How Hungry Are You?

As an avid bird watcher, I regularly put out feeders to attract birds. The problem is, not only do I attract birds, but the squirrels end up eating more seed than the birds.

After spending countless dollars feeding more squirrels than birds, I finally decided to take on the battle. I invested in a “Squirrel-Proof” feeder that actually did what it advertised — allowed the birds to have full reign of their food.

Thinking the birds and I had won the victory, I soon discovered the Styrofoam cooler, where I stored the bird seed on the patio, had small holes gnawed in it. Drat. Those pesky squirrels had gotten past my special feeder and found the main stash!

I dashed to the garage for our hard plastic ice chest and put the remaining seed in it. Take that squirrels!

Well, if you’ve ever battled with squirrels, you know what’s coming…

Yes, it wasn’t long before the hard plastic ice chest had holes gnawed through it, too. Those squirrels knew where the food was and were determined to get fed. Alas, I moved my seed stash to the garage. If the squirrels found it there, I was in real trouble!

How hungry are you? Are you pushing through any barrier to be fed?

Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. ~ 1 Peter 2:2 MSG

Working the Steps: Step 9

Step 9: 
Made direct amends to people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 9 is a culmination of the forgiveness process: forgiving ourselves and others, receiving forgiveness from God and others. But before we can forgive ourselves fully, we must first acknowledge the pain others have suffered because of our actions. Once through this process we will be closer to our goal of peace with ourselves and peace with others.

By taking inventory with Step 4 we’ve purged ourselves of hidden secrets and wrongs doings but maintained balance by looking for the good as well. In Step 5 we pressed through the shame confessing our faults to another person. Now armed with the list of persons we harmed from Step 8, we prepare to personally make amends for the things we have done.  

There are going to be people that we can’t make amends to for various reasons, but where possible we must take this important step.  A commitment to changed behavior can be an acceptable substitute when personal contact to make amends isn’t appropriate.

While painful and difficult, the amends process is critical in the healing process. Prayerfully seek God’s wisdom and discernment before making amends. Phone calls and letters are perfectly acceptable ways of making contact when face to face isn’t possible.

Some basic guidelines:

  • Pray. Turn your anxiety over to God.
  • Keep a loving attitude toward yourself and the person you’re contacting.
  • Know what you want to say. Keep it simple. Avoid details.
  • Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t make it about them.
  • Manage your expectations regarding the other person’s response. 

Remember God is a God of restoration. He will give you just the right words and timing to say what needs to be said. Give it all to Him!

If you take your gift to the altar and remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift on the altar. Go and make right what is wrong between you and him. Then come back and give your gift. ~ Matthew 5:23-24 New Life Version

Photo courtesy of 123RF Stock Photos

My BFF!

friend:  noun

1.a person attached to another by feelings of affection
2.a person who gives assistance. 
3.a person who is on good terms with another
Friends are special people, they are chosen; not in someone’s life by accident.
Friends don’t force themselves on you when you want to be alone. Friends keep promises.

 
Loneliness and lack of social supports are linked to an increased risk of disease and higher mortality rates. So it stands to reason that good friendships enhance an individual’s sense of happiness and overall well-being.

Enter Social Networking.

As of January 2011 and after only seven years in existence, Facebook has more than 600 million active users with the average user having 130 friends.
A conservative estimate shows there are over 4,000 active networks. There’s MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning, Flickr and the list goes on. Yet with all our social technology advances, Americans have been suffering a loss of close friendships since at least 1985; and today few have any real confidants.
Modern friendships have lost the importance and the meaning they once had.

Do you have hundreds of Facebook friends but still feel lonely?

Most of us love introducing our best friends to others. Let me share mine with you…
Growing up a sexual abuse victim, a promiscuous teen who grew up to become an abuser; I felt totally unworthy of God’s love. But the Bible tells us it is the goodness of God that calls us to repentance.

Of these three: the friendship of God, the personal touch of Christ and the conviction of the Holy Spirit; it is the friendship of God that has been most significant to my life. It was the most healing thing for me to discover, that no matter what I had done, God really did love me!

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ~ John 15:13
The evidence that having a friend is good for our health more than applies here. But we need more than a Facebook friend to help us make it through our daily struggles. Whatever our problems are we can bring them to The Friend of SinnersWhat better BFF to have than Jesus!
Do you feel unworthy of God’s love, unable to come to Him because of things you’ve done?
Please allow me to pray for you…
Father God, I want to pray for my friend reading this right now. Thank you that you’ve brought her to this place. I ask for the Holy Spirit to touch her heart, so that she can know without a doubt that Jesus is her Friend. Amen.

Pain in Hiding

This summer I attended a women’s workshop to wrap up of the Christian Virtues class I took in the Spring.
For one of the exercises, we paired up with a partner to practice sharing and listening skills. The goal was for the sharer to communicate a problem to the listener, who would then reflect back the problem and if possible, help solve it. The partners then switched roles and repeated the exercise with a different scenario. Some scenarios were fictional, but my partner, Sue, and I chose to use situations taken from our lives.

The situation I chose to share was from a pivotal and extremely difficult time in the 1990’s. When it happened I never shared my personal pain with anyone. Instead, I hid my pain, allowing the enemy to pull me into a downward spiral that lasted more than a decade, nearly costing me my marriage and my family.

During the workshop sharing exercise, Sue heard my pain without judgement, then gently offered me guidance and God’s love. More than fifteen years after the fact, I learned a valuable lesson:

If I would have done this years ago, I could have saved myself and my family lots of heartache!
 

LISTENER and SHARER

Both are important roles we will play several times in our lives with various friends and family members. 

How good are we at listening?
Most of us not good at all. 

How good are we at sharing our feelings and pain?
Not much better. 

How can we improve?
Practice.

God loves us and puts the right people in our lives at just the right time. The challenge is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, so we can recognize the person who needs our listening ear or feel that gentle nudge when it’s time to share our own struggles.

By internalizing our pain to avoid embarrassment today, we may set ourselves up for future suffering.

We must be willing to share our pain, open up our vulnerabilities and risk bring judged in order to receive potential inner healing.

Don’t go thru your pain alone!

Look around. Reach out… God has given you a friend who will understand and walk with you.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.~Proverbs 17:17 NKJV

Are You A Prisoner?

Looking back there are many things I don’t remember about my life. For various reasons I wasn’t present or walking in awareness of my reality. Instead I was a prisoner in my own mind. A Prisoner of the Moment...

 There are many ways one can be A Prisoner of the Moment here are some:

1. Distracting ourselves with things of the world prevent us from being present.
2. Focusing on a memory or fantasy prevents us from being present.
There’s no doubt living in the moment is critical to living a healthy life.
People use a variety of things to stay out of the now. It may be an Internet pornography addiction with an out of control fantasy life, drugs and alcohol; food or sex; sports and entertainment; shopping for more and material possessions, staying constantly surrounded by people or involved in too many activities, etc… ad infinitum, ad nauseam… all to numb themselves from their painful reality.

They all do the same thing, keep us from dealing with who we are, where we are and what we’re feeling.

If we constantly keep ourselves from the present, our lives have no thread of meaning running through them. We remain empty vessels living with no eternal purpose; just taking up space; a zombie-like walking dead person.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve lived enough of my life that way! I don’t want to live just floating along on the breeze; wherever my current fantasy takes me. I want to go forward aware, intentional, making a difference in my life and the lives of others, living each moment with an eternal perspective.
Are you keeping your self-preoccupied or distracted so that you don’t actually live your life?
What are you doing today that will have an eternal impact for yourself or others?

There is only one thing worth being concerned about. ~Luke 10:42

Working the Steps: Step 8

In my personal recovery walk I focus my daily devotions on the Step that coincides with the month of the year. For the month of August I’m focusing on Step 8. 

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

In Step 8 we start to grow up. We begin doing things that mature people do–taking responsibility for our actions and the wrongs we committed.

Prior to this we have focused mostly on ourselves. In Step 4 we took our moral inventory. In Step 5 we admitted our wrongs. In Step 8 it’s time to look beyond our self to see how we affected those around us.

Step 8 is a very humbling experience. We must recognize our part in the harm that has been done to others. Removing our need to blame others and accepting full responsibility for our actions.

Like our personal inventory, remembering the faces of those we have hurt, can be a very painful process. We must write their names down, carefully considering our relationships and how we harmed them.

Total honesty with ourselves is important in making restitution and going forward with peace of mind. But along with the pain of recognizing the damage we have done, comes a welcome relief that we’ll no longer cause these injuries to our self and others.

Once the list of those we have harmed is prepared, we must ask God for the willingness needed to make the amends. With His help and in His time we can. 

 Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~ Luke 6:31

This Is Only A Test!

The Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis. The test allowed the FCC and broadcasters to verify that the EBS tone transmitters and decoders were functioning properly and that outlets nationwide would carry emergency programming within a period of five minutes when the system was activated.

Growing up I remember the Emergency Broadcasting System testing weekly on television. The above image would appear on the screen along with a high pitched tone signal to get our attention, followed by an announcement similar to this:

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and other authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news or instructions. This is only a test.

What about you? Is God trying to get your attention with troubling circumstances? 

Are you living in a crisis, war or threat of war?

Job loss, bill collectors, bankruptcy?

Kids on drugs, involved in crime and headed for jail. 

Stress is taking a toll on your marriage or physical health. 

Does it seem like everything will come crashing down at any moment?

When will it end???

You may not have this exact set of problems. But at one time or another everyone meets a crisis in their family. When we do it’s easy to ask: Why God Why? or When God When?

In school, we don’t get promoted to the next grade level without taking tests. Life works the same way. God gives us tests of faith to see if we are ready to go to the next level. The nice thing about God’s tests is if you fail them, you get to take them over and over again until you pass.

Instead of whining, complaining and begging God for answers, we need to heed God’s EBS warning and wake up! It’s time to change the view of our circumstances and see things from an eternal perspective. When we look at things from God’s view it’s easier to see potential purpose in times of struggle.

God never wastes anything. He will bring about something good if we will truly give it to Him.

So when we go through times of struggle let’s ask God to teach us the lesson He wants us to learn quickly so we can pass the test and move on to our promotion.

Will you pass your test?  Call out to God today. He will hear you.

In my distress I cried out to the Lord;
      yes, I prayed to my God for help.
   He heard me from his sanctuary;
      my cry to him reached his ears.

               ~ Psalm 18:6

Don’t Just Drink the Juice… Eat the Apple!

In today’s instant solution society, shortcuts to the “good life” abound…

Get rich quick schemes vs. old fashioned hard work.

Crime vs. education.

Lottery tickets vs. a savings account.

Quick weight loss fads vs. a changed lifestyle.

Watching the movie vs. reading the book.

Junk food vs. cooking a healthy meal.

Sermon recordings vs. in depth self study.

Juice vs. eating the whole fruit.


Certainly all these things in moderation are not bad. But when our entire life is bent on taking the short cut, we will miss some important lessons the world has to offer.

As suggested by my title, let’s consider fruit juice for example…

Weighing the pros and cons of fruit vs. juice, it seems whole fruit (and vegetables for that matter) win. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Many commercial juices remove the fiber from the fruit to make juice; so you lose a nutrient rich, disease fighting component.
  2. Some “juice drinks” add sugar or are made from concentrates with not much nutritional value at all!
  3. Loads of research shows that beverages do not register in the same way as foods do in terms of filling us up. So, if you have a weight loss or weight loss maintenance goal, stick to the chewable food!
  4. For the pros on the juice side, if you are having a hard time eating the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables, and if you have a home juicer THAT PRESERVES THE FIBER, this might help you increase your intake. To make a healthy juice simply use 3 vegetables to every 1 fruit and do not add additional ingredients like sweeteners, protein powders, etc. 

The point I’m trying to make is so often we want someone else to do the hard work for us but we still get all the benefits. The only place I can think where that really works is in the case of our Spiritual Inheritance, which Jesus died to give us. We didn’t have to do anything, just accept the work that Christ did for us on the cross. 

A firm foundation is built on growth, not rushing. Growth, whether plant growth, muscle growth, or mind growth is governed by natural laws. It can’t be forced beyond previous preparation. Each day’s growth prepares for the next day’s growth. We can’t break nature’s laws, but often break ourselves trying. ~ Anonymous



Let’s make a commitment to dig in, and go deeper in the Lord; not depending on someone else’s study and hard work to summarize for us. But take our own time and effort so we will learn and grow. 

It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the flood waters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. ~ Luke 6:47-48 NLT

Have You Made Your Reservation?

With the heat of summer on and vacations all a bustle; making reservations are top of mind for many today. We busy ourselves making arrangements to fly or drive, for destinations and accommodations; locating friends and family to visit and oh, yes, don’t forget about the budget. 

Along the way we’ll travel many miles, see special sights, take memorable photos and gather collectable souvenirs. 

But in the midst of our fun and frolic have we forgotten to make our most important reservation?

Photo courtesy of 123RF Stock Photos

My husband, Bill and I were studying Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel the other day; an amazing chapter with many important events, but I’ll share only one story today: Jesus sends out 72 disciples. 
You may not realize it but Jesus had more than 12 disciples. Luke tells us: Jesus appointed 72 others and sent them out two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go.

The teams were given instructions and sent on their way. Upon their return they joyfully reported to Jesus that even the demons obeyed when they used His name. Jesus told them don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you, rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.


Bill and I took great notice of this last statement. Our names are registered in the most important reservation book!
In a recent post titled Reflections I wrote about a trip Bill and I took to North Carolina for a ministry conference. While there, we took the opportunity to do some sight seeing and visited The Biltmore. As America’s largest home with over 175,000 sq ft and 250 rooms it is a grand castle indeed; certainly the biggest mansion I’ll see this side of heaven.

In the Gospel of John Jesus said:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

By believing in Christ we make the reservation for our room in that Great Mansion in Glory. We can only imagine the beauty and grandeur that await us in our Heavenly Home!
Is your reservation made?  If not please take a moment to pray this prayer:

Dear God in heaven, I come to You in the name of Jesus Christ. I’m sorry for my sins and the life I’ve lived without You. I ask You to come into my heart; forgive me and erase my past mistakes with the blood that Jesus shed for me on the cross. Today I make You my Lord and Savior. O God, You are now more than my God; You are my Heavenly Father and I’m going to serve You all the days of my Life. I thank You that my name is registered in heaven and I have a place waiting for me to be with You for eternity! Amen

Book Review: Real Sex ~The Naked Truth About Chastity

Real Sex ~ The Naked Truth About Chastity
by Lauren F. Winner
Published by Brazos Press 2006
183 pp

Wow! …Is the best place to start with Lauren Winner’s hard hitting book Real Sex ~ The Naked Truth About Chastity. I’ve taken a long break from reading, so it took me a bit to get into; but once in, I couldn’t put it down and plowed through it in one day.

Ms.Winner beautifully and intelligently takes on the subject of sex: sex in our culture and the community, sex before and after marriage, sex and single adults and most importantly sex and the church. Real Sex is conservative yet honest, direct and engaging, intellectual (keep a dictionary handy) and best of all–completely scriptural!

Real Sex is a must read for every Christian adult, single or married. Parents, read it and share what you learn with your teens and tweens. There are excellent discussion questions in the back of the book for small groups or family talks around the dinner table.

Ms.Winner teaches us valuable lessons about how our culture and the Christian church view sex and deal with chastity. She raises some great points that will leave your thinking about what we should do differently. We would all do well to step up to the challenges she humbly puts forth. This book would be an great resource for single and married adult ministries as well as youth ministries across America.

In the last 6 years I’ve read numerous books on sexuality, secular and Christian. But I have yet to find a more relative book that speaks directly to my testimony and the ministry to which I have been called. Blessings, gratitude and applause to Ms. Lauren Winner. I am now a huge fan!

I highly recommend Real Sex~The Naked Truth About Chastity and intend to use it regularly as a resource for my ministry…