Unhooking from Guilt

fish hookSo, my brothers and sisters, you owe the flesh nothing! You do not need to live according to its ways, so abandon its oppressive regime.” (Romans 8:12, VOICE translation)

One of the quickest ways someone can distance me from him or her is to try to lay a guilt trip on me.  Call it a quirk in my personality, but I don’t cotton well to being nagged at or  manipulated through false guilt.  (Just so everyone knows…when I’m distant or slow to return calls and emails, there really is a good reason.)  And yet, when I look over my life, so many of the bad decisions I have made have been in times when I’ve allowed guilt to sink its hooks into me.  While I shy away from people who try to turn me into a chess pawn, I still have yet to completely break away from self-imposed guilt—that drives me to work myself into oblivion for fear that I haven’t given enough.  As you’re reading this, chances are, you are shaking your head in agreement because you too wrestle with a life out of balance.

So you may say, “A little guilt never hurt anyone.”  There’s a huge difference between conviction and condemnation, friends.  The Holy Spirit convicts.  Conviction is an admonishment that is always intent on bringing us up higher in our relationship with God.  Conviction challenges us to do the right thing regarding our relationships with God and man.  Conviction will steer us away from making costly, wrong decisions.  Once we make the right choices, the conviction then lifts…and we go on about our way, liberated and our peace still intact.

Condemnation, on the other hand, has no intent on making us better.  Condemnation is Satan’s (and sometimes, people’s) tool to keep you in a holding pattern of feeling nothing you do will ever be good enough.  Condemnation doesn’t want your debt paid.  It won’t let you free from its manipulation, because the one wielding condemnation against you retains an advantage over you.  You’re under that person’s thumbnail.  You will exhaust your last resource just to placate the nagging, and still it won’t go away.  Condemnation affords no peace.  That’s a prison without walls.

Guilt steals your health.  I’ve been there.  I’ve hung onto toxic relationships sometimes for years, and to my detriment.  I’ve given up so much personal enrichment time that it’s incalculable.  Whose fault is it?  Most certainly mine.   Exercise and right amounts of sleep and solitude and prayer and Word time have sometimes gone right out the window, because I reasoned that I just HAD to work more…doing things other people were putting on my ever-growing to do list.  (Don’t expect that other people will recognize and respect your need for some personal space.  They’ll keep taking as long as there’s a drop of you to give!)  My list has grown to unmanageable proportions because I wouldn’t say no.  Guilt saw to that.  Without safe boundaries, all the joy has at times leaked right out of me.  And you know what?  God isn’t in one bit of it.  He isn’t glorified at all when my health and mental health are at times a wreck; or that I have grown overweight and dangerously out of condition, or that I resent being me.  Know what God does and doesn’t give you the green light to add to your schedule.  Ask Him.  Even if it’s a good thing in and of itself, it might not be in His plan for you in particular…and He isn’t obligated to finish what He didn’t author!  Don’t let guilt-laden activities weaken your immune system and cause you to become sick!

Seasons are temporary.  Don’t let guilt make them permanent.  There are seasons in our lives when we do find ourselves pulled-on out of necessity.  You may be caring for a sick spouse or aging parent right now, or several small children.  And when you hear someone say, “You’ve got to take some time away.  You have to take better care of yourself.  You can’t keep going forever with no down time,” it would sound so good and right if not for that nagging voice of guilt.  Even God’s voice can be heard, however muffled by the screams of the urgent present,  pleading with you to slow down.  You have a choice at this point:  you can listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit that says, “Pace yourself.  Work on boundaries and balance.  Keep God first and make enough time for yourself before you pour out to other people.  Remember, this season will pass; and you need your health now as well as after these demands are no longer upon you.  Take care of your spirit, soul and body for the long haul!”  And deep in your spirit, you know it’s a right word.  Whether you listen, or you cave into the fear that others will judge you unfairly, it’s a call you’re going to have to make.

I’ll never forget a lesson I learned when flying a few years ago.  As the attendant went through safety protocol with us, she explained that, if the oxygen masks dropped out of the ceiling, parents of small children must apply their own masks first.  Wow. And the reason being, if the parent were to pass out, he or she wouldn’t be able to save the child.  How many times over your life has guilt caused you to do some things in the exact opposite order?  We become so busy doing the work of the Lord that we neglect to walk in the cool of the day with Him–and when I say “we” I’m even including you pastors who find yourself in this same position!  May I remind you, if you let yourself go physically and spiritually to pot, you will be of no benefit to anyone else.

Go ahead and take that day off.  If someone offers to float you out, take him or her up on the offer.  Go for a walk and then watch a clean, funny  movie (maybe with popcorn or an ice cream!).  You’ll feel a whole lot better.  Remember, if you turn down help, not even then will guilt leave you alone.  It’ll always try to be there telling you that you should be doing more.  Since guilt won’t be satisfied, you may as well go ahead and find some joy and peace in your life!  Let guilt go aggravate someone else for a change.  Most importantly, ask GOD to order your steps.  When you are starting to dip into your reserves, He can replenish you.  Be prepared for Him to say no sometimes.  Our pastor, Mitchell Bias, shares sometimes how his late mother-in-law, Edith, has called him on a couple of occasions and said, “The Lord says you are to do nothing but REST today.  Don’t even leave the house!”  Give yourself permission to back away and rest.  Ask God to put people in your life who will affirm what He’s ordained for you–a life in harmony and balance.  God won’t wreck your health to advance His cause.  He has too many resources and people out there to rely solely on you.  We need to be reminded of these things once in a while!

Guilt perpetuates your bad habits onto your posterity. It will make you a bad parent. It won’t let you discipline your kids or allow them to grow up and become independent.  It will keep you from letting them encounter some hardships that develop character, because you’re always being the buffer between them and their problems.  Guilt will have you paying off all their debts (and there will always be more where that came from because they know you have deep pockets and…yes…guilt).  Moreover, it will have you raising your grandkids instead of requiring their parents to shoulder the responsibility.  Guilt will even superimpose itself on your kids…because once you are infected with guilt, you’ll use it to manipulate and control them all their adult lives.  You’ll pout and get mad when they aren’t coming around often enough to suit you.  You’ll use guilt as a wedge between your kids and their spouses, between your kids and their kids.  IF YOU ARE AN “I SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE” ADDICT, YOU WILL IN TURN MAKE UNREASONABLE DEMANDS ON THOSE YOU LOVE!

When we consider setting up boundaries of moderation, the enemy is not going to like it.  Guilt says, “You selfish thing…you call yourself a Christian and Christians are not supposed have a life.”  What a bunch of baloney!  Jesus came to give you ABUNDANT life, not an empty-shell existence.  Somewhere among the day-to-day demands of your life, He can help you find that happy medium which gets you to the other side of the season you’re in.

Difficult seasons are temporary.  They’re MEANT to be temporary.  And when you’re on the other side of them, if you truly know who you are in Christ, your self-worth isn’t going to require you being a human vending machine for the rest of your life.  After the time passes when you were under great demand, re-calibrate and learn to enjoy NOT being on call 24/7.  You really can enjoy being fruitful without being overburdened, endlessly under life-leaching pressure, and always at everyone else’s beck and call.  Don’t allow guilt to turn you into a codependent…or you’ll imprison yourself in a mode that allows others to exploit your inability to say no!

Guilt…its own reward?   You can let guilt or even the need for people to recognize “poor old noble you” drive you to play the martyr.  I’m being harsh here, but let’s face it: having people recognize you as indispensable is a cheap swap for walking in God’s best will for your life.  When guilt has its way with us long enough, we start craving affirmation from man rather than God.  Whether it’s pity or admiration we wind up desiring, it becomes the drug of choice to ease the guilt throbbing between our temples.  So we wind up trying to do even more so that people when notice our sacrificial nature and praise us for it.  Although Jesus was using a parable concerning giving alms, I want you to take this to heart:  He spoke of people who give to the poor, in ways that they could show it off to other people and be recognized by man.  He said that they already have their reward.  Did you know that if you neglect what God’s will is for your life just for the recognition of being the person no one else can do without, you already have your reward?  When I’m in up at night over interest-bearing debts, because guilt motivated me at Christmas to max out my credit cards beyond my means; or I’ve gone 3 years without a vacation because I was “too busy” to take time off; or the doctor says I’ve developed some degenerative disease because being a workaholic was more attractive than following God’s plan for discipline and balance…I don’t like the idea that the mess I’m in is actually my reward.  It’s pretty hollow.  When you’re in over your head, who really cares whether someone else admired you at one time for your lack of moderation?  Walk after the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill these pesky lusts of the flesh that are the devil’s dirty bombs designed to steal, kill and destroy!  Sometimes God is going to move you away from the spotlight, away from sowing into bad ground, or wasting your time and energy on what won’t bear real fruit…and believe me, it’s a good thing that He does this.  Listen and be obedient when He pulls you out of involvement in matters He doesn’t want you meddling in!  Only HE is omnipotent and omnipresent!

No one’s taking this away from me.  In recent days and weeks, I’ve been trying to take all these things to heart.  I’ve been experiencing burnout big-time, and God is calling me to start lightening the load.  The first things that get sacrificed when someone wants something of me are the very things that give me life.  I’ll skip exercise…and I’ve done it for years.  I’ll shorten my prayer time or try to do it on the fly.  I’ll neglect my housework and not even see the mess I’m stepping over to get to that next thing on my to do list.  I’ll deny myself recreation and travel and the solitude which is so important to the writer God has called me to be.  I will go days at a time without looking into a mirror, and when I do, I see someone I don’t recognize.  Older, not vibrant and enjoying her life.

When I woke up this morning, even though I’d been busy till 3 AM and had cleared out my inbox before nodding off, it was already filling up again.  Part of me wanted to say, “You know, people will think I’m a slacker if I don’t fly right into these things for them.”  Guilt.  But you know what?  I got dressed and I got on the elliptical machine..something I wasn’t doing for myself even as recent as a week ago.  And for 30 minutes my chubby self said out loud as I sweated and panted, “No one’s taking this away from me. This is mine.”  Yeah, I’d rather have been doing something a little more enjoyable, but I’m going to MAKE myself become disciplined to set some boundaries.  And if I have to psyche myself into thinking that exercise machine is something I can’t bear to do without, I’m going to learn how to fight for my fitness time.  I’m making it my goal not to give up any more real estate in my life in areas of spiritual and physical maintenance.  God has something important for me to do, and I can no longer afford to neglect the one vehicle I’ve been given to transport me through this short vapor life.  Neither can you…I don’t care how important you are.

Jesus did not cower to guilt, and neither should we.  Remember, Jesus was moved by love, by compassion, by empathy, by the faith of others, and even a time or two, by righteous (sinless) anger…but He was never moved by guilt.  I can’t find one instance where He got out of the will of God because of someone or something pressuring Him or guilt-tripping Him into doing the wrong thing.  He got talked about sometimes, and was misunderstood by many, but He never let that manipulate Him out of His identity.  Even when Satan tempted Him to prove that He was the Son of God, He was not moved; He stood His ground.  He would not be bullied into proving Himself.  And a number of times we read where He regularly separated Himself from people to just get alone with God.  There were folks who would just had to wait on Him, but He wasn’t going to cut His time short doing what was needed in order for Him to really do what was needed!  I want a Jesus kind of restraint.  I want to be steadfast and immovable.  I want to be disciplined and balanced and have self-control that shuts out the drive to under-prepare and over-achieve. I don’t want guilt to have a ring in my nose, leading me to live in ways that compromise my health and my peace.  I only have to please God; and if I am feeling a spirit of guilt instead of peace, then I’m hearing the wrong voice.  Jesus says His sheep hear HIS voice and another they will not follow!  May we all recognize whose voice we are hearing at any given time, and discern whether that voice is to be followed, ignored, or even silenced!

“Father, help us to voluntarily remove ourselves from the court of public opinion!  May we keep our eyes and ears focused on You rather than the endless expectations of others.  Help us to shut out the voice of the Accuser which says we can never do enough, never be enough.  Conviction is Your righteous voice that will never place unreasonable demands upon us.  Conviction releases peace and never an insatiable unrest in our lives because obedience brings a finality and a reward.  Condemnation, however, keeps us walking by works instead of faith, and that’s never where You intended us to go.  We rebuke the spirit of guilt from our lives, and will stop living in the dimension of always owing and never being able to pay in full.  We submit ourselves to You and we resist the Accuser!  He must flee from us, and take all his unreasonable demands with him!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mirror, Mirror

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart. If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic, we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

File Thirteen: The 490 Principle

IMG_4775“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”  Matthew 18:21-22 (New Living Translation)

I’m going to share a personal insight on the above Scripture that may or may not get a round of applause from seasoned theologians; but for those of you who struggle in this area, it may be what you need to help set you free.

I went through an ordeal once where, for about 5 years, I was done terribly wrong by someone very close to me.  I was hung in an endless loop of hurt and self-permitted abuse, and one of the biggest tethers which had me bound was my own inability to let it go.

You see, often when we deal with a deep-seated or long-term hurt, it becomes as much our “friend” as it is our enemy.  Our hurt becomes our identity, something we nurse and justify and protect.  Without it, we no longer know who we are…why, what would we have to talk about with others if not for “it?”  Without it, on whom or what could we blame the weight gain, those pesky gray hairs, or that once-in-a-lifetime dream gone down the tubes?

During this season of my life, I was faced with a crossroads and not much time in which to choose.  On the one hand, I had a lifetime ahead of me to continue carrying that overloaded briefcase of offenses, stuffed haphazardly with the file folders of my memory.  I might be humpbacked from straining and dragging it behind me, but at least I’d never be alone as long as I had my hurt!  I’d never have to reinvent myself because at least I recognized and had learned to co-exist with the long, pitiful face staring back at me in the mirror!

On the other hand, there was a clean slate and a pure conscience; there was love and opportunity and peace of mind waiting through a narrow passage…only I couldn’t squeeze through that passage with my knapsack stuffed with past hurts.  What if I got to the other side and missed being able to thumb through the pages and pages of things gone wrong?  What would I have left if no one else were made to remember the martyr I’d been for having gone through all that hurt?  What glory was there in people suddenly forgetting my sacrifices and longsuffering?  What IF?!!!

Perhaps I’m being overly illustrative, but I truly was struggling and I wanted desperately to do the right thing.  Deep in my heart, I was tired of being sad, and tired of having an excuse for not rising above that series of incidents which kept me stuck in first gear.  It was at this point that in my prayer time, God began to not only edge me toward a new level of maturity, but He also began to reveal something simple yet profound enough to help me actually want to be free.  He’s a really merciful Father…He loves us too much to allow us to stay the way we are!

I had read the Scripture many times about forgiving 490 times in a day, and had a whole different idea of what it meant.  Although my offender at times came pretty close to meeting quota by my estimation (smile), I never actually had to release 490 separate sins committed against me in one day EVER.  But, this Scripture came to life and began to grow with greater revelation when I suddenly made the course-altering move to speak the words that very first time, “I choose to forgive.”

I had thought all my life that, once you forgive someone, you forgive…and the forget part comes automatically.  Well, eventually perhaps, but not always.  For situations like what I overcame, and what you’re getting ready to become free from, there comes “File 13.”

Beginning today, I want you to set a goal to get out from under that one hurt you’ve babied and protected.  Jesus had your situation in mind when He commanded to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven–or–as often as it comes to your mind.  Our memory can be pretty active when it comes to instant replay, and unless we discipline ourselves to shut that button off, we can consume entire days with reliving hurts over and over.  What a waste of a perfectly good life!

Get serious about this thing, because not only is it toxic to your spirit and to your physical body, but if you want to receive forgiveness from the Lord, you’re going to have to learn how to dish it out.  Right now, say out loud with me, “I choose to forgive __________ (name).”  That person can be dead or alive…doesn’t matter…you’re doing this in obedience to God, and you’re doing it for YOU.  You need to let him or her off the hook more than your offender needs to be let off!

It will feel almost like a self-betrayal at first–and your carnal side is going to kick and scream for retribution and that proverbial pound of flesh–but stick to your guns!  Oops, you just now thought of it again…so say it again:  “I choose to forgive _________.”  Don’t be surprised that, since thoughts seem to travel at warp speed, you may have the occasion to forgive the memory of one act 490 times in a day.  Your mental trashcan will probably have wadded up papers flowing out on all sides.  Keep confessing forgiveness and tossing the offense into the garbage.

Know this:  if you have to re-do the act of forgiveness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t truly forgive in the first place.  That doesn’t make you a failure any more than having to die to sin each new day makes you unsaved.  Don’t give up and say, “I just can’t forgive!”  You CAN—with work.  It’s as much a process as it is an action, and sometimes you have to speak with your mouth and then let your attitude follow your intention.  The power of life and death is in the tongue, and you’re in a battle for the quality of your life!  You may not even feel your heart 100% in what you’re saying, but keep saying it anyway.  Trust me when I tell you that for every time you say it with as much faith as you can muster, that hurt has less and less a hold on you.  Eventually the day will come when you really will forget to hurt!  You may not forget the incident, but you will forget to let it control your life. That’s freedom indeed.

I’ll never forget an object lesson Debra Catron taught on a Wednesday night at our church several years ago, when she recounted a difficult season in her own life.  She said, “There’s a little trunk of painful memories in the attic of my mind.  Now, I can open that trunk and go through the contents at any time, or I can leave it locked.  I simply choose not to go there anymore.”

©2011  Lisa Crum.

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Thorn-Proof Determination

macro-thorn“…I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  1 Cor. 12:6-10 NLT

I think often of the Apostle Paul and the “thorn” (2 Cor 12) that remains a mystery to us all to this day. Perhaps it was meant to be an unnamed source of contention, so that we could identify it with our own thorns.  Interesting, isn’t it, that Paul didn’t refer to an entire thicket of entanglement…just one lone irritating thorn;  like a splinter that is stubbornly embedded, or an itch in the middle of your back that you can’t quite reach.  You’ve dealt with all the rest and there’s this one that you haven’t been able to conquer yet.  Am I getting warm here?  Does this sound like any area of your life where you’ve not yet succeeded in getting permanent victory from struggle?

I could be wrong, but I like to think that instead of a chronic or recurring physical illness, Paul’s thorn was–and ours is– a personal ‪#‎struggle‬ on the battle front of the mind.  All of us have our areas which need work; and if you don’t, I sure do. I won’t bore you with the details, but there are areas of my life that require more spot-checks and maintenance than others. There are areas which, if I don’t renew my mind daily to the Word, will cause me to start reverting back to previous wrong mindsets. What’s your thorn? Is it disappointment in yourself or others…unforgiveness…a nagging temptation to do something that you know is wrong…a terrible feeling of inferiority that sabotages your best attempts for success…an old wound from someone who should have loved you but didn’t, and it robs you of peace?  The enemy has convinced many of us that sickness and disease is our thorn, and that God wants us to stay sick to teach us some kind of lesson.  What a load of garbage!  No, I don’t think the “thorn” represents sickness at all–but I do think, however, that the thorn in our mind can interfere with us receiving the physical, spiritual, and mental healing God has already provided, if we allow it to dwarf our faith with a cloud of unbelief. Where you see sickness manifest, however, there’s quite possibly also the presence of the thorn. Whatever your thorn might be, it operates as a distraction, an annoyance, an attempt to divert your focus from the truth. And yes, the thorn can fling you headlong into ‪#‎depression‬ when it digs in long and hard enough. The thorn whispers and taunts, “God doesn’t care about you. If He did, why would you be having this problem? You’re just a reject, a castoff. I don’t know why He even puts up with you!”

Your answer from ‪#‎God‬ is the same as the answer He gave Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you.” God didn’t tell Paul He would never remove the thorn; but He did tell Paul that His grace would cover those times when the thorn seemed to get the best of him. Who’s to say that God didn’t remove the thorn before Paul died? We only know from his writing that Paul apparently quit asking after the third time. Maybe at some point, Paul was so confident in God’s ability to keep him that the thorn no longer mattered.  The most important take-away of this passage is, God never lifted the grace that covered Paul’s weaknesses; He never left him to the wolves. If that thorn were endangering Paul’s soul or the heavy calling on his life, I believe God would’ve wiped it out the moment Paul were in imminent danger. Paul concluded that as long as he continually had to lean on the Lord and not his own strength, it kept him reliant on God; and it prevented Paul from believing himself to be somehow superior to the people with whom he shared the Gospel. Most of all, we see that Paul grew at peace in the fact that God loved him, thorn or no thorn. The thorn was not Paul’s identity; and you must not let the thorn become YOUR identity, either! God LOVES you!

Take this walk with ‪#‎Jesus‬ a day at a time. You may be high-fiving one day and needing pulled out of the ditch the next day. Maturity in the Word does help minimize the severity or number of times when you’re “the ditch person,” so be encouraged that you’re going to be having increasing good days as you gain strength and momentum. When you are in need of a helping hand, however, for heaven’s sake don’t isolate yourself out of shame. Your brothers and sisters have dealt with their own thorns that are just as embarrassing and tormenting as the one you’ve encountered. Let them help you. Let God help you. Keep a list of the Scriptures that pertain to your struggle somewhere that you can access at all times, and don’t just read them–speak the Word OUT LOUD over your circumstances. The demonic forces assigned against you can’t hear you reading silently, but they sure hate when you read and speak the Word into the atmosphere, where they have to hear it and tremble!

I suspect that if you’re reading this post, you’re having a low day. My friend, God has not left you, and He isn’t orchestrating some cosmic ‘pick-on-YOU’ party for his amusement. Our Father doesn’t work like that; Satan, however, is very much amused by your struggles and failures. God wants you to WIN. Stop beating yourself up today over the fact that you’re there, again, in that big hole where you’ve wound up numerous times before. God isn’t beating you up. No, if you’ll look closely, He is assembling angel armies around you to stand guard while you dust yourself back off. He is sending prayer warriors to intercede on your behalf. And He has already provided a finished work in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The same grace that saved you is the same grace that will cover you while you get back on your feet. It isn’t our excuse for courting a sinful lifestyle or for giving less than our best; it’s the mortar that holds our pieces together and makes up for what we cannot, even on our best days, give. Let His grace cover you now. Feel God’s love and forgiveness and yes–even understanding–scrubbing away all those hateful things the enemy is trying to write about you in your mind. Let it go. Receive God’s help. And whether the process is instantaneous or takes a little while to complete, it’s ok…God’s got your back.  If you’re depressed as you read this, remind yourself, “This is a temporary state and I’m already in healing and recovery mode. I can trust God while I wait to “get over the hump” and back to my normal self again.”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m hurting today. The enemy has launched another attack on a vulnerable spot, and I’m in need of Your mercy. You told Paul that Your grace was all he needed when “the thorn” pressed in and caused him pain. You didn’t love Paul any more than You love me. You’re not comparing the many amazing things Paul did and wrote against the small life I live. You’re willing to give me JUST AS MUCH grace as You gave Paul because the thorn in my life is important to You too. You’re just as much in favor of my being victorious. I release this wounded-ness to You today, and I surrender the fight to handle it my way. Whether it’s an addiction, an attitude, or a hurdle I can’t seem to get beyond no matter how hard I try, I am encouraging myself in You today and reminding myself of Your promise NEVER to leave or forsake me. It’s not Your will that I be destitute, sick, defeated, walking in lack, depressed, feeling inferior or walking under any kind of cloud. I submit myself to You, as Your Word has instructed, and then I resist the devil…and he MUST flee from me. I don’t care if he tries to come back again and again, I will fight him until You say, “Enough!” I plead the blood of Jesus now over my life, and I draw the bloodline around myself. I receive Your grace and I wrap myself in it, like a big protective bubble. The shield of faith deflects every piercing weapon the enemy tries to injure me with. Even those bruises and scratches and wounds I’ve already encountered are being healed by the Balm of Gilead! Thank You, Father, because Your Word is enabling me to see myself as YOU see me. I’m NOT a reject! I’m that earthen vessel in which You choose to house Your precious treasures. You are using this imperfect me–yes! And You are getting glory for the miracles You perform through me in spite of the fact that I’m not yet where I WILL BE when You’ve finished with me!  I will walk holy before You and trust You to carry me across the terrain that’s too rugged for my own feet to navigate.”

I say, “Devil, you cannot have me. I belong to God. You can’t even have me in my mind. I believe God’s Word and He is even helping me with any areas of unbelief…so be gone, in Jesus’ name! In Jesus’ name, I break your assignment against me today, all of you evil spirits who are trying to take me down. You WILL NOT wreck my day and you WILL NOT get my soul. God already knows my weaknesses and His grace is holding me together in spite of them. You don’t win in the court of Heaven today because I’m already forgiven. You have no authority over me. You are under my feet. I’m not listening to your lies. If you want to bring accusation, talk to the hand—the nail-scarred hand!”

Prayer for the Unsung Heroes: Caregivers

holdinghandsPrayer focus today: Please pray for those in your circle who are caregivers. Unless you’ve ever had to do it, it’s impossible to fathom the physical, emotional, and even spiritual depletion that can happen when you give care to a loved one round-the-clock. It’s most certainly a labor of love. Pray not just for the sick person, but for the person(s) unselfishly looking after him or her. And when you can offer help, a meal, an encouraging word, be a blessing to that person!

 

Father, we come before You today on behalf of caregivers everywhere. Lord, the caregivers would tell us to focus our prayers on the sick and infirm being taken care of, and we do that too; but today, we pray for the caregivers themselves.

We declare over these today a special Psalm 67 blessing. Thank You for being gracious, for making Your face to shine upon them, and for blessing them. When it seems as if they’re in a dark, unfamiliar place, cause that light to shine through the fog, bringing them hope and courage all over again. Calm their fears, Father. It’s a scary realm to navigate, especially when those dependent upon them are suffering from mental compromise. When they feel terribly inadequate or overwhelmed, surround them with encouragers. When they feel exhausted, send helpers to come alongside. When they see no possible opportunity for a break, Father, make possible times of respite. When they feel unappreciated by fellow family members, cause others to become more sensitive to their needs…and send a network of people into their lives who express needed appreciation. Remind them often, Father, that they are not alone.  You have a heart for the helpless, Lord, but You are also well-pleased with and aware of the people who are caregivers, rescuers, nurses, and helpers of those who are helpless!  You keep a record of those acts of kindness, so these who are in positions of caring for the helpless are under Your watchful eye.  Even when others aren’t aware of all they must do in a day’s (and night’s) time, You are there and You know.  Bless them indeed; bless them a lot!

We ask You to help caregivers embrace offered help, to not try and do everything on their own. If siblings are not rising to the occasion, send friends that “sticketh closer than a brother” to help shoulder the load. Cause strength to rise as they wait upon You and upon those who need their help. Strength like eagles, Lord. Running and not weary. Walking and not fainting. Renewed strength. We ask that every opportunity for sleep brings refreshment of double that time! No troubling dreams, no tossing and turning, no inability to relax. Remind them that as they rest, You are watching over those in their care. Thank you for protecting their own health. Healing flows in their adrenal glands so that they don’t feel exhaustion setting in!

We rebuke tormenting spirits, in the name of Jesus, that would create unrest in the atmosphere of the place where the care is being given.  In situations where caregivers are wearing thin to the point of losing compassion for those in their care, we ask You to intervene.  Don’t allow any of our precious caregivers to be stressed to the breaking point where they might be unkind or abusive, even unintentionally.  We invite the spirit of peace, the dove of the Holy Spirit, to rest and find habitation in this caregiving place. Bring peace and calm to the patients, but Lord, bring that same peace and calm to the caregivers. When the devil tries to inject guilt, depression, a feeling of inadequacy, feelings of bitterness or frustration or anger, or feelings of despair and temptation to give up, Lord, we raise the banner of Jehovah Nissi and we say, this territory is occupied by the Lord! Shalom has taken this territory and there is no room for enemies that would disrupt the environment.  Thank You for causing caregivers to be creative and able to hear Your direction…when right music, conversation, interaction, even games help their wards to be calmer, Lord reveal clever ways to caregivers to keep these in their care occupied and happy.

You are near those who are of a broken heart, Lord. Many of our caregivers’ hearts are broken because of the injured, sick, fragile, or even terminal state of their loved ones. Comfort them. Bring many opportunities for humor and laughter even in times when they feel overwhelmed. Let laughter flow as freely as tears, and when the Holy Spirit needs to numb the pain, we ask You to send that comfort too. Peace that passes all understanding…peace when it seems illogical that there should be peace.  Your Word also says that one act of pure and undefiled religion is to care for the widows (and orphans), and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. We pray you will send salvation to the caregivers who have not received You…but Lord, for even the ones who don’t yet have a relationship with you, we ask for very obvious blessings upon them for compassionate caring for the widow, the helpless, the infirm. Let them know that it is You who sends these blessings, and may they see this as proof of Your great love and mercy. We also pray that You will send financial blessing on them, so that they do not have additional pressures over money issues. Bring wisdom for financial management for themselves and those who are their wards.

And Father, for those who’ve done all they can and are struggling with the issue of having to recruit hospice, respite care, home health nurses, volunteer helpers, assisted living, or even a nursing home for their loved one, help them to be strong enough to let go and allow others to help.  Especially in the case where the caregivers’ health is declining, sometimes it’s just not possible to continue as before; and for many, the guilt over not being able to continue to take care of one’s spouse, parent, or child is unbearable.  When the cared-for person is too frail for home care, in need of full-time medical experience the caregiver doesn’t have, has wandering or self-endangerment issues, help the caregiver to be strong enough to turn the reins over and let others come alongside to help.  There is no shame in allowing a better solution for the patient to be had; so help those who must give up being a caregiver not to blame themselves when they’ve reached the end of their ability to do so.  Help them to not feel as if they are abandoning their loved ones if they cannot continue in the role of caregiver.  Sometimes we need medical professionals or just a few more hands involved; and guilt or pride won’t let us admit that we can’t do it alone.  When it’s YOUR time for more people to be involved in the care process, I pray that You will whisper a confirmation into the caregivers’ ears that it is OK; then heal their aching hearts as they make the hard decisions of life.

Finally, we confess Psalm 46:1-3 over them (and over ourselves) to affirm that we know You are with them and us:

 

“God is our shelter and our strength.  When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide? No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.  Even in heavy winds and huge waves,or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.”(Ps 46:1-3 The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.)

We confess Your Word and we ask these things in the name of Jesus…gratefully, effectually, fervently, and with FAITH that You watch over Your Word to perform it!  And, as You reveal ways to us to be more proactive in ministering to and assisting caregivers, we will rise to the occasion!

Clearing Out Cobwebs and Curses


May we all be reminded today that WORDS MATTER…and learn to apply THE Word to every situation that doesn’t line up with it.

When I was about 19, a close family member (doesn’t matter which one) told me that I would never be able to do what I do in a big way because I was born without enough stamina. While it’s true that I have always tended to tire easily, I didn’t really recall again what that person had spoken (who loved me and meant well) over me until somewhat recently. And guess what? Sure enough, those words had stuck, thus far all my adult years. Whether in my subconscious or elsewhere else, an elder’s voice had unwittingly granted legitimacy to something negative, something that needed dealt with and not just accepted. It gave credence to a mentality that if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to succeed or to hold onto the accomplishments God’s gifts had enabled me to achieve…oh how many times I haven’t even bothered to try, because I could see the watermark where I could only rise so far and no more!  God didn’t vividly bring this When I was about 19, a close family member (doesn’t matter which one) told me that I would never be able to do what I do in a big way because I was born without enough stamina. While it’s true that I have always tended to tire easily, I didn’t really recall again what that person had spoken (who loved me and meant well) over me until somewhat recently. And guess what? Sure enough, those words had stuck, thus far all my adult years. Whether in my subconscious or elsewhere else, an elder’s voice had unwittingly granted legitimacy to something negative, something that needed dealt with and not just accepted. It gave me a mentality that if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to succeed or to hold onto the accomplishments God’s gifts had enabled me to achieve. There has been this watermark in my life where I would only succeed to a point and then would never rise any higher.  Many times I would see that fail point and scared me away from trying again.  But!  God didn’t vividly bring this to my remembrance to hurt my feelings, He brought it to light so that I could do something about it in the Spirit realm! How merciful!

Now I am determined to slough off that declaration and make a declaration of my own: I am an overcomer, I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and I will be–nope, I AM, right now–able to do what I do in a BIG way! I am breaking off that curse and I am getting strong for the next leg of my journey, to the glory of God. In Jesus’ name, I will not sit on the sideline wandering what might have been if I’d only had more in the tank! Not blaming that person here, I’m getting free from some sneaky little hidden things that are being swept out…and hopefully encouraging you to sweep some things out of your own closet.

Has someone spoke into existence a negative thing over your life, even out of ignorance? It is time to neutralize the sting of words and the consequences he or she may have set in motion. Begin now to search the Scriptures for what GOD says you are, what you can do, who you can be. Philippians 4:13 says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. By HIS strength, I rise above my own limitations, and SO CAN YOU. Stop repeating what others have done to you or said about you and look UP to your real Source. Beginning today, that’s not who you are anymore. Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of hearing you talk and talk about your past…because that tells him he has succeeded in scarring you!   It is important–very important–that you cancel out what THEY said by uttering aloud, with your own voice, what GOD says about you! What they said, what they did? Doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on where God is taking you. And when you set your mind to it, do what you’re doing not to prove them wrong, but to prove Him RIGHT! #callthosethings

Fruit Forthcoming

chestnutI was three years old when we moved to our little house in North Matewan. There was a young tree growing on the left side of our house that, for years, was just a trunk and branches and leaves. It was said that it was a chestnut tree; but yet, there was no fruit. When I was 10 or 11 years old, green burry-looking pods came out all over and that fall, the most beautiful, huge, sweet, crunchy chestnuts you ever saw were inside. I was thrilled and from that year forward, looked forward to picking them off the ground and taking them next door for Grandpa and me to peel and eat.

It took some time for those chestnuts to prove that the tree was indeed a chestnut tree, but you know something? It was still a chestnut tree. From the moment the first little green sprout popped through the ground up until the day my Dad cut it down.  There were chestnut trees on the hillsides and in other parts of the neighborhood, but none had the quality of fruit that this lone little tree wound up bearing.  Yep…the same tree whose identity seemed questionable for the greater part of my childhood.

My point?  We spend way too much time analyzing one another and looking for fruit whose time has not yet come. Lighten up and love the people around you! Entrust them into God’s hands because whatever He created us to be, that potential is deep inside of all of us from conception. Pray, be patient, be a good example, and never make that person feel as if your approval is some unattainable goal; forcing it can stunt his or her growth and delay the fruit even longer!

We have the assurance in God’s Word that when we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it. I meditated on that yesterday and thought about this: it says, “when he is old.” Give those in-between years to God and pray a hedge of protection around your children. They may have several years in their lives when they are unproductive or even producing BAD fruit…but you just keep sowing into them. Keep being that example. Keep telling them how good they are and how pleased you are with them. Keep speaking truth in love, but never speak things over your children that declare something negative: you will get exactly what you speak. Keep pleading the blood of Jesus over them. One day, the pods will open and the fruit will be exactly what it was ordained to be.

Peace, love, and light to all of you on this Monday.

Healing: Miracle for All Ages

Age hourglass As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now for war, both to go out and to come in.” (Caleb, at age 85 – as recorded in the book of Joshua, Chapter 14)

As many of you wait for healing to manifest in your bodies, let me dispel a myth that the enemy may be trying to circulate in your reasoning. God doesn’t grant healing based on age; healing was purchased in the Atonement, and manifests in our bodies as we exercise faith to receive it. Period. God is not like our modern healthcare system–not even a government-run healthcare system! “The system” would say that you don’t deserve a new liver because you were an alcoholic. They would say that based on your age, it’s not feasible to do heart surgery or give you a transplant. At your age, cancer treatment is beyond the acceptable practice; or dementia and clogged arteries and failing kidneys are to be accepted. You need to just accept that you are approaching end-of-life and that you aren’t as worth saving as, say, a 20-year old.

Don’t be upset with them…they’re mere humans. They are working with limited know-how, resources, and only so much money. They also have some among them who are also motivated by greed; maybe even a few who would like to play God…but not all. They operate in the carnal, natural realm. They’re good; they do a whole lot of good in their element, but their scope is limited.

But! When you approach God’s throne of grace to obtain help (and health) in your time of need, God is under no such restrictions. He will hear and answer prayer whether you have 50 more years to live or 50 more hours. When you have been satisfied with your number of days, you can transition out of a healed body into eternity instead of allowing the enemy to chisel you away to nothing.  Wouldn’t it be something to pass from a healthy body whose organs were viable enough to donate to the next recipient?  Think about that!

If no one’s ever reinforced that with you, then hear it now! It’s a real game-changer! God will continue to invest in you when you’re 95 just like He did when you were 15, because it’s impossible to waste what comes from an infinite supply. There’s not “only so much” healing to go around. And you–yes, YOU–have the same grace to walk in it as someone younger, more productive, more socially upright, and better-insured!  Don’t bow your head in shame and say, “I don’t feel right asking for healing when others are so much worse off than I am.”  Ask for yourself AND for them too!

When as an “old man” receiving the commission to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, Moses presented his terrible stuttering (and the self-conscious shyness resulting from it) to God as the reason why he wasn’t an ideal candidate. The Lord cooled his jets really quick by asking, “Did I not make men’s mouths?” The same God Who makes men’s mouths just so happens to also unclog arteries, restore sight and hearing, quicken damaged limbs, dry up cancers, and repair a diabetes-ravaged pancreas! He’s perfected making something out of nothing, and He doesn’t have to wait for someone to die to give you a transplant…wait, Jesus already did that!

Don’t listen to wicked spirits who would taunt you and say, as Job’s wife did, “Why don’t you just curse God, die, and accept it!” Rather, why not approach God’s presence today, having cleared your heart of doubt, unforgiveness, secret sins, and all hindrances…and present a claim ticket for that healing which is already been provided for you. God will not make you fill out any forms, put you on a waiting list, or ask you any health-related questions. He will not grant your request based on a limited pool of resources. Your answer is only restricted by how much you are willing to ask and believe for–so do exactly what the Word says you can do. Approach His throne boldly! Walk in your full potential, in Jesus’ name!

Confidence—in HIM

confidence“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 VOICE) 

One of the cruelest vampires leeching the life right out of you is lack of confidence. When I think of how many years I had let the approval of people imprison me and hold me back, it just sickens me…so I try even harder NOT to think of it! Seriously, it is paralyzing when you need affirmation. The devil will use that longing as a tool against you–always putting satisfaction just beyond your reach, always keeping you self-deprecating and in a state of the fear of not being good enough. Yes, that was me. And my imagination was in overdrive…thinking people didn’t really like me, didn’t think I was good enough, thinking I was going to mess up. So I approached everything timidly. What a setup for failure and more bruising to my fragile ego! I would watch other people do things so easily (especially public speaking and singing) and think, “why can’t I be like them?” You know what this does? It makes us avoid situations where we might be asked to shine!

How funny it is, that it’s taken me hitting my mid-late forties to shake that stronghold. Sure, we tend to chill out a little more as we settle into getting older; but may I tell you that the REAL act of liberation came when I stopped keeping my eyes on others and started focusing on Jesus. When I surrendered that need for approval to Him, and learned that His was truly the only approval I needed, something changed. I began even to cast down imaginations and subdue everything to the knowledge of WHO JESUS is, and I realized that I don’t have to please anyone but Him. I also learned that when we keep our eyes on Him, He does the rest THROUGH us. I can’t rely on my own strength and ability to be there every single time…but you know what? I can always expect HIS to be!

If you are struggling with confidence issues, talk to your Papa God about it. He can heal fears, emotional/physical abuse, wounded egos, and bitter disappointment…and can free you to step out and grasp that thing He’s created you to do. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (ask Him to fill you if you’ve not experienced this) will unleash boldness.

I love the Apostle Paul. He had an education and life experience that any man would be proud to flaunt, yet he kept it to himself. Why? Nothing to prove! He came into Christianity fully aware that he would be distrusted, rejected by many for the years prior when he’d made it his life’s work to persecute followers of Jesus. He knew some might never accept him as good enough. Did it slow him down? No! Why? Nothing to prove!

My lifelong friend Jimmy Copley, a bold carrier of the Good News, made a FB post today which really cemented this point I’m making. He likened us to pizza boxes. The box isn’t what has worth–the pizza inside is. Be filled today with the Holy Spirit. People will smell the aroma and become hungry for what’s inside. The writing on the outside of the box, the fancy construction OR LACK THEREOF…irrelevant. You ARE a fragile vessel, capable of failing, messing up, falling short…yet THE GOD has chosen to use your frail container in which to place His Spirit! He does this so that when He works through you, people will know that it’s Him and not your own ability to perform which has brought forth good things.

Today when you are about your daily routine, you will be called upon to do something greater than your ability and experience can offer. If you are relying on merely those two factors, you may set yourself up for failure. Ask God to take your container, imperfect and incomplete though you may be, and work things through you that exceed your capabilities. As He does, give Him the glory. No more fixating on the judges’ scorecards! GOD Himself endorses you! With your confidence in His ability (the One Who cannot fail) instead of your own (which may or may not succeed), you walk into your situation with the full assurance that you really CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Like Paul…nothing to prove, so you can afford to be all in. Go forth empowered today, in Jesus’ name!

Lockjaw!

zipping-mouth-shut

When I was a very small girl, I stepped on a rusty nail while playing around a stack of old wood.  I’ll never forget Sue Sammons having to hold me down as I screamed bloody murder, when Doc White plunged that tetanus shot into my behind!  Oh yes!  That day, Doc White was fifteen feet tall, had fangs and werewolf claws, and that syringe was as big as a cannon!   Mom told me, “If you don’t take the shot, you’ll get lockjaw (tetanus)!”  At the time, lockjaw didn’t seem like such a bad alternative; but alas, I was outnumbered!

Sometimes it would be nice to have selective lockjaw.  We’ve become a society who so values a good comeback or “diss” or insult; and in honing our skills, we’ve become quite the verbal bullies.  I want to address the issue of what’s coming out of your mouth.  It’s so easy to fire off a good insult, but why do we have such a hard time firing off compliments?  What’s WRONG with us?  Do we honestly feel as if our sharp tongue makes us appear intellectually superior to the person we’re cutting down?

The memory of you will go on long after you’re gone.  So think about this:  would you rather be merely tolerable or actually loveable?  To those people who surround you daily, I challenge you:  be someone they cherish instead of having to put up with!  Being nice is a deliberate action on our part.  We can sputter and spout off and gripe about all that’s wrong, or we can be considerate, kind, and sow love seeds.  You fall into one of two categories, whether you realize it or not.  You’re someone people look forward to being around, or you’re someone they dread.  You either make people feel poured into, or you drain their very spirit with your presence.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be someone for whom folks cringe at the sound of my voice on the phone, or dodge running into me in the grocery store or on the street.  I don’t want them to think, “Oh mercy…I wonder what it’s going to be THIS time?”

Life’s too short to wallow in that mess!  Even if you’ve been an old “sourpuss” your whole life, you can start today.  Just as you’re getting ready to spew off an insult or a grouchy word at someone, I want you to stop and think of something good about that person.  If it’s nothing better than, “Your hair’s parted straight,” then you pay that person a compliment instead of letting him or her have “what for.”

What comes out of your mouth is what’s been rolling around in your heart, so you’ve got to begin filling your spirit with good thoughts and not just everything that’s irritating or wrong.  The Word says this:   “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”  (Phil 4:8 MSG)  Sure, it’s so easy for us to let that sarcasm fly…but don’t you do it.  Not today.

I want you to pray this with me:  “Lord, I’ve been guilty of letting my emotions rule me.  I’ve done it so long that I’ve just let it get out of control.  Today I ask for Your forgiveness and help.  I don’t want to be someone whom my loved ones fear, dread, dislike, or even hate.  Please help me to leave a better legacy than what I’ve been leaving.  I surrender my heart and my mouth to You today.  I will meditate on Your Word, I will guard the gateways of my eyes and ears so that I don’t feed on violence, prejudice, hatred, and negativity.  I WILL think on the beautiful and not the ugly, and with Your help, I will speak life words and not death!  If necessary, do to me as You did to Balaam who, every time he opened his mouth to pronounce a curse on Your people, found that blessing is all that would come out.  Help me to find absolutely no pleasure in tearing down people with my words.  I ask You to lay conviction HEAVY ON MY HEART.  I want to please You, and I want to feel peace instead of frustration.  I want to stop injuring the people I love with my words, attitudes, and actions.  Most of all, I don’t want to embarrass YOU, displease You, or misrepresent You before a lost world.  Holy Spirit, speak loud and clear to me today so that I won’t miss Your voice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“Take control of what I say, O Lordand guard my lips.”  (Psalm 141:3 NLT)