TEN DELUSIONS THAT GUARANTEE HOLIDAY STRESS

PRIMARY DELUSION:  This year will be different!

This year will only be different if you choose to change YOU through lowering your expectations, realigning your priorities and setting boundaries. This year, you can focus on the gift of Christ by beginning to set boundaries for your own behavior (ex. commitments, priorities) and for the behavior that you will accept from others.

  1. The biggest predictor of future behavior is past behavior
    1. Let this be your guide to boundary formation this year
  1. You can maintain boundaries and still practice forgiveness.  Boundaries help protect the healing work of forgiveness until past wounds are completely healed.
    1. As Christians we forgive because:
      1. We are forgiven
      2. So that we do not let bitterness take root.  Once this takes root, we can morph into a person who is prickly and unlovable.
      3. Because when we forgive, we become increasingly more like Christ
      4. To be obedient
  1. Boundaries can exist with forgiveness
    1.  Boundaries serve as the band-aid that protects the “scab of forgiveness” so that you can continue to reflect Christ.
      1. After an injury, the skin is inflamed for a while
      2. Initially, the edges of the wound begin to contract and come together
      3. Even though the wound looks like it has healed, there still may be inflammation and if this wound is hit, it will bleed and often quite profusely
      4. Initially, stitches or band-aid or adhesive strips will protect the wound during the healing process.
  1. You do not have to accept unkind or inappropriate treatment from anyone whether or not they gave birth to you or helped you pay for college.
  1. How people act is up to them. You are responsible for your own behavior and not anyone else’s behavior.

 

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Do not be like the horse or mule

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”I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding, but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”   (Psalm 32:8-9)

This Psalm invited me to consider the recent events in my own life. God revealed to me several years ago that I needed to lay down one of my beloved jobs. The constant activity of balancing my work loads resulted in less time to simply abide in him and hear his voice. The Lord literally had to place bit and bridle in my mouth in the form of a changed job description that I was not called to fulfill.  God was clearly forcing me to say “no” to something good, so that space could be created for me to say “yes” to him.  In this compulsory act of faith, I believe that God is allowing me to say “yes” to something better which I can not see, yet.

As I continued to reflect on this Psalm, I became convicted of my own slow and stubborn ways and thus I prayed:

“Lord, you have had to use bit and bridle to force me to change direction. Long ago, you revealed that I needed a course correction, but I refused to listen because somehow with my pitiful human mind, I thought I could follow several paths at one time. Yet, as a loving father, you intervened and you forced me to make the necessary course correction to get on the right path, your path. You have had to completely shut doors of opportunity so that I could choose your path. The bit and bridle is so painful Lord…I hate not being in control!

Yet I pray, Lord mold me. Change my will to your will. Let your will be done today. I want to naturally choose your way. Lord, increase my hunger and thirst for you and do not let me be satisfied with anything, but your perfect will. Give me the strength to say “no” or “not now” so that I can first seek your will and unswervingly turn toward your “yes” for me today.”

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A Gentle Path of the Examen

The Prayer of Examen is a spiritual exercise that has been prayed at the end of each day for centuries.

The purpose of this exercise is to remind believers of His holy presence and that He is moving us from darkness to light. We are invited to review our day with “spiritual eyes” and see how we have encountered the Lord Jesus in the everyday circumstances of life.

It is intended to help us grow in our awareness of God’s action; notice our responses to his movement; and become aware of our own sin which moves us away from His will.

This exercise is intended encourage you and not leave you discouraged and forsaken.

THE FIVE MOVEMENTS OF THE EXAMEN                                                                                 (pray each evening)                                                                                                                             (Ideally this exercise will take 10 -15 min. to complete)

1. Become aware of God’s presence

Father, you have promised that “the Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Ps. 145:8) Lord, come near and let me feel your presence fully because “with you is the fountain of life; in your light, we see light.” (Ps. 36:9) Give me your light so that I might see truth.

2. Review the day with Gratitude

Lord, help me to fully realize that all that I am and all that I do is from you, God. Help me to review my day from a place of humility because only the poor in spirit can appreciate the slightest gift and feel genuine gratitude. Today, I am grateful for…..

3. Recollection of the day

Lord, give me your gentleness and mercy as I recollect my day. Lord, bring to my remembrance:

  • The happenings of today:                                                                                                           •My actions, motives and feelings
  • The occasions when I chose my will and my way instead of God’s will and God’s way.
  • The Reflections of Christ’s love?                                                                                                 •Was I a visible sign of God’s presence and love to those who I encountered?                   •Was I aware of God’s work in my life, in my community and in the world?
  • The Incongruent Reflections?                                                                                                     •When were my actions or words a poor reflection of the nature of Christ?                     •Is there some part of my life untouched by Jesus where He is calling for heart transformation?                                                                                                                         •Did I build a barrier to God’s presence/love?

4. Response: Confession

Lord, help me to realize that this awareness of my shortcomings and failures is a gift from you that can serve to draw me nearer to Christ. Only when I see my own imperfections, do I come to see Your perfection and Your enormous gift of grace.

Father, today I claim your forgiveness for you have told us that when we sin, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…[So when] we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

(1 John 1-2) So Lord, I confess….. Please forgive me Father and make me clean.

5. Hopefulness:

Lord, with you there is always a tomorrow. Because of your love, I am redeemed and made new. Protect me from wallowing in my past mistakes and help me to claim victory in Christ and to “press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [as] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

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The Perfect Valentines Gift

God  gave us the perfect gift of love over 2000 years ago.  This gift of love is available to all of us, but the great challenge is find a way to receive his love.

Sometimes we don’t know that the true cry of our heart is for affirmation, love and belonging.  Yet we know at some very basic level that we all want to be included in someone’s life.

Often feelings of unworthiness, shame and guilt create a barrier to receiving God’s love.

Yet, in John 3:16-17, we read that God so loved a broken, unredeemed, guilty, shameful and unworthy humanity, that he sent his only Son, so that when we believe in him we will have eternal life.  For God did not send his son to point an accusing finger at us, but instead came to show us a way to come home to the love of God.

I hope you will open his gift of love and remember that through the work of the cross you are purified, cleaned and redeemed.

What a great Valentines gift!

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Nourishing Others

I know that there is a call on my life.  I have always felt it and I think everyone would sense the call if they meditated on God’s word and listened deeply.  At various points in my life, I have been called nourish others in small ways, but at other times, he has called me to feed a large group.  Sometimes this feeding has involved a tangible physical feeding and yet other times it is an emotional or spiritual feeding.

We are all called to nourish others at various levels.  As you consider how God wants to use your life, I hope you will consider this quote from Mother Teresa.

“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”

This week, I hope you will join me as I pray:  “Lord God, open my eyes to opportunities to nourish others.  Open my schedule and guide me to wherever I am to go and whatever I am to do.  Please give me strength and courage to boldly serve you and bring glory to you (and not myself).  Lord change me so that every day I can grow in your likeness and be used as your body here on earth. Amen.

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A New Creation

I meet with an eleven year old girl who I will call Molly. She is shy and wears a hood that mostly covers her face, yet those big brown eyes are hard to miss. We talk about her favorite things and I ask her for some good memories. Her first good memory is the day she arrived at the Joy Home. Molly was neglected and left to feed and fend for herself. Consequently, she was sexually abused several times. Her memories are horrific.

I was privileged to meet with her six times individually and Molly began to learn to trust me. Initially, Molly felt that she was dirty and bad because she thought that she was at fault for the sexual abuse. We discussed that Molly is good and that the men behaved badly. We prayed that Molly would feel clean and I prayed some of the verses of Psalm 51 over her. God answered our prayer and miraculously she no longer feels dirty. This becomes evident when she no longer chooses to wear her hood

 As we continue our work, I gently suggest that we could work on one of her memories. I encourage her that the prize for doing the work could be a dry bed in the morning (she is an habitual bed wetter). She looks as me and politely declines. She would rather wet the bed then to encounter her memories in a therapeutic fashion. I can’t blame her. So we focus on strength building and safety.

During our last session, we focus on her strengths. It takes us a full 30 minutes to come up with ten things that she likes about herself.  I make a suggestion for item #10, “Molly is loved”.  She looks at me and smiles in agreement. I ask her, “Who loves Molly?” She says that she is loved by God, her new mom at the Joy home and me! I was very moved and could barely speak. If I do nothing else, but let these children know that they are loved, God wins!

As we end our last session, I ask her if she would like me to pray with her. She grabs my hand and states that she would like to pray with me. I tell her that I can start or she can start and this is her choice. She just holds my hand and smiles and we look out the window for a few minutes. I remind her again that whenever she wants to begin, she should let me know what to do because she is in charge of this session. She just smiles and looks out the window. I want to keep my schedule and move on to the next child, but I feel that it is important to let Molly control the session. I want her to feel powerful.  We must have held hands, sitting wordlessly looking out the window for over 10 minutes. Finally, she smiles and begins to pray.

Lord, be with this precious girl. Let her know that she is wonderfully and fearfully made. Let her know that what man meant for evil, you can use for good. Please use the trauma that she has endured to shape her into a young woman who can do amazing things for your glory. Let her know that because of you, she is a new creation and the old has gone, the new is here! * Let her live as a new creation.

*2 Corinthians 5:17

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Be Strong and Courageous

Today, I had a migraine after hearing the horrific stories of abuse. I can’t help, but ask myself, “Where was God in the midst of this trauma? How could he allow his little ones to suffer?” Yet, God gently whispers to my heart that he was there in the midst of the abuse.  He was comforting these children and weeping with them. I know this is true, but it is a hard truth.

Many of the children feel that they are bad and were at fault for the trauma. Of course, as adults, we know that this is false, but they feel that if they were good, then the trauma would not have happened. I tell them that the predator behaved badly, but they are good.

Over and over I explain to them that there are three common ways to react to a predator; fight, flight or freeze. When the lion begins to attack the elephant, the elephant will fight. When the lion attacks the gazelle, the gazelle runs. When the mouse senses that a lion is near, the mouse freezes until the predator has passed. Most young children will naturally freeze when a sexual predator closes in for the attack. Later, the child regrets the fact that s/he did not fight or flee. When I explain the freeze response, one can see the tension on the child’s faces ease.

To be restored, the child must eventually process and slay these bad memories. They must be brave, so now I am asking them to become lions. I am asking them to become strong and courageous so they can overcome their bad memories. Yet, some lack the necessary courage. One girl told met that she would rather continue to wet the bed then become courageous and possibly encounter the memory again. So my work is to help her become strong.

Father, help these precious little ones “be strong and courageous. Do not let them be afraid or terrified because of their memories, for the LORD our God goes with them; he will never leave them nor forsake them.”* Lord, be their refuge and strength an ever-present help in trouble. Do not let them fear.”**

*Deuteronomy 31:6              ** Psalm 46:1-2

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