Caring for One Another

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). Continue reading

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Searching for Meaning

I spent a good portion of my life searching for meaning and understanding about my life and the world in which I live. I tried everything—sex, drugs, rock & roll, with a trip into the cultic world of Scientology. I would like to think I was a ‘free spirit’ but in reality, I was simply lost. I grew up feeling invisible and kept hoping I would be noticed. Only problem with that kind of search is that I was noticed by all the wrong people in all the wrong ways.

In the business world I searched for some measure of success. Initially I just wanted a job to pay for my car and to get out of my parent’s house. I wanted to find some credibility after my California years of living free—except for the trapped in Scientology part! I went to work where I was told to work and I made a decent living, met a husband, and a few lovers along the way. Sex, drinking, and party party became the new mantra. Continue reading

Woman at the Well

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of the Samarian woman who encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well. It is one of a handful of stories that I relate to my transformation story. When I read this story, it gave me hope that I too could turn my life around, find forgiveness, and leave old patterns of living behind me. My hope began when I read how Jesus spoke to a woman that belonged to a group of people that Jews would not normally speak with. In fact, most people avoided Samaria because they thought themselves better than the people living there. Yet, Jesus deliberately went to Samaria and sought out a woman with whom to share his love and forgiveness. Jesus had a way of stepping into the dirty waters to bring the lost into fresh clear waters. Jesus called out her sin and offered her new living water to fill the empty spot in her life that caused her to keep seeking out something that was ultimately detrimental to her. Not only was this woman’s life changed but she carried back the story of her transformation so that others would find new life as well.

From a personal perspective I related to this woman because of my own lifestyle. Having been through multiple relationships and marriages as I tried to find that ‘real love,’ I came to understand that with the love of Jesus and the Father, I could finally stop looking. I could let go of a past that was influencing my future and damaging my heart and soul.  Above all things in sharing my transformation story, I want other women (and men) to realize that they will never find the perfect love and joy they want by jumping from one bed to another. That momentary high is just that—fleeting and momentary. I needed a love that was lasting and life changing. Once I was able to accept God’s love and to see myself as he does, I was able to accept that my life has value and to begin to live and look for the best in my life.

I sat with my transformation story for a long time. I was still embarrassed by my failures and lifestyle choices. I worried about what others would think if they knew how I lived and how long I lived like I did. I simply wanted to get on with my life and hide the past. I think we would all like to forget the pasts we have left behind and simply keep moving forward. I think God wants us to realize a new birth in his forgiveness; however, like the woman at the well he wants us to share the joy of our new freedom. He wants us to share his story of new water poured into our lives. He wants us to go out and spread the word, telling who we were and who we are today.

Life-giving transformation is a gift and it is God’s story, not my story. I can share the joy I have in not living as I once did and I can share the source of the new life without shame. Our testimonies are the revelation that God is still working with us, Jesus is still walking with us, and the Holy Spirit is still guiding our steps—if we are willing to step into clearer waters. Elmer Towns writes that when Jesus offered the woman at the well “living water” we should see this water as: “1) producing growth, 2) cleansing, 3) refreshing, but Jesus was using this expression to show her how to find 4) satisfactions in life.” [i] As I celebrate what God has done in my life, I want to be like the woman at the well and rush out and tell others the Good News—that you too can let go of past behaviors and embrace a new way of living. You too can have a story of transformation to share and live a more satisfying life.

Do you have a message of transformation too? Have you seen your life in the stories about Jesus’ walk on earth? Have you been changed in such a dramatic way that you just have to run and tell someone? Are you willing to step into muddy waters and share your transformation story so that someone else might embrace the change Jesus is offering for their lives? Are you willing to deliberately go and talk to someone from a group that you would normally avoid and share God’s forgiving grace with them? Start making a list of people and places where you could share your story and them plan how to open the door to new life for them. I know of no greater gift that we can give to another than to share our Jesus story.

 

[i] Towns, E., (2002). The Gospel of Joh: Believe and Live, AMG Publishers: Chattanooga, TN

Reinventing Ourselves

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.

maggiemarcum.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?

Obedience

In a coaching session today I was asked how it felt to be obedient to God’s will and call on my life. I had to stop and think about what it felt like when I was calling the shots and making believe that God supported my decisions. I can tell you that today feels a whole lot better than back then.

The Psalmist wrote “When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your principals. Please don’t give up on me!” (Psalm 119:7-8 NLT)

I had to come to a point of willingness to learn how God wants us to live and then accept that his plan is so much better than my plan. My plan had me jumping from one relationship to another. My plan had me spending money I didn’t have to have what I didn’t need. My plan had me making up the rules as I went to justify a destructive, or at least unproductive, behavior.

I have redesigned my value system to one that more closely aligns with the one that Jesus spelled out for us. I say ‘more closely’ because I am still working to transform my life. I am still seeking a better understanding of the words I read and how to apply them to the way I live. Today I find my wisdom in the Bible and I lean on people who are examples of a God-driven life for inspiration. Today I am willing to obey—or to hear—what God has said is a better way. It is the choice I make every day when tempted to go my own way. I am not perfect and there are days I think I have wondered far off the path. The difference today is I am willing to seek a way back. I am willing to ask for forgiveness and I am willing to make changes. And more importantly, he never gives up on me!!

So how does it feel to be obedient? GREAT! FREE! BLESSED! ALIVE!

It is an exciting life to seek the face of God and to live in his will. How about you—are you willing to find a new joy in your life by setting aside your self will and accepting God’s will?

Just because it looks good…doesn’t mean it is…

There are a lot of things in this world that look like they would be good for us. There are things that may seem to work for others and bring them contentment that entice us to look deeper. There are a lot of different pathways that tout spiritual and self-fulfillment that take us away from a personal relationship with God rather than enriching our relationship with him. There are new gimmicks everyday with promises of quick and lasting change, that fall short of bringing positive personal transformation. We listen to product and celebrity endorsements to see what works for someone else in hopes that it might work for us too. We are a society that looks for the easier, softer, and quicker way to feel better about ourselves.

Transformation is hard work. It takes long-term investment and commitment. It is painful and when done right, will bring a lifelong change toward purposeful living.

I want my life to have purpose. I want that purpose to be for the good of others. I want my life to be an example of how my faith and trust in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inspired me to transform my behaviors and lifestyle from a life focused on me to one focused on him and on others. I want to be the vessel through which others naturally see something different and desire that in their lives too.

So where has this God believing thing gotten me? First and foremost it got me out of thinking about my needs first. It healed my acting out over sexual abuse. It healed my ties to a “religion” or spiritual life in Scientology that I was paying to experience. It healed the wounds of an abortion and the failed dreams of a perfect marriage. It healed the anger and resentment of my upbringing and a family that thinks the worst of me. It gave me a reason to live. Nothing else I tried did all this! I am done looking for a better faster way. I want a forever change that I don’t have to sell or convince others of—one that people see and want for themselves as well.

This Jesus believing thing changed my life and gave me self-respect and a thirst to know him more and an excitement for a future I never dreamed was possible.

What is holding you back today from asking Jesus into your life? What scientific or spiritual practice do you have that is a wall between seeing who God is and how Jesus loves you? What brokenness do you need to give to him to take so that you can get on with your life? Who can you reach out to today for help on your journey? How can you become a better example of Jesus living in your life that others will want what you have?

Message me here if that will help. Together we can find the path forward.

“And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ.” (Paul’s words to believers in Philippi while he was imprisoned for his beliefs, Philippians 1:14)
Blessings,

Maggie