The Mandate of Teachability

teachable“For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation until he has more than enough. But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12 TPT*)

Are you still being taught, still learning, still seeking to know more tomorrow than you know today? The day you stop being #teachable is the day you begin to stagnate spiritually. We are all meant to be in a continual state of growth, right up until the day we go home to be with Jesus. To remain teachable, we have to deliberately push ourselves beyond those things we already know (and sometimes feel like we know it all! Yeah, I’ve been guilty of that a time or two myself!), and place ourselves in the hands of people who know more than we do. Being teachable requires a bit of humility–for when we think we have it all figured out, sometimes we begin to disdain those who are trying to teach us what we feel is old hat. We are so conditioned to wanting variety, variety, choices, choices, drop down menus, where we can skip the stuff that is boring and go on to what stimulates our curiosity and makes us feel good about ourselves.

I remember one time being with a friend, and we went to a church meeting with a special speaker. We rode together. She sat about 10 minutes into the meeting, long enough to find out that the teacher was going to teach on the subject of healthy marriages and being a godly wife. She leaned over and said to me, “Let’s go. This is of no benefit to me. I already know all this.” How sad that I followed her lead and left, even though I was the driver! My friend may not have felt she needed the help, but I needed (and still do!) all the help I can get!

“To learn the truth you must long to be teachable, or you can despise correction and remain ignorant.” (Proverbs 12:1 TPT*)

While we can learn a lot from our peers, and while we can be iron sharpening iron to one another, there’s only so much someone else on our same level can impart to us. It can be a hard hurdle to leap over because we want to be with the people we enjoy most and feel we have the most in common with. Sometimes we have to deliberately place ourselves outside that common area for a season so that we can be more open to the meatier part of spiritual maturity–those hard lessons that aren’t learned over coffee and a game of cornhole. Some of the most valuable elements of growth you will ever receive are waiting to be imparted from people who don’t fit your parameters–some (and likely, most) will be older…some may even be younger…some will be from a different walk of life and not always what you consider to be a level up from your own…some will be people you don’t consider to be particularly interesting to hang around. Sometimes God will even pair you with someone that you have to pursue, who doesn’t offer you any encouragement to pursue him or her–like Elijah with Elisha! We have many spiritual brothers and sisters but very few spiritual mothers and fathers—and those, friends, are who we need to seek out IF we want to grow. Enjoy spiritual sibling-ship (if there is such a word…lol), but pursue mentors and spiritual parents.

I am not in any way downplaying the importance of fellowship and small groups—if anything, we need to connect more and more as the days grow more wicked. I hope each of you reading this will find such a group of people and get plugged in. It’s much needed and it will bless you. However, it’s been said that if you are the smartest person in the room, you need to be looking for another room. You can still enjoy common union with the others, but I encourage you, find the people God wants to use to TEACH you and include them in your life. If everyone you’re close to and gleaning from is on the same level as you, who is going to be able to rally the others when discouragement or crisis comes to the whole tribe? Or, think of it another way…would you really want to be operated on by a med student who’s not actually certified yet; whose only instruction is being taught by fellow med students and a correspondence course? Yes, we are all still learning, no matter how many years we are into our Christian walk—even surgeons have to do continuing education—but we will never be qualified to teach others if we avoid being under the authority of someone who can correct us when we are wrong, and protect us from ourselves when we are full of zeal and less full of wisdom.

There are many things I wish I’d asked my parents and grandparents before they died, both about spiritual matters and life lessons. It was only after they were all gone that I began to think of certain pieces of information I would’ve liked to have passed down to me, and now they’re no longer here to give that information. We sometimes surmise that because the generation up from us isn’t tech savvy, or that they had limited opportunities, that they are no longer relevant to who we are today. We couldn’t be more wrong! These folks may not have had Google search or a college education, but they knew how to survive in hard times—from depressions to child rearing to staying put when commitment to a family or to a cause was hard or lackluster or less than what they hoped it would be.

Lord, crucify pride in our lives that would cause us to become root bound, pride which says to our teachers, “I don’t have to listen to you, I know all of that already!” Send people into our lives who can impart and equip us to be what might be the final generation–and if we aren’t, then we need to be able teachers of those who come after us. Help us, then, to be teachable. O God, help us to welcome correction and to welcome accountability instead of leaning to our own understanding. We cannot give what we have not yet received. With all of our getting, may we get wisdom and understanding. Help us not to avoid relationships with trusted mentors who can speak transparently into our lives. Place us in the position of being discipled, that we in turn might disciple others. Cause us to develop maturity and humility and receptiveness to a right word in a right season. Empower us, Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name…

*Scriptures quoted from The Passion Translation® of the Holy Bible, Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.

 

Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.

Running the Backup Plan Aground…for Good

fiashing-netProbably the loneliest day of Peter’s whole fishing career was when he re-launched the S.S. Simon and tried to just be a fisherman again after following Jesus. The romantic call of the sea and the nostalgic smell of the salty nets held little sway over him now. After all, a Simon reed can easily sway in the wind; but now his name was Petra, a solid rock. The wind of recklessness and wavering was no longer his domain. I wonder if his pivotal decision to finally return to the disciples and Jesus came from an instant replay of that day when Jesus asked the twelve whether they, too,  would abandon Him like others who were turned off by certain elements of His teaching. Peter replied, “Where else would we go…YOU have the words of eternal life!” Perhaps it was the memory of this moment that caused him to finally sever all ties with his backup plan and dedicate the rest of his life to serving his True Source.

Once God has expanded your boundaries to accommodate the person He’s growing you to be, you can never quite fit back into your original container. Oh, to be certain, we have to make a living, support our families, and in general, be exposed to the world if they are to be exposed to US and to the Gospel we share. However, if you feel your failures have put you out of commission to serve the Lord and carry the Good News, I beg you to think of Peter and his brief turning away from his calling. His most victorious, passionate days would come after he realized that his success lay in Jesus within him instead of in his own strength.  The pages in his dossier that revealed days of his least savory performance were only left in the file because they were amended to show the amazing comeback in each circumstance. It no longer mattered that there were blotches on his record…the blotches were a setup for an amazing finish of, well, Biblical proportions. Peter’s last half of his journey as God’s “petra man” far exceeded his former days; for just forty days after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Comforter came and Peter got to be one of the first people on earth to operate under this release of power from on high!

So why are you reverting to your backup plan, minister, leader, disciple, pioneer?  If God called you, and you have undealt-with wrongs, right them. Even if it means you have to prove yourself all over again and feel the humiliation of a tarnished reputation, be quick to repent, to forgive, to make restitution, to accept the mercy and forgiveness of the One Who asks nothing more of you than to “feed My lambs…feed My sheep.” You can build character, stability, integrity if you’re willing…and if you can’t return to the place where it all went south, God can absolutely redeem you to a different assignment, with perhaps even more powerful impact!  Eventually your failures will be yesterday’s news to those around you; and even if they should never quite be forgotten, God will weave a victory comeback into even that part of your story. The truth is, whether you’re used in the same way, a lesser way, or a greater way, you’ll never be free of that call to a destiny of His design.  It’s bigger than that small, safe, predictable life you once envisioned for yourself.

Run that backup plan into a sandbar and be done with it.  Put a “For Sale” sign on your escape vehicle.  Boom or bust, go all out this second (or even third or fourth) time around.  Have a Peter kind of finish. Even as a martyr for his faith, he went out on his own terms–better yet, he finished on God’s terms. Come back home, wandering servant of Christ. He still has need of your part….

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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.

Please feel free to share, but if reprinting, please use acknowledgments!

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!”

Letting Go of the Past…Three Times

fishnet“Peter, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

“Feed My sheep.”

That conversation was deeper than we realize. Peter had messed up in a moment of panic, fear, and haste. He had denied the Lord 3 times, cursed, and swore with an oath to hide his identity and save his own skin. And then he had to make eye contact with the very person he had betrayed, and have the realization hit him…everything Jesus said would happen, did happen. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. There was nothing left for Peter now. The crowing of the rooster may as well have been a bugle sounding Taps over Peter’s dying ministry.  He just fled the painful scene, wept bitterly, and separated himself from his band of brothers and any association with what it meant to be a follower of Christ.

Go back to what you did before, Peter. Go get the boat. Launch out there in the deep, where you don’t have to talk to anyone, look anyone in the eye, feel others looking at YOU, judging. You didn’t mess up with the boat…it was YOUR boat. Even though…you were catching nothing that day until Jesus told you where to toss that net!

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me” three times. I like to think He did so because He was giving Peter a VERBAL chance three times to undo those three denials. Peter, normally the loudest mouth of the twelve, couldn’t bring himself to say “I love You” on his own, not after what he had done.  The outspoken one, overcome in his guilt and deep shame, now needed help from the Master just to say what was bursting in his heart.  How could those mere words ever undo what he had done?  So, Jesus, Who knew exactly what Peter was wrestling with, showed him where to lower the nets once more. Jesus proved to Peter that He could forgive without humiliating and ostracizing.  He could restore him without putting him on probation, without demoting him, without dismissing all those times when Peter was part of the inner circle of His circle.  And that command, “Feed my sheep?” He was saying, “You don’t belong back in the fishing business, Peter. Your heart is to serve Me. I can see right through your weaknesses, and I know that in your heart, you would rather be close to Me than anything in this world. Come back. There’s still very much a place for you here. You belong in ministry. You belong to me. I forgive you. Let’s turn a page and finish this thing better than the chapter we’re on now.”

Have you made some mistakes that make you feel as if you are unworthy to receive Jesus’ forgiveness? Do you feel disqualified to follow Him, or specifically, disqualified to lead others to Him? Jesus is asking YOU today, “Do you love Me? Oh, I already know the answer, but I want YOU to think long and hard, past the guilt, past the self-loathing and regrets. You KNOW you love Me, and I know you love Me. Let’s turn a page. I’m far from finished with what I am going to do through you, and I want you to know that you are NOT damaged goods. You are not going to be left on the reject pile, forgiven but left broken. I am fixing you and I want you walking close to Me again, as My friend, as My confidante, as someone that I TRUST (yes, I TRUST you!) to love others like I’ve loved you!”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m putting aside my own feelings and the urge to run away. There is no place else I’m at peace but in Your presence. I can’t even go back to life as before and do it the way I did before I knew You. I need You! Forgive my sins, my mistakes, blot out anything that stepped between us. Fix me and if You want to use me, I’m here. Lord, You really DO know my heart. You know I’ve always loved You even when I let my flesh do the decision-making. Help me rise above my own will. Cleanse me and help me say no to whatever causes distance between us. I don’t want to feel like I can’t come near You anymore. I receive Your forgiveness and I am going to have a good finish–like Peter! In Jesus’ name.” Amen.

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!

Guilt-Zilla: No More Sequels

claw.jpgTHEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. (Romans 8:1 | AMP)

One of the hardest revelations about my shortcomings has the potential to become one of my greatest victory testimonies, if I can succeed in letting it shape me into a better person!  The Lord revealed to me, on what was pretty-much a sleepless night, that one of the biggest taskmasters and tormentors I have is Guilt…and that He wants me to do something about it.  This big Guilt-Zilla monster has chased most of the other motivators off the block and kept me all to its gnarly, ugly, hellish self.  I’m just being transparent with you, friends…allowing you to see the very human side of me that occasionally needs an attitude adjustment!  All of us are in desperate need of God’s grace.

So, why on earth, you may ask, are you plagued by guilt, Lisa? I feel guilty because:

  • I work all the time and have provided for myself a virtually nonexistent family life.
  • When I actually am working, I get interrupted countless times and then I sit there in a daze trying to get my concentration back; therefore time is wasted and I then feel like a bad employee.  I have less to show for my work than I believe I should.
  • I need to spend more time in God’s presence than I do on His payroll.  The to-do list isn’t getting me any closer to Him and it therefore keeps getting bigger and more out of balance.  I’m sorry, Papa.  You and I both know there are days when I’m running on fumes and You’re not the one to blame.
  • I get zero exercise and very little recreation, which means I’m not a good steward of my body; but when I’m out walking or taking a break or doing something I enjoy, I worry that people think I’m wasting time when I should be working.  Two-sided guilt. Ouch.
  • I am in considerable need of weight loss which means I need to move more and worry about what other people think a whole lot less.  I know I’m cheating myself and my husband by not taking responsibility for my body.  So yeah, guilty.
  • I find myself bitter and resentful that the only time I truly have to myself is when I’m asleep; so I dread checking answering machines and emails because I know there’s stuff in there that will further cut into time I don’t have.  I also resent the worry that robs me of said only time I have to myself–my sleep.
  • My house stays a mess; and without a plan to keep it from getting that way, it isn’t going to change.  Even though I work long hours, I feel I should be more on top of this and therefore–you guessed it–guilty.
  • I have done a less-than stellar job of managing my own finances.  Someone with an IQ of 137 should be debt-free with a sizable chunk in savings. Someone with that IQ should also have more to show for her accomplishments than a year and a half of college education.  Achievement quotient:  not impressive.  Guilty.
  • I never feel as if I’ve done enough.  I can’t please everybody.  I can’t please myself and I wonder sometimes if I’m actually pleasing God or if I’m just trying to appease the guilt monster within.
  • I am burned out, and in this moment I want with all my heart to disconnect from my job, the ministry, and life in general.  I am empty and so dissatisfied with my messy, substandard life.  I am the poster child of imbalance and I feel guilty about that too.

Ok, so I have been painfully transparent with you.  I have been drowning in a sea of my own making, held under the water by Guilt-Zilla and allowed to surface every few seconds to take a deep, desperate gasp of breath.

So am I a hypocrite and a fraud?  No, not really.  I’m just in a state of chaos and in need of the grace of my Savior.  My greatest sin in all of this is allowing that little pet tadpole of guilt to grow and take over my life, until he is bigger even that my dreams.

So today Lord, I crawl up into Your lap and humbly ask You to take me through a Romans 8:1 refresher course.  Matter of fact, erase what I actually think I know and start from scratch. I need You to show me how to put Guilt-Zilla out of my misery.

  • Help me to find room for both career and family, where I don’t feel like either is trespassing on the other.  I need some safe compartments and boundaries.
  • Help me multitask less and focus more.  The guilt monster has very little to feed on when I am doing whatever I’m doing (one thing at a time) with my whole heart and not on autopilot.
  • Help me to draw some realistic separation between working for Your church and really having relationship with You.  I keep forgetting that You don’t expect me to be on the clock 7 days a week just to prove that I love You.  You’d rather we just hang out together, job or no job.
  • Help me to regain control in the area of personal discipline, and to actually value the body You gave me.  Help me do more than just think about taking care of myself; I need to go there in more than just my wishes.  Help me to make better food choices and to get to whatever weight You know is my healthiest.
  • Help me to be a better steward of my house and my finances, so that the Proverbs 31 Woman doesn’t look like a lady I really despise for all her efficiency and um-attainability.
  • Help me to find some quality time beyond a few hours’ sleep each night.  Sleep shouldn’t count as my “me time.” You wired me to be a deep thinker and I need silence to do that.  Help me also to have time to be creative.  Help me to find a little fun too.  I don’t have much of that these days,  not like I should.  Help me to stop “working even when I’m not working.”  Help me to add the word NO to my vocabulary.
  • Help me to just get back to enjoying Your presence.  I’ve been Martha so long and I really miss getting to be Mary.  I’m way too careful and troubled about many things; help me to choose the better part that won’t be taken away from me.
  • Help me to feel a separation from what I’m not involved in at the moment, so that all my responsibilities have their own respective places.  I want to feel once more as if my job, my family, my ministry, and the people around me are truly gifts and not one more straw on the camel’s back.  Teach me to decompress by meditation in Your Word.
  • Help me to actually like being me again.
  • Help me to put You—just You—first in my life again, and help me find somewhere appropriate on the list for me, too.  I feel lost in the shuffle.
  • Help me to know when I’ve worked, served, given enough for one day, and to be at peace with enough being enough.

It’s a lot to ask, Father, but I believe You can help me to make sure that the Guilt-Zilla movie has no more sequels.  I know it’s time to deal, and if You’ll help me, I know I can reclaim my peace!  I ask all this in Jesus’ name…