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.

 

 

Thought For the Day: We should REHEARSE all of God’s benefits to ourselves and others

StrawberriesThought for the day: Not only should we not FORGET all the Lord’s benefits, but we should REHEARSE all of His benefits OUT LOUD to ourselves and to others.  Speaking about the benefits and blessings of the Lord keeps His presence at the forefront of our minds.

It’s too easy to lose sight of God’s greatness and goodness in our tiresome lives. It’s too easy to focus on everything that isn’t happening.  So the Lord gave us a solution for our ingratitude and shortsightedness.  In Psalm 103, He tells us to forget not all of His benefits.  The opposite of forget is remember, right? But simply remembering His benefits in the solitude of our mind doesn’t create the atmosphere of God’s favor that speaking about His benefits does.

Have you ever been around a person who is talking about something great that happened to them? As they speak, you can see how they are reliving that situation in their minds as if they were there. The same is true for when we tell others about the things that God has done for us.  As we relive His goodness and power, people can see that our God is real and moving on our behalf.  A God who once was a theory in their mind now becomes the Living Wonder that He truly is.

And as far as it concerns us, I have noticed that when we lose sight of God’s benefits, we grow cold in our affection towards the Lord. But when we remind ourselves and others of what God has done for us, we refocus ourselves on the fact that the that God who poured out His benefits before can do it again.

So today, let’s open our mouths to our families and friends and tell them of the benefits that God has poured out.  Ask the Lord to bring situations back to your memory and to give you opportunities to share testimonies of His care with people who need to be encouraged.  You never know how the goodness that God has poured out in your life will bless someone else – and I KNOW it will certainly bless you!

And if you’re having trouble thinking of anything to applaud as a benefit, I recommend reading all of Psalm 103 where the Psalmist rehearses many of the benefits of the Lord. Those displays of God’s goodness, mercy and patience should never lose their luster in our affections; and if they have, repent for your hard-heartedness and ask the Lord where the root of bitterness has sprung up. He will show you, wash you up and restore the joy of your salvation!

Psalm 103:2 – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.

Psalm 116:12 – What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?

Now you:

  • Can you think of a time that God poured out His goodness and mercy upon your circumstances? Can you recall times when you could imagine the worst, called out to God for rescue and then watched Him work His wonders on your behalf?
  • Do you ever spend time in prayer just thanking God for what you have rather than asking for something more?
  • Do you know people who are discouraged and who don’t believe that God would ever want to do anything good for them?

Dear God

Today, let’s make it a point to thank God for all we have instead of asking Him for anything more,  Let’s exalt the ways that He has blessed us and create an atmosphere of His goodness around us that others can draw from.  Amen!

Chain Breaker: Keys to breaking free from depression and anxiety (Part 2)

Broken chains(This is Part 2 of the message, Chain Breaker: Keys to overcoming depression and anxiety. See the last post for Part 1)

  1. God’s presence is our refuge. Psalm 62: 8 and 9 says, “Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For He is the one who gives me confidence. He alone is my protector (my high rocky summit) and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. God delivers me and exalts me; God is my strong protector and my shelter. Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before Him! God is our shelter!

Years ago, when I first started pondering on this and other scriptures that talk about God being my refuge and my shelter, I would imagine myself as a tiny bird tucked away in the cleft of a huge mountain face with the wind whipping all around me.  But in my safe little spot, tucked away in secure rock, I could wait out the storm, enfolded by the mountain.  You are the most secure when you run to the Rock and hide in the security that is God’s presence.

So how do we do that? The Scripture says, “Pour out your heart in his presence.”  Look, we’re like glass to the Lord.  He sees right through us, so trying to act as though we’re all full of faith when we’re not feeling it is only going to heap shame on top of the negative emotions we’re already dealing with.

But, on the other hand, if we stay away from the Lord because our thoughts are such a mess, then we’re staying away from the only one who can right the ship.  When we’re capsized in our thinking, we under water.  We can’t get on top of it, or we would have by now.  But in the presence of the Lord, we can cry it out, let it out, get mad and even question what’s going on.  He’s not threatened by or upset by what we’re thinking because he knows what we’re made of.  And He knows He can bring alignment.

In His presence, every chain is broken. Exodus 33:14 says, “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” The chains may not feel broken in the instant, and it may take a little while before you see what He has done, but faint not.  Keep coming.  Keep soaking in his presence.  Cultivate that place of refuge and shelter and you will see Him pull the chains off of your mind.

Because he is the Chain-breaker, you are free. You are no longer captive. You will see his victory over the lies of the enemy. You will hear him speak to you personally. And that leads me to my last Key which is that God’s voice is our necessity.

  1. God’s Voice is our Necessity: When I started journaling years ago as a young Christian, all of my journal entries were one-way conversations with the Lord. I poured out my concerns and prayer requests and that was pretty much it. Sometimes, I would find a Scripture that would encourage me and I would write it down. But over the last decade, I have received great teaching on hearing the voice of the Lord specifically for myself and it has revolutionized my relationship with Jesus and is shattering the bondages of depression and anxiety in my life.

So to rehearse my first two keys: we said that God’s Word is our lifeline and God’s presence is our refuge.  So with this third key, we wait upon the Lord and expect Him to speak to our soul about our soul because God’s Voice is our necessity.  It is our urgent need.  Jesus opened the way to the Father so that His children could freely approach Him in whatever condition they are in and hear His voice of loving alignment, direction, and tender affirmation. But unfortunately, many of us aren’t accessing what has been opened to us so we stay bound in shackles that the Lord wants us to walk out of.

I have a habit when things are absolutely ‘Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs’, of asking the Lord what He has to say about the situation that I’m desperate about.  Below is part of a journal entry from one of those times. Feel free to read this as though the Lord is speaking to you. You can take my Word and apply it to whatever you’re going through:

“You are coming out. You are in the middle; this is not the end. The enemy is a liar who spews forth venom and accusations against you, against Me and against others. Love draws together, believes the best and speaks life. My love is in you but lies have thrown dirt over it.  I wash you and cleanse you.

I have compassion on your weakness and I am on your side. I fight for you and appreciate your heart turned toward Me. Keep crying out. Breakthrough is coming.

Release disappointments to Me. Arrest negative images and keep declaring My Word to create an atmosphere of faith.  Faith is not a feeling.  Faith is action. So when you choose to repent and resist and declare my Word even when your emotions contradict it, you are in faith.  Your actions speak a better word than your emotions.

You are not as your appear to yourself or even to others. Do not be afraid. My love is holding you. You will NOT be lost or rejected. I have given you a heart to seek Me and find Me which is why you are experiencing such great opposition.

You are increasing in strength. While the enemy has told you that you’re losing your mind, I say, No. He is a liar. I say, You are Mine. I have purchased you and you are holy unto the Lord. I have given you to my Son and we are one. Rest in faith that I delight in you. I see you and I know you. I created each facet of who you are. I am not surprised or appalled or angered by what I see in you. I have conquered all that would try to overcome you. You win. My life in you has overcome sin and death. Smile and laugh because you are my daughter and I am yearning for you and delighting in you.  I am not disconnected from you.  You are in my sight every minute.

I see you dancing, singing, light and free in My presence. No more sadness or heaviness.  Give thanks for your season of joy – great and lasting joy – has come.”

There is a lot in that word. It’s probably hard to catch it all, but I hope you heard a few key things:

  1. The Lord loves us and he does not see us the way we see ourselves
  2. When the Father corrects us, he gives a vision for where we are going rather than beat us up over where we’ve been
  3. He is working in us and fighting for us.  We may feel weak and under it at times, but in His presence we break out of our chains.

Because He is your Chain Breaker, you are free – you are no longer a captive.

In closing, I want to exalt the work of Jesus in order to set us on the right course.  What Jesus did for us in his life and on the cross is what makes Him our chain-breaker.  Simply telling you that Jesus is our chain breaker without supporting it with Truth doesn’t give you the power your faith needs to set you free.

When Jesus hung on the cross, he uttered three words that are the most powerful words that have ever been uttered on this planet.  Jesus cried out with his last breath, “It is Finished!”

Before Jesus even got to the cross, he took the beating of 40 lashes with whips that tore his flesh off and exposed his internal organs.  That beating paid for our complete physical and emotional healing. And on the cross, the justice that satisfied our guilt was completely fulfilled. Jesus didn’t just take on our sin – the Spotless One became our sin. So when he uttered those three words, “It is finished,” our TOTAL salvation, which is our healing AND redemption was paid for and won.

Now we can all expect to be healed from everything that is not of God. I wish I could answer why some people are healed right away and others aren’t. But I can tell you that God is the God of the In-Between. There is often a season of waiting in between the promise and the manifestation. And it’s in the waiting that we learn to grow in faith, to practice our faith and to lean into the Lord when it looks as though nothing is happening.

So while we are waiting for the complete manifestation of our healing, we are going to experience freedom by remembering that God’s Word is our lifeline, God’s presence is our refuge and God’s voice is our necessity. Because He is our Chain Breaker, we are Free – we are no longer captives. We are free now!

Now you:

  • Do you know how to access the Presence of the Lord?
  • Have you made a habit of asking the Lord to speak to you about things that concern you?
  • Do you write down what you hear in your heart? Do you have anyone who is scripturally grounded who can help you screen those words?

The Word says that the Lord is enthroned upon our praises (Psalm 22:3), and we know that worship is the atmosphere of heaven (Revelation 7:11-15), so when we worship either in song or with our words, the Lord’s presence is magnified.  While He is always with us, we need to learn to increase our awareness of His presence. Worship, praise and thanksgiving focus our attention on Him and clear our minds of worldly clutter.

I encourage you to schedule some time with the Lord, like a date with a friend.  Turn off the phone, and focus on Who He is.  As you learn to direct your thoughts to the multiple facets of God’s greatness and love, you will begin to be aware that chains are falling away that were once impossible to get free from.

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, this life is so busy and confusing.  I am pulled in so many directions and feel the weight of my burdens pressing down on me.  I am caught in “time” and can’t see how any of this is going to work out for my good. But I know that You are Good and that You are my Father. You promise to protect me, to deliver me from evil and to work everything out for my good. Jesus, please sustain me with your love. Pour out Your peace upon the fires in my heart.  Quell every frightful thought and release me from the  stranglehold of the enemy.  I exalt Your victory over every bondage of the enemy and your victory in me.  In Christ, I am free! There is freedom laying all my worries at your feet.  Your peace won’t let me go! In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Extravagant devotion: Drinking in and pouring out

Sunset through windows.jpg

In John Chapter 12, there is a story about how six days before Passover, Jesus went to the home of his three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, for a meal.  This story perfectly depicts the roles that these three siblings have adopted with Jesus.  They each have a certain relationship with Jesus and their relationship is flavored by their unique personalities and approach to the Master.

John relates that Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining with Jesus. These were usual roles for men and women in those days.  And they were usual roles for both Martha and Lazarus. Earlier in the book of John, we saw Martha racing around serving food to a houseful of people, frustrated with her sister who was seemingly not helping her enough. And we saw that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus by the way Jesus wept before he raised him from the dead.

So Martha is serving and Lazarus is chatting, but Mary is doing something different. She is doing something that no one has ever seen before.  Mary takes a pint of pure nard – an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages – and poures it on Jesus’ feet and then wipes his feet with her hair.

Immediately, Judas Iscariot, whom we know betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, speaks up in protest that the perfume was wasted on Jesus.  He says that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  This was a man whose hand was always in the till so that’s why he would have wanted to see the perfume sold.

But back to Mary – why did she do such a thing? What prompted her to take expensive perfume and offer it to Jesus along with the humble act of washing his feet with her hair? I think she did it because she had developed a habit – a lifestyle really – of worship and devotion.  The only way that she could offer such an extravagant gift is because she had an extravagant love for the Lord.  This was a love she had cultivated.  It didn’t come overnight.  She put herself in the position of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus so that she could be an extravagant worshiper.

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