Girlfriends: For better or worse

GirlfriendsWhen I was in sixth grade, I was bullied all year by two girls in my class. I know that in this day and age of Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, bullying has gone to new levels of cruelty that I doubt I could have survived. I barely survived the one year of torment I endured from these girls who found a weak and unprepared victim.

They mocked me in front of the class, they left mean notes on my desk, they turned the entire class against me, and they brought out the weakest and worst in me. I lost respect for myself that year. I began to believe the things they said about me. I reacted with insecurity which is blood in the water to sharks who go after their prey on the recess yard.

No one would be my friend because to be seen with me put you in my “class” of loser. I had one friend by the end of the year and even she was different than she had been the year before when we frolicked in our innocence.

Every night I cried. My mother wanted to go to the principle but I begged her not to. Things would be so much worse for me if she did. She tried to explain that these girls were jealous of me and they wanted to make me miserable because they themselves were miserable. I, of course, didn’t believe her. Why would I? These two girls ruled the class with their iron fists of haughty glances, sneering smiles, flirtatious phrases and cool outfits. They could cut you down to size with one sideways look of disgust. I was out of my league. As an only child, I hadn’t learned how to stand up for myself, have a good argument, shake off someone’s behavior that is annoying or rude or get in someone’s face and tell them where to take their crappy attitude. Brothers and sisters teach each other how to handle conflict and I was totally unskilled.

I went down like the Titanic.

Sixth grade was also the year I got braces. Wonderful. And acne. Perfect.

So I made a change in who I hung out with. I decided that boys were a lot easier to be around than catty girls who would be nice to your face one minute and then pass a note about your ugly sweater the next. (I know I’m dating myself terribly talking about passing notes. I must sound like a total dinosaur!)

In my mind, boys were safe and girls were unsafe. Boys were direct and girls were sly. Boys were simpler and girls were far too complex – even though I was one of them, I didn’t feel like I was that complex!

This was the beginning of my challenges with female friendships. If you’re a woman reading this, I ask you: Have you also experienced what I’m talking about? Can you relate to my distrust of female friendships?

Then I became a Christian and started attending church on a regular basis.  I was only 18 at the time so I was still pretty young. It didn’t take me long to notice that the ladies at church, young or old, were nothing like the girls / ladies I had been burned by throughout my grammar school and highschool years. But could they really be trusted??

Over the thirty plus years that I have been going to a Christian church, I have found that almost all of my issues with catty girls, gossip, lying, backbiting and meanness are gone. I have formed the most valuable and nourishing friendships that have lasted decades and still continue to grow in depth and kindness. I have seen my friends drop everything to help me in my hard times, and have been encouraged and buoyed up by their faith in me and their love for me.

The Bible says that those who love are born of God and know God because God is love. And I have certainly seen that displayed in my girlfriends. The more we grow in our faith, the more compassionate and outgoing we have become. The more we get healed by the love of God for us, the more we reach out in confidence and strength to others, not needing to recognized or applauded, just delighting to show kindness and support.

My mother was right: Those girls in sixth grade were mean to me because they were unhappy. And that’s why my friends now are worthy of my trust. They are happy and secure in the love of God for them so they don’t need to tear me down to feel better about themselves. I am blessed. Truly and completely blessed.

May you find good friends to do life with.

And if you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, I would start there. We can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t give love and acceptance when we’re an open wound of neediness ourselves. Let Jesus heal your heart from all of the pain of your past so you can be the friend you so earnestly desire to have.

Now you:

  • Have you struggled with bullying at some point in your life? Did that period in your life leave scars of self-doubt?
  • Do you crave real friendship but struggle to find friends you can trust?
  • Are you a trustworthy friend? Do you work at your friendships?
  • Do you gossip or pass along tidbits about other people because you find it gratifying to talk about the flaws of others?

If you are a gossip, I’m telling you right now, people don’t trust you. They might not tell you to your face, but if you run your mouth, people don’t see you as a safe person. And if you’re not a safe person, then no one is able to be authentic around you. And if no one is authentic around you, you don’t have any real friends. Stop gossip in your life right now. It’s a friendship killer and the person who will lose in the end is you. No juicy tidbit is worth the damage you are doing to people’s ability to trust you and like you. Be content in your own skin and always be one who lifts others up, praises them and shuts down conversation that brings people down. Let God’s love heal your self-esteem so that you are free to love yourself and others.

Let’s pray:

Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you and ask for healing for the pain of my past. I have felt pain and I have caused pain. I ask for your forgiveness and healing to wash me clean and restore joy and peace to my soul. Show me how to be a faithful friend who loves at all times and speaks a good word in due season. Let my words be encouraging and beneficial to all who hear. May I never slander of gossip and if I do, help me to be quick to repent and ask forgiveness. Please, O God, be my Rock, my Defender and the Lover of my soul, so that I can love others with your love. Amen.

 

 

Summer thunderstorm deconstructed: The beauty & power of the storm that came and went

Lightning over housesI love a summer thunderstorm. I love the humidity that fills the air, the roll of thunder in the distance, the flashes of lightening that streak across the sky and the sound of crickets chirping invisibly in the twilight. As I sit at my desk tonight, those sounds float in my window filling me with nostalgia and peace. Who would think that something as ominous sounding as a thunderstorm would make me feel peaceful?

Before I sat down to write, I stood at my keyboard and played a worship song that we sing in our church called Your Great Name. The chords from the chorus make a great worship chord progression and as I stopped singing the lines written on the page and started singing my own worship chorus, the thunder started. And so did a worship chorus from my heart that rejoiced in the fact that I serve a God who is far above all created things and Who has carried me through many storms.

There have been many songs written about God being enthroned above the clouds and His voice sounding like rolling thunder. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard the voice of God audibly, but when he speaks to my heart, sometimes the power and authority of His voice over my circumstances feels like rolling thunder. The thunder is never fearful but comforting in that I know the God Who possesses this power and greatness loves me and is for me.

Tonight, even though the thunder is building in the distance, the sky is cotton candy pink and blue as the sun has just set.  A flash of lightning illuminates my street like a split-second rock concert. A crack of thunder, closer now, fills the air above my open window. There is no rain yet, but I know it’s coming. The air is starting to move into action from its languid state as fronts above my house start crashing into each other. The thunder is not a distant rolling sound now but the crack of a whip followed by a crashing like large rocks falling down cliffs.

The rain comes. It is gentle for a moment and then it unleashes. So does the thunder – it’s no longer a rolling of boulders down a mountainside, but a bomb exploding overhead. The crack and crash of that explosive sound demand all attention as the storm passes over.

A cool, sweet breeze comes in my window. This smell is one from my childhood. From summers that were long and carefree. Maybe that’s why I like a summer thunderstorm. Nothing captures a young child’s attention and sears itself into a memory like the sight, the sound and the smell of this magnificent work of nature. The power, the beauty, and majesty of a thunderstorm create a sense of awe and wonder that captivates a young mind free from worry and fear.

A few raindrops are blowing in through my screen now. The intensity of the rain and wind have picked up, the lightning is frequent and the thunder is deafening. My neighbor’s lamppost across the street looks like a birthday candle in comparison to the brightness of the bolts of electricity racing down from the sky. The power of this summer storm has become impressive in its scope and volume.

And yet…all of this has been designed and created by a God Who is above it all. Far above it all.

Now the storm has passed. As quickly as it moved over my house, it has moved on. And that is like our lives, isn’t it? No matter how deafening the peals of thunder are that want to make us terrified, every storm will pass. There is no storm that has stayed forever. No matter what we’re facing in this moment, it can’t stay forever. No matter how brightly the night is lit up right now by either the brilliance of your success or the fear of the future, it can’t stay either. Take every day as it comes – take it with gratitude and the attitude that whatever comes, with God on your side, you are more than able to weather it and overcome.

I heard a story recently told by an international speaker about a man who was one of the most generous and successful men this speaker had ever met. He gave away more money, contributed to more schools and water wells in impoverished nations, and provided more housing for the homeless all while maintaining a very successful business than this speaker had ever witnessed. He asked this man the secret to his success to which the man replied, “I wake up every day, lift my hands to the sky and say, ‘This is going to be the BEST day of my life!’”

To think that this man never hit an obstacle or had a challenge would be foolish to believe. But obviously those storms in his life were invalidated by the greatness and the power of his thundering positive attitude. He knew that God had given him breath and ability for a reason and he was going to live every day using his life to glorify God with every ounce of his mental and physical ability.

But unfortunately many of us are derailed by the sound and fury of the storms that are passing over. And rather than take comfort in the fact that this storm has come to pass and that the God Who is over the storm is on our side, we let the deafening sound of invisible boulders make us cower in fear.

Today, let’s take the attitude that this IS going to be the best day of our lives and that whatever storm we’re facing is on its way out. Let’s look at the beauty of each storm, seeing God’s hand in how it is changing us and shaping us. Let’s delight in the sweet fragrance of refreshing that always comes on the heels of a powerful storm. Be of good cheer. Your God will not forsake you and a day of refreshing is coming.

The crickets are chirping again and the summer night has reverted to its quiet peace.

What about you:

  • Does the sound of thunder bring you fear? Do you remember being afraid of thunder and lightning as a child?
  • Maybe physical storms don’t make you tremble anymore, but the storms in your life certainly do.
  • Do you believe that God wants to help you through your storm? Maybe you blame God for the fact that you’re in a storm right now so you don’t have faith to believe He’ll pull you out.

If that describes you, I understand. I’ve been there. It’s a hard place to be when the One you need is the One you blame. Scripture teaches us that anything that is going on our lives that is not good is not of God. Because we live in a fallen world, bad things will happen to good people. Until we live in Heaven, we will sometimes be the victims of the sinful natures of others and ourselves. But that doesn’t stop God from protecting us in the storm, creating a depth of faith and character in us through the storm and carrying us to victory over the storm. We may walk through a hard time, but when we connect with God in the midst of it, we come out like gold refined in the fire – better not bitter.

Your storm has come to pass but the faithful love of your God changes not!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

I don’t just wish you rain, Beloved – I wish you the beauty of storms. – John Geddes

Storms don’t come to teach us painful lessons, rather they were meant to wash us clean. – Shannon L. Alder

Open wounds: When the Hurt meets the Healer (Part 2)

Two hands touchingContinued from “Open Wounds: When the Hurt meets the Healer (Part 1)”

Let’s review and expand on my Takeaways from my husband’s hand injury:

  1. Men – listen to your wives! I try not to be the “I told you so” wife, but for some reason, when it comes to the care of my family, my gut has never steered us wrong.
  2. Every part is needful. One injured digit can hinder your entire life.
  3. Fake news isn’t good news; so don’t be afraid of the truth.
  4. Serious wounds should not be left covered.

I will resist the temptation to expound on Takeaway #1. (wink-wink!)

Takeaway #2: Every part is needful – one injured digit can hinder your entire life.

My husband has told me often since this accident how much of a hassle it is that he can’t fully use his dominant hand and how challenging it is to execute the most mundane tasks, like writing and shaving. My poor husband. He has seriously struggled to keep a level of normalcy in his life all the while being in pain, enduring swelling and pressure within the bandage, and having trouble sleeping and executing his everyday tasks. I have become a lot more conscious of what he cannot do in order to help him. I’m oftentimes in my own little world, so I’ve really had to concentrate on being aware of what he’s doing so I can step in to assist when he needs me.  Every part of his life has been affected by this temporary handicap which has really driven home the message that every part of the body is needful and that we take it all for granted until we can’t.

The same is true in the body of Christ, and I would even expand to say, any community that requires people to interact in an interdependent way. Let me ask us all this: Are we noticing the wounded? Are we on the lookout for those in our community who are missing, silent or seem to have slunk back into the shadows? And if we’re the one who’s wounded, are we seeking healing in a purposeful way? It’s so easy to remain wounded and, as a result, remove ourselves from being an integral part of our community. But the Lord is the Great Physician and He came to bring healing for our woundedness. He sets the lonely into families because the community needs us and we need them.

Psalm 68:5-6a (NLT) – Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.

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Open wounds: When the Hurt meets the Healer (Part 1)

“Cecily, we have to go to the hospital right NOW!”

My husband, John, was standing in the doorway between the mudroom and the garage clutching his hand in a towel. He was still wearing his snow blowing gear and furry hat.

It took me a few seconds to process what was happening. I had been upstairs, still in my pajamas with crazy morning hair, when I heard him shouting my name from downstairs. The tone of his voice was unlike anything I had ever heard so I came running. That’s when I saw him in the doorway.

“I cut my finger off. We have to go NOW.”

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. This isn’t happening. I ran upstairs to change into clothing and then oddly stood there paralyzed. What should I wear? Really? Can I really not find clothing – ANYTHING – to put on? I grabbed jeans out of the closet, a sweat shirt and a baseball hat to cover my bedhead.

Earlier that morning, John had gone out to snow blow our driveway and also the bottom of our neighbors’ driveways when the accident happened. I had taken the day off as a vacation day because we were scheduled to leave for a trip to New York City with my parents once the roads were clear enough to drive on. This is why I was still sitting in my pajamas in no hurry to get ready. But now I was in a hurry that made my thoughts blur.

When I finally got downstairs, John was already sitting in the car. I could hear moans that made my knees buckle.  Oh my God, oh my God. I can’t believe this is happening.

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Faith in the fire: When you love an addict (Part 2)

alone-with-his-thoughts_free_stock_photos_picjumbo_HNCK9089-1570x1047Continued from Part 1

The next thing I knew, Gordon wasn’t the focus in the room – I was. They were quickly and efficiently hoisting me up onto a gurney and wheeling me out into the hallway where they left me to come to my senses. I lay there in a stupor of sadness and madness. I was devastated that this was my drunk and bloody son in the other room. And I was mad at myself for being too weak to stay the course with him. Even if I got up off the bed, they weren’t going to let me back in there. Now I just had to sit and listen to howling and not be able to hold my son’s hand. I had to be alone with the feelings of embarrassment that I was the mother who couldn’t save her son from addiction, let alone stay on her feet in the presence of his wreckage. I didn’t know much at that time about being the parent of an addict, so I lay there in a pool of my own guilt while my son was being stitched up in the next room.

After we checked out, I brought Gordon home. He had not been living with us when this accident occurred. A few months after his 18th birthday in the middle of his senior year of high school, Gordon moved out of our house to live with friends – who I assumed were doing and selling drugs. But we could no longer corral or control him. His behavior in our home had become intolerable and we had to think of the welfare of the four children who still lived with us and needed a semi-normal life. Gordon was breaking out every night, and had reached the age of emancipation, so we had no choice but to let him move out.

But on this night after the accident, I brought Gordon back to our house and planned to put him to bed and deal with him in the morning. After we arrived home, Gordon turned to me in the car and flatly told me that he hated me. He told me that he would never want to become a Christian because I was the worst person he knew and if I was a Christian then the whole thing was a joke.

Again, I didn’t have any training in dealing with addicts at that time, and I hadn’t been to any support group meetings or read any literature. So hearing those words that night, after all that I had gone through because of his addiction, cut me like a knife. I didn’t know whether to hit him in his stitched up eye or burst into tears.

So I did nothing. I got out of the car, opened his door, and helped him into the house and up the stairs into his old room. I put him to bed and shut the door. I didn’t say a word.

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Faith in the fire: When you love an addict (Part 1)

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This post is a departure from my regular posts due to the content. But I have always found that sharing real life struggles helps someone somewhere. If you’re the one it touches, please know that you’re not alone.

I jumped up in bed so quickly that my head was spinning. I had been pulled out of deep sleep so harshly that I was disoriented and dizzy. It took a couple more seconds to realize that the phone was ringing. Why is the phone ringing? What time is it?

The clock said 2:15AM. This isn’t going to be good.

When the phone rings at these hours, it’s always a call that pulls the breath out of my body and leaves me without strength under the weight of whatever horrible news is coming at me from the other end of the phone. These calls are every parent’s worst nightmare and I’ve had too many of them.

The voice on the other end of the phone was my 19 year old son. He was drunk, crying and scared. He said he was in the emergency room, that he thought he was going to lose his eye and that the cops were there. He begged me to come to him. He kept saying how scared he was and how much pain he was in. Somehow, I managed to discern that he had been in a car accident and had put his face through the windshield. There was either glass in his eye or near his eye causing him a lot of pain. I’ll be right there.

I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes and put my hair back in a baseball cap. The hospital was an eight minute drive from home in which time my mind came to its fully alert mode and started trying to process the pieces of crazed information that had come from my manic son. I tried the best I could to brace myself for whatever I was going to see when I walked into the emergency room since I had no way of knowing just how bad the injuries were.

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Fruit that Remains: Excerpts from my journals that nourished me and might encourage you, too!

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Fruit That Remains: Lessons from my journals. These are excerpts from my journals over the years. Some are more current than others. I love going back into my journals because I always get refreshed and re-learn the lessons that the Lord has taught me and that I have faithfully scribed.

While in my daily devotions this morning, the Holy Spirit brought this phrase to my mind: “Do not make the Word of God of no effect.” Yikes! What does that mean??

I knew I had learned that Scripture from the Bible and that Jesus had said it, but I couldn’t recall where or to whom he had said it.  What were the circumstances? I needed to dig deeper as I felt the Lord correcting me.

When I looked up the reference, I found that this quote is in Mark 7:13. The King James Version of the Bible says, ‘Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.’ The New American Standard version says it like this: “…thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition which have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

In this passage, Jesus is chastising the Pharisees because they put all of their religious emphasis on outward displays and man-made rules while their hearts are far from God. When Jesus says that the Pharisees “invalidate” or “make of none effect” the Word of God, the original Greek language that the text is written in uses the word, “akuroo”. Jesus uses “akuroo” to describe how they invalidate the Word and void it of power and effect by acting as though they can change it, adapt it, manipulate its message or disregard Who the Author is.

Akuroo (Strong’s Akuroo) is the negative, or the upside-down version, of the word, “kuroo” (Strong’s Kuroo) which means “to validate, confirm publicly, ratify”. “Kuroo” itself comes from another root word, “”kurios” (Strong’s Kurios) which means, “Master, Lord, the greeting of a servant to his master, the title given to God, the Messiah”.

When I don’t reverence the entire Word, I make its power of no effect in my life. After all, the Word is Jesus. John says in John 1:1,  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I must greet the Word with the reverence of a servant. The Word is not here to serve me, but I the Word. I am not here to take parts of the Word and make it fit my mold but the Word is here to mold me into its form. I am its servant not the other way around. I don’t get to decide what parts I want to read or obey…IF I want God’s power to be in it, that is! The power comes through reverence and honor.

No wonder Jesus was chastising the Pharisees here. They were standing right in front of the incarnation of the Word they professed to know backward and forward and they couldn’t recognize him. Meanwhile, the wounded, the blind, and the rejected knew right away that He was the Light of the world and the remedy for all that was broken. They knew that one word from His mouth would bring healing, cleansing and restoration to everything that was ruined in their lives.

If I believe that this Word is God-breathed, that Jesus is the Word (even if I don’t understand totally how that works), then I will approach the Word with the same faith, expectation, and devotion of those who saw and touched Jesus in the flesh. I will approach this powerful, restorative Word on my knees – either physically or spiritually.

Lord God, I repent for not honoring Your Word and hearing Your voice every time I read it. I repent for the times that I have handled your word incorrectly and without proper reverence and awe.  I ask for your forgiveness for the times that I have approached Your Word casually and routinely. Please open my eyes, my ears and my heart to see and hear You in Your Word. And help me to never again handle it with vile hands, human goals and selfish reasons. Your Word has suspended the heavens above the earth, created everything seen and unseen and will still remain for all of the eternal ages to come. Jesus, you are the Word that stood before creation, brought creation into being and still upholds all things.  I honor You, my Master and Lord. Help me to hear Your voice of love as You speak to me.