Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Be Still!

I meet with a plethora of clients through my busy weeks and I sincerely enjoy each of them. However, as happens so frequently in this ministry, one client recently has reminded me of a significant truth. As this individual has shared with me over several months, I have been amazed at the pace with which this person lives life! Working two jobs (one of which requires a great deal of travel), pursuing another college degree, managing the home and several teenagers with all of their various needs and activities, as well as a marriage and the daily activities of life, listening to this person’s story, I was exhausted! For myself, I cannot imagine living life at such a hectic pace. I would not be able to function at my best if I lived at that kind of pace.
It is apparent that many of us living in this age of complex economics have been forced to do less with more on the career front as many companies are cutting to bare bones. We are expected to multitask to the point of (sometimes) exhaustion, both mental and emotional, whether on the cell phone, laptop, Blackberry, in meetings, working overtime, etc. I’m left asking myself if our life styles are terribly healthy when we live at such a rapid pace. At my age and through many seasons of poor choices, I have recognized the gift of knowing my own limitations! I know I need to be still.
I need quiet. I need time in which I can sit and process my thoughts and emotions good, bad or indifferent. I want to invest deeply in the relationships of the people closest to me, my husband, my children and their spouses/fiancĂ©es, extended family, and precious friends. That investment requires time and energy. I need self knowledge to know when to say, “No.” I endeavor to identify what God is calling me to pursue and I must be willing to sacrifice the extraneous, not to the point of emotional detriment, but definitely weeding out those things that are going to drain me of the needed energy to be emotionally balanced.
Psalm 46:10 commands us to “be still and know that I am God…” When I am still, I see God more clearly. When I am still, I have a much clearer vision of myself and therefore my limitations. I can rest in the fact that He is God and I am not! He is in control and I don’t have to be in control of anyone or anything but myself. That in itself is enough work! I don’t need to take on anything more than what He is calling me to do. When I am still, I find my relationship with Him is deeper and more satisfying. I am able to bask in His love for me, filled to abundance! Then I can pour out that love to the people He places in my life. I thank Him for my limitations and my joy is overflowing! I am still.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At Peace With my "Neediness"

I am a needy person. There it is written for the entire world to see: I am needy. Now please understand me; I’m not talking about being a “black-hole of need” as a girlfriend of mine is known to say! But within healthy boundaries, I need to feel valuable, to be important to the people I love, and to be respected. I need encouragement and I want to be liked, even if my laugh is too loud! For years I have struggled with what I have believed to be an unappealing aspect of my personality. I perceive it as a weakness. I want to hide my neediness from the people around me, especially those people that are not part of my inner circle. I want to overcome it. So I spent years trying to be self-sufficient. I was not very successful and I ended up retreating further into myself denying my neediness.
To top it all off, we live in a culture that encourages self sufficiency. We admire “self-made” individuals; we look up to those who “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and then we wonder why we struggle with being vulnerable and authentic. The idea that people need each other can be a real turn-off. But frankly the truth is we are all needy. I believe God created us to be needy….to need Him.
When we look to God to fill our need for value, the words of John 3:16 answer us: “For God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son…” When we look to God for love, we find that His character is love, (1 John 4:8); therefore He cannot love us any more or any less than He does right now. When we look to God to fill our need for respect, we find that He considers us His masterpiece according to Ephesians 2:10. That should fill our need to be respected.
Finally, as we are able to ascertain our value, lovability, and worth in what God says about us, it takes pressure off of the people most intimately connected to us in our lives. The ability to receive His love and His worth of us then translates into seeing those around us through that blanket of love. We are therefore able to love others with a less demanding love, a love that can enjoy others just for who they are, not for what they give us or what needs they fill in us! That’s when we will know that our “neediness” has been transferred to Him, where it belongs. I suppose that is why I can be at peace with my own “neediness”!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Doing "Church"

Lately I’ve been reading a whole lot of books about "church": healthy churches, how to “do” church, how to lead and encourage leadership, and the like. I’m finding it very frustrating that we struggle so much about how to “do” church. I thought church was about getting together on Sunday morning to celebrate what God did, has done, and is continuing to do.
He came to earth in the form of a man, lived with us, and then died a horrific death on a cross only to be raised to new life three days later. All of our sin was hung on Him, the one perfect God-man so that we could have a relationship with our Creator God. Then, when we respond to a love that we cannot understand, and we acknowledge what Jesus did for us, we receive His love and forgiveness. We are saved and rescued from hell. That’s when God gives us a piece of His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to remind us of all of the things Jesus told the disciples when He was here, to help us relate to God in a new way, with no one between us and God.
This incredible gift is still going on today, this love that calls people out of darkness into His marvelous light. And we are supposed to gather together once a week to celebrate and lift up the name of Jesus. Why does this have to be so difficult?!! It’s because we are broken! As long as faulty, sinful humans are involved, worshipping God will be faulty as well! We disagree over worship style, music style, what the Pastor’s job is, how many hours he should spend in the office, what kinds of programs we should be doing, how long the sermon should be and on and on ad nauseum! But I would hope at some point we would be able to apply the things that we learn from the scripture about how to “love our neighbor”, how to extend grace and show the world just what Jesus meant when He said “Love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples when you love one another” (John 13:34-35)
Maybe we need to ask God what our worship of Him should look. Are we really there to celebrate the risen Lord? Or have we become so entrenched in what “church” should look like that we have forgotten the whole intention of it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Love Wisely

Today was a busy day with clients. As I was praying with my final couple for the day, I was moved to tears as we laid our petitions before our heavenly Father. Life brings painful circumstances; parents hurt us, children make choices that leave us feeling like failures, and our own choices have consequences that we can’t even begin to anticipate. Helping people put healthy boundaries into place is a valuable tool, but can produce great sadness. We all need to love with wisdom and learn how to live out that love in such a way that God is still glorified. By His grace, we have guidelines by which we can do this.
I’m a big fan of the book of Proverbs and use it to clarify the decisions that allow me to establish these kinds of boundaries. In “The Message,” Proverbs 9:7 spells out one of my measures for those I allow within my personal boundaries:
If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you'll get slapped in the face; confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins. So don't waste your time on a scoffer; all you'll get for your pains is abuse. But if you correct those who care about life, that's different—they'll love you for it! Save your breath for the wise—they'll be wiser for it; tell good people what you know—they'll profit from it. Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God. It's through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens, and the years of your life ripen. Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life; mock life and life will mock you.
By applying this scripture I can make wise choices and avoid the painful consequences of loving people unwisely. That may mean that some people who have proven themselves dangerous or untrustworthy will be on the outskirts of my boundaries. I love them, but I love them from a distance. By loving in this fashion, I prevent damage to my soul while maintaining a loving spirit towards the individual, and more importantly, God is glorified as I learn to love wisely.

Monday, August 17, 2009

He Restores My Soul

Having just returned from vacation, my house looks a little worse for wear! There is no doubt that I own a dog when I see the “hair-tumbleweeds” rolling about on the tile floor! The cobwebs in the corners and the spiders waiting to catch fruit-flies gross me out! I spent over an hour just vacuuming the carpets and the cobwebs. The floors will be washed and the laundry caught up by the end of my day. The pile of mail will be sorted and clothes from the suitcases will be put away. Then I will be able to relax and get to the other work in my office!
Sometimes my soul feels just the same way. There are cobwebs of un-confessed sin and tumbleweeds of impure thoughts. The complacency in my pursuit of God and taking up my cross daily tends to fall to the floor like so much dirty laundry. That’s when I know that I need to sit quietly with God, in the Word, in prayer, confessing sins, and enjoying His presence. Celebrating the joy of His love and mercy quickly restores order to my sloppy soul and I can relax and rest in Him. I am more attuned to the small still voice directing my actions through the day. Meditating on the different scripture that I am studying and trying to apply to my life helps me to put away the “folded laundry” of my thought life and helps me to adjust my focus on Him. Then the peace that passes understanding “washes the floor” of my heart and restores order to my life. Once again I am tuned in to where God is working in the world around me and I join Him as He is directing me to use my gifts for the furthering of His kingdom. Psalm 23 becomes a living action as He “restores my soul.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Joy of the Lord!

I’m on vacation, but I am able to access the internet, so I will blog some.
Yesterday I had the awesome privilege of watching three precious men be baptized! The love and joy amidst our church family was palpable as these men shared what Christ has done in their lives and hearts. One of the men is also a member of the Life Group to which I referred in my previous blog. We have prayed with and for this great guy for several years and to see God answer this prayer was an incredible blessing for us. I tell you, this community has become so dear to me! 2 Thessalonians 1:2-4 describes succinctly the work of the Holy Spirit in our group: We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
When I feel discouraged, when I question God’s work in myself, or even His presence, I will look back on this day and be encouraged! I will marvel at the love that I feel for this community which can only be given by God. I will remember God’s faithfulness to answered prayer, to maturing us in love, and to the joy that I experienced while we celebrated the work of the Spirit and the obedience of these men who followed Christ’s example to be baptized. This history of God’s presence and faithfulness helps me to cling tightly on the bad days and to allow His joy to be my strength through the tough times! The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Life Group

I have always loved Psalm 68:6: “God places the lonely in families”…and I’m living proof of that truth. Most of my adult life has been lived hundreds of miles from the family in which I grew up. But I have a group of precious friends with whom I share my life. We’re called a ‘Life Group’. We have watched each other’s children grow and flourish, mourned when dear family members went to be with Jesus, and rejoiced with each other over successes. We study the Bible together, pray for each other and sometimes rebuke each other if necessary. Jesus has poured encouragement, accountability, and truths into my heart by this family. I can’t imagine my life without them.
That’s not to say that we don’t have conflict; where there are two people, there will be at least three opinions! We don’t agree on everything, but we are able to respect the opinions of each other. I believe that because we share a bond of love through our faith in Jesus Christ, somehow the love is more important than the opinions.
Presently I’m preparing for vacation and I will be with some of my family of friends. I may not be able to blog for the next week, but I will be making notes to myself of any truths God reveals to me. I enjoy sharing these truths in this blog and pray that you have been encouraged, challenged, and entertained. More than anything, I pray that God speaks to your heart this week as you allow Him to fill you with His joy!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Thy Will be Done"

Today has been an encouraging day for me with the counseling ministry. It’s such a privilege to hear what God is doing in the lives of the precious people He has put in my path. His faithfulness just overwhelms me! And I feel ridiculous when I say that because I shouldn’t be surprised…..and yet I am just astounded by Him again and again! His timing, His mercy, His grace and His love truly are so much more than we can fathom! May I never become complacent or contemptuous towards the wonder of God!
My husband has a small IT company and times have been tough. Not only is business a little on the slow side, but his clients are just as stretched as everyone else, and we have not been receiving some of the payments in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, when I am in the thick of these challenges, it is so easy to become discouraged. I want God to just swoop in and fix it!! Fix the problems, tell the clients that owe us money to just pay us, and make everything comfortable.
But God is not in the business of making us comfortable; He is in the business of making us into images of Jesus. According to Romans 8:29: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son (NASB). Larry Crabb speaks beautifully to this process in his book “The Pressure’s Off”. Some of what I read there didn’t make me too happy! What’s wrong with wanting to have a comfortable life? Doesn’t God want to give us the desires of our heart?
I think the problem arises when I want my comfort more than I want God. When His will for me (making me into a ‘Little Jesus’) trumps my desire for a comfortable life, I think He doesn’t love me as I believe He should. I have to constantly remember the prayer, “thy will be done” and then be willing to put that into practice. So, if that means that Bob and I have to rest in His provision during this season of financial struggle, than I have to be willing to surrender my will to His. I must say, this isn’t my favorite lesson, but I know that it is a valuable one. I have learned that God’s timing is perfect….even when I don’t think it is. But I’m also remembering: I’m being conformed into the image of His Son. That is God’s work. I need to be just as excited about what He is doing in my life as I am about what He is doing in the lives of my clients.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hunting for Ourselves

For the last several days we have had an immature Red Tail hawk hanging around the neighborhood. Being a birdwatcher, I have been fascinated by this bird of prey and puzzled by his behavior. He tends to just sit in the trees around the yard and call with this loud, high-pitched kind of whistle. I’m not sure what the point is, but I have wondered: is he trying to get the attention one of his parents to feed him? Many times young birds of prey resist leaving the nest and hunting for themselves. It’s so much easier to allow mom and dad to do the hunting!
Sometimes we can do the same thing about our quiet time with God. Similar to this immature hawk, it’s much easier to allow our pastor or a Christian education teacher to teach us from the Bible then to feed ourselves on the scripture. Maybe we just snack through the week on short devotions, or with the fast food of two or three verses from Psalms. Rather than sitting down to a meal prepared for us by our heavenly Father with His love letter to us (and maybe a commentary to supplement) we find it so much easier to allow someone else to feed us. But we miss out on the wonder and joy of discovering precious truffles of truth, carrots of conviction, or pastas of promises! Don’t allow your soul food to become just a snack or fast food. As Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Allow Him through His Word to serve you the richest of fare! Be willing to hunt for yourself.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Adventure

Well, here I am starting a blog. As an aspiring Christian women's speaker/writer, I was informed that blogging is a great way to build a platform. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts and ideas with people from all over the country......so this really is an adventure! As a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, I pray that people would find encouragement, challenge, and truth. As a Christian Counselor, I look forward to sharing some of the different insights I have learned over the years about grace, mercy, and the unimaginable love that Jesus has for you and me. His love was so apparent to me as I attended a conference in Concord, NC called 'She Speaks!' It is hosted by Proverbs-31 Women! It was an amazing experience and the Spirit of God was powerfully present. I learned so much about writing....questions I didn't even know I should ask. I'm looking forward to next year's conference already!I did have an interesting conversation with a man on my return flight. He was a physics professor from a prestigious college on the west coast. He was intelligent and open to discussion. As he was explaining some of the research he had been doing, we ended up in a deep discussion about faith and the wonder of the soul....something that science still cannot explain, but cannot deny. It was enjoyable to see this learned man also not understand the mystery and wonder of the soul. Naturally, the conversation turned to the existence of God, or as I put the question to him, intelligent design. Sadly, he admitted that he really did not believe in God. I felt sad for this as I thought about this later. So intelligent, so interesting to talk to, yet he was living proof that God chooses to reveal Himself in the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). I don't hold any doctorate degrees; as a matter of fact, my only degree is an associate's. But I have a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ and I have the Holy Spirit guiding me in all truth! All the degrees in the world could not compare to the joy and peace I experience daily!