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Archive for January, 2011

How quickly we forget!

As a young person, I never kept a diary – I’m not sure why, because I did enjoy writing. And now I wish I had because there were so many stories I wrote as a teenager and I’ve forgotten them all. There were also so many good things the Lord did for me back then, in spite of the bad things which happened to me as a child. Though I remember many of those good things, there are details I wish I could remember accurately.

But about 18 years ago when a respected counselor insisted I keep a journal as part of my healing process, I decided to try it. Now, looking back, I realize just how much it has meant to me over the years, as a healing tool, a worship tool and a memory aid.

Journaling as a healing tool

There were no “rules” for journaling except that I had to be honest, writing down everything I was thinking and feeling. At first I wrote tentatively, thinking about events rather than the feelings connected with those events. 

But over time I noticed that I began to preface my journaling time with prayer that the Lord would unlock the secret places of my heart – those places I tried to hide from myself and especially from Him. I needed to know the roots of my depression, anger and pain so He could  heal those damaged festering places of my heart.

Psalm 139 became a favorite of mine. There was no place I could hide from the light and knowledge of God. He taught me how to become vulnerable to Him and that vulnerability brought trust as I realized He handled those hurting places in my heart with care and love.

The writings showed that trend – though each entry started with pain and shame pouring onto the page, it ended with praise and jubilation. He saw the darkest parts of my heart and still cared! He saw my naked heart and still loved me!

Later, during some counseling training through Dr. Richard Dobbins at Emerge Ministries in Akron OH, I learned why this kind of journaling was so effective as a healing tool. .

Dr. Dobbins suggested to pour out our hearts to God – to basically pray until there are no tears left. Then as we felt the emptiness, he suggested to begin to listen to the voice of God and ask Him to help us reinterpret the painful parts of our lives. He called his model, “praying through.”

Journaling was a form of “praying through” the difficulties of life which helped me identify the feelings I hid inside for so long – a way to empty my heart onto paper.

The act of writing down those thoughts and feelings in a journal involved the additional sense of touch. I often found myself speaking the words as I wrote them with tears flowing down my face as I poured out my hurts, shame and fears.

Writing was slower than praying – which meant I had more time to feel what wrote. Since I had learned to bottle up my hurts and fears from an early age, I needed the extra time to really feel what was in my heart.

When my heart was empty, when all the words were out on the paper, there would be a lull – a silent empty time to regroup emotionally. During that time, I was able to listen to the Spirit of God.

Once again, journaling  helped. As God spoke slowly and deliberately to my heart, I wrote down the impressions I felt from Him  and the alternative ways to view my past. The message was loud and clear – what man meant for evil and to harm me, God had used to mold me into the unique, special person I was, a person with a message of life I could share with others.

As I reread the entries later, the powerful, overwhelming  love and intimacy of those moments spent with God struck me. Being humble, empty and quiet before God allowed room for His  Spirit to fill my heart with His healing love and by journaling them I had a permanent reminder of those moments  to reinforce His truths when the doubts came!

Journaling has truly been a healing tool!

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            “”Your worst days are never so bad                        
          that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. 
               And your best days are never so good
           that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

                         ~ by Jerry Bridges ~
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Four-year-old Sam followed his mom as she led the way to the kindergarten Children’s Church class. She turned a corner into his classroom and began talking to his teacher, when something on the wall caught his eye – a small red box

He looked carefully at the box and read the words, “Fire Alarm Pull Down.” Of course he had no clue what the words “Fire Alarm” meant, but he recognized “Down” because of the arrow.  So Sam found a chair, climbed up and pulled the handle down.

As soon as the fire alarm began to blare, Sam put his hands over his ears and sank to the floor. Mortified, his mom found him there just a moment later. She groaned, realizing exactly what had happened. It was going to be a bad day….

Fortunately, one of the associate pastors who knew Sammy, arrived on the scene and learned what happened. He ran back to reassure the pastor it was a false alarm and quickly alerted the fire company.

Because the congregation rented the public school building for their Sunday services, the associate pastor couldn’t turn off the alarm. He had to call the school principal to come and take care of it.

So for the next half hour, the senior pastor valiantly carried on the service, ignoring the intermittent, loud blare of the alarm while the congregation politely endured it all.

Because of Sam’s age and because he didn’t pull down the alarm purposely as a prank, Sam received grace that morning.  Except for the extreme embarrassment that it was their son who caused the ruckus, the school principal, the pastor and the congregation extended grace to Sam’s parents as well.

But every day, Sammy’s mother thanks God for His grace to raise her bright, high energy son. She knows it’s only a matter of time before the little guy strikes again. Like the time he tried to make popcorn by himself, almost starting a fire in the microwave because he pushed the automatic start button twice…. Or the time he didn’t want to go to sleep so he figured out how to open his window and climb out to watch the alligators in the canal behind his house….

The point is that we are a lot like Sam, getting into all sorts of scrapes in our lives. Even on our worst days, God is there waiting to be gracious to us. No, He won’t prevent us from facing the consequences of our actions. But He will be there to help us through them, making sure we learn from our failures. He brings beauty out of our ash-heap experiences. That’s God’s grace.

He walks with us and even carries us during the worst days so we will want to walk with Him during the good ones.

Father, please help us to remember your love and grace on those good days when we think we can make it all by ourselves! Amen.

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Today’s  In Other Words will be hosted by Jennifer at Scraps & Snippets . Take time to think and ponder on  the quote below and share about it on your blog. Then, visit Jennifer’s blog  and share a  link to your blog. Take time to visit the others who have also written on it.  You’ll be glad you did!!

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A Short Story Based on Genesis 16:1-15

“You worthless slave! You have caused me so much trouble; I almost wish you had died out there in the wilderness. If you weren’t carrying Abram’s child… Humph!  I would beat you senseless for your insolence.”

Hagar clamped her lips together in a thin line and stood tall in the face of Sarai’s rageShe wanted to blurt out every detail of her experience in the wilderness – how Abram’s God had seen her lying there on the ground with her face covered in muddy tears because of the older woman’s harsh words and abuse. How He comforted her and told her the baby she carried was a son. Yes, she…Hagar… a worthless slave, would bear Abram a fine son when her mistress couldn’t even conceive!

A hint of a smirk played on the young slave’s lips. The old familiar arrogance bubbled up from the pit of her stomach. When my son is born, we’ll see who’s worthless, she thought

Submit to your mistress.” The force of the whispered words in her heart left her emotions off-balance just as Sarai raised her hand, striking the young slave’s cheek.

Hagar staggered backwards. Her cheeks paled and black spots danced before her eyes. She grasped her bulging abdomen and breathed deeply to keep herself from fainting.

The eyes of her mistress narrowed. “If anything happens to that child because of your foolishness, you will pay! Now, go to your own tent and get out of my sight!”

Submit to Sarai.” The Voice spoke again as Hagar stumbled back to her own tent.

Shadows crept over her soul, like the darkness swallows the desert at twilight. She feared this inner darkness more than anything her mistress could do t her.  Would Abram’s God kill her unborn son because of her foolish pride?

“Forgive me Lord. I know you told me I must come back and submit to Sarai, but you see how she goads me.  I don’t know how I can bear her abuse until this child is born. “

Tears pooled in her eyes as she sank wearily into the pile of goatskins in one corner. Though she was able to maneuver her body into a comfortable position, her heartache increased. Sleep refused to come. “I guess I thought it would be different. I hoped you would change her heart and things would be better. But she hasn’t changed at all! Why did you make me come back here?” She sobbed, unable to stem the flow of her tears.

Things will be better Hagar. You’ll see.”

El Roi, the God who sees, was still watching her, hearing the cries of her heart!  An overwhelming shame blanketed her soul and she wept bitterly.  “I am unworthy of Your care, my Lord. After all You did for me in the wilderness, my only thought was to flaunt it in the face of my mistress. Help me to lay aside my foolish pride and arrogance. Help me to please you with my attitude.”

Once again, the Voice spoke to her heart. “You cannot come face to face with the God who sees you and remain the same. Your mistress has not changed, but you have.”

Hagar struggled to sit up, dashing the tears from her cheeks as a cocoon of love enveloped her. A sense of wonder swelled inside for His words to her heart rang true. El Roi was not just the God of Abram; He was her God too!  He saw the ugly condition of her heart and cleansed it, made it new again. He forgave her!

The young slave knew what she had to do. She bowed her head and surrendered her will wholly to her God. “No matter what my mistress does; no matter how she treats me; even if she never changes toward me or the son I carry, I will serve Sarai as an offering of love to You.”

by Bonnie Winters – January 21, 2011

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The Ice Storm

“God loves you.

He loves you so much that He’s allowed this trial to push you to the point where you have no choice but to look to Him.”

~ When Life is Hard by James MacDonald~

 

ice stormI’m not sure what woke me. Perhaps it was the cracking of a tree limb outside the window, an eerie sound in an otherwise silent night.  I lay there wondering what was happening when I heard a loud sizzle-pop and all went dark.

Power’s out again, I thought, rolling over and hoping it would be restored by morning so I could get to the office on time.

Not so. Several hours later with the power still out, I knew it was bad. The battery powered weather radio droned out the news of a catastrophic ice storm blanketing the northeast.

Outside, the yard wore a layer of bubble wrap with each blade of grass cocooned in its own ice bubble. Even the dog hesitated to venture off the porch. No traffic dared navigate the streets because of downed tree limbs and power lines.

As the town’s news reporter, I was one of the first cleared to be out and about. Throughout the week I watched in awe, writing story after story, as people banded together in the face of catastrophe to care for each other.

It forced us as a community to accept the helping hands of others to get through the trial. Electrical linemen came from as far away as Hawaii to replace the downed poles snapped like match sticks by the weight of the ice.

Truckloads of food and clothing arrived to help feed and house those who were forced from their homes because they had no heat against winter’s deep freeze. Local churches, schools and even the local prison became shelters.

The trial of the ice storm caused people to work together, to pool their resources to care for one another. What seemed to be a catastrophe, turned into a blessing as neighbors forged new bonds, uniting their community as never before.

It’s true in the spiritual realm too. When things are going well, we wander through life on our own, not trusting the Lord. It’s during the trials of life when we realize how much we need him to carry us through those devastating times. It’s during the dark times when our faith grows and our hearts forge an intimate bond with him.

Life’s trials change us. Either we admit our frailty and reach out trembling hands to embrace God’s help, or we curse him and die a little more inside our dark and lonely hearts. The choice is ours.

Father help us to choose life during those trying times – to embrace your power, love and help, rather than pushing you away, isolating our hurting hearts. Amen.

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clip_image003Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Debbie on her blog, Heart Choices. Take time to think and ponder on  the quote below and share about it on your blog. Then, visit Debbie’s blog  and share a  link to your blog. Be sure to visit the others who have also written on it. You’ll be blessed!

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Good and Bad Parenting–Part 2

While the Bible seems to abound with examples of how not to parent, God does intersperse some positive examples in there as well. Quick – off the top of your head, who comes to mind as a great candidate for parent of the year?

In Old Testament times, the  prime example of motherhood that comes to mind was Moses’ mother Jochebed. She shines in the face of great adversity, making the best of a bad situation for her infant son.

The Egyptian Pharaohs feared a rebellion by their Israelite slaves so they ordered all the male children to be killed at birth. Jochebed defied the Pharaoh and hid her newborn son for three months. When it became obvious to her she couldn’t hide him any longer, she devised a plan to at least ensure his life – she made him a waterproof basket and set him on a miraculous journey, praying for his safety.

Even as Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, God made a way for Jochebed to continue to raise him during his formative years. She made good use of that time, singing and praying over her little boy, teaching him the stories of his heritage and his God.  When he grew older,  it was the lessons at his mother’s knee that moved his heart, not the luxuries of Pharaoh’s palace.

Jumping forward into the New  Testament, the Apostle Paul has high praise for Lois and Eunice, the mother and grandmother of young Timothy. Though not much is said of them, the few words we do see speak of their godly influence on Timothy. (3 Timothy 1:5 and 3:15-16)

Though his father was a Greek (Acts 16:1), the two women made sure the young boy was well versed in Jewish traditions, teaching him from the time he was an infant.  Their teaching provided a good foundation for his salvation later when he heard Paul preach. Because of his deep faith, he became a great help to Paul who thought of him as a beloved son.

Okay, I’m sure the first example of good parenting everyone thought of was Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus. What an awesome responsibility they had – trying to raise the Son of God here on earth. Each year at Christmas, I ponder the words to a song written from Joseph’s perspective as the surrogate father of Christ. “How can a man be father to the Son of God?  He laments over the fact that he’s just a carpenter, trying to raise a King.

And what about Mary? She was just an ordinary Jewish girl, yet God hand picked her and trusted her with His own son. WOW! I’m sure they made their share of parenting mistakes, yet in the back of Mary;s mind she knew Who He was which affected her every parenting decision.

So, what do you think? Are there any other examples of good parenting you can think of from the scriptures? When you need help as a parent, who is your Bible role model? I’d love to hear from you.

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Who were the worst parents in the Bible?

This question posed on Facebook by a good friend of mine sparked a lot of discussion on her page as well as here at my house. Put your thinking caps on and get ready to share your thoughts with  me here!

One gal mentioned Adam and Eve as her first choice because they left their children (and the rest of their descendants) with a legacy of sin.

Dan mentioned Isaac and Rebekah who had a set of twins – Jacob and Esau. Their saga begins in Genesis 25:19.  The jealousy and favoritism shown by the parents caused all kinds of heartache and trouble for the boys during their childhood and still affects the descendants  of those two sons today.

My first thought was of Aaron, the brother of Moses who was appointed as the first high priest of Israel. Aaron and two of his sons Nadab and Abihu, were allowed to accompany Moses part way up the mountain when God gave the ten commandments, witnessing the glory of God.

Returning down the mountain some time before Moses, Aaron yielded to the people and helped them build the golden calf idol. I have to wonder if their father’s example influenced Nadab and Abihu to  disrespect God to the point where they deliberately offered “unholy fire” on the altar of incense later during their priestly work in the temple?  Their actions upset God resulting in their deaths at His hand.

Generations later, another high priest had trouble with his sons and was reprimanded by God for their behavior. Read the story of Eli and his sons in  1 Samuel 2:12-36.

The high priests weren’t the only ones whose children were influenced by their parents’ examples. Consider King David – the man beloved by God and his people. Yet, his family was one of the most dysfunctional in all of scripture. His firstborn son Absalom was extremely greedy, stopping at nothing to inherit his father’s throne. Another son, Amnon raped his sister, then cast her aside to suffer shame. Even Solomon, who started out so well and  received the gift of wisdom from God, eventually succumbed to the pressures of the royal life, turning away from God.

We only have to read the books Kings and Chronicles to see more examples of royal parents impacting their children’s lives in negative ways.

Needless to say, these negative examples tell us a lot about how not to parent our kids. Tomorrow we’ll check out some positive Bible examples of parenthood.

Perhaps you have someone else in mind? I’d love to hear your vote for the  “Worst Bible Parent of the Year” Award.

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" . . . to refuse to bend our shoulders to carry a load is to miss a new opportunity for growth."
J.R. Miller from
Streams in the Desert

Several years ago, we visited a water park with our children. The water slides were great, but my favorite thing was the “Lazy River.” Even though I knew it was foolish to stay in one position for too long under the summer sun, the refreshing of the cool water and the warmth of the sun against my body lulled me into complacency. I bobbed along the course several times that afternoon, basking in contented bliss.

I ignored the prickles of heat on the tops of my thighs. I overlooked the slight pink tinge – warning signs that I’d had enough sun. The sunscreen would protect me, I reasoned. As you can imagine, I looked and felt like a boiled lobster later. Ouch!

No one I know wants to suffer pain. And yet crisis and pain seem to be a tried and true tool for producing growth in our lives.  Without it, we bob along with the current of life in a stupor. We get comfortable and don’t want to change or grow. Even  when we recognize the danger signs, we would rather overlook them than leave the place of complacency.

But then the crisis comes. We are jolted from our reverie by the turbulent emotions of confusion, pain, shock. We have to do something or die. Suddenly we feel like we’re drowning so we thrash around trying to save ourselves while sinking once, twice….

These are the times God offers us a chance to shoulder our responsibility for personal growth and change. He knows that until we hurt bad enough, we won’t choose to change – it’s human nature. But He is wise enough to know we can’t make those life changes alone even though we may want to.  So He comes alongside us and offers to tow us to the shore, provided we stop thrashing around, trying to save ourselves.

Drifting and complacency are not the same as resting in Jesus. To rest is to trust. It’s difficult for many of us to stop thrashing around and allow Someone else to be in control.  It requires a conscious choice on our part.

As we make the choice to trust, we are really taking on a load of responsibility to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We learn true contentment as opposed to complacency. We learn intimacy with God and others rather than wearing masks to protect ourselves. And we are buoyed up by the truth about ourselves in relationship with Christ rather than drowning in the lies we were taught to believe from childhood.

Jesus loves His creation too much to let us bob through life singing, “Whatever will be, will be.”  He gives us a purposeful life filled with opportunities to shoulder the load and grow on a daily basis.

The question is, are we done thrashing around on our own?

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Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by Tami Boesiger over at her blog, The Next Step.

What thoughts does this quote inspire in you? Feel free to participate in today’s In Other Words by blogging about the quote on your blog site  – then leave a link at Tammy’s site to share with the other participants. Take time to be inspired today by  this great quote.

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