Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maturity in Spite of Me

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Ephesians 4: 14 – 15

I wanted his approval and good will more than I wanted to be holy.  I wanted to be held in high esteem, so I tolerated bad behavior and foolish jesting at the expense of others.  My desire for acceptance was greater than my desire for God.  These are my sins…confessed, repented of, forgiveness requested and received before the Lord and the appropriate individuals, now shared to make this point: spiritual maturity is attained slowly but surely in spite of self because God is mightier than foolishness or sin.  He will finish His work in us.

As many of you [readers] are aware, relationships are extremely important to me.  But as I reflect, those relationships were not more important to me than my standing before particular individuals.  Through the consequence of the loss of those relationships over the last few years, along with the humbling and difficult work of repairing them, the Holy Spirit is doing the transforming work required to make me “grow up”.  Spiritual maturity requires hard work!  And I believe relationships are the means by which Jesus is transforming me, and you, to spiritually mature people who resemble Jesus. 

Truth in my inmost being was required first: truth about who God is and His mighty power used to make me holy through the circumstances of this life that His sovereignty allows.  Truth about my sins: my desires, my will, being more important than the will of the Savior who rescued me from the pit of hell.  Finally, I had to be honest and recognize that my life in Him is to reflect and pursue kingdom purposes; “His kingdom come, His will be done”.

My next step was in observing others through the Lord’s perspective: each individual is His creation.  Therefore, I had no choice but to respect each individual and their opinions, cull the wheat from the chaff and pray for wisdom and understanding to confront my sinful behavior and make amends where I could.  Restoration is the work of God and I am to join Him in that work.

Finally, I must continue to apply the above steps willfully and intentionally if I am submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Today I am celebrating God’s faithfulness, love, mercy and eternal presence in my life.  I still have a long way to go in this process of maturity and I won’t be surprised if I have to practice these steps many times to get it right!  But I’m in this for the long haul…to become like Jesus, to be presented as blameless before my holy, righteous God.  Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Find Out What it Means to Jesus)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Eph. 4: 2

 Respect: Aretha famously sang about it. Our society complains about the lack thereof.  But not long ago, I was confronted by the lack of respect within myself.  I was taught some difficult truth by a person that I, sinfully, did not value as I should.  While I am not proud of this fact, I found the Holy Spirit speaking sternly to me in my arrogance and hammered home a lesson I’m not likely to forget anytime soon!  But as usually happens when the Lord moves, the experience also allowed me to ponder the necessity of respect for others.  Even if I don’t particularly like someone, or believe that somehow I am superior, I am to treat each individual with respect.  Period.

The fact is every person is created in the image of God according to Genesis 1:27.  If I’m “completely humble and gentle” than respect is present.   In Philippians 2:3, Paul also says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,…” Frankly, that is the definition for respect: “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person.”

How would our relationships alter if we recognized the creation made in God’s image in every individual we encountered?  What do we miss when we are unwilling to view others through the lenses of the Lord and see them as He does?  Honestly, the path to maturity is cultivated through relationships…and respect is one of our most important tools.  Thankfully, the Lord handed me that tool (again) through one of His children and altered my vision in the process.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No More Illusions

“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.” Eph. 4:25 (MSG)

Have you ever gone through a period of time that has left you so discouraged, hurt and confused that you don’t even know what you need?  Thankfully, while I’m on the road out of that pit, I am discovering afresh and anew how sovereign our heavenly Father is and how willingly He meets our needs if we will just turn to Him.  Considering the last few years, the Lord’s timing of focusing my heart on the book of Ephesians is wrought with irony and loving mercy.
 One painful lesson I learned preparing for the retreat concerns truth.   Regrettably, people will inadvertently distort truth through the lenses of perspective.  I used the idea of an optical illusion to emphasize this point.  Optical illusions can affect our perception of reality.  Similarly, one person’s perspective impacts another person’s perception of truth.  In other words, facts from one person’s viewpoint may be very different from another person’s.  Without prayer and discernment, I cannot bank on the perception of facts from one or two people to be truth.  Jesus is the only one who is in possession of all of the facts of any situation because He sees the hearts of all the participants.  We cannot.  Only as the Lord reveals actual truth can we make decisions and progress accordingly.  That’s one reason why we are to forgive others, and bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2); otherwise as the body of Christ, we will be divided.
After all that I have experienced, I’m doing my level best to remember that because imperfect, broken people are involved (including me) in my life, truth will always be shaded with the perspectives of all involved!  If I can remember this, then, even while I lick my wounds, I can respond with praise for God’s ability to reveal TRUTH!  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Robust In Love: Opening

“We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other.  His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Eph. 4: 15 – 16 (MSG)

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s retreat for the women of my church.  I was one of three speakers and our title was “Robust in Love” taken from the verse highlighted in today's blog.  Our focus was the necessity for maturity as godly women and emphasizing the building of God’s kingdom through us. 

Our first speaker spoke on “Trusting Upward” and shared her powerful testimony as to how the Lord called her out of a sinful life through some painful and life-changing trials.  The turning point of falling in love with Jesus came through an amazingly simple circumstance: a loved one had asked her to read the Bible aloud and over the course of time, as the words started to move from her brain and sink into her heart, the love God has for her was revealed as though a blindfold was removed from her eyes!  That is the power of the Word of God!

Our final speaker addressed “Peace Inward” and shared how we can find peace even when we feel abandoned, angry, hurt, or worse in the storms of life while we learn the enduring truth of God’s goodness, love, and grace for us as He brings us to maturity. 

I was the second speaker and my specific topic was called “Risking Outward.”   It may sound odd, but frankly, how many of us have a true understanding of what it means to “love our neighbors as ourselves”?  Yet, that is our commandment: to share the love we have received in our horizontal relationships in a manner that is glorifying to God.  So how do we live out relationships that glorify God?  I will be addressing this topic through a small series of blogs for the next few weeks.  I hope and pray you will join me as I share how the Lord stepped on my toes and challenged me as I researched and prayed through the book of Ephesians.   

For now, I want to leave you with a question: what prevents us from loving our neighbor, our spouse, or our child in a manner that brings glory to God?  Please read Ephesians and my future blogs and we’ll compare answers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Acquainted With Grief

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Is. 53:3 (NASB)

Grief is a strange emotion.  There is no timeline.  It ebbs and flows with its own course to be experienced through a lifetime.  Twenty-six years ago today I lost a daughter, Erin.  She was stillborn at the end of an entire nine months.  Nine months twenty-six years ago; it seems like a lifetime.  While Jesus has granted me a great deal of healing through His grace (See ‘Amazing Grace’ Sept. 2009), I find that some years are more difficult than others.

Do people ever look beyond my smiling lips to see my eyes subduing the sudden pain in my heart?  Do they recognize the loss so intimate, the stillborn child, unknown to all but me?  Nine months spent fruitlessly waiting to fill empty arms that would never be filled with that particular life.  Her life unlived amid dreams never to be fulfilled, laughter never to be shared, and the birthdays never to be celebrated, but mourned over year after year: that is my truth.  A life unidentified to anyone else, but never forgotten by me, her movements felt by no one else save me.  Although twenty-six years have passed, the heartache can still be so sharp, the memories so fresh, it’s as though the delivery day took place just yesterday.   These are my memories:

Unforgettable, the silence of that delivery room; tears of anguish flowing unchecked accompanied by the low moaning of the young mother.  The only other sounds: a quietly weeping nurse as she wiped clean the still, un-breathing baby of what should have been life-giving blood and the clanking of instruments.  A young father stood silently, overwhelmed and withdrawn from the unthinkable horror of the moment.  Precious, fine baby hair was snipped and footprints taken from the unmoving infant for later recollection of parents destroyed by grief.

The memorial service was centered on the tiny coffin with words spoken that are no longer remembered.  Her mother unable to contain the grief, wailing her tears, yet ashamed of the emotions she couldn’t control.  A father so shut down, he was unable to mourn, trying, but unable, to comfort his wife.  He would later run from his grief into his job and be swallowed by it. 

Months afterward, at home, two toddlers confused by not understanding a mother who alternated between sobbing bitterly and fiercely hugging them.  For a time, hope seemed impossible and what does normal life look like after burying a baby?  Oddly enough, the sun still rises in the morning and the demands of children continue in spite of the agony of loss.  Life does go on.

As I read what I have written, I realize that the recollections are written it in third person, probably to maintain the distance that it took years to achieve.  Now when I look back, I don’t know how I got through that time in my life.  I was twenty-three years old.  My life was forever altered by that event.  How can one prepare for such a cataclysm?  However, that event started me on a search for purpose.  I had to find a love that would not die, a reality that could move me beyond the brokenness to find healing and hope. 

Jesus Christ was, and is, the only unchanging, perfect love that I could find.  He, too, was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and He understood my pain.  That the Father in heaven comforted me in my pain, I have no doubt.  The Holy Spirit’s power activated in my life is the only explanation for the ability to come to terms with such a harrowing loss.  That love started a healing process that I will never understand.

For whatever reason, this year the memory of the delivery day and what followed was sharper than it has been for a very long time, hence this blog.  I will always miss Erin and I will always wonder who she would have become.  But I have undeniable, assured hope that I will see her again.  My arms will be filled with that particular life that I carried for nine months.  And my heart will finally be whole once more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From 9/11 to Hope

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Any of us who were present for Sept. 11, 2001 have a story of where we were when we either watched or heard the most incredible news: the United States was under attack.  In that moment, our lives changed radically and a nation long divided by politics, religion, and economic status was united in response to the senseless deaths of over two thousand nine hundred people.

As I watched the opening of the National 9/11 Memorial and the memorial service on the tenth anniversary of that tragic event, I was moved to tears by the stories of the lives so transformed by that day; the children who lost parents, the mothers who lost sons, etc.  I personally did not lose a loved one, but as a member of this nation, I mourned with those who mourned on Sunday.   Today I offer this simple poem of my thoughts and emotions as a tribute to those who lost their lives and the families who survived to go on and inspire a nation to hope again.

Smoking building, falling debris;
Chaos crushing, hard to breath,
Lives were sacrificed for thee.

Confusion, terror, loss of peers
Numbness, anguish, mounting fears;
Fury for children’s mourning tears.

Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons,
Husbands, wives, beloved ones;
Love unending, forgetting none.

National mourning, the world responds,
Kings, prime ministers, vagabonds;
None untouched, all undone.

Soaring growth, memorials built,
Some still fight survivor’s guilt
But none give up; seek peace, be still.

Ten years passed, lives renewed,
Children grown, all hearts imbued
To cherished hope they cling unmoved.


“But I will strip Esau bare; I will uncover his hiding places, so that he cannot conceal himself.” Jeremiah 49:10

You know, I have experienced God’s speaking into my life in such amazing ways.  Yet each time I am surprised…and awed…that the God of the universe who put the planets into place and knows each star by name will still pursue me and love me enough to make me holy.  But the means by which He reaches me can surely make me very uncomfortable and I am still prideful enough to resist.  But here is His latest conviction to my heart.

I am hiding.

I am staying safe within my little world, which over the last few years has dwindled from a huge “family” of about three hundred people to about fifteen.  Circumstances aside, I have become cowardly when it comes to relationships.  And there are many people whose forgiveness I am still seeking for my withdrawal.
The really difficult part is having the healthy boundaries to know who is safe to come further into my world and who has shown themselves unsafe and therefore needs to remain at a safe distance.  Herein lies the rub; and I’m still trying to figure this all out.

But the most amazing part is that I am preparing to speak at a woman’s retreat about this very topic!  My topic is “Risking Outward”, meaning how do I love others when I am afraid? However, God in His faithfulness is answering me clearly and concisely.  Therefore, I have a lot of “ ‘splainin’ ” to do.  And many people of whom I will be asking forgiveness.  How God must “shake His head” to confront me in my sin in such a manner…and haul me out of my hiding place. 

If you believe you are one of those people, I would surely love your assistance!  Call me, or send me a Face Book message, or an e-mail.  But don’t let me go any longer retreating into my little world.  I need relationship with you as much as you do me!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Single Moment

 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:7-9

I saw the most amazing sight today:  a Cooper’s hawk grabbed a Mourning Dove right out of thin air!  I was just stepping outside with my dog when the two doves were startled from the ground and took off for the trees behind my deck.  Suddenly, I saw the hawk swoop from a branch and grab one of the doves in mid-air with incredible precision.  Feathers flew as did the remaining dove making a quick escape, flying for its life.  There was barely a sound as the hawk flew off into the woods with its lunch clenched firmly in its talons.  This all took place in a single moment,

That moment grabbed my attention.  Just like that dove, Satan can grab us when we least expect it!  As Peter reminds us, we must remain alert and remember that Satan is prowling about just looking for an opportunity to devour us.  Satan uses all kinds of distractions to tempt us: the computer, TV, the Coach bag that is out of our budget, or (in my case) a second helping of dessert!  Thankfully, unlike that dove, we usually have plenty of time to make a decision about the temptation we face.  But there are situations when we might only have a single moment to decide.

What choice will you make today?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fear is an Enemy

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 John 4:18

I’m sorry I’ve been so neglectful of you my readers, but I have been preparing for a retreat for which I’m speaking.  My heart has been fully occupied with sitting with the Lord while listening, praying, and gaining some understanding of what it means to love others and still I am exploring this topic.  I’ll share with you some of what I’m uncovering.

I’ve always loved the Scripture I’ve chosen to share today because fear has been a companion throughout my life.  Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being “less-than”, just to name a few, have accompanied me on this life’s journey.  And yet I remember reading this Scripture years ago and wondering how I would ever find the understanding and ability to believe it.

Finally, it hit me: “fear has to do with punishment.”  In other words, in my experience, punishment equals pain.  Failure is painful.  Rejection is painful.  Insecurity is painful.  And I will do just about anything to avoid pain.

And I bet you do to.

So how do I go about reframing failure, rejection and insecurity so that those emotions are not associated with just pain?  How about considering these painful emotions as an opportunity for growth? 

It has only been through my fear of failure that I learned wisdom in making wiser choices! 

It has been through my fear of rejection that I have learned to receive the love of my precious Savior because He will never reject me!

It has been through my insecurity that I have learned a dependence on the living God and the assurance that He will sustain me through any and every circumstance!

I’m still learning about His perfect love and while I’m on this side of heaven, I’ll continue to learn.  But the journey has become far less fearful as I abide and rest in Jesus.

PS:  If you are interested in attending the retreat to which I referred please Face Book “Women 2 Women” for details.  Thank you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How’s Your Heart?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Prov.4:23

I've just finished doing some painting in my kitchen, and living room.  It’s been several years… OK, more than ten years…. since these rooms were painted.  I must say there is nothing like a fresh coat of paint to make rooms look like new!  Frankly, I was so accustomed to the appearance of the rooms that I really couldn’t “see” them until the fresh paint was applied.  Now it’s apparent that the walls were in dire need of fresh paint!

It occurs to me that our hearts can be in dire need of “fresh paint”.  I can become calloused and hard if I don’t do the daily maintenance to prevent my heart from becoming dingy and dull.  Sitting quietly with Jesus in the Word, in prayer, and talking of spiritual matters with other Christians, helps to protect my heart from the dirt (sin) and pollution (world) in which I live.  Confession and repentance of the sins allows the Lord to purify me daily.  Monitoring the unhealthy influences of TV, internet, and other media are the preventive measures I can take to maintain the cleanliness of my heart.  It’s a battle. 

But the moment- to-moment battle guarding my heart is far less exhausting as I allow the love of God to permeate every available space in my heart.  Nothing can preserve the integrity of my heart more than the unfailing unfathomable love of my holy and gracious heavenly Father.  My heart is in His hands.  How’s your heart today?

Friday, June 10, 2011

God’s Presence

“Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” 2 Chronicles 7:15-16

In my personal devotion reading this past week, I found something that I had never really noticed before.  In 2 Chronicles 7, I read that Solomon had completed construction of the Temple and is dedicating it.  Those of you who have been following my blog know of the struggle to lose weight and the importance of my body being a temple of the Holy Spirit as Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 3:16. 

The Temple was known as the resting place of God’s presence.  And as I strive to bring my “temple” under His authority, I realized that the power and comfort the Temple brought to the nation of Israel is just as accessible for me today!  I was struck by the verses I quoted to open this blog because in these Scripture, I am reassured that He is consecrating this “temple”, His eyes and ears are open to the prayers I offer Him, and His eyes and heart are always with me.  Therefore, I am never abandoned, I am never alone, nor am I a hopeless case when it comes to my weight!
As a matter of fact, I have lost two sizes since January!  But thankfully the size of my “temple” does not determine His presence, nor does my behavior.  His presence is determined by His consecration of me.  According to, ‘consecration’ means “to make or declare sacred or holy.”  He’s doing the work.  My job is to join Him in the work He’s doing.  Meanwhile, I am enjoying the fruits of His presence and His labors!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Light Inside

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I am tired of cloudy, overcast skies!  If you live in New England, you will be able to relate to what I’m talking about: a lack of sunshine.  Rainy, grey, heavily overcast skies have prevailed, with no sun for days on end.  Then for half a day the sun will shine and it feels like we are finally turning a corner, until the next morning and the fog is as thick as pea soup and the skies are again leaden with clouds.  That has been our reality this month and yes I know things are awful weather-wise all around the country, but as I contemplated our weather specifically, I was reminded just how much we humans long for the sun to shine!

But as always, God had a message in those clouds for me.  Do I remember that I carry the light of life within me?
Do you?

Truthfully, I don’t always live like that is my reality.  A question in my heart was asked: how much has Jesus shined in me this week, month, or year?  I have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit!  How is the light escaping into the darkness of a hurting world?  Do I love my neighbor?  Am I seeking to make peace and extend forgiveness?  How about my prayer life?  Am I living as a servant to all those around me? 

I am carrying the light of the world within me.  May God empower me to allow His Son to shine with His purpose and for His glory!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Holding On to Promises

“Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”          2 Peter 1:4

As I shared previously, my precious Savior reveals truths to me through the most unusual methods.  My last post was a lesson in letting go.  Today we will focus on a lesson in holding on.

Just about a month ago, Bob and I added a new member to our family.  Kirby, a miniature Schnauzer arrived and quickly stole our hearts!  As any puppy will do, he loves to play tug-of-war.  At 15 weeks of age, I have been impressed by the strength of this tiny dog as he holds on to his toys for dear life!    Frankly, I could learn a lesson from this little fellow.  He holds on to the promise of getting his toy with a tenacity that puts me to shame.

How many times have I forgotten to hold on to the promises of God: who He says He is, who He says I am, and the wondrous depths of His love for me.

And for you!

When doubts enter in to our thinking, Satan has an open door to wreak havoc with our minds and with our faith.  There is no better moment to latch on to the promises we know and hold on with all of our might or even with the least strength, for when we are weak, God’s strength is displayed (2 Cor. 12:9-11).  Remember, it only takes a mustard-seed sized faith for God to change the world!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Letting Go

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Eph. 4:31
I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last posted, but during these last couple of weeks God has been teaching me lessons on when to hold on and when to let go.  I’ll start with the letting go first. 

I finally had to let go of my dog of fourteen years.  Sheila, an Australian Shepherd, was a great dog: companionable, loving, comforting, all that a person could want a dog to be.  Blind, partially deaf, her hips finally gave out on her.  Making the decision to have her “put down” was heartbreakingly painful and it was a decision I didn’t want to make.  We had been through these spells before where she just couldn’t get up, but this time, she didn’t regain her strength and I knew it was time to let her go. 

Letting go can be a difficult decision.  Especially when we have loved and nursed something we have to let go.  I nursed and loved Sheila and letting her go was painful.  But she wasn’t healthy anymore and holding on to her was selfish.

However, I’ve also been known to nurse and love other things that are not healthy:

Things like hurt, bitterness and anger.
And that is selfish as well.

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is emphatic that those are emotions we need to let go: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice.  When I nurse those emotions, I find that the hurt, bitterness, and anger start to grow out of control and start to drain me of precious energy, energy that is required to do the things the Lord has called me to do in serving His people.  Letting go of these emotions can be painful initially.  But the rewards far outweigh the pain.  Maybe today you can decide to let go of some unhealthy things in your life.  Take them to the Lord and ask for His help in letting go.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Llama Drama

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”  Luke 15:4-5 (NASB)

Several years ago, I was in my office on the phone with my husband.  Looking up, there they were!  Four llamas went trotting past my yard and continued down the street.  I quickly ended my phone call, saying to Bob, “You won’t believe this but there are four llamas running down our street!  I have to go!”

Without hesitation, I grabbed a dog leash and headed down the street in search of the llamas.  Because I grew up on a farm I was not the least bit afraid of them unlike some of the other people helping to catch them.  After quite an intensive herding effort by many neighbors in cars and trucks, I was able to catch one and slip the leash around her neck and guide her back to her pasture. 

Finally, the other three llamas were herded into the proper farm yard and I was able to set my charge free to join her mates safe and sound in their own pen.  By the time I returned home a good hour had passed and I knew I had to call my husband back and fill him in on the outcome of the wandering llamas!

When I finally stopped laughing about being part of such an unusual rural drama, I wondered how the owners would have felt if they had returned home and their llamas were missing.  I’m sure they were thrilled that people had taken the time to corral and return their animals.  

I love how God uses such strange and funny things to get my attention. As I thought further, I had a sobering thought.  I realized how rarely I see the lost “sheep” in my small world.  And I take for granted my precious Savior’s concern for His lost sheep.  Am I sensitive to the people He brings across my path?  Would I spend as much time ascertaining their spiritual needs as I did the need for the llamas to be returned to their home?  Do I ever stop to remember the extravagant price Jesus paid to rescue His lost sheep, including me?  May God grant me His insight to recognizing lost “sheep” as well as lost llamas!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Learning to Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

I’ve always learned a great deal about our Lord from His creation, through gardening, hiking, and animals. Recently, God revealed an interesting analogy to me using my dog Sheila who is 14 years old.

She’s an Australian Shepherd, one of the best dogs I have ever owned, and a true companion. She is deaf and partially blind now and her hips have been causing her pain and stiffness so that climbing the stairs of our home has become a painful and slow process. So for about the last year my husband has been carrying her up the stairs to our bedroom most nights.

Initially she would struggle and fight being carried and thankfully Bob, a big strong guy, was able to manage her so she didn’t fall or bring him down with her! Over the months her struggling became less and less until, finally, she barely struggles at all.

I’ve realized learning to rest in the Lord is very similar. Resting requires time and opportunity.

It took Sheila time and many trips up the stairs in Bob’s arms before she realized she was safe and didn’t have to struggle against Bob. We need time and opportunity with God holding us in His everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27) before we realize that we are safest in His arms.

When you find yourself struggling against God, take a moment and reflect on previous opportunities where God carried you. Then ask yourself, why are you struggling this time? He carried you safely before and He will carry you safely again.

So, exhale and rest. Rest quietly in His arms.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Choosing the Priority Over the Feeling

I’m feeling weary. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m feeling insecure. I’m feeling guilt-ridden. Why?

I’m just getting over a terrible cold and I’m still producing a hacking cough. I have a wisdom tooth breaking through my gum and it hurts.

I had to “close” the books for my husband’s business and then meet with the accountant to prepare for the taxes, and since accounting is NOT one of my gifts, my brain feels absolutely drained of anything useful.

I’m feeling insecure and under-appreciated in ministry and in my relationships. Mind you, no one has done or said anything to make me feel this way; it’s just how I feel.

An opportunity to share my precious Jesus was cancelled and I’m at a loss of what to do with the information I had already prepared. And most frightening, is God trying to tell me that I have no business pursuing a speaking/writing ministry? Is that why the event didn’t take place?

Weary. Overwhelmed. Insecure. These are the feelings I have. Because I cannot identify any valid reason for these feelings, I wind up feeling guilt-ridden, another uncomfortable feeling. So what do I do?

I bring them to my Jesus. I’m always quoting Jan Silvious and saying, “Feelings don’t have a brain.” Feelings just are; they have no rhyme or reason, they just are.

OK, so I bring these feelings to Jesus in prayer, in contemplation and I wait. I pour out my heart. I sit quietly and listen for the still, small voice to remind me of my priorities.

Doing His will no matter my feelings: that’s a priority.

Taking my thoughts captive: that’s a priority.

Continuing to spend time in the Bible with Him: that’s a priority.

Abiding in the True Vine as one of His branches: that’s a priority.

Thank you Father for showing me that my feelings don’t have the power to stop me from hearing Your voice…or responding in obedience. It’s my choice to pursue the priority....You!

PS - The weight loss continues going well.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Unchanging God

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” 2 Peter 3:10

A few years ago while hiking on the Appalachian Trail (AT), I came across a mud slide on the side of a mountain in Vermont. My partner and I rounded a curve and were met with the sight of complete destruction and the trail just disappeared. Huge pine trees lay on the side of the mountain like match sticks that had been dropped to the ground by a giant. They were all facing the same direction with dirt and rock piled all around them.

We noticed some temporary trail markers, so we knew that other hikers had made it through the debris. We climbed up and over trees and through rock piles clambering carefully for about half of a mile until we resumed our hike on the well worn path of the AT.

I have never forgotten the awesome and somewhat frightening sight. It was a powerful reminder that this earth, which appears to be so permanent, is only temporary. That fact is easily forgotten as we live our lives as though this place, this world, is forever.

One day we will be in eternity and all that has been will pass away. Our Lord is the only truly permanent, unchanging entity that is worthy of our trust. Thank you Father for being unchanging and worthy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Food for Thought

"Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” Ps. 39:4

Survival rate, treatment options, side effects from chemo; somewhere in somebody’s life today these terms are becoming integrated into their daily vocabulary. Alarming, unfamiliar phrases that signify the possible number of days left in an individual’s life because of three little words. It is amazing how simple words can pare away any extraneous impediments and reduce a life to essential priorities: “you have cancer”.

Maybe the words you heard were different; words like “there has been a car accident” or “there is no longer any brain activity” or “there was an IED”.

And accompanying those words are some deep, thought provoking questions. If the words were directed at you and you now had a definite explanation for your cause of death, how would you react? Would you be filled with regrets? Would you be satisfied with how you lived your life? What would you do differently? What if the words were directed to a loved one, how would you react then?

The truth is none of us know what the number of our days. A chosen few are given an indication of how many days are left to them, but for the most part death can be sudden and we have no idea when it will occur. We do have the knowledge that we are finite creatures, but do we live every day with that knowledge in the forefront of our minds?

No, I myself have not heard these words directed at me, but I’m aware of a situation where this very circumstance has become a hard reality and it made me stop and think. Am I satisfied with how I’m living my life? Are you?

Life is short, no matter how we look at it. I don’t want to stand before my Jesus and have to account for opportunities I missed to tell someone I loved them. I don’t want to admit that I was contemptuous of someone’s love for me. And I can’t imagine my heartbreak when I find out just how many opportunities I missed to share the love of God with my “neighbor”.

Definitely, food for thought….and prayer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

From Family to Foe

“If an Ephraimite fugitive said, "Let me cross," the men of Gilead would ask, "Are you an Ephraimite?" and he would say, "No." And they would say, "Say, 'Shibboleth.'" But he would always say, "Sibboleth"—he couldn't say it right. Then they would grab him and kill him there at the fords of the Jordan.” Judges 12: 5-6 (MSG)

Let’s take a break from the topic of weight loss.

I came across the above verse in my reading the other day and it has been rolling around in my mind since then. As we read in this particular record of Israel’s history, Israel has spread far and wide in the Promised Land.

Because of the distance separating this huge family from one another, new dialects have emerged in what was once their common language.

Now they do not even recognize each other as family members and they are battling each other! How sad that after all the tribe had been through, in just a few short generations, they seem to have lost track of each other.

But think about it. There is a grave lesson in this story that emphasizes the need to gather with our “tribe” (read ‘peeps’).

You see, there is a unique vernacular, nuances in conversation, that becomes established between two people who spend much time together, a kind of verbal shorthand that both people understand without even trying.

And when people are not able to spend that kind of time, they will lose the ease of their conversation. How many of us have experienced this with our families, best friends, or even our spouse?

I’ve realized that the same could be said about our relationship with Jesus. Without the daily, hopefully day-long conversation called prayer, we will quickly lose our ease with Him and a language barrier may intrude on what should be our most intimate relationship.

I know that without that daily quiet time in the Word, in prayer and in silence waiting to hear from Jesus, I would soon not speak the same dialect, and quite possibly lose out on the sweet communion that is mine when I sit with Him, share my heart, and wait to hear His still small voice. Let’s not risk losing track of Jesus, the dearest Friend we will ever have!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Necessity of Friends

“By yourself you're unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.” Ecc. 4:12 (MSG)

The Word of God has been an amazing source of wisdom and truth for me. Yet how many times have I ignored what I know to be true even when I find it in the Scripture? I know and love the Scripture from Ecclesiastes I have quoted today and yet in my pride I was unwilling to be accountable to anyone as I attempted to lose weight again. I was deeply ashamed that I had gained back the weight in the first place and I was reluctant to ask my close friends for help.

But the truth is I need my friends to encourage me and keep me accountable. Our Father in heaven knows this and His Word clearly supports it. I can’t fight this battle on my own. The fact is I got into this mess on my own and should have asked for help long before now. My chances for success are much greater with the accountability than without it.

So I’m holding myself accountable in this blog and sharing the lessons I have been learning. I am letting you all know that I am actually walking/running two miles three days a week. My food intake has returned to a much healthier place. I have not done the mindless eating that allows me to “numb out” to my pain or hurt. And I’m making progress. My pants are more comfortable, I am getting stronger and a little faster, and mentally and emotionally, I’m in a much better place. So I want to thank my daughter Shannon and my friends Susan and Chris and you the readers for your support and encouragement as I continue this weight loss challenge.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Power for the Weak

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Jesus has revealed a direct correlation with food and the abdication of self responsibility in my life; the less powerful I feel, the more food I put in my mouth! And perhaps if I had asked myself why I was mindlessly eating, I would have identified feeling powerless to meet needs….powerless to right wrongs, powerless to comfort pain, or powerless to engineer truces between warring factions. Like the picture, I take the world on my shoulders.

But the feelings of powerlessness are misplaced because those are not my responsibilities! Those wrongs were not mine to right, the pain some people had was not mine to comfort, and the warring factions needed to find a truce for themselves. The responsibility for meeting those needs belongs to God and His Holy Spirit. As Steven Curtis Chapman stated so succinctly, “God is God and I am not!” My responsibility begins and ends with myself, my family, my work, and, where I am invited, the lives of my friends. That’s it. My weakness is recognizing when and why I feel powerless. I am also weak when it comes to healthy food choices and portion sizes. And as I acknowledge this weakness, I can avail myself of the power of God, “who gives strength to the powerless.”

The Lord gives me the strength to make a healthy choice, to leave food on my plate, or to resist the second portion when I’m not even hungry. More importantly, in Him I can find the strength to identify when I’m taking not taking responsibility for meeting my needs, or taking responsibility to meet needs that do not belong to me. I ought to recognize when I’m using food as a method to “numb” the pain or the powerlessness. The truth is I am not powerless over myself. I have the power to say no. As I recognize God’s mighty hand revealing His truths in my heart and mind, I rejoice and accept the appropriate power He gives me to gain control over myself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Understanding Learned Powerlessness

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

In my last few blogs I have been sharing some of the lessons the Lord has been teaching me as I break the habit of over-eating. I recently began to recognize that the last several years have been deeply painful and highly stressful and that I have felt powerless to control the circumstances surrounding my life. And as I pondered the idea of powerlessness, I started to see a pattern of behavior emerge in my history.

Let me define exactly what I’m talking about. Children do not have the authority to make life decisions such as where to live, how money is spent, how discipline is applied, etc. Those decisions are left to their parents or guardians. Children learn how to make decisions by observing the adults in their lives making decisions and then being given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. This is learned behavior. But what if the child does not observe or learn healthy decision making skills? The result can be an unwillingness to take ownership or authority in the decision making process, in other words, a learned helplessness or powerlessness.

I’m recognizing powerlessness has been my constant companion, starting in my childhood. With the specific dysfunctions in my family of origin, as a child many of my life circumstances were a result of someone else’s decisions and behaviors. As a young adult I had to learn to take back my appropriate power; my authority over myself; authority to say yes or no to someone; authority to engage or not engage in different activities, and the authority to experience the emotions I felt rather than denying them. Through counseling, prayer, and learning to trust “that I am who God says I am and that I can do all things through Christ” (thank you, Beth Moore and “Believing God”!) I made some significant progress in this arena.

However, when life becomes highly stressful, I fall back into the unhealthy behaviors, especially the behavior of learned helplessness that is so familiar. I found myself relinquishing my authority, my power in many areas of life, especially in my food choices. More succinctly, when profoundly stressed, I abdicate responsibility in my own life! But I have an inside track to taking back my power, for God gives strength to the powerless!

How about you? Do you find yourself abdicating responsibility in your life? How is that manifested? Does it take you time to recognize the behavior? I would love your feedback as I explore this topic further for my next blog.

And by the way, I have lost between 5 to 7 pounds in the last six weeks! I’m very excited about the weight loss, but I’m more excited about what God has been showing me in this process!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Whack-a-Mole Wrinkle

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:8-10

I have a dear friend who says that sometimes life is like the game of whack-a-mole; as soon as you nail one problem, another problem springs up that requires attention. Just as I start to get an exercise regime in place, the food intake decreasing, and as I work at not retreating to food for comfort (refer to previous blog), I find myself irritable, emotional, overly sensitive, and downright no fun to be with…and I cannot escape my own company! I don’t like fighting feelings of negativity and rejection that are probably just figments of my imagination. But what do I do with these feelings? Numbing out with food allowed me to not feel and escaping negative feelings is pretty addictive. And I was a lot more fun to hang out with. Now, I find myself writhing internally with hurt, pain, anger and a host of other emotions that have long lay dormant and are spilling through me like the water behind a dam-burst! How do I deal?

Writing this blog is somewhat therapeutic but I’m not sure why anyone would want to read about the processing of my emotions. Or perhaps reading about the emotions of another frees one up to consider one’s own emotions. Meanwhile, I just want to sit with a bag of chips and watch the feelings disappear. However, processing the emotions is my prerequisite. So writing, working out, prayer, and talking with friends helps the processing of the emotions, but frankly, I feel foolish and vulnerable sharing feelings and weaknesses as I consider posting this blog.

To my chagrin, when I take self (read pride) out of the picture, maybe it is a glimpse into the process of working through my emotions that Jesus can use to encourage and enlighten others. Perhaps this blog is not about the success or failure of losing weight, but about sharing the process of what I am learning as I sit quietly before the Lord and listen for the still, small voice of my Deliverer. After all, my desire is that my life be about Jesus Christ and His will being lived out through me, even in my weakness. Maybe Jesus can use this for you, dear reader, so that you feel less isolated in your struggles to gain empowerment over issues of your own. I would love any feedback you have for me. Until then, get your mallets ready to whack-a-mole!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Risking to Find Comfort for the Pain

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

Several years ago, I was in one of those deep discussions with a trusted friend that takes place late at night; the kind of discussion that results when two hearts have no fear of the other person and there is freedom to discuss profound ideas and intimate feelings. This friend is the quintessential business woman, intelligent, resourceful, well educated and well spoken. In the course of our discussion, I asked her, “How do you receive comfort when you are hurting?” For a few moments she was silent and she looked utterly perplexed, not even able to answer; she kept repeating the word comfort with a tone of confusion as though I had given her a word in a foreign language. This simple word, “comfort” left her profoundly mystified.

Strictly defined, “comfort” means relief in affliction, solace, or consolation. It can mean to soothe, console, or reassure. For those of you who read my last blog, I left off with this question: how was I going to be comforted in my pain and begin the process of removing the yoke of over-eating? I also solicited your thoughts on how to answer this question, and to those of you who have responded, I thank you. But in returning to the question, we all know the “good girl” answer is God and His word. I must be willing to turn to Him for comfort, rather than putting my head back into the yoke of over-eating. When I’m hurting and feeling bad, I read Scripture (especially Psalms) in my search for solace and pray crying out to God in my pain. But sometimes this just doesn’t relieve my affliction.

The truth is, sometimes I want God to have skin on so that I can see and touch Him. That’s why relationships with people are so necessary. Job’s friends knew this. Paul understood that same need for comfort and we read of many different relationships in his letters: Titus, Justus, John-Mark, Timothy, and others, and the comfort he received from them. In John 11:19, there is a reference to the fact that many Jews had come to offer comfort to Mary and Martha in the loss of their brother Lazarus.

Therefore, I’m realizing that I need to reach out to my intimate friends when I need comfort. And boy is that difficult! I despise feeling so vulnerable! What if no one wants to comfort me? What if no one wants to hear me? What if no one has time for me? What if, what if…this is the crux of the matter. Maybe it is time to take the risk and ask for the help of my dear friends instead of numbing out with food. The truth is, the numbness wears off but the pounds do not! Or at least, the pounds only come off after a lot of hard work. But the feelings will return and I will be back where I started, alone and hurting. God has provided me with incredible friends (you all know who you are) and I am profoundly grateful for these friends. So, I must be willing to take the risk, reach out, and receive the comfort they are willing to give me. When all is said and done, I’d rather take the risk than to put my head back into the yoke!