Mulling It Over - Part 2

It was a good morning to stay inside. The temperature hovered at 32 degrees Fahrenheit making the moisture that fell turn everything into something similar to a glazed doughnut without the sweet taste. Even now, as the temps have risen to a balmy 34 degrees, the ice still lingers, stubbornly clinging to branches, wires, driveways, cars and buildings.

Ice on back door
Ice on branches
Ice on plant hanger

I am looking at a portion of scripture that I introduced last week in the New Testament book of 2 Peter. Peter, one of the original twelve disciples, authored 1st and 2nd Peter. Here is the passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

Last week we looked at verses 1 and 2. You can see that post here. This week we will dissect verse 3. If you have not been a participant in my Mulling It Over series before, let me briefly explain how this works. I love to let the Bible speak for itself. The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to understand scripture, so what I am doing is sharing with you what I have learned in my study of certain scriptures. I think is is wonderful to study the Bible in different ways, so I would strongly encourage you to do further research and study on various passages, but for this particular study we will just chew on what it says and let the Bible do the talking.

On to verse 3:

...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
— 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

…seeing that His divine power…

The fact that it is divine power, means that it is power of God, not men or machines or whatever you want to use to fill in the blank. This power is from God. It is His to give and His to withhold. Here are a few other verses that talk about His divine power.

With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding.
— Job 12:13 (NASB)
I will instruct you in the power of God; What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
— Job 27:11 (NASB)
O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
— Psalm 68:35 (NASB)
Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
— Daniel 2:20 (NASB)

…has granted to us…

I looked up the word granted in Webster’s Online Dictionary. There are two specific definitions that I feel define the way the word is used in this sentence. The first says, “…to permit as a right, privilege or favor.” God has given us rights. He has privileged us and he has given us favor. It may not always seems like it, but it is true.

The second definition says, “…to bestow or transfer formally; to give the possession or title of by a deed.” God, in His great generosity gives us things. Just as a good father loves to give his children gifts, so too, our Heavenly Father derives great pleasure from giving His spiritual children gifts.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
— Matthew 7:11 (NASB)
Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:8 (NASB)
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
— Genesis 13:17 (NASB)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
— Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

So what, exactly, is it that God granted to us?

…everything pertaining to life and godliness…

The word everything is pretty all encompassing. We could all list things that we have wanted that God didn’t necessarily give us, so why does it say everything. The key phrase here is pertaining to. Everything pertaining to life and godliness. We all might think, now wait a minute, there are plenty of things pertaining to life that I haven’t been given. For example, a woman who desires to have a child, but is unable or someone looking for a life partner, but not able to find the right one. What about the man or woman who is out of a job and can’t find work, or people in other countries who live in fear for their lives and the lives of their children? Isn’t the ability to find love, have a family and have a secure, safe place to live all part of life?

How many of you remember the song, sung by Lynn Anderson, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden? Here’s a refresher if you have the time to listen.

The first few lines go:

“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometime.”

It might sound rather trite, especially if you are going through a hard time, but there is great truth there. God didn’t promise us that we would have everything we want, or even everything we need. The power He has granted to us is the ability to live life, regardless of what difficulties come along.

Notice that the verse says everything pertaining to life and godliness. There seems to be a connection here which cannot be ignored. Godliness goes hand in hand with living life. We don’t become godly after life is over, we become godly as we live life. As many of you have already experienced becoming godly often happens during the most difficult portions of life, not during the rose garden moments, but during the monsoon moments. It is during these monsoon moments that God grants us what we need to keep living life, or the grace to give up.

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Pixabay

There is nothing wrong with giving up, particularly if you have struggled and struggled. There are times that the giving up is more a matter of our pride than it is the desire to get what we want. We don’t want to look weak, or stupid, or unable to cope. We don’t want to ask for help or admit that this is definitely not what we thought life would look like. But it is okay! Come to terms with it, you are weak, sometimes your decisions are stupid and frankly I have had many days where I just could’t cope, but God has always been there through it all and that brings me to the last portion of this verse.

…through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.

That divine power that grants to us everything to live this journey we call life and make us godly is only obtainable through the true knowledge of Him. In other words, it is through our acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we are able to live life and be godly. We can’t do this on our own and that is precisely the point.

God called us, each one of us, by His own glory and excellence, which was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the crowing glory of the Father and Jesus is the perfect man, a man of true excellence. When we come to know Him by our faith in His virgin birth, life, death and resurrection, we are given the ability to live this life, no matter what it throws at us. Our loss is an opportunity for gaining more of Him. Our weakness is an opportunity for being infused with His strength. Our stupidity is an opportunity for learning more of Him and growing in His wisdom. Our deepest, unmet desire is an opportunity for becoming intimate with a Holy, loving god.

I hope this verse has given you hope. You are not living this life alone. He is with you, granting you the ability to live life, no matter what storm you are going through. Hang on!









Mulling It Over - Part 1

I wanted to get back to my Mulling It Over series, where I look at a portion of scripture, taking it apart in order to more deeply understand and think about God’s word. When we dig deeper into God’s word we learn new things. It doesn’t matter how many times we have read through the Bible. The Holy Spirit is capable of teaching us something new over and over. Searching through the scripture is often like going on a treasure hunt. My goal with this series is to discover some of the wonderful nuggets that God wants to teach us.

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Pixabay

Beginning this month, I want to take a look at the book of 2 Peter in the New Testament, specifically verses 1 - 11. Both 1st and 2nd Peter were written by Peter, one of the original 12 apostles. If you know anything about Peter, you know that he could be rather bull headed, overly enthusiastic and thick, but Peter was the one to which Jesus posed statements such as,

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
— Matthew 16:17 & 18 (NASB)

Scofield’s reference notes from 1917, makes clear Jesus was not intending to build the church on Peter, but on Himself. Jesus’ statement to Peter was a confirmation of the faith he had; a faith that is necessary for all believers to have. The fact that Peter was privy to this information reveals the depth of trust and love Jesus had for this man.

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Pixabay

As a shepherd of the flock, Peter had the responsibility to teach and instruct the members of the early church. In his first letter he encourages the church through the difficulties of persecution, which Christians were facing at the time from Nero. Many followers of Christ were being used as torches, if you get my meaning. Peter speaks of hope and the grace of God.

In his second letter, Peter addresses the presence of false teachers and wrong doers within the church and suggests the need for growth in the faith and watchfulness for Christ’s return.

This week, I just want to introduce the passage and then look at the introductory verses.

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Take it apart:

Verse 1 -

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

The author identifies himself by giving his name and then by giving his credentials. He is both a bond-servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. These two descriptions say much about the man Peter.

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I have looked at this idea of being a bond-servant on an earlier occasion, but lets review. Another word for bond-servant is slave. Typically, a bond-servant is one who works for someone else without wages. Basically a bond-servant is owned by their master. Why would a person want to identify themselves with this moniker? The Apostle Paul also used the term bond-servant to refer to himself. The common denominator for these two is the person of Jesus Christ. They had committed their lives to Him in such a way that they identified themselves as being His slaves. They were sold out to the person of Jesus and knew their lives were no longer their own.

Peter also identifies himself as an apostle. One way to define the word apostle is to list other words that have the same idea. Words like, advocate, backer, proponent, promoter, supporter and herald, all are synonymous with apostle. Peter was one of the original 12 men who followed Jesus and lived with him during his three years of earthly ministry. This fact gives Peter a huge amount of credibility to speak about Jesus’ message to the early church and to us today.

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…to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…

This letter is written specifically to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Many people today who are not proponent’s of the Bible claim that it is no longer relevant in our world today. They claim it is outdated, yet Peter, over 2000 years ago wrote his letter to those who were of the same faith as him. In other words, his letter is as real and living to us today as it was to the early church, for the very reason that we share a common faith in Jesus Christ.

…by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

This confirms that same faith came about by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our faith in Him is secure because of what He did and who He was. Jesus is God and his life on this earth, was not to preach a social gospel. The gospel that Christ preached was not salvation from the hardships of life, but salvation from ramifications of sin. It is His death on a cross and his rising from the dead that enables us to place our faith in Him.

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Verse 2 -

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t long for grace and peace. We desire others give us grace when we are having a hard time. We desire peace from all the fears and anxieties that plague us on a daily basis. The author states that these will be multiplied to the readers in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. Knowledge of God and Jesus are essential to knowing peace and grace. This is not a head knowledge that nods absently when asked the question, “Do you know Jesus?” This knowledge is a personal, burning knowledge that can only be obtained when we call Him Lord.

The idea of Lordship takes us back to the term bond-servant. Have you chosen Jesus as your Lord? Are you sold out to Him? Do you call Him master?

Next week we will delve into verse 3. If you have any thoughts on this passage or these first two verse, I love to have your feedback. Just leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend.












Realistically Setting Goals

This is the final installment in my series on New Year, New Mind. I’ve been discussing how our thoughts can easily derail our efforts to form habits that will make us healthier people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Last week I looked at a few ways to stop our train wreck mentalities and this week, I wanted to close with a look at realistically setting goals.

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Baby Steps

The best way to start when setting goals is by starting with small steps. Rather than starting large and working your way back, start small and work your way up.

For example, if you want to get organized, but don’t know where to start, decide what your first priority is. If you need to work on meal planning, start by having a plan for at least three meals a week. Rather than being overwhelmed with a whole week, just plan a few and write them down. If you and your spouse both work and can afford the service, there are a number of food services now available that deliver all the ingredients and directions for meal prep to your door for as many meals a week as you want. My daughter and her husband use Blue Apron and have three meals a week delivered. All they have to do is open the box, take out the ingredients and follow the directions. There are lots of options available.

Perhaps you want to improve your health by exercising, and eating better. Instead of going cold turkey off all your favorite treats, start with a few small changes. Drinking more water, adding a veggie at lunch or a fruit at breakfast, eating one less meal out a week, or measuring out the potato chips so you only get one serving are all good baby steps to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to invest the time or money in a gym membership there are plenty of videos on youtube.com . You can find pretty much anything to suit your lifestyle from short 20 minute walking videos to longer cardio to yoga and stretching.

Starting small allows you to see success quickly and will keep you from getting discouraged that you aren’t seeing results right away. Each step you take towards achieving a goal, is a step in the right direction, even if it is only a baby step.

Get Organized

This could be a problem, if one of your goals is to get organized. Ha, ha. I personally struggle with organization, not because I am incapable of being organized, but because I allow life to overwhelm me. Busyness, and fatigue have put a dent in my organizational capabilities. However, I know that being more organized will help with the busyness and chaos of life. Over the course of time I have come to see the following habits help life run more smoothly.

Meal plan. Planning out a weeks worth of meals help when you are grocery shopping, and when you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I used to do this more frequently when my girls were young and keep trying to get back to it. It saves money, time and your sanity when life gets busy. Meal planning is also helpful, when you are trying to lose weight.

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Get up earlier. I know this is very hard for some people. I am a morning person and have the most energy before lunch. My hubby on the other hand could well be diagnosed with morning sickness. He abhors morning. Getting up earlier, gives you more time to get exercise, read your Bible, meditate and just get ready for the day ahead. This is especially important when you work and you have to get lunches made and help others get their days started as well. Start small, taking a baby step in that direction by getting up 15 minutes earlier. Gradually you might be able to work up to a half hour or more.

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Invest in a good planner. I am a geek, so I love being able to get a new planner every year. If you get one with lots of spaces, you can use it for many purposes. You can put your meal planning in there, your appointments, work schedule and so on. A planner is a great way to keep you organized, the trick is to actually write things down in it. Ha, ha. I speak from experience!

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Getting organized in the normal routines of life and finishing little projects you’ve started is an important first step toward realizing larger goals. If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?
— Joyce Meyer

Have a Plan

I have found the thing that helps me most in achieving my goals is to have some sort of a plan. It doesn’t have to be written in stone and signed in blood, because, let’s face it, real life often interferes with our plans. A plan that has some amount of flex to it is probably the best way to approach goal setting that will succeed.

For instance, when I want to lose weight, I come up with a plan. I decide on a way to keep track of my calories, because i have found calorie counting the best thing for me. It holds me accountable and lets me see my progress. I download a fitness app on my phone. I use a combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I also try to do more meal planning. As I said earlier, meal planning makes it easier to keep to a daily calorie goal.

Having a plan for any area of goal setting will help you succeed. Whether you make a daily plan, like keeping a list of things to do, or a weekly plan such as exercising three times or a monthly plan like getting rid of 10 items I no longer use, planning will produce results much more readily than no plan at all.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you develop a plan:

What do I want to accomplish?

When do I want to accomplish this by?

How am I going to accomplish this?

What sort of resources do I need to invest in to accomplish this goal?

How will I handle failure?

That question leads me to my last point.

Handle Failure Positively

Failing at anything is hard. We live in a society that condemns failure and honors success. Obviously, success is the goal. We want to be successful at whatever goals we have, but the truth is that failure is inevitable. If your goal is to lose weight, you will fall off the wagon. You’ll have a bad day and give in to those cravings for ice cream. When your goal is to declutter because you have been binge watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you will end up at the mall scouring the sale racks at your favorite store, because things are marked down to less than five dollars. Maybe your goal is to be more patient with your family. Be assured they will push all your buttons before the day is over. This is real life.

One of my faithful subscribers said it best:

...instead of letting a day, or even a couple weeks, of a blown resolution or new effort derail us or cause us to give up completely, why not get up and get started again. Keep moving forward.
— Karen - SGM subscriber

We all need to hear things like this and this leads me to several thoughts about failure.

Failure thrives on Fear

Fear is perhaps one of the biggest factors in keeping us from getting back up and starting over when we have failed.

“I can’t do it. If I try, I’ll only fail again.”

Sound familiar? Stop being afraid. Failure is not your master! Many who have gone before us recognized this fact.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
— Henry Ford
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Chruchill
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
— Thomas A. Edison
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
— Johnny Cash

I could go on with amazing quotes from amazing people who went toe to toe with failure. Reading these encouraged my heart and I hope they do for you to. Failure is but a stepping stone to achieving the goals we have set. Start believing that.

Failure abhors Friendship

Have you ever noticed when we fail, we want to be alone in our misery and throw ourselves a little pity party? Surrounding ourselves with good friends can turn failure into fuel. As I stated early, I have several subscribers that often comment on my posts, sharing their enthusiasm for fashion or their struggles as they walk the road of life and faith. This means so much to me and gives me fuel to keep going, to keep trying, even when I fail.

You don’t have to have a boat load of friends to be fueled by your failure. One good friend, or your spouse can be the one to reach down when you have fallen to help you back up. If your support system is limited go to Jesus. I have certain scriptures I return to again and again, like old friends, when I need encouragement or help getting back up.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
— Romans 8:1 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
— Job 23:10 (NASB)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

I hope this series on changing our thoughts has been helpful to you. The things I have written about in this series are just my opinions. I am not a licensed counselor, just a woman who has dealt with the failure mind set in my own life. I write as much to myself as to you, so I hope this was helpful.

Have a wonderful weekend and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

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It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

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I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

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2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

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So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

Pixabay

Pixabay

Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

Just Stop It!

The past two weeks I started looking at how our thoughts have an affect on what we do or don’t do. I wanted to specifically examine this connection since the beginning of a new year is typically when we are trying to get back into shape, form new habits and reset ourselves to do and be better people. I have always felt that it is easy to start something new, but to keep at it is where the difficulty lies. To me it seems that our minds need rebooting as well as our bodies, so that we think differently about the habits and changes we are trying to adapt to.

Last week I looked specifically at three mentalities that most often prevent us from continuing a good thing. I call them Train Wreck Mentalities due to the fact that these mindsets often derail us from embracing a total life change. Being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring go a long way in causing us to crash and burn, rather than continue and thrive.

This week I want to give you two little words, but before I do, please watch the following video.

You heard the man. Stop it!

I hope that brought a smile to your face. Let me just say, this is not meant as an insult to people who struggle with mental illness. We know those things are a reality. Anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, are all very real and most often have to be managed with counseling and medication. There are many of us however, who simply don’t think right and that is where our problems lie.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

This verse actually has to do with a ruler having you to dinner, but then begrudging every bite of food and every drink you take. He is a selfish person, only thinking about the cost of the soiree he is throwing and completely unable to enjoy it. The ruler says to eat and drink, but he doesn’t really mean it.

We are often the same way. We make grand proclamations.

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

“I’m going to exercise 5 days a week.”

“I’m going to work on cleaning out clutter every day.”

“I’m going to become a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

“i’m going to floss my teeth every night before bed.”

“I’m going to eat healthier.”

Pixabay

Pixabay

We make these proclamations, never really considering how much work and effort it will take to succeed. In reality, we can not succeed if our hearts, like that ruler’s, is not really into it. Here in lies the problem. Our minds can create all sorts of ways to succeed. We can make lists and draw up diagrams of how we are going to get it done, but if our hearts do not agree with our minds, success is going to be long in coming. In fact, if you are anything like me, you will just give up on certain things all together.

So, how exactly do we get our hearts to agree with our heads? The first step is to combat the train wreck mentality. In other words, just stop it!

Let’s first look at train wreck #1 - being self absorbed.

Stop it!

Wow. Wasn’t that simple?

Train wreck #2 - demanding our rights.

Stop it!

Whoo, hoo! See how easy it is.

Train wreck #3 - don’t care.

Stop it! Start caring.

Obviously, if things were really that easy we would all be doing much better and I wouldn’t be writing this post. The struggle is real folks and I am in there with you.

Next week I am going to delve into ways to stop the train wreck mentality, but for now, I want you to burn those two words on your brain…STOP IT.

When you want to give up the good habit your are trying to start; when you want to eat that second bowl of ice cream; when you want to yell at your kids or husband; when you want to bring home another hand bag, pair of shoes or sweater that you don’t need or you don’t really love, then think about those two little words.

Stop it.

Run them over and over in your mind and see if it helps you to make a better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your experiences and wisdom in the comments. I appreciate it.






When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck

Have you given any thought to your thoughts this past week? In last week’s introductory post, New Year, New Mind, I asked you to spend this past week thinking about what you think about. Most often it is our thoughts that sabotage our efforts to make our lives better, whether it be eating better, exercising more, getting rid of clutter, making new habits or just being more thankful or joyful.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often look just like this train wreck.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Just how that train got where it got, from where it was coming from, is a mystery, but something definitely went wrong! That is just how our thoughts work. One minute we are fine. We are motivated, energized and raring to go conquer the world. The next moment we are a sobbing, angry, anxious train wreck. This week I would like to look at several areas of train wreck mentality.

Train Wreck #1 - Being Self Absorbed

We are all guilty of being self absorbed. Who hasn’t felt selfish, possessive, jealous or needy? Unfortunately, the train wreck of self absorption is reaching epidemic proportions. Let me break it down:

I’m too - These two little words lead to all sorts of inner focused thinking. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. i’m too tall. I’m too short. I’m too ugly. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too dumb. I’m too tired.

In addition to the I’m too problem, there is the parallel Not Enough dilemma.

Not Enough - Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not loving enough. Not slim enough. Not organized enough. Not talkative enough. Not brave enough. Not motivated enough….you get the picture. I’m sure, if you are reading this post, you have heard these words in your own head. I certainly have. I have gone over and over the same tracks as the train of self absorption chugs along.

Not a good enough wife.

Not a good enough mother.

Not a good enough grandma.

Not a good enough daughter.

Not a good enough Christian.

Not a good enough employee.

Not a good enough friend.

On and on it chugs along until suddenly it derails and there I am a self absorbed mess.

Have you really thought about how being self absorbed affects you? Not only does it cause physical issues, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure and auto immune problems, it also causes a plethora of psychological and emotional problems, from anxiety disorder to narcissistic tendencies. Take a look at this interesting article from Psychology Today. While not the definitive authority on psychological disorders and treatments, I think the article makes a pertinent point.

But what’s most fascinating to me here is that I haven’t seen discussed by writers on the subject just how many psychological dysfunctions can be accurately understood as “maladies” of self-absorption. From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments, to many depressive disturbances (including bipolar disorder), to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to most of the personality disorders, self-absorption can be seen as playing a major (if not dominant) role. So any effective treatment of these dysfunctions needs to include significantly reducing these obsessively self-centered—and self-defeating—tendencies.
— Leon Seltzer, PhD., Psychology Today (online) - Posted August 24, 2016

You can see the whole article here.

Our self absorption tendencies may just lead us to a bitter end.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Train Wreck #2 - Demanding Our Rights

This one is a direct outcome of the first train wreck of being self absorbed. Let me say that people should have rights. Our country came into being and was founded on the idea that people should have a right to worship as they want. The men who authored The Declaration of Independence, felt that certain rights were so important, they were willing to go to war to ensure their solidity.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

However, the rights that Jefferson, Adams and others were referring too had to do with basic tenants of self-government, including freedom of religion, and the freedom to govern ourselves. When they were talking about government over themselves they weren’t talking about the rights that so many today are yelling about. They were talking about the right to work a job, own a home and yes, to even own a gun. The governing process had to do with community and country as a whole.

Today the rights battle continues as women seek equal pay for equal work, as well as equality on pricing of necessary products such as deodorant and razors. Did you realize that women usually pay more for these products? These desires are good. What becomes a problem is when the demand for rights is born out of a self absorbed mentality.

I want it and I want it now!! Watch this short video.

Isn’t this a perfect analogy of how thoroughly self indulgent we can be. Truly, aren’t we just a bunch of spoiled, rotten, children at times? Demanding our rights, and not taking into consideration the desires, needs and feelings of other people, is not what our forefathers meant when they brought the Declaration of Independence into fruition. A rights based mentality, must be balanced by an equally serious mentality of individual responsibility. An attitude of responsibility means that we cannot be self-absorbed.

Train Wreck #3 - Not Caring

This is probably the mentality that causes the most problems. When we are self absorbed at least we care enough about ourselves that we might still be willing to try to take care of ourselves. We might even be caring enough to care for other people. Demanding our rights means we still want something. We want something that is important enough to us to be willing to yell and fight for it. Unfortunately, when we get to the point where we no longer care, that is when trains derail and we crash.

Think about a time when you gave up, or you wanted to. How did you feel? How did that feeling change the way you were doing things? I have done the, counting calorie thing, many times over the course of my adult life. I have kept track, written things down, measured and tallied. No matter how many times I restarted, I always got to a certain point where I just didn’t care any more. I would lose a few pounds, feel better, fit into my clothes better and so on, but still, somehow or other, I would end back up at the same place.

I don’t care.

I can’t tell you for certain, why we often get to a point of not caring any more, but it does happen. I believe there are many reasons we get to this point in our lives. Fatigue, illness, relationship struggles, work problems, family crisis, national unrest, the list goes on. With our computers, televisions, smart phones and other instantaneous technology, we are constantly plugged in and on the spot. We see what is going on with everyone else and everyone else knows all our struggles as well.

We are finite, limited human beings and eventually all the input does its job of desensitizing us and bring us to that creaky bridge where our train begins to clackety clack across. Finally, the bridge drops out from beneath us and we plunge into the canyon of hopelessness and despair.

Who cares!

Why bother!

I give up!

When we get to this point, it is time to reevaluate how we got here.

Next week I’ll be sharing a video that I hope will make you laugh, but that makes a pertinent point that we can’t ignore and will hopefully give us hope to care again and start living a mentally healthy life.

Until then, have a great week and be careful, not to have a train wreck!

New Year, New Mind

I thought it would be beneficial to start 2019 with a series about our minds. Depending on how you feel right now, you might be thinking there won’t be much to talk about, because after the holidays there is not much going on in my tired brain. Ha, ha. However, as much as it feels that way, our minds are always busy, not only working around the clock to keep us going physically, but also working to keep us going mentally and emotionally.

Pixabay - mind

When I was young, I used to think emotions were a part of us, but just sort of came out of nowhere. When I finally was taught that the brain actually has an emotional center, called the amygdala, I realized that God did, indeed, create our brains to process emotions. It is fascinating that the amygdala, which is a tiny, pea-sized, part of the brain, plays such a huge part in our lives. It is also interesting to me that the hippocampus, which is the main center for processing memories, is right next to the amygdala. If you think about it, most of our memories center around emotions.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about our physical health. Most of us begin new routines, hoping to take off the pounds we put on at the holidays and get into a diet and exercise regimen that will lead to improved health. We also try to begin new habits, like a weekly cleaning routine for our homes or getting rid of clutter. This might also be a good time to think about our mental and emotional health. How often do you start a routine, with enthusiasm and motivation, only to have it stall out in just a few weeks? I know for me, this is more about my thought patterns than it is my ability to get up earlier to exercise.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
— Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

Have you ever had any of these thoughts cross your mind after a few weeks of trying to diet or take control of the clutter in your home:

I’ll just skip today. I’m too tired to exercise.

I’m stressed out, so I am going to eat this ice cream to feel better.

Life is too busy to go to the gym.

Why bother?

I can’t do this?

I won’t do this?

I have all of these thoughts, and more, on a fairly regular basis. The common factor in all of this is my mindset. If I am not sold out on doing something, I won’t do it. For that matter, even if I believe, and know, that it is something beneficial, I still won’t succeed, because my mind comes up with excuses or rationals for why I can’t or won’t. Our minds can sabotage our efforts before we even get started. My husband has a saying at this time of year, “My resolution is to not make any resolutions.” His reasoning is sound, he is a logic professor after all. Why make resolutions that are not going to be kept? Why set yourself up for failure and disappointment?

I believe that our minds are meant to know God and when they do, they delight in obeying His law. God’s law would include things that are beneficial for our well being, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Unfortunately, because we walk in the flesh we walk through life carrying a battlefield in our minds. We struggle to do what is right and good and best, but often fall short. Paul, the Apostle, fully understood this conundrum.

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
— Romans 7:22-24 (ESV)

Next week, I would like to delve into a few of the thought patterns that go on in our minds that easily thwart our efforts for self-improvement and can even be counter active and destructive. Until then, I’d like us to take this next week to think about what we think about. What are the regular thought patterns that go on in your head? What voices do you hear over and over? What sorts of thoughts set you up for failure? And finally, what do you think might be ways to turn those thoughts around?

I’d love to hear your feedback on the thought patterns you struggle with. Leave me your ideas in the comments.

Until then, have a great week!

Clean Up

My least favorite part of the holidays is what comes after the fact. After the gifts are all unwrapped there are bags of wrapping paper to get rid of. After the Christmas feast has been eaten, there are leftovers to put away and dishes to be washed. After everyone has gone home, there are the feelings of let down and melancholy to sweep under a rug, until a later time at which you can process them.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No one really likes the clean up aspects of life. Babies are adorable, but cleaning their stinky bottoms is not any mom’s favorite thing to do. Garbage collectors, probably don’t love their jobs, especially when the sun is hot and food waste is rotting in cans and dumpsters. Just ask any relief worker what they love most about helping victims of natural disasters. It probably involves the smiles and hugs they get for their help, not the digging through building rubble to find possible lost children or pets.

Pixabay

Pixabay

As a child, any one of us probably remembers being told to clean our room. Oh my goodness. You might as well be asking a fish to fly or a bird to swim. We thought the task was impossible, but we grudgingly went about our business. Truth be told, I always loved it when my room was clean and even now, when all the laundry and dishes are done and the house is not a complete cluttered mess, I feel so much more at ease.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The funny thing about cleaning is that is has to be done. If no one ever took a bath or shower; if no one collected the garbage or tried to recycle; if mom’s didn’t take care of their little babies’ bottoms, the world would be a very messy, smelly place. It is in those types of conditions that illness, disease and parasites prevail and thrive. Who hasn’t seen a garbage can full of maggots in the hot summer time? Or how about a baby’s bottom when they have not been changed or cleaned and cared for….the poor little one. Their tender skin becomes red, inflamed and itchy.

What does all this talk of cleaning up have to do with the holidays, besides being a place where I can unload my burden as a woman who sometimes tries to do it all? Ha, ha.

It has to do with Jesus.

What?

Yeah, you heard me!

Jesus.

Pixabay - garden

Genesis 1 talks about a world that God created. A perfect world, where the need for garbage collectors and recycling was nonexistent. There was a balance and harmony between God, the created world, man and woman. There was no trash, and no trash talking. There was no disease, no rot and certainly no wrapping paper to burn or dishes to wash. Ahhhh. What a beautiful world. Ha, ha

How did we get to this messy, trash filled, smelly world we now call home?

Sin.

Adam and Eve, with the prodding of a sultry serpent decided that the perfect, trash-less world God had created wasn’t enough. They wanted to be more. More knowledgable, more beautiful, more in control and it led to the mess we have all been cleaning up after, ever since.

Let’s face it, the mess goes way beyond just the physical ramifications that came about in nature. The dog eat dog mentality suddenly became a reality and ever since then we are the custodians of a mess that has grown proportionally to the laundry monster that so often takes over my basement floor. It grows and grows. We clean it up. It grows and grows. We clean it up. The mess has taken over our earth, our bodies, our relationships and our souls.

How do we get out of this mess?

Back to the beginning.

The baby Jesus.

The whole point of Jesus birth was not so we could celebrate Christmas with pretty lights, trees and gifts. The point was clean up. Our relationship with our Creator became skewed. We no longer could walk with Him in the garden. No. Sin and our choice to do it became the deep gap between God and His creation. Jesus was the only one who could bridge that gap. It was His blood, shed on the cross that became the river that purified our world.

Pixabay

Pixabay

So why then, do we still have so much clean up that needs to be done. Why all the ripple effects of poor choices, bad relationships and selfish living? Why, when Jesus died, didn’t things just go back to the way they were in the garden?

Because clean up is a choice.

Have you ever noticed how family members suddenly become preoccupied or have to leave when it is time to tackle that mountain of dishes? Does your husband hand you the baby when that aroma fills the air? Are you ever guilty of just throwing containers away because you don’t want to have to clean that moldy goo out of it and then have to wash it?

Jesus made everything right, but we have to recognize what He did and accept it. In other words we have to believe. We have to believe in who Jesus was and is and we have to believe in what He did and why it was done. We also have to choose to let Him clean up all of our messes. That can be painful.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Standing at the sink as I was washing dishes on Christmas day I was already tired, but it was then I really noticed how my back hurt, my feet hurt and the exhaustion weighed on me like a led blanket. Cleaning up is never pleasant. Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and really scrub with all your might. That is what Jesus came to do in our lives.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There are times He is scrubbing with all His might to remove those stubborn stains from our hearts. It hurts. Often it weighs heavily on us. We have chosen to be clean, but we never knew it was going to be so hard. But He does it, because it is His Father’s will and because He loves us. Jesus knew that it is only by cleaning the heart that changes will be obvious on the outside.

You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
— Matthew 23:26 (NASB)
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 2:21 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a vessel for honorable use. I want to be useful to the master and ready for every good work. In order to do that, I have to let Jesus clean me up.

As we head into a new year, it might be a good time to look inward and ask Jesus to show you where some clean up needs to be done. Is it in your thought life, your attitudes, activities you are participating in, or maybe you aren’t crusted up with dirt, but you have allowed yourself to get dusty and you need Him to come in and polish you up.

Maybe you are reading this, but don’t share my faith. There are still things you might need to clean up in your life. Look at your eating habits, what you view or who you hang out with. Are these things making you a better, more useful person or have you become like that pile of dirty dishes, unusable and crusty?

Take some time to clean up today.

The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind

Most of us are aware, the holidays can be an incredibly, busy time. As women, the bulk of the preparations for holiday gatherings fall on our shoulders. Things might be different for you, but I know for me I am the one who makes the holidays happen. I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the meal planning, the wrapping and the packing when we travel out of town. I am also the one to clean up after the gatherings, take down the decorations, get rid of the torn paper, ribbons and bows and unpack and do laundry when we come back into town. This is also a busier time of year at a university bookstore as we are checking in students’ rental books, getting in books for next term and making those available for students who want to buy their books early.

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You might wonder why I do it all. Why don’t I delegate some of the holiday responsibility or just not do some of the typical holiday activities? Realistically, I do it because I want to. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. However, I do understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, contrary to Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year.

There are numerous factors that can make the Christmas season more of a burden, rather than a delight. Financial strain, job loss, illness, family tensions, influences from our pasts and the loss of a loved one, can all make the upcoming festivities seem more like a chaotic, commercial filled nightmare.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the meaning of Christmas is clear. This is the time we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, the one we refer to as our Savior and King. Knowing this and believing in Him are key to understanding the Christ part of Christmas. However, our society celebrates Christmas without Christ. The gift giving, family gatherings and well wishes are a way of showing love and of reconnecting with those who are important to us.

I’d like to offer a few ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind, even if you don’t celebrate because of Christ. I will do another post, specifically to that next week.

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1 - Pick and Choose

You honestly do not have to do everything. Figure out which things you absolutely love about Christmas and which ones don’t matter as much. I used to send out Christmas cards. I still love receiving cards in the mail, but I have found that is one thing, at this point in my life, that I had to let go of. As much as I love this tradition, I don’t have the time to commit to this holiday task. Perhaps you could do without all the decorating; a single Christmas tree in your window is as much decor as you need. Don’t worry about lights in the windows or a Better Homes and Gardens tree in every room of the house. Love baking, but feeling stressed out? Pick out one or two favorites to make. Let’s face it, often we just plain overdo.

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2 - Set Boundaries

You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. You also don’t have to be at every family gathering. If you have family out of town this can get a little bit overwhelming. For years after we were married my spouse and I traveled back to NY and WI every Christmas. We’d do four or five days in one place, come home for two days and then go to the other place for another four or five days. My spouse being a professor and homeschooling our girls made it easy to make this sort of commitment, but it was hard! We went through bouts of stomach bugs, snowstorms and not being able to have our own Christmas traditions. It was great for our kids in that they built an amazing relationship with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there did come a time when we said, we couldn’t do it any more. Now we usually go to one place for Thanksgiving and the other for New Years, that way we are home for Christmas with plenty of time in between to regroup and prepare for our own holiday celebrations.

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3 - Take Care of Yourself

At the holidays we tend to get less sleep and eat more foods that, while delicious, are not necessarily good for us. Extra calories in cookies, rich high fat meals and eating out more when shopping and party going make us feel sluggish and tired. Those types of food need to be eaten in moderation and we still need to make good choices by eating enough fruits and veggies, as well as drinking lots of water.

In addition, make sure you are getting sufficient rest, as well as exercise. I am preaching to the choir here, everyone. I struggle with getting exercise at other times of the year, but the holidays and the cold, drab weather make it even harder, but we all know that exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well.

Investing in your hobbies or learning something new can also be good for you. Knitting, painting, playing music or doing puzzles can give your mind a much needed break from the stressors of the season.

If you have the time and resources you can also invest in your well being by scheduling a massage, a manicure or taking yourself out to do something you enjoy, like a movie or a visit to a coffee shop to read a book.

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4 - Be Grateful

No matter where you are at in life, you have things you can be thankful for. Food, clothes, heat, a bed to sleep in and a pillow to lay your head on. Things might be difficult for you this Christmas, but you can still find things to be thankful for, if you look. Every morning I am able to get out of bed and stand in a hot shower, I am thankful. During loss, and difficulty gratitude can make the difference between thriving and floundering,

These are just a few ideas of how to get through the holidays without losing your mind. I hope you find these helpful.

Do you have lots to do at this time of year? Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy the season.



Thanksgiving Therapy

I really love the holidays! I love Thanksgiving, because to me it signifies the beginning of the Christmas season. Even as I type this I am already listening to Christmas music. I used to discipline myself to not do anything Christmasy until December. Then I allowed myself to start investing in Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. A few years ago, I decided that I could listen to Christmas music as I was roasting the turkey and preparing other Thanksgiving foods on that national holiday. Last year was the first time that I decided to start listening to Christmas music at the beginning of Thanksgiving week. Now look at me!

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My reasons for beginning Christmas a bit early are many, but probably the most pertinent of those is that it helps bring my mind back to what I am so eternally grateful for. Since Thanksgiving is next Thursday (hard to believe), I thought I would take these next two weeks to focus on the act of giving thanks.

This week I wanted to focus on the therapeutic effects of giving thanks. In a couple of my previous posts revolving around the idea of thankfulness you can see the scriptural foundation provided by God Himself for a thankful heart. Three Little Commands - Give Thanks shares the small but powerful command we are given.

...in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

Why do you think God gave us this command? Why is this His will for us in Christ Jesus? My personal belief is God knows His creation better than His creation knows themselves. I’d like to look at a familiar passage and relate how giving thanks is not only God’s will for us, but essential to our well being.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)
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Rejoice in the Lord - The above passage begins with another command. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The first step in this thanksgiving therapy is to look to God. It says to rejoice in the Lord, not in our hobbies, our future plans, our wealth or the articles we read on the internet. It also states that we are to do it always. I believe that means all the time, not just when we feel it, but especially when we don’t feel it. God knows that as we look at Him and rejoice we will be brought back to center.

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Do Not Be Anxious - Another command? You bet. It doesn’t say, “Well, if you feel like it today, could you possibly be a little less afraid; a little less anxious; a little less worried…but hey if not, that’s okay.” No! God spoke through Paul when he wrote these words and it says, “Be Anxious for nothing…” However, God knowing just who we are (because He made us) gives us the benefit of the doubt. If we are anxious He tells us what to do….that is where the but comes in.

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In Everything by Prayer and Supplication - God wants us to bring it all to Him. If He can’t get you to focus on Him by rejoicing, then bring all your worries, stress, fears, and struggles to Him. Talk to Him. The word supplicate means to entreat God humbly. So get on your knees or lay flat on your face and let Him know what is going on in your heart of hearts. He is big enough to handle it.

There is a condition here, and this is where my thoughts are leading. The condition is that we entreat Him with THANKSGIVING. The condition is there for a purpose, one that God and only God fully understands because it is He who created us. Why do we need to make our requests to Him with thanksgiving?

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And the Peace of God, Which Surpasses All Comprehension, Will Guard Your Hearts and Your Minds in Christ Jesus.

What is so special about this peace?

  1. It is of God. We didn’t conjure it up ourselves.

  2. It surpasses all our understanding. The fact that this peace has the ability to surpass anything we can understand, shows that it is a supernatural peace.

  3. It has a protective ability. This peace is able to protect our hearts, when they have been rent into pieces by lost love, death or other tragedies. This peace is able to protect our minds, when they begin that downward spiral into anxiety and despair.

  4. It is completely connected to the person of Jesus Christ. This peace is not attainable apart from Him.

The connection between the elements of prayer and thanksgiving was put into place by God because He knew the essential nature of thankfulness in the human heart. In order for us to be completely at peace, we must practice thankfulness.

However, God, being the merciful One that He is added a few more thoughts.

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Dwell on These Things - Not only does He give the command, then provide the steps to accomplish the command, He adds an element of active faith to the mix. Not many of us would be content to just retreat into our closets and pray with thanksgiving, we want to be doing something. Here is a list of things to think about. Things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute and excellent. How can we still be fearful or discouraged if we are truly thinking on a list like this? He tells us to dwell on these things. That means we are to think about them on a very regular basis. To dwell means to live there. Live where there are true things. Live where there are pure things. Live where there are lovely things.

Finally, the Apostle Paul encourages the readers of this letter to this end:

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Practice These Things - Once you have heard and seen and learned the way to do something, then practice it. Practice is how we become proficient at doing things. Riding a bike, driving a car, learning a job, writing, reading, tying our shoes, all had to be practiced and were practiced after hearing and seeing and learning how to do them. In the same way the ability to rejoice and not be anxious are learned as we practice the art of prayer with thanksgiving while dwelling on these things.

I hope that reading this will encourage you to hear and see and learn how to be more thankful and less stressed as we enter in to the holiday season.

A Belief that Leads to Commitment

Commitment seems to be a thing of the past. How many people do you know that are going through divorces, or never made the marriage leap in the first place? How often do you run across people who have changed jobs more times than you can count or who have alienated their families due to disagreements or just different ways of looking at things? It seems that the concept of being committed, whether to a person, a job, the pursuit of a dream or a belief is becoming a way of thinking and living that is no longer looked upon as attainable.

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In relationships, people might struggle with commitment issues due to factors from their past, feelings from the present or fear of the future. It may be hard to make a commitment, when you grew up in a home that was affected by messy divorce. Anxiety over meeting new people, starting a new job or traveling to a new place might keep people from committing to a new significant other, applying for a job or moving to find a better economic situation. Often, it is easier to commit to what is already known, ie. a bad relationship, a lousy job or comfortable bad habits, than to change to something new.

I came across this quote from My Utmost for His Highest when I was reading today.

To believe is to commit. In the area of intellectual learning I commit myself mentally, and reject anything not related to that belief. In the realm of personal belief I commit myself morally to my convictions and refuse to compromise. But in intimate personal belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ and make a determination to be dominated by Him alone.
— My Utmost for His Highest - Oswald Chambers - November 6th


What I find fascinating and eye opening about these few sentences is that it seems to be easier to make a commitment in the first two areas, than in the third. When it comes to intellectual learning, I live with a philosophy professor. There are few who are as committed to intellectual learning as those who have studied the works of people long dead, like Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. Learning is an activity that many commit themselves to, but we must ask the question are we more committed to intellectual pursuits than to people?

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Getting an education is important. Parents often push their children to do well in school and go on to college so they can have a career, get a good job and support themselves. However, I bet everyone of us knows a young adult who just can’t seem to make it in college, or who would rather start a band in their garage, than spend all that money to go to college where they end up with boat loads of debt and no guarantee of a job afterwards. I understand. More than a few young people have worked to get a degree and end up being a server at a restaurant because it pays better.

When we start talking about personal belief and committing ourselves to our convictions, I think that this too can be easier to actualize than making a commitment to a person. We hear get all sorts of input about people’s convictions. Many times convictions become a battle ground for differing opinions, which we have seen can lead to anger and even violence. Having personal convictions and beliefs are also important, but are they more important than having relationships?

When Oswald spoke about intimate personal belief, he suggests something more than an intellectual pursuit or a personal conviction. He is talking about a relationship. He says that when we have that intimate personal belief we are committing ourselves to Jesus Christ.

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Let’s take a closer look at some of the words used in this quote:

Intimate - Webster’s online dictionary defines this word in these ways:

- marked by a warm friendship developed through long association

- informal warmth or privacy

- engaged in, involving, or marked by sex or sexual relations

- of a very personal or private nature

- marked by very close associate, contact or familiarity

These are not the actions of people who don’t have some sort of relationship.

When we talk about intimate belief we are talking about belief in a person, or in this case Jesus, who is trustworthy and with whom we are able to be ourselves.

Commit - Websters gives these definitions:

- to carry into action deliberately

- obligate or bind

- to put into charge or trust

- to obligate or pledge oneself

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When we commit to Jesus we are pledging ourselves to Him. This is not about our convictions or what we have learned or know. This commitment is a matter of choice and a matter of trust. In a sense we are to bind ourselves to Him.

Spiritually - Usually when we hear this word we think of that which is not physical. Typically we associate the term spiritual with things related to church, heaven, hell and the soul. As Christ followers most of us believe that we have a spirit and there is a Holy Spirit, who acts in accordance with the will of God the Father and who also translates the person of Christ into our own spirits. Spirituality is thought, by most to be a very intimate part of who we are. This would concur with Chamber’s idea that we are to commit ourselves spiritually, to Christ. This is the most intimate way to commit ourselves to another person.

Determine - When we determine to do something we are making a decision. This decision is come to after thought and contemplation. Usually, when we determine something it is because we have come to believe that this particular choice is what we want and what is best for us. We determine to eat better, exercise or get more sleep. We determine to not let anxiety run our lives. We determine to change, improve or become a better person.

In the same way when we commit to Jesus in spiritual intimacy we have made a choice that involves a relationship with Him. What follows in Oswald’s quote may make the hackles on your neck go up, but here it is.

Dominated - Oswald says that we are determined to be dominated by Christ alone. We hear this word most often in association with something negative. Women are dominated by men. Children are dominated by bullies. Third world countries are dominated by power hungry leaders. I’m sure given enough time we could come up with a long list of who’s dominating whom.

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Is Oswald loopy to think that we should determine to be dominated by Christ alone? I think not. I completely agree with him. Who better to dominate us than one who truly has our best interests at heart. This is not a domination as a dictator trying to turn us into mindless zombies. On the contrary, domination by Christ is a life of truest bliss and freedom.

The question then is this, do you have an intimate personal belief that has lead you to commit? I am using this in relation to our spiritual nature, but this could also be true in everyday life. Being committed to a person in a relationship, whether in marriage, as a parent or a child or in our friendships must come from an intimate personal belief that this person we are committed to is valuable. This holds true in our jobs or as we go about our busy lives. Every person we come into contact with has value and it is our belief that will determine how we commit to treating others.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
— Psalm 37:5 (ESV)
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
— Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)













How to Fight Giants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a fiction piece that I wrote about giants. (See that post here.) A week after that I shared with you a few of the giants that I regularly fight in my life. (See that post here.) This week I would like to focus on a few methods for fighting the giants in your life.

We all are battling giants. Most of these we live with, without even thinking about it. Fear, anxiety, depression and selfishness are just a few of the giants that many of us regularly battle. Perhaps you have let the giants take over. Maybe they have moved into your life, unpacked their bags and decided to stay a while. Are you even aware of the giants that are claiming ownership to your space: physical, emotional and spiritual? Often, the first step to fighting against a giant is to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”.

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Name Your Giants

I think it is essential to know what you are fighting. Sometimes we might name one thing, but in reality it is something else. For instance, you might think that the giant you are battling is depression, but in reality it is fear. Scrutinizing your feelings and the circumstances behind them can help to identify what the real giant aka problem is. Here is a list of questions you can ask that might help to identify what giants are hanging out at your place.

  1. When do I usually notice this feeling/giant (name the feeling - is it fear, sadness, frustration, anger, self-loathing, etc.)?

  2. How often does this feeling happen? Is it only once in a while, every day, only in certain seasons, and so on. I struggle with discouragement, but it is much more prominent during the winter months when there is less sunshine. You can see a previous post I did here on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  3. Are there certain triggers that bring this feeling on or make this giant appear? For example, I struggle with fear, as I pointed out in my previous post. Things out of the norm will often produce a feeling of fear in me. It can be something mundane like going to the dentist, or it can be something fun like planning a trip where I have to fly.

I believe being able to recognize what giant you are fighting will enable you to have victory more often.

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Study Your Giants

When dealing with any enemy or problem it is best to come at it with some sort of knowledge base. If you deal with anxiety read up on anxiety disorder. Don’t just read secular works, pick a few that are written from a Christian, Biblical perspective. Know what the root causes of anxiety are. Become more self aware, not to the point of becoming self absorbed, but to the point of understanding yourself and the people and circumstances around you, so that you know why you are feeling what you are feeling.

Until I finally read up on Seasonal Affective Disorder, I had no idea why I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged during the winter months. Obviously, we all get a little tired of the long winter with the cold, illness and unpredictable weather, but my fatigue was more so than usual and my desire to crawl into a warm hole with a fuzzy blanket was very real. Once I began to look into it, just reading a few online articles I realized that was, what affected me every winter. Knowing what it was and why it happened actually made me feel better. It also gave me access to resources to actually fight against this seasonal giant.

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Fight Your Giants

Before I get to far into this portion of the post I want to clarify that not everyone is capable of fighting their giants without help. Depression can be so extreme that a person can’t even get out of bed, let alone raise a sword and fight. I am not a professional counselor or a licensed, practicing psychiatrist. These ideas are merely coming from my own experiences. I trust that if you feel your giants are too big to battle on your own that you will seek help, both medically and/or psychologically.

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1 - Pray. In our lives as Christians there is nothing more powerful or effective in fighting our giants than prayer. Prayer puts us in contact with the Almighty God and it is from Him that we receive the power, wisdom and tools for fighting our giants.

The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
— Psalm 6:9 (NASB)
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
— Psalm 20:1 (NASB)
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.
— Psalm 35:1 (NASB)
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
— Psalm 59:1 (NASB)

2 - Use scripture. God’s word is powerful. It is compared to a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) Since the Bible is compared to a weapon, it would seem to make sense that we can use it as one. That being said, what does wielding the scripture as a sword look like? That depends on what giants you are battling.

Let me use my own giant called Fear as an example. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to counteract thinking that does not line up with God’s will for us, I have to got to the Bible and find the scriptures that deal with those thoughts. In the case of fear, these are a few of the arrows, I have in my quiver.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
— I John 4:18 (NASB)
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)

If God did not give me fear, then where is it coming from? You bet! From the same place the giants originate, Satan. We would have never known fear except that sin entered into the world. My ability to remember and recognize God’s word as truth, makes a big difference in how effective my weapons are going to be against the giants.

When I become afraid, I go back to the scripture. I quote it, I yell it, I stomp and I shout. My goal is to chase the giant out of my house. I tell him he is not welcome in my life and according to God’s word he has no hold over me. Whether your giant is fear or food, depression or discouragement, selfishness or sexual addictions, scripture is the weapon to ram through that beast’s beating heart!

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3 - Speak truth. In a world where truth has become a relative thing with no concrete foundation it may sound strange to say speak truth, when we are talking about battling giants. However, since as Christ followers we believe God’s word to be truth, then it makes sense to speak this truth and back it with scripture.

If you are being crushed by the giant called Worthless speak this truth,

“I am made in the image of God; Genesis 1.”

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139.”

“I am loved with an everlasting love; Jeremiah 31.”

“I am chosen; I am royal; I am holy; I Peter 2:9.”

That is truth and that does not sound like a person who is worthless. That truth can help to chase those giants away.

I hope that reading this will give you hope. We all struggle with these giants that are constantly getting in the way of living a free life. I also hope these tips will give you some relief and some victory as you battle your giants.








What Giants are you Fighting?

Last week I wrote a fictional piece that was based on a dream I had a number of years ago. At the time a girlfriend and I were doing a study by Mark and Patti Virkler titled, How to Hear God’s Voice. It was an eye opening study and I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in delving deeper into their relationship with God. However, I will caution, this study is not for everyone. Some of Virkler’s practices and teachings might grate against those who are more conservative and traditional. It is my opinion that the concepts Virkler addresses are solidly backed by scripture and accountability, thus eliminating the possibility for misunderstanding or being led astray.

All that being said, at one point in the study, the author encourages the reader to ask God for dreams that are of Him and to journal and share those dreams with an accountability partner, which is imperative to the study. It was during this time, God gave me the dream about the giants. When I wrote the piece for last week’s post, which you can read here, I added a few details, but the essence and message of the dream is the same.

All of us are facing giants in our lives. Some of those giants may have us so entangled in their lies that we no longer realize they hold us captive. Many giants we face are brutal and ugly and others are merely just annoying, simply taking up large spaces in our homes and eating our food. In this post I would like to share with you a few of the giants I battle on a regular basis.

The Giant Called SELF

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This one is a doozy. He is huge and like an oversized octopus has his tentacles digging into everything. I find him lounging around my home, like he owns the place and am often at a loss as to what to do with him. However, the Bible is clear on the likes of this one.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
— Philippians 2:3a (NASB)

It says do nothing, from a selfish standpoint. That is pretty specific. I mean, shouldn’t I be able to do at least a few things from a selfish point of view?

I hear a giant growing.

I mean, isn’t my time, my time? Shouldn’t I be allowed to do what I want, at least once in a while? Don’t I get to wallow in the bad stuff that has happened to me? Don’t I get to voice my opinion? Don’t I have rights?

No wonder that giant has gotten so big.

Please don’t misunderstand there is a difference between taking care of ourselves and something called selfish ambition.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
— James 3:16 (NASB)

Selfish ambition is a seed of self centeredness that is allowed to grow…well, into a giant. What ensues is disorder and every evil thing.

Let me give you an example that many of you might understand. In marriage there is little room for selfishness, yet so often it is self centeredness that leads to arguments, misunderstandings and eventual break downs of relationships. I know! I am married and I still battle with this giant almost every day in my marriage. I believe that is true for two reasons.

1. Satan hates marriage and has no problem creating havoc in a marriage.

2. Marriage and family is, perhaps, the toughest proving ground for living selflessly. After all, any time other people are involved that closely the giant of SELF is bound to interfere.

The Giant Called FEAR

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This giant may be a home dweller for some of you, but for me he just sort of comes and goes. He’ll pop up when I have to do something different from the usual, like go to the dentist or meet someone new. Sometimes, he comes around when it gets dark or just when I am going to lay down for the night. All too often he torments me when I am alone.

Once again, the Bible is clear on this as well.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I quoted this verse in the New King James Version of the Bible, because that is how I learned it. I love the focus that this verse has. God is not the one who makes us afraid. Fear is from Satan. God gives us power, love and a sound mind.

Start listening to the news and you can tell people are afraid. People are fighting for power, dying for love and taking meds and drugs to create a semblance of a sound mind. Satan created fear and he bases fear on lies. Lies that say if you don’t have money or power or this or that you won’t ever have security. Lies that say, if you don’t dress this way or do this or that you’ll never have love. Lies that also say if you don’t have it immediately you aren’t going to be happy or that get you to focus on details that don’t even matter to such an extent that you can’t sleep or eat or think straight.

This giant is persistent and without divine intervention will be a constant companion.

The Giant Called DESPAIR

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This is probably one of the hardest giants to fight. He usually doesn’t make an appearance until I am so worn down I have nothing left to fight with. He often takes over where the other two giants leave off. When I have become focused on myself and am obsessing over my fears, then he steps in and I become hopeless. He often brings up things from the past and leaves me feeling useless and used up.

The Bible is full of stories of people who were sad and despairing. Job, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, David and many others felt the weight of having their souls in despair.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)

Often when this giant is looming over us, we don’t even know for sure why he is there, but one thing is often the case, we begin to doubt. We doubt God and all the promises He has made in His word. This doubt is like candy for Giant DESPAIR. He feeds off of our doubt. That is why the psalmist placed his hope in the Lord. Only the Lord is a steady rock in a very shaky world.

Next week I’ll be giving a few pointers for battles the giants we face in our lives. Until then, don’t give up the fight!


The Making of Giant Stew

They were coming. The giants. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel their footsteps. Every step shook the earth. I could see the chain reaction of each large foot, even though I couldn’t actually see their physical forms. Trees shook, streams sputtered, even rocks seemed to shake in their places as the vibrations of those giant feet reached the ground all around me.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I was terrified, running away from the sound, but knowing it was only a matter of time until they found me. They were hunting. The prey they longed for was me. They wanted to crush my bones and drink my blood. The thought, kept my feet moving, though my lungs were ready to collapse from the effort.

I stumbled to the ground, tripping on a branch that had fallen and become buried in the long grass. Breathing, panting, I got to my knees. What was I supposed to do? I had nothing left. I couldn’t run any more.

I heard His voice, “Head for the high ground!”

Pixabay

Pixabay

I looked frantically around me. There were not many places to hide. A few trees dotted the landscape, but they would only become like broken down fence posts once the giants came through. I looked ahead of me. Off on the horizon, there appeared to be a small rise. It didn’t look like much, but It was a direction to go.

I stood up and felt myself collapse as pain shot up my leg. My ankle! I must have injured it when I tripped over the branch.

Thump! This time, I not only felt the vibration, I heard the sound of their feet hitting the ground. I had to get up. I had to move. The alternative was going to hurt a lot worse than my ankle.

I stood up, cringing and started to limp. Each step hurt, but eventually I knew It was this pain or death. I started to run.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The small rise on the horizon didn’t look like much, but He had said to head for the high ground and it seemed to be the only hill around. I would like to say I ran without questioning, that I completely trusted His voice, and His wisdom, but I doubted. All the way there, the doubts in my mind were like the fire in my ankle, lapping at my confidence, trying to tear it down and make me falter.

But hadn’t He always proved himself faithful? Hadn’t He always been there in every difficulty and tragedy? Hadn’t He told me to be strong, to have courage, to not be afraid, because He would be with me.

I was Joshua, going places I had never been before, and I was afraid. Afraid of the giants that were after me, but more afraid that He wouldn’t come through for me.

I could hear them more loudly now. Their steps creating small quakes in the earth that threatened to throw me off balance. I reached the bottom of the small rise.

“What do I do now,” I shouted, my voice angry. “You lead me here. How is this supposed to end well?”

“Trust me.” His voice was just a whisper.

I stopped. Every fiber in my being wanted to lash out at Him. I was going to die. I was going to be giant stew, What was the point? Why had He brought me here?

I took a breath, remembering, when things were at their worst that was the time to breath and focus on His voice. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I could smell the earth, the trees, the grass, all around me and I could smell water.

“Take the high ground.”

I moved as quickly as I could up the grassy hill. There were only a few scrubby trees that would provide no place to hide. Going to the top of the hill would, in reality expose me further. I had made my choice. I was going to trust Him, no matter what the outcome.

At the top, I found a small brook, just barely as wide as my body. It was as clear as the sky was blue.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The footsteps! Now I could smell their rank breath. They had to have seen me by now.

“Enter the flow.”

I looked at the stream, then I was in it. I laid back in its deep coolness, feeling it wrap around my tired, sweating body like a cocoon. My whole body was covered, except for my face.

“Enter the flow.” His voice was persistent.

Once again, I doubted. He wanted me to completely submerge? Once again, I was afraid. This was a place I had never been before. Is that really what He wanted me to do? What was going to happen to me if I did what He said? Would I die?

One thing was sure, if I didn’t do what He said, I most certainly would die and it wouldn’t be a pleasant death. To just lay back and enter the water…and enter His flow, I closed my eyes and went under.

When I was under, I began to count. How long could I hold my breath? Long enough for the giants to pass my little hill by? What if they decided to use the hill for a seat to rest.

But no! He was faithful. He always had been and He always would be. Even as I, once again, made the decision to trust, every part of my body exploded with fire. I thought perhaps one of the giants had stepped on me, but I soon realized this was not a crushing, weighted feeling, but a feeling of complete release and freedom.

“Go beyond belief, dear one. Go from belief and obedience to child-like trust!”

I had believed in Him, and He had always been there.

I had obeyed Him, and He always rewarded.

Child-like trust….

Even though I was submerged, I took a breath.

The fire entered my lungs and I was flung upward out of the stream. In my hand was a sword and on my body was armor that felt lighter than clothing. Through my body coursed a wind of fire that made strength move outward into every limb.

Now I was David and I was going to make my own giant stew.

(This was a work of fiction by Amy D. Christensen)

The song below is an oldie, but goodie. Petra has always been one of my favorites because their words are so sound. Enjoy!





Gray

There are times where I feel gray. Being a fashion blogger I talk a great deal about color. Color is an important piece to the outfit equation. We usually don't say that an outfit has a non-color. Colors are colors and they all have names, whether it be orange, blue, pink or brown. We don't usually think of black or white as colorful, but they are made just as other colors from the absorption or refraction of light particles. 

It is interesting that colors have come to have certain associations. When we see red we might think of anger, as in a red head temper; or romance as in Valentine's Day. The color black can be classic and slimming in a pair of pants or hardcore and dark as in Goth. Yellow is sunny and elicits a feeling of summer. Light blue makes me think of the sky on a beautiful fall day, while red, white and blue remind us of the sacrifices many have made to give us freedom. 

But gray? What does that make you think of? What feeling does it draw from you? Sadness, depression or just a vague feeling of non-color. I actually own a number of gray tops, pants, shoes, bags and skirts. Gray is a wonderful color to pair with so many other colors whether it be classic and understated with black, or chic and elegant with yellow or purple. But gray as a feeling? Yeah, it's real. I feel gray. 

Gray day, water's edge

Some days, the gray is everywhere. The sky, the water, the land, my life, full of gray. Work, relationships, daily tasks, become a blend of various shades of gray. These are not shades of bad feelings, rather a lack of feeling. In some ways it is like being in a void, alone. They gray is not bad or good, it just is…just as I…am.

The gray becomes my focus, rather than remembering that gray is only a color. It doesn’t actually change the color of anything else. The trees are still green, my husband still loves me, my grandson is still a cutie, even when I feel gray.

Gray sky, rough water, sand

Other days, the gray is rough, gritty and cold. It pierces my being like the gray steel edge of a knife. This gray is unyielding, demanding I bend to its force. Driving me to my knees. Down here, nose to the gray, hard, ground, I remember, once again to seek His face. The gray drives me to Him, searching, wanting, begging to feel anything other than shades of gray.

Sunset behind gray clouds over water

He brings light to the gray. He opens a tiny window in the heavy expanse of gun metal sky. He raises a flower of light from the flat gray beneath my face, reminding me this gray will not last. It will be blown away by the breath of the Almighty One. He chases away the gray, raises me to my feet and breathes light and color back into my gray soul.

A gray day provides the best light.
— Leonardo da Vinci

So, it’s okay to feel gray, once in a while. It is normal, just like the gray fog, dark clouds and leafless trees are all part of the progression of life. Today, I choose to be thankful for the gray. God is still there being the light and soon He will again break through the gray, waking me up to His beautiful color.

Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.
— Psalm 112:4 (NASB)
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.
— John 8:12 (NASB)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
— Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

Mulling It Over - Part 7

This is the final part in this series on 2 Timothy 2:20-26. If you are interested in the Parts 1 through 6, just click on each of the links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Each week takes a look at one verse. Let’s dive in to this last verse in this chapter.

Pixabay

Pixabay

26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:26 (NASB)

If you read last month’s post you know that the preceding verse emphasized gentleness as the cloak which correction should wear. Today’s verse is a continuation of that thought. If we are correcting with gentleness verse 26 can be the result. Let’s take this verse apart phrase by phrase.

…they may come to their senses…

First of all, let’s figure out who “they” are. “They” refers back to the previous verse and those that are being corrected or more specifically, “ those who are in opposition.” What were these people in opposition to? Remember, this book was written by Paul to Timothy, a young pastor of one of the early Christian churches. Timothy was dealing with many types of opposition, some of which was to his ability to lead a church because he was young. Paul reminds him in verse 24 to not quarrel with these people. Quarreling, most often, only brings about more problems.

People who are in opposition to us may be jealous, insecure, angry, impatient or any number of other attitudes. These do not necessarily have to be non-believers. Those who are in opposition to us could be people at church, people we work with or even people within our own families.

Now that we know who “they” are, what does it mean to say “may come to their senses?” Have you ever been a situation where volatile emotions begin to escalate quickly? If you have been on the receiving end of those volatile emotions you probably have observed that the ones becoming volatile are not always making sense. Often when our emotions become compromised, whether through overwhelming tragedy or circumstances beyond our control we lose our ability to think rationally. It is best, in these situations, to slow the situation down by being calm and responding with gentleness. When we respond in this way, we often allow people the time needed to regroup and come back to their senses.

This same idea is true with people who are adamantly opposed to Christianity. We will not win them by allowing our own emotions to become volatile and hateful. Those emotions will only give them a firmer foundation on which to base their own reasons to say no to Jesus. We want them to “come to their senses” with regard to the truth of the gospel and the best way to do that is through prayer and gentleness.

“…and escape from the snare of the devil…”

There are people who say there is no devil; that the reference is merely to a fiction made up by people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions. “The devil made me do it.” For those of us who are Christ followers, we do believe in a real enemy of Christ known by names such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, and many others. This enemy is working in the spiritual realm to thwart the spread of the gospel and condemn the persons of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the world we live in.

The snare’s that Satan’s sets are many, but generally involve lies and deception. His purpose is to prevent people from knowing the truth, that Jesus came to give His life for us and desires a relationship with us. Snares may involve lies about our standing before God, our purpose and the purpose of humanity and creation. His lies include words like secularism, humanism, and rights. There are aspects to all of these which are good, but more often they are a ploy to set our eyes on ourselves and the stand we took at the beginning of time to “be as God.”

“…having been held captive by him to do his will.”

What could be more disturbing than to be ensnared by an enemy who is so charming and subtle that even with the chains on our wrists and ankles we bend to do his will? Friends this isn’t just for those who don’t follow Christ. As Christians how many of us are ensnared to things like food, pornography, sports, hobbies or even our own creeds? Satan can just as easily use a Christian who is bound by legalism, as one who is bound by freedom.

Any of us can be held captive by our enemy, even those of us who are walking with Christ. Our enemy wants to hold us captive and he wants to hold others captive as well. But…

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1 (NASB)