Friday, April 8, 2016

What's Your Story?

4/8/16

   This morning I was listening to a song by Superchick called “Hero”, and in it the singer paints a vivid picture of different stories of people who are heroes.  Not one of them was named Thor or Captain America.  Don’t get me wrong, Thor and Captain America are awesome, but I’m talking about your average everyday people, the ones seen as ordinary or the ones people really don’t pay attention to at all.  They are the teachers fighting to keep troubled kids in school because they see them as more than pain in the ass kids who will probably dropout anyway, they’re the people who befriend the shy new kid in school, or it’s the person who chooses to go on even though they suffer from depression or loneliness and can barely get out of bed each day, let alone face the world.  Superchick gave some great examples of who heroes really are.  They are rarely in the spotlight, but they’re remembered by those whose lives they touch.

   So, what’s your story? Are you one of the people I described above? Are you someone’s Thor or Captain America in regular clothes, whose superpower is paying attention to those around you and caring enough to make a difference in this crazy world? Are you a hero, or are you one of the villains who make it a goal to bring people down, adding to the faceless, nameless crowd that faces negativity every day?

   We all matter.  We’re put here for a reason.  Sometimes, we wonder what that reason is, and at times we get lost and wander around in a kind of daze, all the while thinking this world is just too big for us. But, you could be the one who makes the world a little bit smaller and manageable for those who are lost.  You could be the one who brings someone back down to earth, “a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (see Proverbs 18:24).

   We all have a story, and it’s a beautiful, horrible, crazy, hopeful mess caught up in the colorful garden that is our life. In terms of eternity, we have such a short time here.  I don’t know about you, but I want my life to count for something.  I want to make a contribution that hopefully helps and encourages people.  I believe it’s what I was born for.  I feel it, like I feel rain pouring down during a storm.  We aren’t designed to wander aimlessly.  We have treasure inside of us, begging to be found. 

   Every experience in our lives can be used to help or relate to someone else, whether the offered experience is good or bad.  We’re born to different backgrounds and economic circumstances for a reason.  Our stories are written by the years we live, and we are brought into the lives of people for a purpose. In some way, we can mutually benefit from each other. Granted, I am well aware some experiences are things we want to tuck away to places we won’t dare reach into for fear of the consequences of doing so. I’m not saying we should bare all to the world.  I’m only saying we should share what we are able to. 

   You can be someone’s hero. Imagine what one act of kindness, encouragement, or your strength and wisdom might do for someone who needs it?  You could lift someone up and help them see who they really are.  It’s the best feeling to witness that moment when a person finally wakes up and realizes they matter. Even the smallest gesture can touch somebody’s life.  Plus, you never know who else may be paying attention to you.  The things we do matter, and the words we speak over someone’s life make a difference.  It may not seem like it, but they do. When all is said and done, we will be remembered for how we affected people’s lives, the way we left our part of the world a little better (or worse). It’s how we’ve treated each other and what we believe in that matters.  YOU matter.


Thanks to Gotquestions.org for Biblical verse help.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Condemnation, Take a Hike!

4/6/16

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”
                                                                                                           -Romans 8:1 (NIV)

   Human beings have such a great capacity to see the unique gifts and goodness in others.  We have the ability to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and we encourage each other to dream of things that could be and to push past our fears in order to realize those dreams.  On the flip side, we can also be extremely critical of one another, hurting each other with harsh words and with even the slightest of offenses.  We are a mixture of good and bad, but we are beautiful in what I like to refer to as our flawed perfection.  I admit it took me a long time to come to this conclusion about humanity.  I have witnessed the most magnificent selflessness in people, and I’ve seen and been through things that created the worst of scars.  We all have.  The thing is, though, that some of the worst scars I’ve dealt with are the ones I have inflicted upon myself.  As the saying goes, “We are our own worst critic.”

   One of the biggest issues I have always dealt with is guilt.  I used to place myself on a pedestal (as did others, in my opinion), and if I messed up, even in the smallest way, I felt so guilty for it. I hate pedestals. They are for statues that are fake versions of those who couldn’t stand on them for long without falling anyway.  Pedestals should be left to chiseled, unfeeling rock, not living beings.

   I’m not quite sure where my guilt always stemmed from.  Maybe, it’s because I used to feel inferior if I didn’t do things perfectly.  I say ‘used to’ because I finally came to a point in my life where I became too exhausted and irritated to attempt perfection anymore.  Perfection is for God alone.  We slowly chip away at ourselves when we try to be everything to everyone all at once.  I have cried to God plenty of times because I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could be, a version that was way too hyped up in my own head. There have been too many times when I’ve felt broken down by my own expectations of what I thought I should be.  Plastered on smiles can only last so long.  Eventually, they fall away revealing the pain of false perfection underneath.

   I know I’m not alone.  There are so many people who feel like I do, ones who try to live up to the unrealistic standards of others, or worse, the crazy expectations they’ve placed on their own shoulders.  That kind of weight slowly presses down though.  It’s backbreaking, and it’s dangerous.  I say it’s dangerous because if one misinterprets the weight as something they can handle completely on their own, then they very likely could become a victim of pride.  I used to be this way.  I thought I could do things on my own without relying on anyone else.  I sure didn’t want to bother God with my problems.  I figured He had enough to do already without having to deal with my issues too. 

   I never doubted God could do what He wanted to.  I just didn’t know Him well enough to understand what His love meant when it pertained to me personally.  I couldn’t understand all of what Jesus’s sacrifice and victory meant for humanity. His love surpassed anything I ever knew, and to this day I am still constantly amazed by it. Romans 8:1 tells us, “…there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…,” but, though I’ve been a Christian for years, I never truly understood the meaning of this verse until more recently.

   About a month ago, I was sitting in bed at around 3 a.m. surfing through channels on t.v. trying to find anything to watch besides another infomercial about dancing my way to weight loss or how to get rid of joint pain, and I stopped on Joyce Meyer’s show.  She was talking about God’s love and what it means concerning mankind.  She said, “A lot of people try to get God to love them by trying to behave perfectly.  But, God IS love, and all He wants us to do is act as a receptacle of His love, and to simply take in what’s being freely offered” (1 John 4:16). Wow!

   Jesus commands us to love God and to love each other (Mark 12:29-31).  I believe that part of loving God is to allow Him to love us as well.  We can never truly trust Him unless we understand how much He loves us.  Trust in His Word doesn’t come from nodding our heads in church at verses we know we should agree with.  It comes from having faith that God is Who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do.  I’ve heard different teachers of God’s Word relay this message in various ways numerous times. Though it may be difficult for us to grasp that there is no condemnation for us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it doesn’t make it any less true, because even when we don’t understand right away what “no condemnation” means, it doesn’t mean we never will understand what it means.  Each person learns different lessons in their own time and in diverse ways.  To take away from God’s perfect timing for those lessons is to take away a part of what we are supposed to learn in the first place.

   It will take this lifetime and beyond to learn all of what God wants us to know, and I know we will never stop learning, but the sooner we are able to develop even a small amount of faith in Him to keep His promises, the sooner we will experience a greater freedom in our lives.  There is no need to keep reliving mistakes we make.  Just confess them and move on. I admit that, though I know this truth, I still struggle with guilt occasionally.  People don’t change overnight after all.  But, I will keep reminding myself over and over until it fully sinks in that I should accept my own flawed perfection, and that’s all I need to do.  God will take care of the rest. And though I don’t have absolutely perfect trust in God yet, that doesn’t mean I can’t take a step forward in faith each day and take God’s extended hand.


Thank you to BibleHub.com for help with the Biblical verses. J

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Think Before You Judge


3/17/16: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
                                                                                                      -1 John 1:8, NIV

“I’d never do that,” and “Wow, what an idiot!”  These were the types of things I’d say about people once upon a time when I was younger and really judgmental about other people’s lives.  I didn’t think before I spoke, and I never thought I’d do anything that could possibly make me look as dumb as the people I was criticizing.  I was wrong.
    
I have done plenty of things over the years since that time (and before) that I’m not proud of.  I have broken some of the Ten Commandments, gossiped (though I learned a valuable lesson about doing that when it happened to me), and I’ve judged others for things I had no right to judge them for.  People say, “Don’t judge me unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.”  While I can’t go back in time and explain to my younger self just how important this piece of advice is, I can reach out to people and tell them what I’ve learned.
    
Nobody is perfect.  It’s such an easy thing to say, and it’s something I hear all the time and often say myself.  Yet, the ironic thing is, even when we know in our hearts that people make mistakes, most of us still find ourselves automatically judging someone when they do.  I don’t think we even mean to do it.  It’s like there is something inside of us that can’t resist pointing out the faults of others.  Maybe it makes us feel like we are somehow superior to everyone else, that our faults can’t possibly be as horrible as the faults of those we wag our tongues about.  Even when we know nobody is perfect, we still can’t resist expressing our disdain for those who draw attention to their imperfections. We might not voice what we are really thinking out loud, but that doesn’t necessarily stop us from forming an opinion about the person, even when that opinion is based off the little information that’s available to us.
   
I see a commercial on television every once and a while showing a new mother with her baby in the NICU who weighs only a little over 3 pounds.  The mother tells us that her baby was born two months early due to the mother’s smoking habit.  The message is clear.  Don’t smoke when you’re pregnant.  It’s obvious.  I mean, cigarette packs warn women about the birth defects that could happen if they smoke while pregnant. Understandably, we wonder why any woman would take the risk to put her growing baby in such danger. 
    
The commercial plays on our expectations of what the mother should have done once she knew she was going to have a baby. However, as bad as her decision was to keep smoking, I have to stop and think about how extremely difficult it must have been for her to go on television, a media that begs for judgment from others based off the couple minutes we see on a commercial, and tell people how wrong she was to smoke while pregnant.  It’s obvious she is sorry and regretful for what she did.  She knows firsthand how it negatively affected not only her baby but herself too.  She has to live with the knowledge that she could have prevented what happened to her infant, and the baby could have been born without suffering from the consequences of her actions.  Yet, the mother still chose to come forward and risk being ridiculed and judged for her poor decision. Being a mother myself, I can only imagine how much the lady beat herself up for what she could have done to make things turn out differently. 
    
It isn’t easy to admit when we’ve made a colossal mistake.  Only someone who has experienced the full repercussions of a bad decision is able to list the numerous lessons learned and why the mistake should have never been committed in the first place.  Just the pain alone of knowing we could have prevented the consequences of our own poor judgment should make us more sensitive to the pain of others when they too admit they’ve messed up.  But, for some reason, many conveniently don’t remember their own faults when they witness someone else suffering from self-inflicted careless actions.  Instead, accusers are willing to jump on the bandwagon with others and judge the poor sap who is already probably feeling lower than dirt.  Perhaps, by taking the proverbial shovel out and throwing more dirt on top of the pile, people secretly feel like they can throw their sins in the hole and bury them right along with the sins of their neighbors.
     
Why do we feel like we need to put our own opinion in when somebody else makes a mistake?  We know we aren’t perfect.  We know we have our own issues we’d never want shared with the world for fear that, if the world knew, we too would be judged according to its hypocritical standards.  Why don’t we admit none of us should be pointing our fingers at anyone for their faults?  I am reminded of the Biblical account of a woman caught in adultery.  Her accusers bring her to Jesus to ask Him what should be done about her.  Surely, she deserved the standard punishment for her crime; certainly her crime was so reprehensible that she deserved to die for it.  Yet, Jesus calmly stated “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (NIV, John 8:7).  Not one person threw a stone. The older ones walked away first, followed by the rest.  They knew there was no way they could pronounce their own flawed judgment on the woman when they could never stand up to the same scrutiny themselves.
     
There is another saying; “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” (Say what? Origins of words and Sayings). Only the most self-aware people understand the wisdom of those words. Making mistakes is a part of being human.  We can do our utmost to try to be perfect so that our own judgement is warranted when we see someone screw up.  But, in reality, there is no reason at all we should be talking about how bad someone else is. In the Bible, Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).  There are so many lessons in the Bible about what sin does to people, yet we still sin.  Even when we know deep down there will be consequences, we still want to do what makes us happy even when our decision is based off selfish desires.  It’s even possible to sin when we think we are doing the right thing.  If anyone believes they are immune to it, they are only kidding themselves (see Romans 7:19-21).
     
“Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:7).  These are powerfully convicting words and sobering ones. Nobody escapes the reality that sometimes we hurt others and ourselves.  But, we can treat others as we would like to be treated if we were to stumble.  We can try to empathize with those who have learned their lessons the hard way, and instead of pointing our fingers at them, we can learn from them. At least then we show that we are able to rise above our initial reactions to a person’s faults and instead reach out to them with the same compassion we’d need in our own trials.  Even when we didn’t deserve it, God still saved us (Romans 5:8).  That’s the very point of showing compassion to other human beings, to show them love during the times they either can’t love themselves or when they’ve fallen down into a pit of their own making.  By reaching out a hand to help each other up, we are demonstrating the very thing God gave humanity. His grace.

Works Cited
New International Version. [Colorado Springs]. Biblica, 2011. BibleHub.com. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Say what? Origins of words and Sayings, Online blog. Original quote by Geoffrey Chaucer’s 'Troilus and Criseyde' (1385). http://originsofsayings.blogspot.com/2006/08/people-who-live-in-glass-houses-should.html

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Where Will You Be Going?

1/26/16

If you have ever doubted Hell's existence or think it's just a place bad people go to party and break all the rules, I have to tell you (and so does the Bible) that you are wrong.  I say this because I want all people to be able to go to Heaven one day, though I know some won't. I say this because I just read a blog by another woman named Leah Adams who wrote about this very topic and inspired me to get off my butt and do the same.

I had an aunt who had an out of body experience, and she told me about what happened when she died multiple times due to surgical complications.  She told me about the tunnel you go through, and she told me that outside that tunnel she felt an overwhelming darkness and loneliness coming from it, a place where a person could barely stand one second of the place, let alone all eternity. She instinctively knew if she stepped into that place that she'd never get out. She also saw the light at the top where she was heading until she came back from death's grasp.  She mentioned watching a show on television where another guy had felt the same thing when he died and was brought back to life. That same tunnel was there with the same things my aunt described. They are not crazy, only changed from the experience. My aunt said it was the worse place we can ever imagine, and then it's even worse than that. It's beyond human comprehension to describe it in our terms.

There are plenty of other documented cases of people who have died or had an out of body experience and came back.  Each one has their own story, and there are things that are so closely described as the same that even the most skeptical person would have to at least wonder about the afterlife.  It isn't like those who have told their story are making it up. That would just be crazy because they knew how it will sound to others. Read "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper, the minister who died and came back.  Another book called "Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, describes his trip to Heaven and back.  If anyone had a reason to be skeptical, Eben did, yet he knew when he came back he had to tell his story.

Satan is not some devil with a red cape and pitchfork.  He's not some sexy guy that Hollywood likes to portray as the intriguing bad boy.  He thinks of the human race as nothing more than cockroaches.  He wants to bring us down and destroy us.  He isn't our friend or someone we can rely on or party with in Hell.  He's real, and He's worse than we can possibly imagine.  Think about it.  Those who go to Hell are out of the sight of God.  This means there is no joy, peace, happiness, love, or friends and family to run to for help. It is a permanent place full of dread, darkness, pain, and unimaginable suffering.  I honestly don't understand why in the world anyone would choose that for them-self.  There is a quote that tells us "You can choose God now or later." I choose now. I hope you do too.  Don't wait until the decision is made for you just because you ignored making the choice in life.  Don't put off the most important decision you'll ever make. Who you choose to follow says a lot about who you are.  Please, choose Jesus. I BEG you to choose Jesus. 

Please, I implore you, don't think you have forever to make the choice about accepting Jesus.  The Bible clearly tells us He is the only way to get into Heaven (John 14:6; see Leah Adam's link below too).  He is "the gate" (John 10:9).  You can't do it on your own through "being a good person" because nobody except Jesus is perfect.  Even Mother Teresa, one of the greatest women that ever lived, was a sinner because we "all sin and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We were born with the stain of sin, and it takes more than what we can ever offer God to get rid of it. Look at this crazy world and all its horrors that go on everyday. Those horrors aren't caused by people who are perfect. If we had the capability to be perfect then there would have been no need of a Savior to take our sin penalty.  I mean, why in the world would anyone actually want to leave Heaven and come here to this fallen world and die for us unless He knew what was in store for us when we die without his intervention on our behalf? Only an insane person or Someone Who truly knows the repercussions of sin would die for all of humanity and then rise again in victory. A crazy person can't rise again or save us, but Jesus did and still does.  Please, think about it.

Nobody likes to think about the day they'll die, but one day, when your time is up, you won't have the luxury to choose anymore.  If this scares you, good.  It would scare the crap out of me if I didn't have Jesus' saving grace on my side. I used to be afraid of death, but now I know without a doubt that I will go to Heaven one day.  That makes me not have to fear death (see 1 Corinthians 15:55, NIV), and who wouldn't want that?

I'm not some religious nut.  I am someone who knows the truth, and I want everyone else to too.  The Bible also says in James 4:17 "if anyone... knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it...(commits) sin," and I don't want to be guilty of that.  I want everyone to experience joy and salvation through Christ.  He has changed my life for the better.  I know He will change yours too if you just make the decision to follow Him.  Pray for forgiveness of your sins, and ask Him to come into your heart and make Him your Lord and Savior.  Then, you can be assured about where you will be spending eternity.  A repentant heart is one that God loves.

God bless you all!


Please check out the article Leah wrote at http://www.leahadams.org/hell-4-things-jesus-wants-you-to-understand-about-hell/

Help with Bible verses from http://biblehub.com/james/4-17.htm and others.  Also, internet searches gave me information about Don Piper-"90 Minutes in Heaven" and Eben Alexander- "Proof of Heaven"

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Childlike Faith

1/4/16--- Happy New Year!

“Truly I say to you, if you do not turn and become as little children, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  For whoever humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven…”     Matthew 18: 3-4

   Faith is one of the most important things anyone can have.  It takes us to places we never think are  possible, and it’s by trusting and believing in something higher than ourselves that we are able to let go of the limitations of our mind’s eye and see what happens.  Faith is like an unopened gift given to us by our best friend.  We wonder what’s inside the package, and though we can only guess at what we’ll get once we open it, the wait is well worth it. Faith produces expectation, and like at Christmas time when children open presents knowing they’ll be happy with their newest toys and treasures, those with persistent faith know they are in for a nice surprise too, and the great thing about faith is even a small amount of it goes a long way (NIV, Luke 17:6).

   God wants us to be like children when we come to Him (Matt. 18: 3-4). Children accept a loving parent’s words without a doubt because they are young enough to still be innocent. They speak from a heart that isn’t jaded by the world’s lessons yet.  As we age, our views about what to expect in life becomes more tainted with every disappointment, loss, or betrayal we experience.  Slowly, over time we forget how to be like children.  We forget the comfort of knowing everything will be okay and work out for us.  It isn’t until we learn about Who God really is and what He offers us that we are able to revert back to having the faith of a child.

   Unfortunately, there are those who have gone through a childhood where they never experienced the feelings trusted parents or family members should have offered.  For some, life gave them a crash course in disappointment and pain, and having faith in God becomes so much harder when bitter memories are cemented deep inside, glued to the pain that put them there.  It’s never easy to let those memories go.  It’s so much harder to break through to faith’s freedom when an anchor of past disappointments has consistently weighed a person down.  Even the good things that happen create a mistrust in the person’s thoughts because they are always thinking something bad is coming for them around the corner.

   The Bible tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).  If we don’t trust that He is there listening and is always ready to answer our prayers, then we are essentially bouncing our wishes off unhearing walls. That just doesn’t make any sense. The good news is that God does hear us, and the world opens up for someone who has faith in God.  Without faith, our world is so small, and our perceptions of what defines freedom learned by trust is sorely lacking. This lends a darkened view to our minds and beliefs, places that were never meant to be dark in the first place.  Just because our belief may be lacking, perhaps due to growing up in a place that didn’t know God for Who He is, doesn’t mean we have to stay in that place of unbelief. Things can get better!

   Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, has given us the power to take back all that we have lost.  Jesus is not just some guy from long ago in history Who lived and died the way a normal person did.  Instead, He is the Son of God, a force to be reckoned with, One that frees anyone who seeks the truth He offers.  I know.  I wallowed in loneliness, regret, and a secret pain I wouldn’t share with anyone, until I met Jesus.  By setting aside behaviors that were killing me in more ways than one and asking Him to take over as the Savior I so desperately needed to heal the many broken parts of my psyche, I have not regretted inviting Him into my life even once.  I had to have faith in Someone higher than me, though at the time I didn’t even truly know the meaning of the word 'faith'. I grew up scared out of my mind half the time that I’d do something that would give away the fact that I wasn’t perfect.  I didn’t want to show anyone the side of me that they didn’t need to see.  I didn’t want anyone to know I secretly hated men, and at first it wasn’t even something I’d admit to the Lord.  But He healed me of that pain and so many other issues I’ve carried with me over the years so that now I can say I honestly don’t hate men anymore.  Instead, I try to understand where everyone comes from, what makes them who they are.  I think that is the biggest reason why I chose to go into Psychology, to help me understand human nature in its rawest form.

   Without childlike faith we are unable to let go of all the reasons we shouldn’t trust, reasons that could then float off into the wind.  It feels so good to let go of the past.  I’m not saying it’s all roses and sunshine, but it has been so worth the time it takes to give it to the Person Who knows me inside and out and Who teaches me more about myself each day.  I have even learned to have faith in myself, and believe me when I say that is so rewarding!  Tears come to my eyes just thinking about all the things I have worked through with the Lord, and I know for a fact that if I hadn’t taken that step of faith from my heart to reach out to Jesus, that most likely I’d be in a horrible place in my life right now engorging myself on anything I’d assume would offer me a taste of fulfillment, however temporary.  But I want what lasts.  The Lord has held me in His arms through the pain of different types of past abuse, and issues of abandonment from a man I thought wanted to be my dad, and crippling depression, just to name a few issues.  But, none of that matters now.  It is through faith I know I have a Father Who will never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:8), and to be accepted for exactly who I am is the greatest comfort I will ever know. 

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