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Archive for September, 2011

At age 16, I was a gangly teen with braces, frizzy permed hair, and low self-esteem.  But in our church and the local home-schooling community I had a reputation as a dependable babysitter.  I loved children and it was a good source of spending cash.

The problem came when more than one family asked me to babysit on one particular night.  Before my brain could even process the information, my mouth would automatically respond.

“Sure, I can watch your kids on Friday, Mrs. Smith!” I responded cheerfully with a big smile.  “No problem!”  But when someone else called twenty minutes later with an urgent need of childcare for the same night, poor Mrs. Smith was forgotten.  “Of course, I’ll be happy to babysit for you on Friday, Mrs. Jones!”

Not until both families showed up on my doorstep Friday night did I realize what I had done.  My desire for approval and my fear of disappointing others led me to agree to more than I could handle, and left me in a sticky situation.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson when I was 16.  But even now in my adult years the need for approval often leads me to say “yes” when I mean “no.”  I over-commit and double-book my calendar, driven by the fear of letting someone down who “needs me” desperately.  Or I agree to do something I don’t really want to do or don’t have time to do, out of self-imposed guilt or pressure.

A “yes” given grudgingly isn’t a FREE yes.  II Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each
one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or
under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Am I giving my time, my energy, and my commitments grudgingly or
under compulsion?  If so, I’m seeking approval from men rather than
from God.

My problem at 16, and my problem now, is that I often look to the wrong sources for my approval.  When I look to my Heavenly Father, I see that through Christ I am already “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).  The more I know who I am as a beloved daughter of God, the more I am free to say “yes” when I mean “yes,” and free to say “no” when I mean “no.” I can give of myself with joy and sincerity and confidence, knowing I will never disappoint my Heavenly Father.  THAT is real freedom!

Going Vertical!

MJ

It was for freedom that Christ set us free!” (Galatians 5:1a, NASB)

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“I have a story for you!  I just have to tell you what God’s been doing!”  The distinguished Salvadoran gentleman was beaming.

It was our last day in El Salvador.  Our Fresh Start team had just finished four intense days of workshops with pastors, teachers, and church leaders.  Over and over again we shared about our path to freedom from the effects of offense, hurt and loss, through the power of forgiveness.

Something significant had happened in
this man’s heart over the last few days, and he was just bursting to share.  Eyes glowing, in careful English, he eagerly told me the story of how God had set his heart free.  Here it is, in his own words:

This past weekend was a blessing for my life.  I was having some problems with my heart due to a situation with a supervisor at work.  He treated me badly, shouted at me, and was very domineering. This hurt me and made me feel bad, stupid and inferior.  He made me feel that he does not trust me any more.  I felt angry, disappointed and rejected.  But mainly I felt that I was treated as a fool despite my knowledge and experience on the job.  So I decided to act as if I do not care, not associate with him anymore, and avoid him.  But the worst thing was that I was angryand wanted to confront him

That’s how my heart was these last days, but God started to talk to me through the Word at the church.  Last Saturday, the 10th of September, Fresh Start came to my church to teach how to handle this bitterness and anger. 

 I decided to pour out my heart to God and forgive my supervisor, not taking into account what he said.  I decided to start this day as a new day as if nothing had happened, expecting it to be better than
the past.  I give thanks to God for taking care of my heart and for
bringing Fresh Start into my life.  Blessings to the ministry and all the brothers and sisters that work in it!”

This man put into action Psalm 142:1-2 – “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift
up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble.”  Rather than allow the bitterness of unfair treatment to eat him up inside, rather than respond out of a resentful or revengeful spirit, he chose to turn to his Heavenly Father and tell Him all about it.  All the injustice, all the hurt, and all the anger was poured out at the feet of Jesus.  And as he forgave his supervisor, God filled the man’s heart with freedom and release.

Will you pour out your heart to God today?  Tell Him everything that’s hurting you.  He cares.  And He’s waiting to take that burden from you and exchange it for His peace.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”  Psalm 62:8 (NIV).

Going Vertical!

MJ

 

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A piercing shriek jars my thoughts, dragging my eyes from the computer screen.  It takes half a second for the sound to register. The teapot!  I bound down the stairs and into the kitchen, where a plume of steam rises from the spout as the high-pitched whistle gets louder and more insistent.  Snatching the pot off the burner, I heave a sigh of relief as the noise stops. 

“Thank the Lord for whistling teapots.”  I murmur to the empty room, pouring the boiling water into my mug. 

I don’t have the best track record when it comes to burners on the stove.  Easily distracted, I tend to forget about my dinner cooking on the stove until the smell of burning food or a smoke alarm brings it to my attention.  If all pots and pans came equipped with warning whistles like my teapot, I would avoid many a cooking catastrophe.   

This morning as I sip my steaming mug of Earl Grey, I reflect on other “whistling teapots” in my life.  When I was at the boiling point emotionally after four years of intense teaching in Asia, my brother Michael sat me down one day and told me, “We don’t need you here.  You’re no good to anyone if you’re miserable.  Go home.” 

I didn’t want to hear it.  But he was right.  I was miserable.  I was burnt-out.  And I was in danger of burning others around me too.  So I finally listened and went home to the U.S. for a much-needed break.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Even the great leader of the Israelites, Moses, had a “whistling teapot” in his life.  His father-in-law, Jethro, warned Moses that he was heading for trouble trying to judge all the Israelite’s disputes himself.  “What you are doing is not good,” Jethro said.  “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18, NIV).  Jethro advised him to delegate responsibility to share the load, and thankfully Moses listened.

Who are the “whistling teapots” in your life?  Maybe it’s a friend who loves you enough to confront you.  Maybe it’s a family member who sees you approaching burnout and insists you take a break.  What is your response?  Will you continue boiling away, despite all the warning signs?  Or will you listen to wise counsel?  Maybe God will use you to be a “whistling teapot” for someone else in your life, too!

“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.”  (Proverbs 15:31, NIV)

Going Vertical!
MJ

                                                                                                                                           

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It happened while I was peeling carrots.  With each sccrrrtch, sccrrtch sccrrtch of the blade, thin orange curls fell away into the bowl, piling up like a jumbled mound of spaghetti.  Mindlessly preparing a salad for dinner, I was unaware of the almost intangible darkness that was creeping over my spirit.

Maybe it was brought on by the after-storm stillness, with the syncopated dripping of rain off the roof the only interruption to an eery quiet.  Maybe it was the echoing emptiness of the house.  Maybe it was the darkening of dusk and the realization that another week was almost over, with not much to show for it.  Whatever the cause, I inexplicably felt myself being weighed down with a growing sense of despondency.

“Oh no,” I groaned inwardly, “not again.”  The encroaching thoughts started up with the rhythm of the vegetable peeler.  Sccrrrtch, sccrrtch, sccrrrtch…  “It’s back!  I thought I was over this!  But maybe I’ll never really get over it.  Maybe it will always be part of my life…”

The familiar clouds of hopelessness and despair were settling into place.  It took me back to those long weeks and months after my return from Asia three years ago.  Sleeping for hours during the day.  Avoiding interactions with friends.  Making any excuse to stay at home rather than face the outside world.  Bursting into tears when someone asked how I was doing.  Feeling trapped, plagued by ominous thoughts.  “This is my life now,” I remember thinking many times.  “I’ll always be this way.  I’ll never be happy again.”

It had taken a long time to get out of the pit before.  And now here I was, without any warning or apparent cause, feeling myself sliding down into that hole all over again.  But this time I recognized the lies the enemy was whispering to my spirit.  And so I started speaking truth to my soul.

“Depression is NOT going to be a permanent part of my life.  I WON’T be stuck here forever.  I am God’s child, and He has a good future for me!  It’s NOT hopeless – my hope is in Christ!”  Slowly the clouds started to dissipate as the power of the lies was broken.

Do you ever feel helpless or hopeless?  Do you ever feel trapped in a cycle of despairing thoughts?  Identify the lies that try to keep you bound in the darkness of depression.  Speak the life-giving truth of God’s promises to your soul.  He WILL provide a way of escape!

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11, NIV1984)

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord and He answered by setting me free!” (Psalm 118:5, NIV1984).

Going vertical!

MJ

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