One of Those Days

I’m feeling like a failure today.

No quirky intro or cutesy story to start things off today. Just the nitty-gritty-ness of having “one of those days.”

I know it’s a spiritual attack.

It’s a battle and it feels like The Enemy of our souls is winning. I know He’s been defeated by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but I’m just not “feeling it” today.

I know I can’t trust my feelings, that instead I need to trust the truth of what God’s Word says about me. But I can’t seem to shake it today.

f-school-letter-gradeHow did I get here? Who knows. Sometimes I know. I sometimes realize sin or grief or disappointments in life or illness or lack of exercise or some other factor may be at the root of that horrible feeling. But then there are days like today when I have no clue.

So what am I gonna do with it? This feeling, that is.

I could wallow. I could cry. I could eat chocolate. I could do retail therapy. If I were the type, I could toss back a drink or two or some pills. But what would any of that do for me in the long run? Nothing.

I think because the spiritual life is just that – spiritual – that we don’t bother to look at spiritual things in a logical, practical way at times. God gave us a bright mind, so let’s use a little logic and practicality.

If my toilet is stopped up I don’t throw chocolate down it – so I’ll rule that out as an option here too. Passing something through the plumbing is no help.

Tears may offer a slight biological release, but mostly they just get my shirt wet, make my eyes puffy, and cause me to feel sorry for myself. So I’ll nix that idea.

Wallowing sounds selfishly appealing. Maybe I could make everyone around me miserable as I do that?! Nah. I hate it when others do that to me.

Retail therapy sounds really fun! But then I will create more of these down days for myself. The day the bill comes in. The day that money is actually needed and isn’t there. The day I want to offer monetary help to someone God has put on my heart but my indulgent lifestyle prevents it. … Ok so retail therapy is out too.

And fortunately the other two options are an automatic “No” for me. I learned early in life the physical, mental, emotional, and relational damage that can be done by trying to depend on substances inside me to solve my problems. Kinda like the flushing the chocolate, only you destroy the toilet as you send it through.

So what do I do?

nemoWell number one, I’m gonna do a Nemo and “just keep swimming.” Or like Kris Kringle of the 70’s Santa Claus story sang, I’ll “put one foot in front of the other.” I’m going to get up and do the next thing God has before me whether it is going to work or doing laundry or encouraging my husband and kids even though I don’t feel like it.

Number two, I’m gonna read the Word. I don’t care how dry it “feels” or how little I’m interested in doing that at the moment, that’s what I’m going to do. ‘Cause the truth is, His Word accomplishes something. It won’t go back to Him empty-handed. It will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purposes He has for it.

Number three, I’m going to pray. I spend way too much time calling up a girlfriend when I’m having a bad day and too little time going to my Creator and the Lover of my soul who can actually offer real help to a hurting heart.

Fourth, I’m choosing NOT to trust my feelings, but to remind myself of what I know to be true. I’m going to constantly engage my mind in the kind of thinking Philippians 4:8 tells me to. I’m going to exercise self-control by controlling my thoughts. I choose to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and  praiseworthy. That will leave me no time for thoughts of failure. And as my thoughts go, so go my feelings!

And last, I’m going to focus on someone else. If I allow myself to focus on myself my “feeling bad” grows into problems, the proverbial making a mountain out of a molehill. But if I turn my attention to others’ needs, my problems grow smaller. My own little “rough places being made plain” and the glory of the Lord being revealed.

So in my down-ness today, I choose to send a friend an encouraging text. I choose to write a card to someone God puts on my heart and mail it. I choose to buy a rose and hand deliver it to someone with a smile. I choose to take a store-bought cake to an older lady I know who has become homebound. I choose to see what my husband’s needs are and seek to meet them. I choose to be nice even though I feel grouchy. I choose to see the best in people and situations even though I feel the worst. I choose to not give in to a negative feeling.

The apostle Paul tells us,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

There is encouragement in Christ! When we act in humility considering others before our self and looking out for their interests we are obeying and pleasing God. I think a hidden truth for our down days lie within these scriptures. When we obey God’s word and look out for the interests of others they are blessed, uplifted, and encouraged and we are too!

So Be gone feelings of failure! I choose not to live with you today!

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Back to Basics: Prayer

When It Seems God is Not Listening

Ever been praying and it felt like your prayer wasn’t getting any higher than the ceiling? Most of us have had that feeling at some point in our lives. We are not alone. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, we see the author experienced this same sort of feeling when he says, “Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer,” and then again, “You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.” (3:8, 44)

If we had our “druthers” as my grandmama used to say, we’d rather this not happen. Our hearts long to go into every prayer encounter with God with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him and a confident expectation that He will act on our behalf in response to our prayers. But when we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith. We may begin to feel that our prayers are hitting that invisible ceiling and wonder what we’re doing wrong that they aren’t getting through. Or we may feel that God isn’t listening, He’s ignoring us. We sometimes feel he’s not acting fast enough, and wonder if that means He’s abandoned us. We could even buy into Satan’s tactics and feel that we’ve been so sinful, so bad, that He won’t ever listen to us. In fact, how many times have we asked someone else to pray for us, because (although we do not consciously admit this) we wonder if maybe God would answer them, when He seems to be stalling on us? Do you ever feel that need to bring in the big guns for the battle, so you call the holiest friend you have at the time and ask them to pray? There’s nothing wrong with doing that, in fact, there is power in multiplied prayer. But there is a problem at the core of our belief if we fall into these ways of thinking.

When we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith.

So how do we counteract these feelings? How do we strengthen our faith? The same way we counter any of Satan’s other attacks, with God’s Word! According to scripture, are there requirements to prayer? Things that make us able to communicate with God better? Are there things that block or hinder our prayers? Just what is prayer anyway? And what about a “No” answer, is that an answer or is it God not responding to us? What about when we wait for years for an answer? Many of you aren’t bothered by these questions; your faith carries you through. But there are others out there, like me, who have fought this spiritual battle many times, as Satan has used our feelings as mortars to bombard our faith and to try to make us back down and doubt ourselves and our effectiveness in prayer.

Let’s take a look at some of those scriptures, so that we can effectively wield our sword of the Spirit and destroy those incoming missiles directed at our faith. (For a more comprehensive look at prayer than we have time, space here, or the theological genius to depart to you, check out the prayer resource links at the end of this article.)

girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942When should we pray?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

How are we to pray?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

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‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come, your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’ Matthew 6:5-13

 

Our prayers will get results.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. Philippians 1:19

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Colossians 1:9

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

Our prayers are fruitful even when we don’t know what to pray.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

Our prayers can be hindered by our behavior.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt. 6:14-15

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29

Our prayers are eternal, ever before the Lord.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8

In Conclusion

Ladies, we can walk forth with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him. But we must believe His Word and NOT trust our feelings.

Most all of you are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11. You could probably quote it. But are you familiar with Jeremiah 29:12-14? It states, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” You can call on Him. He will listen to you when you pray. He hears. He is not playing Hide and Seek with you – He wants to be found by you. Are you seeking Him with your whole heart Dear One? Then you will find Him and the answers to your prayers. You can have a confident expectation that He will act on your behalf in response to your prayers. Isaiah tells us, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4) Don’t become weary with waiting. Lack of an answer today does not mean “No,” and it does not mean God is not listening. Every word you pray rises to God’s ear. Be faithful in Waiting on Him – be it a week, a month, a year, 10 years, or a lifetime!

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RESOURCES:
Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent
Evelyn Christenson books including Lord Change Me
Sylvia Gunter’s Prayer Portions (and check out her blog)
Stormie O’Martian books
Kay Arthur’s Lord Teach Me to Pray
War Room movie and Bible study

Back to Basics: Authentic Community

Hello, my name is Gina and I…

Lately the ladies in our office have been discussing sharing and how important it is to share your life with others. Not just what you did over the weekend or the latest thing your child did, but real, authentic sharing. Sharing of struggles and hurts and dreams that did not come true. It’s easy to share our wins with others but why is it hard to share our struggles? Why is it that we always want to put on a front and not be real with the community that God has put around us?

Ladies, there is someone out there who has struggled with infertility, who has lost a job, whose filed for bankruptcy, whose husband has left them, whose child is away from God, whose loved one has an addiction to drugs, pain killers, pornography, or alcohol, who has suffered a miscarriage, who is battling depression or another mental illness, who has a child with special needs, who has post-partum depression, who is struggling with having an empty nest home, whose spouse has cheated on them, who is caring for an aging parent, who has been physically or mentally abused, who has an eating disorder, who has had an abortion or an unplanned pregnancy, who is struggling with being single, who is lonely, who is grieving the death of a child, who is in an unhappy marriage – the list could go on and on. We all have stories to tell.

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Our Father doesn’t want us to keep these hurts and struggles bottled up inside and hidden from the world – I believe He wants us to share so we can help others and bring Him glory. Your struggle is part of your story, your testimony and your journey with Him. You never know what someone else has walked through but how are we to know who that person is unless you share? Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]” (emphasis mine).

Since this topic first came up in my life it has come up in many conversations the past few weeks and I have seen people talking about it on social media. I keep going back to work and saying – “guess what I talked about with so and so today – sharing”! I believe that the Lord can really heal our hearts and bond us together through this.

We need to embrace the community that God has placed in our life. This community is there to lift you up and pray for you when you are struggling and having a hard time. Community is there to call you out (in love of course), community is there to make sure you are not alone – Satan wants nothing more than to isolate you and make you think you are the only one. You do not have to be overwhelmed alone! There is wholeness and transformation when we share our stories with each other. Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

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Pastor Pete Scazzero says, “The church is hopefully the place where people can come and it’s safe. We want to be in a place where we admit we are broken, we are vulnerable and we are authentic. If we really believe in grace, we can come out of hiding and hopefully be something that will make the world a little thirsty for Christ. Without transparency I’m not sure we have much to offer the world.”

Ladies, we need each other and it is so important to never stop sharing the stories…your story…my story…so let’s not stop. Keep sharing, keep loving, keep encouraging and keep talking to people around you.
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I’ll start it – Hello, my name is Gina and in January I had a miscarriage. What’s your story?

“You Gotta Put Your Behind in Your Past”

Forgetting is generally considered a bad thing. “Don’t forget to take your umbrella.” “I forgot to take my medicine this morning.” “I’m sorry I forgot your birthday.” “Honey did you forget to pay the light bill?” But there is a kind of forgetting we need to learn, a kind of forgetting that is good: forgetting what is behind us.

Most people’s minds immediately jump to the thought of putting our sins behind us, our former ways of living. We are told to throw off these burdens of sin that seek to entangle us again. (Hebrews 12:1) We need to consider past actions and old sin habits that weigh us down in our “new life” journey with Christ, and chose to put these down, to make them part of our past behavior not our present. We also have to lay down the guilt and shame associated with those sins. The enemy of our souls will keep us wallowing in shameful, guilty memories for years if we don’t wake up and stop ourselves! This is false guilt ladies. If we have repented and turned from our wickedness we do not have a reason to feel guilty. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) And if He purifies us from unrighteousness, them we are cleansed and made new and free from shame or guilt. Our sins are covered by Jesus’ blood.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

We also realize that forgiving and forgetting a grudge we’re holding against someone is a very important thing to do. A thing to put behind us. We all know “Forgive and You will be forgiven.” Forgiving and forgetting those actions that caused wounds in our past can be huge and difficult to do. Especially if they are abuses perpetrated on us by people close to us who were supposed to love and protect us. They are called wounds for a reason; they require healing. To heal and grow requires doing the hard, heart work in our quiet place with God to put these big things behind us.

But I believe these things are just the foundation of our forgetting. There is so much more to the concept of “forgetting what is behind.” There are floors and floors to our forgetting “building” that we may not have even understood yet. So what are some of these things?

Well, we would probably all agree that another obvious thing that needs to be put behind us is ache-adult-depression-expression-41253worry. Scripture instructs us not to worry. It’s a command. “Do not worry” or “Be anxious for nothing”! (Philippians 4:6) Do we take that as seriously as we do other commands like “Do not steal” or “Do not commit adultery”? We should. And what are we instructed not to worry about? Here’s a list from God’s Word: your life, your body, what you will eat or drink, what you will wear, when you will die, tomorrow, what to say and how to say it, when you are arrested, when you are brought before the authorities, or how you will defend yourself. (Matt. 6:25-34, Matt. 10:19, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11) Worry and the accompanying anxiety that goes along with it give us health problems. So could I ask you to unload that suitcase of worry from your baggage cart and leave it behind for the rest of your life journey? It takes an intentional choice to put worry behind you.

The little things need to be forgotten too. Whether it’s the little annoyances with your husband, or if it’s little things in your social circle, or the little things at church or anywhere else. If the devil can’t get us into sin, he will heap our minds full of little distractions from God’s purposes in our lives. Our enemy uses them to build a straw man and make us feel alienated, left out and forgotten. Let’s not fall for that! Forget that list of grievances with your spouse. Put it behind you. Forget those times you feel left out or overlooked. (God doesn’t overlook you!) Put it behind you. Forget the whispers around the office. Put it behind you. Forget that you didn’t get picked for that special thing at church. Put it behind you. Forget and focus on what God has called you to do today where you are and get to work. That is the best thing to put these little things in their place. Are you keeping a running list of these little things? All the tiny day-to-day slights, when remembered, can add up to a bigger issue, a root of bitterness growing in our heart.

Maybe you have a loved one who isn’t living up to your hopes, dreams, and expectations. pexels-photo-311391There is a time to forget hopes, dreams, and expectations and put them behind us, too. If you can’t get over a past relationship that you had hoped would be healed, or if your grown child is not living the life you had dreamed for them, it may be time to forget this as old history and find a way to live life in the present, loving them despite anything we deem to be hangups. That may mean allowing them to live with the consequences of their sinful choices. That’s hard! But God loves them more than we do, and He is active when we are still before Him down on our knees praying on their behalf.

Disappointments and resentments need to be put behind us too: the vacations we could never afford, the boyfriend that got away, the promotion that was given to someone else. When we cling to the disappointments of the past, Satan twists these in our minds and tells us God is not really good, or He doesn’t really love us, or even that God doesn’t exist, for if He did, He surely would come through for us. The enemy of our souls wants us to save up these bitter tears where he can use them to tear us apart from the Lover of Our Soul. Hebrews tells us to “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (12:15) If we are wise, we will choose today to forget these resentments that are behind us, to let them go, and follow the instructions of scripture. As Paul says in Philippians, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

As Christian women we may be doing well with putting all these previously mentioned negatives behind us. We may feel we’re handling life well in that respect. But there are also good things which need to be forgotten as “what is behind.”

If we aren’t careful Satan whispers in our ears each time we receive applause. He tells us how amazing we are. And we are. He tells us how blessed the people around us are to know us. And they are. He tells us how useful we are in God’s kingdom. And we are. But each of those things he whispers to us is like a huge puff of air into our balloon of pride. Satan knows pride. He knows it well. It is the thing that got him cast out of heaven, and ever since he has enjoyed nothing more than tripping up the rest of us in the same way. He longs to take truth and twist it. We are used of God for good things, but Satan wants to twist it into pride over our accomplishments with feelings of being a notch above other Processed with VSCO with c4 presetpeople and an arrogant attitude that is distasteful to the Father. As we move and act and accomplish things that are God’s purpose for our lives, we need to thank God for using us, savor the moment of usefulness, and then forget it and put it behind us. After all, it’s not us, it is God working through us to will and to work for His good pleasure doing the things He created in advance for us to do. It’s all Him! (I Thess. 2:13, Phil. 2:13, Eph. 2:10)

Along that same line, we must put our desire for attention behind us and forget it. God sees us and knows us and pursues us. In Him we will find exactly the attention our soul longs for. He also created us with a need to feel significant and needed. Satan will try to offer us counterfeit fulfillment for this desire. He makes us feel we have to grab for attention. Society supports this idea, with everyone wanting their 15 minutes of fame, and with the most longed for jobs not generally the ones that give the most to the world, but rather the ones that get us the most attention: performers and sports stars and jobs in the limelight. Our enemy offers us quick gratification for our need to matter, while the Father wants us to patiently wait and learn and grow through those desert times, and then one day He will raise us up for His specific time and purpose so that He can say to us as Mordecai said to Esther that we were made for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14) Let’s quit taking the counterfeit bait that hooks us and allow ourselves to be truly fed by the Lord and used by Him.

I’m sure I’ve just skimmed the surface of forgetting what is behind. The more I think I know in this Christian life, the more God shows me I am just a little child with a very uninformed understanding of His ways. So I encourage you to meditate on these ideas. Ruminate as my granddad would say. Seek God in His Word and in prayer and find what treasures or tragedies He would have you forget that are behind you, so that you can more fully press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.


 
Scriptures on worry: Matt. 6:25-34, Matt. 10:19, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11