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My Faith & Transformation Journey

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

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

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.

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

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

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A Psalm 25 Study for Personal Transformation

Facing our Behavior

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.

© maggiemarcum.com

“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

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

Blind Spots

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.

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

Blank Pages

There are days when I read the words and nothing seems to be there for me. I keep searching for some grand revelation, but there is no “ah ha” moment to be found. I try to take apart the phrases and find new meaning, but I can’t seem to find the inspiration I am seeking. And then, just when I think God is silent today, I turn the page and find that little passage that speaks to my emptiness.

Mustard Seed.

I am like an empty field waiting to have my soil turned over, a seed to germinate, and new growth to begin. Some days I need to keep watering the field and waiting to see what will happen. Those blank words are the seeds that fill my mind and heart. They are the words that prepare me for what lies ahead. Some days, the seeds just sit on the surface, waiting to be pushed deeper into the soil. And there are days when the soil is ready to absorb and suck in the nutrients that will spring forth new life.

Keep planting. Keep feeding. Keep preparing.

I have found that the more I take in, the better prepared I am when life twists me up. I am better prepared to face the unpredictability of life because the resources are growing inside me. I have a greater reservoir from which I can draw strength and courage when I need it. The good days outnumber the bad days because I have fed my faith with words of encouragement and love.

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds come and find shelter among its branches.” Luke 13: 18-19 New Living Translation

I pray that your faith today will be like a mustard seed growing into a tree that provides comfort for others. I pray that the words you read encourage you and motivate you to action. Keep planting and keep growing.

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

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.

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

Courage to Change

Living a purposeful life often requires us to make changes in our behaviors and attitudes. I can tell you from personal experience, that change is never easy. It takes courage. It takes willingness. It takes a first step. Maybe the adventure you are setting out on will change the lives of many people, or maybe it will just improve the circumstances around you. Regardless of the reason you have decided to begin to live a more purposeful life, you know it will require change. And it may require a degree of tenacity to make those committed changes in your life.

I have been drawn to The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) lately. Just as Psalm 25 was where I found forgiveness and grace, The Beatitudes is where I am finding courage to move forward with my dream. I want to live a life for God. I have never actually done that before and it is terrifying. I can’t begin to imagine the changes that God has planned for my life, but in these words I am reminded that he will bless me and I will find a joy I have never known before. That part excites me!

I have had this dream of helping other women to climb out of the dark life that is keeping them chained and unable to see the light of God’s purpose for them. I have wanted to reach my hand out and give them courage to change their circumstances. I have wanted to find a way for them to see their potential and to walk with them as they grow in faith and as their life circumstances improve. I have wanted to be God’s instrument and I have been afraid because I wasn’t sure I had changed enough yet. And I was, and probably still am, afraid that I would be laughed at and mocked and told that I wasn’t good enough.

Thankfully, I have a few good people in my life who have asked me the tough questions about dragging my feet. They are helping me to see the Holy Spirit working in my life and to “get over myself.” Purposeful living isn’t about us, it is all about God and how he will use us. Once we realize that and take that first step forward in obedience to his plan, the whole world will open up. This vision for my life that I have sat on—God knew it would take time. He let me sit in the dark just long enough for me to be ready to move forward. Baby steps forward. I have started and will see where it all goes.

How about you? Are you ready to take a first step toward purposeful living? Are you ready to start by saying: “I need to change a few things?” What is on your list of things to improve? Do you need to ask someone for help? Ask. Ask someone to walk the road from here to there with you. Pray that God will provide that person for you. Come out of the dark. I know it is scary but the light is so much warmer and brighter.

“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it. Be very glad! F. And for a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too.” Matthew 5:11-12 New Living Translation

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

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

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A Psalm 25 Study for Personal Transformation My Faith & Transformation Journey

Letting Go of Resentments with Mercy

Holding on to our resentments does less to the person we are angry with and more to hurt ourselves. Learning to release the person who offended us from our hate list may take real effort on our part, especially if they have been on the list for some time. Did you know that resentment is just another word for jealous? Did you know that mercy is the greatest gift you can offer another and yourself at the same time?

Offering mercy may take a deliberate effort on your part. It means offering forgiveness and meaning it. It means treating the other person with God’s love when your love isn’t there. It means being kind and treating the other person with understanding that we too are not perfect and we may have some responsibility for the situation. It means being compassionate when they hurt instead of laughing. And it does mean celebrating when good things come their way, even when we would like to think the good fortune should be ours. Mercy is sincere—it can’t be faked because above all, mercy means that we pray for all things God would have in their lives. We especially pray that they know the Lord and are transformed by his love and mercy. We ask that we too are transformed as we pray for them.

My daughter is one the greatest examples of a mercy-giver that I know. Even as a teenager she could find a way to forgive or overlook a person’s misdeeds toward her. She always seems to take the high road in relationships and give it one—or seven times seven— more chances. I have seen her rekindle relationships that I would never have gone back to and I have seen her grow more as she let go of her resentment. I have seen the freedom that comes from her mercy. She is the kid whose friends turned away from her when she wouldn’t go down the path they were heading, and still she managed to re-establish friendships with some of those people years later because she was willing to let the past be in the past. Like many young women, she has been hurt in relationships, and yet she has found a way to forgive and accept rich friendships on new terms. She has even shown her old mom mercy from time to time, understanding that I make mistakes and sometimes my problems have caused rather uncomfortable circumstances for us. She keeps moving forward and she inspires me to be all those things Jesus told us to be. She is one of the best examples I have of living a life in the image of Jesus.

As we ask for God’s mercy when we are in distress or have acted in a way that does not honor him, let us ask that he show us to whom we need to extend the same kind of mercy. We ask that he change our hearts and save us from carrying a burning coal that eats through our own heart. We ask for all things good for those we resent or envy and that we can be happy for their success. We ask to see them as God does, knowing he loves them. We ask that he inspire us to get on a path that takes us forward and frees us of the burden of disdain we carry.

Do you have a way you approach others with mercy? Do you have a success story of a time you gave or received mercy? I would love to hear your story. Please share it in the comments below.

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and in deep distress.” Psalm 25:16
© maggiemarcum.com