Sunday, February 23, 2014

Taking Away You

It is amazing how one person can take control over another.  I know when I say, "take control", many viewpoints and definitions come to mind.  I want to define this type of control - the type I have felt - when I have let another person guide me. They have guided my actions, my behavior, my feelings, my life.  This has happened to me over the years in a variety of ways.  It has never felt good.  In the beginning of the relationship, there was a time by which I was providing a service, a need for this person.  By the time I realized what was happening, my world began to be pulled out from under me.  I began losing many things - most of all, my self-respect.  When that started happening, I never liked what I saw in the mirror.

I consider myself to be a fairly strong, independent, and self-guiding person, until I found myself in these situations of others taking control over me.  Sometimes it was an actual person taking over my actions, as I mentioned earlier.  Other times, THINGS would take control over me -things like stress, lack of time management, or food. All of them led to destructive paths that never left me a better person.  This strong, independent person became weak and full of self doubt.   I am sure that many others, others who are reading this, have been in this same situation.  

Has there been a person you loved who gained control over you and you became a person you never wanted to become?  The day you finally looked in the mirror, you were scared by what you saw?  I have - it was terrifying.  Has there been a person who demeaned you, helping you to believe that all the good work you might be doing is worth nothing and that you know very little when you truly do know quite a bit?  I am there- it is demoralizing.  Maybe it is the day when you have dealt with a bad situation and run to the nearest ice cream store, french fry bonanza, or donut house to justify that the bad day you had deserves the highest caloric intake possible- although you know that what you are putting into your body could possibly move you towards deep health problems?  I have been there - it can crumble your  self discipline.

I have struggled with all these situations, and others, that have let someone or something take control of the good me, the better me - the me I want to be. Better yet, the me God wants me to be. When it happens it can destroy me - and bring me to a dark place that only Satan wants me to be.  I want to go where GOD wants me to go.  I want to be the person God planned me to be.  The control that others have on me is NOT God's control.  HE is the one I want to have control over me. So how does that happen?  How do I let GOD be the one in control?  There are many ways.

For me, I need to begin by surrounding myself with His word.  It needs to come in many forms and it needs to be frequent.  I need to start my day with devotion.  I need to have Bible verses that guide me to Him in front of me - on index cards at work, in my purse, on my nightstand.  I need to be involved in Bible studies - sometimes online with thousands of people, sometimes at my kitchen table with close friends, all times immersed in God's word.  I need to realize that I am His child and that He loves me and wants the best for me.

Next, I need to surround myself with His music - on my way to work to start my day with praise, throughout my day (if possible) to lift me up, and at the close of my day, to help me see His light.  I have come to really enjoy this time with God, and I realize that when I listen to  music focused on God, my praise and spirit is lifted heavenward.

Last, but never least, I need to pray.  My prayers need to be constant, fervant, and heartfelt.  I need to open myself to God - realizing that whatever has a hold on me, control of me, has to be released and Hi love and grace needs to fill me up.  This typically happens when I am completely open and honest with God.  Let's face some facts, He knows me better than I know myself.  He knows when I come to Him totally exposed.  Many times that may not be the case.  I certainly can feel in my heart when it is - and I'm sure God knows it too.  Prayer brings God and me together - as one.  I feel as if He is sitting right there and is saying, "Let me take control, Susan.  Let me guide you."  When that happens, I know my life becomes complete.

When someone or something takes you away from God, it can be devastating.  The feeling of loss, at least for me, is a feeling that presses on my soul.  How do you feel when that happens to you?  Let's not take back control - let's give control to where it belongs - to God.  Let's let the Holy One fill us up and guide us forward.  Are you ready to give control?  Walk with me, read with me, sing with me, and most of all, pray with me.  Here's to giving control to God, may it enrich your life completely.

"See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut."  (NIV)  
Revelation 3:8

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Loving a Step Further


Today, I was moved on so many levels, I needed to share.  Last week's blog talked about the wonderful and gracious love our Heavenly Father unconditionally provides to us.  Today, we are going to take this a step further.  God so incredibly touched my heart today and brought me to such a place of openness - a time of reflection.

Our wonderful pastor this morning preached on a passage that we have often heard, Love Your Enemies - Raise the Bar of Your Love.  The more I sat there and listened to the message, the words that the Holy Spirit pressed upon his heart, the more I reflected over my life and the times when I have not done that, and the hurt that I endured.  I thought about the moments when I asked God's help in providing me to love those that didn't show love or kindness to me.  I remembered how he graciously redeemed me to a better place.  I thought of those in my life, now, who I need to bring this love to.  Most importantly, I thought of those people who I might have shown behaviors or said things that made ME be the person that they may be bringing to God.

As I thought and listened about loving our enemies, I really broke it all down into three categories:
  • Those people who have been involved in my life that have brought distress, difficulty, or destruction.  
  • Those people who have been involved in my life that have brought only love, hope and joy.
  • Those people who have not been involved in my life at all - strangers.
I realized as I looked at those three categories that there have been times in my life that I have a greater ease to reach out and show God's love to a total stranger than to a person who might have brought me distress or difficulty.  A Total Stranger!!  I was more willing to take a risk and show acts of kindness and pray for a stranger than for a person who was close to me, who hurt me.  WOW - that was an eye-opening thought.  It made me realize that I needed to look back at those moments of giving and ask myself, "What made the situation so easy for me to give to a stranger than to give to someone I know - regardless of the situation?"  

When we know someone, love someone, and they hurt us or bring hardship to us, our initial reaction is not to turn the other cheek, but to find some measure of understanding.  If we can't find the understanding - then ill feelings set in and resentment sets in.  All of this leads us to not reach out our hand in love, but to turn our backs on them.  God will give them what they deserve!  What they deserve is us, what they deserve is our love, what they deserve is the unconditional love that God gives us to be given to them.  Is it easy to do?  I think you know the answer to that question.

Yet, it is possible.  As our dear pastor shared this morning, reaching out an extended hand in love can come through the most powerful act of all - the simple act of praying for that person - and ourselves.  I know how powerful that can be.  There have been times in my life where resentment was so strong that it carved out a dark place in my heart.  In desperate times of reaching out to God, he reached back to me.  He told me one word, PRAY.  And I started - and I prayed.  Sometimes my prayers were heart-wrenching and raw.  Sometimes they were full of understanding and love.  All times they were given to God.  

The change started, it happened.  Did it happen with the person/people who I resented?  I'm not quite sure to be honest with you.  I KNOW it happened with me.  My heart was less hardened, my soul was finding peace.  There is an incredible feeling when that peace falls into each part of your being, it overflows you.  That's what happened.  At that point, I knew God's love had entered my world in a richer place.  So as I reflected today, I realized that there have been times since that change point where I have forgotten the art of prayer.  To pray for my enemies, to pray for those that hurt me, to pray for those that I resent, and to pray for ME in that situation as well - to open my heart and my eyes to change.  

What is wonderful is that I wasn't the only one impacted by today's words.  Others eyes have been opened by our loving Pastor's words.  People in my family and in our congregation.  As we take our love a step further, we know it won't be easy.  What we do know is that we are prepared, we have prayer, and God, on our side to help us.  Resolution may come, it may not.  All we can do is pray, a simple prayer.  "God, Help _____, help me.  Help us."  Start there.  I know the rest will come flowing.

Those that we love deeply and strangers?  Don't forget about them - we need to continue to show our love to them as well.  Yet, loving our enemies takes our love, God's love, a step further.  Take the step, of simple faith, to peace.  

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  (NIV)  Matthew 5:44

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Loving Each Other


Valentine's Day growing up was a very special day in our home.  My dad believed in celebrating this day and it always involved the "boys (he and my brother)" making it very special for the "girls (my mother and me)".  It would start in the morning.  We would come to the kitchen table and there were wonderful cards and gifts from our parents to me and my brother.  Always, my brother was in charge of getting me something for Valentine's Day. According to Daddy, this was a day when a boy should share how much he loved a girl - even if that meant his sister!!  I am sure there were many years growing up that it pained my brother to have to purchase a gift for me, especially after a sibling squabble.  Yet, he would and the day was always special. (On a side note to my brother, I still have the jewelry holder you gave me one year - and I cherish it each time I look at it).  My brother and I would, in turn, ensure that we had cards (and when we finally saved enough) a gift for my parents as well.  It was a day in our home when love was truly celebrated.  Daddy's gifts for Mommy would range in extravagance - but they were ALWAYS creative.  I am sure if I were to ask my Mommy, she would tell you the ones that were least expensive were the most cherished.  

The boys were both wonderful cooks and the meal on Valentine's Day evening was always quite involved.  It started with a menu of creatively named dishes - appetizer, main meal of scrumptious delights, and the same dessert each year - a Twinkie with whipped cream on top.  I shouldn't say dessert was the same EVERY year, they attempted a heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie (that looked more like a circle) one year.  That took us back to the Twinkie dessert next year.  As you can tell from the flood of memories, Valentine's Day was a day by which we took the time to revel in our love for each other.  Such the bar was set for Valentine's Days to follow.  I always get excited when this time of year comes.  I enjoy celebrating it with our children and certainly enjoy taking some extra time to tell my husband how very much I love him.  I try with some of the same traditions - a few tokens to show my family I love them.  Maybe it is a special breakfast, cards, a few little gifts - just enough for them to know that this day is about the love we have.

I have to share, I have had Valentine's Days that have been less than wonderful.  Years when I have not been able to be in the same location with my family, years when I have not had a relationship in my life, years when I have had many physical struggles.  Then the pity party would set in.  If someone can give a pity party, you would need to come over to MY house when one of those is going on.  I can give a pretty good one - stating all the reasons why "I" am alone, why nobody loves "me', why "I" am the only one struggling.  Have you been there on this "day of love"?  I believe we have all questioned ourselves, wondering when we will find the person of our dreams, have the family that would provide the love we deserve, share the love of a special friend in whom we can confide.

The true irony in this "pity party" comes from Simple Faith.  As I was trying to select the verse that tugged on my heart for today's blog, I was utterly amazed at the many points of scripture that proclaim God's love for us, his wonderful and unconditional love.  It was great to read the verses as they popped off the page - each sharing how God loves us so much and how Jesus' love was so great that he was willing to give it all for us - His perfect life given up for us - because he LOVES us.  With each verse it became increasingly clear that the love that we may have for others, or want from others, comes only from our true Heavenly Father.  The love that fills us is from Him.  The warmth that we feel during special moments of our days is God hugging us in love.  The peace we find when we know that a sin we committed has been cleansed is Jesus holding us in love.  That desire we have to share kindness, goodness, and joy with others is the Holy Spirit inside us in love.

With the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we have more love than is truly imaginable.  The importance is to share that love with others - not to keep it all for ourselves.  The ways to share love is immeasurable.  It can be shared in a simple smile, a bouquet of flowers, a hug, or even a Twinkie with whipped cream on top.  The important thing is to remember to share it.  What we gain in the sharing of God's love is so much greater than any "pity party" we can throw ourselves.  Find that creative way this week to share God's love with someone.  Maybe it will be a romantic way with your special someone.  Maybe it will be a fun way with your children.  Maybe it will be a subtle way with your co-workers.  Maybe it will be something as a smile with a stranger.  Sharing God's love is a powerful way for us to remember the love He has given us.  If you are looking for a way to actually see how much God loves you start with the cherished Bible.  The word love will start popping off the pages.  If you have a study Bible, go to the index and look up the word love - I'm sure you will be as amazed as I was of all the wonderful words.  Then sit silent with a special verse in your heart.  Let love abound.  Here's to Valentine's Day - all year long~~

"My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one's life for one's friends."  (NIV)  John 15:12-13

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Incredible Freedom

This week has been an incredible week for me.  Yes, I would LOVE to share with you!  As many of you know, on November 3rd, I dislocated and broke my ankle. After same day surgery, plates, screws, and weeks of not being able to leave the house followed by weeks in a cast and restrictions, this past Tuesday found the doctor saying to me, "You can put a sneaker on that foot now!!"  I can't even begin to explain the excitement and joy felt.  For the first time in months, there was a true sense of FREEDOM.  I could move and go and do as I wasn't able to do in a very long time.  I got into the car and called my husband - poor man, I was so excited he couldn't even understand what I was saying.  It truly was an amazing feeling.

As I drove down the highway to work, my mind started racing.  I praised God for His graciousness in helping me through this ordeal, for providing me patience when I didn't think I had any left; for providing me healing in such a positive way; for giving me hope.  Yet, He kept bringing me back to the word - FREEDOM.  I prayed on the word all week, getting a richer appreciation for all the goodness God has given me and the freedoms that I have because of Simple Faith in Him, in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  

It starts with the most humbling, that of being free of a continued sinful state.  Yes, I am a sinner.  Yes, I have grave sins that I have, and continue to, commit.  The blessing comes from understanding how our Dear Savior Jesus gave up everything - dying a death so horrific in nature as he took on the sins of all of us.  The love he shows us, showed me, throughout his life - until the very end - is something I will continue to be humbled by each day I live.  It provided me the FREEDOM to live knowing that my sins have been washed away by his blood.  I can live in joy and hope by believing Jesus died for me so that my sins are forgiven.  There is such freedom in that knowledge, in that love.             

I also rejoice in the knowledge that my eternal resting place will be heaven.  The FREEDOM that I receive through Simple Faith in believing that Jesus is my savior provides me the understanding that one day I will see Him in paradise.  I will be reunited with my loved ones who have passed before me and will give praise to our father in heaven.  Freedom from Hell is an incredible release - and I know, very honestly and purely, that my eternal home will be Heaven's beauty.

There is another freedom that we can gain.  God gives it to us, and we have the power to give it to others.  It is the FREEDOM of forgiveness.  It is amazing the chains unforgiveness can have on us.  When we ask for someone's forgiveness, and they provide it to us, it is an amazing release - the chains have been broken, especially for us.  It is an incredible feeling when somebody says to us, "I forgive you." The freedom that comes with those words provides a wonderful sense of peace.  Difficulties arise when someone hurts us and they don't come forward, asking for our forgiveness.  We can hold onto that pain, that hurt, for days, months, years, lifetimes.  Yet, the pain typically doesn't reside with the other person - the pain resides with us.  It can bring about many unflattering sides to our personalities - mainly bitterness.  Maybe the lack of forgiveness isn't towards another person, maybe it is for a sin WE committed, something WE did that hurt us so deeply, we can't seem to forgive ourselves.  If our Heavenly Father, who created us and loves us more than any other, is willing to forgive EVERY sin we could commit, who are we to believe we are greater than him that WE should hold onto that sin.  God brings us joy in that forgiveness, FREEDOM from bitterness and ugliness that can come from holding on to an unforgiving heart (whether it is towards someone else or ourselves).  The freedom that comes from letting go and letting God gives us the power to live the life He wants us to live, in Him.  We need to forgive as God forgives us.  There is such freedom in that action.

So, the removal of a cast provided all this thought on FREEDOM and how much of it is provided through Simple Faith of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I cried tears of joy throughout the week, reflecting on this word, I realized how much the Holy Spirit fills us up when we are released in freedom. Having faith brings joy, that joy brings understanding, that understanding brings freedom, that freedom brings everlasting life.  May you all have peace in knowing that the freedom that has been bought for us by Jesus brings us a lifetime of love, now and for eternity.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  (NIV)  Galatians 5:1


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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.