“More Like Jesus”

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“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

I’m sure you have read this quote before. We aren’t to judge someone unless we know what they are going through. I seemed to be surrounded these days by people who are going through some type of crisis. Emotional, physical, mental. There are times when I can’t leave myself off of that list either.

I’m not sure where I would have been three years ago without the support of my now husband, my daughter, my family and my God. I’m really not sure where I would be today either without them. But what about those who have no one? What about the millions who suffer from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, depression, feelings of hopelessness or anger? Those with complicated pasts and painful chidlhoods? What if they have nowhere to turn? My heart breaks for these people. My heart aches for those who have been tossed aside simply because they aren’t strong enough to handle the everyday stresses and emotions that seek to tear us down.

The world tends to turn its back on these people. There tends to be a fear of being around someone whose life isn’t wrapped up in a neat little package. I read a quote once that said “don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you do.” I think the same applies to people who handle life differently. Don’t judge someone because they handle life differently or aren’t as strong as you. No one can possibly understand how complex the mind works, and how your emotions or the past can run you over unless you have experienced it yourself.

I am blessed to have wonderful people around me. I am blessed that my mother took me to church as a baby and that I never strayed from there for very long. I am blessed to know love and to be loved and to know God. But to some this is a foreign concept. There are those who were never hugged as a child, never told that it was okay to cry and show emotion. Never comforted in times of sorrow or praised for accomplishments. Never given a bible or told the story of Jesus Christ. Chances are you know someone like this. It may be that person who sits in a cubicle next to you who never has a kind word. It may be that extremely insecure friend who can’t stay in a relationship or constantly picks the abusive, manipulating partner. Or it may be that student or friend of your child’s who acts out for no reason other than the need for attention.

The truth is there are all kinds of kinds of people in this world. Are you accepting of their faults and kinder than necessary or do you judge and walk away?

A few weeks ago, our pastor did a sermon on the characteristics of Jesus. There were 60. I hadn’t intended to use this when I started writing but God led me to it. It seemed appropriate with what I had already written. Here are few to help us understand what others need of us:

  • Patience is showing tolerance and fortitude to others, and even accepting difficult situations from them and God without making demands and conditions. (Matthew 27:14; Romans 12:12; James 1:3,12)
  • Kindness is practicing benevolence and a loving attitude towards others. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Goodness displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others, and allows us to do the right thing. (Matthew 19:16)
  • Gentleness is the character that will show calmness, personal care, and tenderness in meeting the needs of others. (Isa. 40:11; Philippians 4:5; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Thes 2:7)
  • Fairness sees a situation from the viewpoint of each person involved and not just ours. It seeks the best, just, equable solution, even if it hurts us. (Matthew 7:12)
  • Friendship is the companionship and closeness we are to have with one another. It is the commitment to help form the character in others. This is not to be feared but embraced, even when it hurts! (Proverbs 27:17)
  • Dependable is being constantly reliable and trustworthy. It will allow us to continue in our commitments even if it means personal sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 1:10)
  • Generosity allows us to give to others because God has given abundantly to us. It is the wise use of stewardship and the attitude that all I have belongs to God and knowing we are the caretakers for His purpose. (Deut. 16:17; Matthew 10:8)
  • Encouragement will lift, support, and help others up through difficult circumstances, all from God’s perspective. (Psalm 119:28; Psalm 143:3; Matt. 3:17; John 14:1; 1 Thes. 5:11–14)
  • Attentiveness will recognize the value of other people by giving them listening ears, respect, courtesy, and total concentration. This means paying attention to others, not just listening to our own needs and desires, and also giving genuine contemplation to God’s Word. (Hebrews 2:1)
  • Compassion will feel the pain and plight of others. It will enable us to convey a deep feeling of love and concern that moves us to meet their distresses, struggles, and needs. (Job 29:13; Isa. 40:11; Mark 1:41; Luke 19:4; 1 Peter 3:8)
  • Supportive is to come along side others, sharing our strength and courage in their afflictions and troubles. (Galatians 6:2)

And the most important:

  • Love will enable us to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and, of course, our family, and others around us. Love is taking the initiative to build up and meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return. (John 13:1; John 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:3)

Be an unexpected blessing to someone who probably feels as if they don’t deserve it. Be the answer to their prayer. Be the answer to someone who hasn’t even prayed for an answer. All it takes is a few kind words, some time, a shared prayer.

Be more like Jesus today.

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“Overcomer”

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As I sat in church this morning listening to a young girl sing about how Jesus knew her name, I was overcome with emotion. (Not uncommon for this emotional girl) But I was so touched because this young girl was recently dealt a rough hand. She is having to deal with something that someone that young shouldn’t. Yet there she was, standing in front of God and all of the congregation singing her praises to God. She was unknowingly showing the rest of us how to be an overcomer. I’m sure life will still be hard and not make sense at times but she is on the right track. She is learning that when God is the center of your life, your load can be lifted.

I thought of the words to the song “Overcomer” by Mandisa:

Everybody’s been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling You…You’re an overcomer!

Where are you in life right now? I am here to tell you that no matter where you are, unless you have God in your life, the hard times will be harder. Been there. Done that. Why not let go and give Him the chance to change the situation and change you in the process? The bad times come to show us that we are not alone. We don’t have to walk the hard road by ourselves. God can change any situation if you just give Him the chance. He is waiting with arms stretched wide open to you.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing – James 1: 2-4

*Click here to see the Overcomer video…love that includes Robin Roberts of ABC.

“You Survived”

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What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

 This morning as I was opening a book that I carry with me, a piece of paper fell out. It was a copy of an email from a dear friend of mine. As always, the words were beautiful, inspiring and encouraging. I hadn’t read it in a while and one sentence caught my attention :

“The battle is over but the memories will have to be rearranged to the back of your mind and this is where God’s gift must be fully internalized…………………..YOU SURVIVED.”

This was a while before the full-on panic attacks had started and she was speaking of another time and another battle but I realized that it could easily be used in the terms of that struggle as well. As with any type of situation that causes us grief, pain, disappointment or fear, the lingering thoughts of that time will sometimes resurface and pull you back into a place where it seems as if you are reliving it all over again. This is especially true of anyone who has faced anxiety or panic attacks. We all know that the memories of the way that moment felt are what cause you to stay in a constant state of fear.

You really do have to rearrange those memories to the back of your mind. It takes a lot of will power and a ton of faith but it is do-able. I am proof. I think often of the worst days. I don’t let them linger very long though. I shuffle them back to where they belong and replace them with praise for the One who brought me through the fire, refined and strengthened.

If you are struggling, if your battle is all uphill, I encourage you to simply call out His name. Let Him show you how mighty and powerful He is.

And if your battle seems to be over, yet the memories are haunting you, replace them with thoughts of praise and thanksgiving. Prioritize your thoughts and bring God to the forefront. Remember that with Him, YOU SURVIVED.

“The Drizzle”

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God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms – John Newton

And sometimes God does do his work in a storm but sends the drizzle as a gentle reminder that He doesn’t want us to stray.

I went through the storm. Actually, I would compare it more to a tsunami, hurricane and tornado combined. The waves beating so hard that my feet could not stand on the crumbling ground. The wind so fierce that my eyes couldn’t focus…tears flooding them from the sting. My mind swirling in a vortex of emotions…fear and doubt harassing me from all sides.

But guess what?

 I’m here.

I made it.

I’m okay.

I will always be a little battered but I’m fine.

The drizzle still comes from time to time. Sometimes it comes as a mist, a cue that I need cleansing. Other times, it may come harder, beckoning me to reach out farther for the One who brought me through the storm and to not forget that I need Him.

All day. Every day.

Accept the storms for what they are. A chance to return to God. To be comforted by His healing presence. Our flaws, trials and brokenness allow space for God to fill in the cracks and make us whole.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth – Psalm 121: 1-2

“You WILL Get Through This”

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. – James 1: 2-4 (The Message)

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Being in the “pit” stinks, but the pit does one thing. It forces us to look up and someone from up there must come down and give us a hand. – Max Lucado

I heard this quote today and it resonated with me. I have been in the pit more than once. Going through a tumultuous relationship, then divorce and then to the ultimate pit (which is no secret here) – a complete breakdown of everything I knew to be the norm in my life and into the grips of anxiety and panic attacks.

When you are in any pit or low point in your life, no matter what it may be, the pain and suffering may seem endless. You can wish and hope all you want but you have to do something more, something much bigger to achieve your peace. You have to look up, pray, cry out to God.

He will answer. But one thing I have learned through all of this is that He answers in His own time. I still have many moments when I say to Him “Why am I still battling this on some level?” I have come a long way but I am not yet where He needs me to be so I have to “wait patiently on the Lord”. Now, I am not a patient person by any means. I want things done…NOW. (He must laugh at me when He sees how I try to still be in control.) So what do I do while I am waiting? As one of my favorite songs by John Waller goes:

While I’m waiting….I will serve You

While I’m waiting….I will worship

While I’m waiting….I will not faint

I’ll be running the race even while I wait

Don’t hang your head while you are in the pit. Look up and ask for help. As you are on your way out, be patient. Praise God for helping you. Everything you go through is molding you for what lies ahead. It may not make sense now but there is a reason. Take comfort in that. Continue to worship and remind yourself every day that….

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naïve.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

—Max Lucado

 

 

“Don’t Be An Eeyore”

Sunday morning before church, I was thinking about how people have different outlooks and mindsets about their lives. I am, from time to time, in the company of people who just don’t seem to be able to be happy about anything. Recently, it was someone I had never been around before, but this person just put a damper on everything. I suppose at many times in my life I have been that way as well, but I always try to not let it get the best of me. Going through the moments of anxiety and depression that I have faced, I have learned that a good attitude is essential for my well-being. Sometimes I fail (ahem…last night) but I really try my best. It’s hard for me at times to be around people whose attitudes could potentially bring me down. Not to say that I’m not there to listen if someone has a problem or needs help, but those in general who have a lot but can’t seem to be thankful for it.

During our Sunday School lesson at church this weekend, we discussed this very topic. We were asked if we, or people around us, were Eeyores or Poohs? As we all know, Eeyore is the sad, little donkey in the beloved Winnie the Pooh books who is the only guest at his own little pity party, day in and day out. He never has anything positive to say about himself and is quite the pessimist. Pooh on the other hand, is lovable, caring and always there with the right words. He advised Eeyore once to not just sit in his corner of the forest feeling sorry for himself…to go out and seek people and ultimately find things to be grateful for.

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An “attitude of gratitude” (thank you Sharon Dunn) can change anyone’s outlook. Yes, life is hard sometimes but if you were to sit down at the end of every day and count the blessings before you and imagine what life would be like if you didn’t have those blessings, how much more grateful would you be? God has blessed you in many ways. If you are reading this, you are alive. Blessing! If you are reading this (even with glasses on) you have your eyesight. Blessing! If you had shelter from today’s rain…Blessing! If you ate breakfast, lunch, dinner…Blessing! If you spoke to someone today, spent time with someone today, went to work, drove your car instead of walked, said I love you, heard I love you…Blessing!

Thank God every day for what you have and He will bless you in so many ways. Changing your attitude to one of thankfulness, will draw people to you, not make them want to turn away. It will show on your face, in your walk, your conversations, everything you do. As Joyce Meyer says, “You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”

Choose to be thankful today. Start with thanking God, then thank others around you for all that they do for you. Don’t just sit in your little corner of the forest…

and don’t be an Eeyore!

Praise the LORD in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known
throughout the earth – Isaiah 12:5

“Answered Prayer In A Tissue Box”

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My daughter and I were hit hard this week with the latest virus (her) and the mother of all colds (me). We spent two and a half days curled up under blankets in bed or on the couch, watching Brady Bunch and Gilmore Girls reruns and sharing the tissue box. It was by far the worst I have felt in a while and with three days of fever bringing her down, it was obviously the worst for Callie as well. But in the midst of sneezes, coughs and general “yuckiness”, one afternoon she curled up next to me and said “Aside from being sick, I like this day”. She was enjoying our Mommy/Callie time and honestly so was I. It was then that I remember a conversation I had with God several days earlier. We had been in a whirlwind for the past two months it seemed and I felt like I hadn’t had much quality time with her. It was concerning me and so I shared this thought during a prayer. God heard me. We may not have enjoyed being sick and weak but there were moments during those two and a half days when we bonded like we hadn’t in quite a while. Lots of conversations about random things, some silly, some serious. It was just what we needed and God provided.

As we prepared for the day today (back to school and back to work) I prayed for strength for both of us. That we would muddle through the day and God would step in during moments of weakness. I thought of two verses and repeated them in my head as I started the morning:

God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present and well-proved help in trouble – Psalm 46 (Amplified Bible)

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I amself-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency] – Philippians 4:13 (Amplified Bible)

And when I checked my email this morning, this verse was in my inbox:

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect – 2 Samuel 22:33

No matter what you are facing today, whether it be a virus, a cold, a more serious illness, depression, fear….God’s strength will carry you.  And in those moments (even those sniffling, sneezing moments) there is a reason. It is well-orchestrated and a part of God’s master plan.