept giving long after the Christmas decorations came down? What would your life be like if you kept giving to the less fortunate, feeding the poor, and meeting with the lonely? What if you shared the love and joy Christ came to spread all year long? Can you begin to imagine how our world would change if we deliberately gave of ourselves all year and not just for a few weeks in December?

Santa may not be the real thing but who he represents sure is. The origin of Santa is found in the Greek Bishop Nicholas who devoted his life to the Christ-inspired model of giving to the needy as well as poor children. Jesus said we should love one another (John 13:34-35) and one of the ways to love one another is in the way we give to one another. Jesus said when we do these things it is as if we have done it for him (Matthew 25: 35-40). If we can remember to live out our lives inspired by the example of St. Nichols and in obedience to Jesus, we could really make a difference next year.

What changes can you make in your lifestyle that would allow you to be more giving? Do you have gifts or talents you can use to help someone out? Does someone you know need help fixing up their home? Can you bring the paint or plumbing tools to make their house feel more like a home? Could someone you know use a warm meal to help them get through the month? Is there a single parent who would love to have someone come alongside them in genuine friendship–including them in your family outings? Is there a young family that needs a date night? Can you offer them a dinner out and to watch the children? These are simple tangible ways in which you can begin giving to the people close to you.

What other ways can we give of ourselves in our community? I’m interested in hearing ways you are already participating in your community. Is your church doing something that other churches could replicate? Do you have a vision or dream that God gave you that you haven’t put into action yet? Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below and I will put together a list in a post soon.

In the meantime, I pray that in the year ahead you will be inspired by the spirit of Christmas and motivated into action that will transform the lives of others near you as well as change your life to one of Christ-like compassion.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35New Living Translation (NLT)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

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