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Archive for October, 2012

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Smile firmly in place, Marcos gave a firm handshake or a bear hug to each person who entered the room for the Fresh Start seminar. A friendly, easy-going guy, Marcos was the type of person you could talk to easily and feel comfortable around. He was excited about our visiting Fresh Start team and the week’s seminar on “Processing the Issues of Your Heart.” But there was something in his eyes, behind his smile. A hint of hidden pain.

Day after day, all through the week, Marcos listened attentively with the other participants in the seminar but didn’t talk much. Yet it was clear he was doing a lot of internal processing. Wide-eyed, he took in each story told by the Fresh Start team, writing copious notes.

“It was something that happened when I was a child,” he said when asked to identify the person or loss he was processing that week. Though he didn’t share any more details, he told us that he felt shame because of that experience. “It’s affected all my relationships, including my relationship with God.”

On the last day, Marcos finally gave us a glimpse of what he’d been processing. He started by reading aloud from Romans 9:20-21. “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”

“All my life I’ve felt like I was born for ‘common use,’ ” Marcos confessed softly. “I’ve felt I was created for dishonor, for shame. God seemed far away.” He was silent for a moment, then continued. “But this week God has told me, ‘You thought I was far away. But I’ve been walking with you .’ Now my eyes are open and I can see all the good things He has done for me.”

“I’ve felt so much change in my heart,” Marcos continued, a grin spreading over his face. “I feel healed, able to forgive, able to let God fill my heart. Now I know that I wasn’t created for common use. I wasn’t created for shame. And I want people to know that no one is created for common use.”

The transformation was evident in Marcos as he summed up his week’s experience. “I’m re-born. I’m ready for God to deposit more in my life. It’s a new page. A new beginning!”

Has an event or hurt from your past left you feeling ashamed, dirty, rejected, abandoned, or unwanted? That experience doesn’t have to DEFINE you. You are NOT a sum total of your life’s experiences! Ask the Lord to help you identify the lingering residue of hurts or losses in your life, to forgive those who have offended or hurt you, and to remove those untrue “labels” of shame, rejection, or dishonor. Ask Him to show you who He says you are. He says you are Beautiful. Valued. Loved. Accepted. Secure. You were not created for common use. You were created for something special!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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I apologize in advance for bringing up an indelicate topic. Miss Manners may not approve. But I have to say that there’s no sound I hate more than the sound of someone clearing the mucus in his throat and getting ready to spit. Just the thought of it makes me convulse involuntarily. Unfortunately, in the four years I lived in east Asia, I had to get used to that sound as a part of everyday life.

“It’s because of the pollution – that’s why people spit so much,” local friends told me. “It’s the dust in the air from the Gobi Desert,” others explained. “The wind blows it here and it irritates people’s throats when they breathe.” “It’s just a cultural thing,” some said, “We’ve always done it.” Whatever the reason, I didn’t like it. But I couldn’t make it go away. So I had to come to peace with the fact that people spit in this area of the world. And I tried to focus on all the wonderful things I loved about that country and culture, and ignore the spitting.

And it worked for awhile. I would still grimace and shudder when people passing me on the sidewalk started clearing their throats. But I told myself it didn’t bother me.

In my fourth year of teaching English in east Asia, however, everything started getting on my nerves. The mobs of people pushing to get to the ticket counter in the train station. The crowds jostling each other to get on or off the bus. The taxi drivers charging three times the normal rate just because I wasn’t a local. The kids staring at me as I rode my bicycle to school, and shouting “wai guo ren! wai guo ren!” (foreigner! foreigner!). But the thing that irritated me the most, like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard, was the clearing the throat and spitting.

One particular day as I was walking to classes, I was inwardly seething at the seeming rudeness and insensitivity of people around me. “If ONE MORE PERSON spits on the street,” I vowed to myself as I clenched my fists, “I’m going to PUNCH HIM!”

As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I was appalled at myself. “How could I even THINK such a thing? What is WRONG with me?”

Sadly it took me many months to identify the root of my angeryears of building frustration from feeling misunderstood, unappreciated, overworked, and not listened to by those in position of authority over me. But the threatening explosions of anger and feeling out of control of my emotions were the warning signals that something in my heart wasn’t right. And as I began to process the hurts that had led to this point, and to repent of my wrong responses, finally I was able to conquer my anger as I released my pain to God and chose to forgive those that had hurt me.

“Like a city breached, without walls, is one who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). Do you feel like your emotions are out of control? Are you letting the hurts and challenges of life tear down the protective walls around your heart? Have you allowed anger, bitterness and unforgiveness to move in and take residence?

Examine the walls of your heart today. Forgive those who’ve offended you. Pour out the pain of your heart to God. And allow Him to repair the broken-down places. And ask the Holy Spirit to help you to guard your heart, so that your anger doesn’t get out of control!

“Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART*, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Proverbs 4:23
(NIV)
*emphasis mine

Going Vertical!
MJ

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Smoothing her skirt for the hundredth time, the little girl with straight black hair and big brown eyes sat primly on the front porch, dangling her feet over the edge. Her hair was neatly combed and held in place with a bow that matched her new ruffled party dress. It was her tenth birthday, and everything had to be perfect.

“This is the day my daddy’s gonna call,” Bianca thought to herself. “I know it. He’s going to call me and he’s going to wish me happy birthday and tell me that he loves me.”

Since the day her father had walked out of her life, Bianca had struggled with feelings of abandonment and being unwanted. For years she kept hoping and praying he would come back.

“This is the year,” she had decided on the day of her tenth birthday. “This is his last chance. If he doesn’t call me today, I’ll never expect him to call again.”

So she sat on the porch and waited. And waited. And waited.

He never called.

More than twenty years later, as Bianca was recounting the story to our Fresh Start team, her emotions were still raw.

“I decided then that my father didn’t love me,” she told us. “And I felt that maybe even God didn’t love me.”

But over the course of the week-long Fresh Start seminar, Bianca’s heart was touched by the message of forgiveness, and though it was difficult, she decided to fully forgive her father for the pain of rejection and abandonment. The burden of all that hurt and pain was lifted off her shoulders, and she actually felt love towards her father, even though he had never apologized or changed.

“It’s amazing!” She beamed through tears. “I feel such peace now. And God has shown me that HE was there all those years that my father wasn’t there! God was the Father that I needed as a little girl. He never left me. He fills that hole in my heart.”

Have you ever felt rejected or abandoned? Have people in your life let you down? Our Heavenly Father wants to fill those empty places in your heart. Take your pain to Him. Forgive those who have hurt or disappointed you. And let God reveal to you how He’s always been there, even in those lonely and painful times. He will never disappoint you. He is a father to the fatherless.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Psalm 68:5 (NIV)

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