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

Yikes! It’s time to make a change: How to find the strength you need

Feet overlooking waterHave you ever known that there is a change that you need to make in your life but you have absolutely NO desire to execute that change? Have you ever wrestled with the impossibility that you will be able to follow through or be successful in making the change you know is needed? Maybe you know that you need to start an exercise regime, but you’re completely overwhelmed by the prospect of all that is involved with getting to the gym, going out for a run or walk on a regular basis or of sticking out the commitment to be physically fit.  Or maybe there is a habit that you know-that-you-know you need to quit but the thought of living without “…” is daunting and totally unappealing.  You hate the habit but you NEED the thing you’re attached to, and it makes you almost panicky to think of life without it. Or maybe you want to add healthy choices into your life like better ways of eating, being a more connected friend or serving in your community, but the thoughts of what the cost will be and everything in your life that will have to adjust in order to make room for this new lifestyle is keeping your feet in the blocks.

If any of these life challenge screen shots describes you, I GET IT!! I have been there in each and every one of those tight squeeze places where who I am and who I know I am supposed to be are as far apart as the edges of the Grand Canyon.  But I have a word of encouragement for each of us.  The good news is that God knows that we cannot traverse that chasm in our own strength.  He sets the vision for the next place that He wants to take us and He is fully prepared to get us there.  The problem is that since we’re locked in these things called “Time” and “Space”, we get freaked out when the change doesn’t happen overnight.  We would prefer that the moment the revelation hits that we should start to exercise, cut out sugar, stop cussing, turn our gossiping and critical mouth into a thankful and praising mouth, or start being faithful in reading the Bible and prayer, that the desire and the ability to execute would also be there.

But it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, I have found that the Preview of Coming Attractions comes way before either the desire or the ability.  And even once the desire comes, it can be quite a while before the strategy or the ability come as well.  And that can cause a lot of frustration (What is wrong with me? Why do I still fall short in this area? Why can’t I quit “…”? Why can’t I start “…”? and so on).  But from this frustration is born the moment of choice that God needs from us. He will never shove His will down our throats.  He simply pulls back the curtain and lets us see the better way but at the end of the day, it will always be our choice whether we want to go down the path that will bring life and freedom or remain in the place where we are.

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2010: No Regrets

A few months ago, I began really thinking about my thinking.  I was finding that I had a bad habit of slipping into “regret” thinking.  So over the past few months, I have been writing myself some notes on REGRET, so I can break this cancerous cycle of thought and live today to its fullest.  I’m going to share some of those thoughts that are helping me in hopes that someone – anyone – may find the freedom that I’m finding!

(By the way, you should probably know this about me: I believe the Bible to be the final authority for life.  The words of God have made all the difference in my life and are eternal, so I reference them a lot.)

Here’s an accrostic I came up with for REGRETS.

R: Remembering the past in a negative light and Reliving it over and over.

E: Experiencing the repurcussions of trauma and poor decisions

G: Glorifying the power of myself and others over my life and destiny and believing the lie that says, “Goals and dreams will never be achieved.”

R: Rebelling against authority – becoming our own authority, even though, deep down, we really don’t trust our own choices.

E: Enduring and Existing – enduring this life marked by the losses caued by our own and others’ sinful choices; existing in the present while being present in the past.

T: Torturing and abusing ourselves with shame and Tying ourselves to failure.

S: Sapping the effectiveness of our faith through unbelief in the completed work of Christ on the cross.

That’s how Regret seems to affect me.  Any thoughts?  I’ve put together notes on redeeming my regrets that I’ll post at a later date.  Don’t worry, there’s a great light at the end ofthe tunnel!