COURAGE

In The Serenity Prayer column each month we are studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today. These columns will be published the first Friday of each month in 2019.

GOD grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can…

courage: strength in the face of pain or grief; the ability to do something that frightens; mental or moral strength to persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty; willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation.

Most of the changes we need to make are related to the personal challenges we face as individuals.

Some of my biggest challenges are low self-esteem, lack of self confidence and allowing myself to be easily discouraged.

There are many people in scripture that struggled with self-confidence, the most memorable is Moses.

At the burning bush when God commissioned Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt he protested saying, “Who am I to lead the people of Israel!” Although Moses was well educated and qualified to be a leader, he suffered with self-doubt.

Sometimes we won’t even try to change for fear of failure.

God isn’t expecting perfection. He knows what we are made of and only asks that we try with the abilities and resources available to us. As we do He will crown our efforts with success.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. ~ 1 Chronicles 28:20

Rather than striving to make changes in my own power I must remember that all my strength comes from the grace of Christ.

With Jesus’ help I will step out with courage. I will do everything possible, to live the life God has for me and be the person He wants me to be.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13

Watch this wonderful worship song from Bethel Music as you prayerfully contemplate the courage you need to make changes in your life.

RECOGNIZE GOD’S PRESENCE

In observance of my Benedictine Monastic practices, on the last Friday of each month in 2019 we are climbing Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility. With each step we come closer to our spiritual transformation and the perfect love of God.

The first Step of Humility: a  monk keeps the fear of God always before their eyes.  ~ The Rule of Benedict 7:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. ~ Proverbs 1:7

As we begin our journey we must humbly bow down and recognize the Presence of God in our lives and live from that awareness moment by moment.

Have an honoring, reverential fear of the Lord. To walk in humility we must live from a stance of reverential fear of God always. Not fear in the sense that we are afraid. But fear in the sense that we have a deep abiding respect for God’s authority in our life.

Keep self-worth in a proper perspective. By not putting ourselves down for our weaknesses or puffing ourselves up because of our strengths we can better see ourselves as God does. When we can have a balanced view of our flaws and gifts we come closer to the reality of who we are.

A foundational step for all the rest to come. Starting with a firm foundation of reverential fear of God will help the future step to be a little easier. As we recognize God’s Presence and give Him reign over our daily lives, we will find the freedom that comes from accepting our proper place in the universe.

God is always present in our lives. Whether we realize it or not, God is always present. He is present to our every thought and every action. It’s not hard to imagine God with us when we are being good. But to think of Him being present when we are doing something bad is uncomfortable.

Guard yourself at every hour. If we stay aware of God’s Presence moment by moment following the Holy Spirit’s lead we are promised to be blessed.

Take a few moments to contemplate the Presence of God in your life as you watch/listen to this beautiful worship song by Jenn Johnson.

Image Copyright ©2019 Reaching Hurting Women Ministries. 

ALL THIS IS FOR YOUR BENEFIT

The third Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying my favorite life verses: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18This section of Scripture has proven a solid resource of faith for me through many challenges over the last decade.

In the midst of struggles it’s hard to imagine how this could be for our benefit.

We may never know why some things happen. If God tried to explain why He’s allowing something to happen in our life our mind wouldn’t be able to grasp it.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:9

God is a Mystery. It requires faith for us to follow God and trust His ways. That’s why we are called believers and not doubters. Believing means we believe!

It is the Lord who directs your life, for each step you take is ordained by God to bring you closer to your destiny. So much of your life, then, remains a mystery!  ~ Proverbs 20:24 (The Passion Translation)

It’s not always about us. The struggles we are going through may not be only about us. God may be growing us through this trial so that we can comfort another person one day going through a similar situation.

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (The Living Bible)

Endure hardships with a good attitude. God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. As we press through our struggles with a good attitude, doing everything as unto the Lord, we will grow stronger in Christian character and virtue. But most importantly God will be glorified as others around us see how we walk out life.

So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. ~ 2 Timothy 2:10 (New Living Translation)

As you listen to this beautiful song by Covenant Worship take a few minutes to contemplate your life situation. How can you be a vessel of God’s glory to others in the midst of your struggle?

MY GOOD SHEPHERD

On the second Friday in each month of 2019 we will be studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: Psalm 23. Join me as we bring new application of this beloved Psalm to our lives today.

There are multiple places in the Bible where people are compared to sheep. When we look at the photo above we might think that’s a sweet thing. But after some study we will see that it’s not really a compliment!

Sheep may possibly be the dumbest animals on the planet.

They’re wayward and weak. They can’t defend or groom themselves. Their bodies aren’t strong and must be sheared to prevent the wool from becoming a burden. They’re restless and wander away when left alone. And because they have no sense of direction they get lost easily.  Left to guide themselves sheep will literally follow each other off a cliff. And when they fall down on their backs they can’t get up without help. This list could go on and on.

Do any of these weaknesses sound familiar?

That paragraph could easily describe much of my life. There was a time when I walked away from My Shepherd thinking I could do life better on my own. I didn’t take good care of myself and made many bad choices. Soon I began to follow other sheep and ended up in a deep pit with other rebellious sheep.

Then came a soul-shattering time.

My Shepherd allowed me to experience the consequences of my bad choices. Often breaking the bad habits of a strong-willed sheep only comes after serious disciplinary action is applied by the Good Shepherd.

A shepherd disciplines rebellious sheep to protect the whole herd.

When a rebellious sheep leaves the herd repeatedly, sometimes a shepherd must break its leg to force it to stay close to him. In the same way, our Good Shepherd may allow painful life situations to draw us back to Him.

Today I am grateful for the discipline of my Good Shepherd. 

Many years have passed since those harsh days of discipline. But still I stay close to His side, listening for His gentle voice to guide me in all I do. Life is so much better when He leads the way!

Jesus says: “My own sheep will hear my voice and I know each one, and they will follow me.” ~ John 10:27 (The Passion Translation)

There are many beautiful renditions of Psalm 23 put to music. We will listen to several thoughout this year together. Take a few minutes to reflect on your relationship with The Good Shepherd as you watch the video below.

 

SERENITY

In The Serenity Prayer column each month we are dissecting this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today. These posts will be published the first Friday of each month in 2019.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

serenity:  a state or quality of being serene, calm, tranquil, peaceful; having an inner calm in the midst of the ups and downs of life; involves learning to be content with the things in our life that can’t be changed. (Serenity’s opposite is agitation.)

Human beings aren’t naturally serene creatures. We don’t have to be taught agitation. It seems to come with the inner selfishness which is built into our nature. I certainly lean more towards agitation with most things in life. That’s why we need God’s help!

Our lack of peace is directly related to our thought life, worry and ingratitude. The Apostle Paul teaches this in his letter to the Phillipians:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Now brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worth of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.              ~ Phillipians 4:6-9

It’s to us to decide what we’re going to think about. No one can control our thoughts but us. When we look for good we will usually find it. The opposite is also true.

Stressing over situations and people that we can’t change only makes more stress. If we can settle into life as it is, finding a way to be content, we can trust God will work all the good and bad for our good.

Let’s lean into God and put Paul’s teaching into practice. Then the peace of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will put a guard over our hearts and minds, and ultimately our life.

Take a few minutes to contemplate Christ’s peace with this beautiful worship song by Bethel Music.

RHW 2019

Happy New Year Friends!

In preparation for the new year I wanted to quickly give you an overview of what you can expect from upcoming Reaching Hurting Women blog columns. For 2019 I’m returning to a monthly magazine format that I used a few years ago. I’m excited to be sharing four of my favorite topics! You can expect a new column each Friday. Each month the columns will have the following schedule:

1st Friday: Serenity Prayer The first Friday of each month  we will be studying The Serenity Prayer. We are breaking down this well-known prayer a phrase at a time and applying it to our life today.

2nd Friday: Psalm 23 On the second Friday of each month  we will be studying The 23rd Psalm. We will break down this beloved psalm verse by verse and find God’s grace and mercy for today.

3rd Friday: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 This particular section of Scripture is my life verse. Since it was first given to me by the Holy Spirit in 2006, I have found application in every season of my life. Each third Friday of the month we will break it down by sections to find application for us all.

4th Friday: Humility Study The last few years I’ve devoted much study to the subject of Humility. Each fourth Friday, with the help of Saint Benedict, we will learn how better to walk the 12 Steps of Humility with Christ.

5th Friday: Book Reviews The months of March, May, August and November each have five Fridays. On these weeks you can expect a book review that will line up with a topic for that month.

I’m looking forward to a wonderful year of study and writing. I hope you will join me and bring along a friend when you can.

May the grace and peace of Christ be with you…

Tamara

The Great Unknown

The Great Unknown: The long-suffering that accompanies unanswered prayers.

Most of us don’t process our needs toward God in the best way. We have all kinds of life struggles: a financial crisis, health issues, family strife… More often that not, we shoot off a laundry list of complaints or worse just assume He knows everything and don’t say anything at all. Neither of these are activating our faith.

I have access by faith into His grace where I now stand and rejoice in the hope of God’s glory manifesting in my life!  ~ Romans 5:2 (my personal confession version)

With most spiritual progress, much of what we’re waiting on depends upon our own attitude and mindset. If we are discouraged and lacking hope there’s a good chance we won’t see what we are wanting to see happen the way we want it to.

When faith and hope line up miracles of grace happen. If we allow faith to fill our hearts with hope they will rise up to meet God’s grace coming down. Wow! The possibilities are endless.

HOPE: the happy anticipation of something good.

FAITH: is the reality of things hoped for.

GRACE: God’s undeserved love put into action on our behalf.

Hope must come before faith. In other words, faith brings hope into reality by manifesting, bringing about, God’s supernatural grace in our natural realm.

Look at the image above:

Hope is our dream represented by a balloon. Our Faith fills up the Hope balloon which carries it up to God. As our Hope balloon rises, God sees our heart filled with faith and hope and then showers His Grace on our life in all sorts of ways.

Faith and hope are not prerequisites for God’s grace because there’s nothing we can do to deserve His favor. However, faith and hope put our hearts in the proper position to receive. God’s grace showers down on us as faith fills our hopeful hearts.

How does this help me deal with the great unknown of unanswered prayer? While we’re in this sufferably long state of waiting for God’s hand to move in our direction we must encourage ourselves by fueling our faith with God’s Word, which in turn fills our hearts with hope. As we prayerfully make our requests to God we can confidently sing a song of hope because the God of Heaven will come down in showers of grace upon us!

 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. ~ Romans 12:12 (NLT)

 

 

Calm Amidst Storms

For some reason we think it’s permissible to doubt the truth of God’s Word about certain things. We give ourselves permission to worry or lose hope when God clearly tells us not to. Unbelief and complaining kept a generation of Israelites out of the promise land. Why do we thing we can get away with it?

As a recovering sex addict I am all too familiar with overcoming a bad thought life. Lustful thoughts, fantasy thoughts and memories of past people, places and behaviors plagued me in the early days of recovery. It’s easy to recognize these types of thoughts as sinful and easy to focus on removing them. After all they were sinful.

Thankfully, I don’t struggle with those kind of thoughts any longer. But what about other negative thoughts: doubt, unbelief, worry, complaining? The Bible calls these thoughts sinful, too. We should be rejecting doubt and discouragement just as much as we would reject any other sinful thoughts or physical behavior.

Just like we need to reject hateful and lustful thoughts, we need to reject worrisome, and discouraging thoughts. When we do reject these negative thoughts we make room for the Holy Sprit to fill us with God’s supernatural hope and peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Like the stillness of the deep ocean floor, which is untouched by the turmoil and storms on the surface, we too can have stillness and calmness. By intentionally obeying the commanded scripture above, we are diving into the Presence of God that will provide the peace we so desperately seek.

It helps me to see my anxiety and worry as sin just like lustful fantasy thoughts are.  When I look at these negative thoughts and worries with a different perspective I am motivated to be more obedient. I am also encouraged that God will reward me with His promised peace when I do.

 

Image Credit  

The Great Silence

Deep space and the deep ocean have something in common: Great Silence. Humans cannot maintain life in deep space or in the deep ocean without life-support. Our Life-Support breaks the great silence.

Silence and waiting on God are built in to the human experience. There are many places in Scripture where God was silent. People waited for days, sometimes years, for God’s answer. Moses waited 40 years in the desert before he was sent back to Egypt to save the Israelites. Joseph spent at least a decade in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Abraham and Sarah waited over 20 years for a child.

Time means nothing to God. He is outside of what we call time. He sees eternity from beginning to end, all at once. Our concept of time isn’t important. What’s important to remember is that God’s timing and His grace are for this moment. God is in the now!

 

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years 

and a thousand years is like a day. ~ 2 Peter 3:8

 

We don’t do well with long term silence.  Our psyches, our souls: our minds, wills, and emotions run from it. Silence makes us feel alone. And to be alone can be painful.  At times we experience a silence that screams so loud it is deafening. There is a suffocating silence that is so intense it is almost breath-taking, We may be asking, where is our life-support?

 

If the Lord had not been my help

my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. ~ Psalm 94:17

 

We must remember we aren’t alone. Our life-support is there! The Holy Spirit is with us all along. All we need to do is take a breath. Breathe in the Holy Breath of God… Don’t allow the silence to bring anxiety and fear. Trust God. He may keep you waiting, but He always remembers promises made and will appear in His perfect time to fulfill His Word.

Be still. Wait with God. Listen. Silence may be the answer today.

seed… T-I-M-E… HARVEST!

We have a seed but we need God’s help to bring it to life.

We begin first by planting. We have our seed: a plan or project. Even though we need God’s help to bring it to pass, it’s up to us to start working our plan. We must step out and do our part. God adds His Super to our natural and faith begins.

Then comes growing time. Seeds begin their growth in the dark. It may be a long time before we see a sprout show itself above ground. Faith is the step between the promise we seek and the promise received. We must take these baby steps each day toward our final goal until it is achieved or something better comes in its place.

When the sprout pops up it may take months, even years, before our seed bears any fruit. Here is where our faith is tested. We may begin to see our project taking some form or life, yet not fully grown. Patience and perseverance are required to press through to fruition. As we press into our plan, with God’s help we will see fulfillment in His perfect timing.

 

Are you growing in the dark? Waiting on the next rainfall or sunny day?

We must remember we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

 

Be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. ~ Colossians 1:11