How do you know what you know?

POD #27: How do you know what you know?

Who am I? It’s a thought provoking question we all ask at some point. Forming our identity is a stage of development that we all go through.  I believe that we go through it more than once.  As we reach milestones in our lives that completely change our roles, how we identify ourselves changes.  Who I knew myself to be as a child, there are still some truths there, but much of what I held true of myself at eight, changed when I became a teenager.  Who I am again changed when I became a mom, and when I entered adulthood, and again as my children became adults.  Even who I was last year is different than the person I am now, because I continue to grow personally.self

However, the fundamental truths that I know about myself don’t change.  I do come to understand them at a deeper level, but they are truths that withstand the passing of time.

A few of the fundamental truths I know about myself are:

I know that I am loved. Understand there are days I feel unloved.  I feel like no one in the whole world likes me, let along loves me.  The thought crosses my mind that others just tolerate me.  At the core of my soul, I can hold on to the truth that I am loved, regardless of how I feel.  Christ loved me so much He volunteered to take my place so I could be in relationship with God.  That is love. I am in right relationship with God, because of Christ.  I am loved, because God is love.  I am loved and that is not dependent upon me.  It is true because God is love.  I was blessed to learn this at a very young age, and it is a truth that can withstand any other voice in my life.  All I have to do is be still and listen.

I know that I am never alone.  Again, there are times in my life I feel very alone.  I feel left out and forgotten, but the truth that I can hold on to in those moments is that God promised He would never leave me or forsake me.  It doesn’t matter where I go, what I do, He is there.  Despite the rebellious life I lived as a teenager, I know this truth really kept me from going down a darker path. I knew back then God was with me.  I know that He is always with me.

I know that I am God’s child. I remember the weekend after my mother’s death, I was sitting in church and was overcome with the fact that I was now an orphan.  My father had died twenty- years earlier, but now they were both gone.  A wave of grief came over me and I felt like the world was going to collapse around me.  Then, that still small voice said, “You are not an orphan, you are My child.”  Almost seamlessly, the praise and worship team began to sing the song “No longer slaves.” My heart was filled with the knowledge that I really am God’s daughter.  I am His child and no one can take that from me.  Even as I type this, listening to the radio – the song just came on as a sweet reminder from my Father.

I know I am a work in progress. When I was a little girl we used to sing a song:

He’s still working on me,
To make me what I ought to be
It Him seven days to make the moon, and stars, Jupiter and Mars,
and He’s still working on me.”

Just as Michelangelo took years to create the statue of art David, I am a masterpiece being created by God.  It is said that Michelangelo said of his piece “I just removed everything that was not David.”  That is exactly what God is doing in my life.  He is just removing everything in my that is not part of His masterpiece.  Unlike Michelangelo, God has to deal with my desire to control the process. I am thankful that God is not deterred by me.  Instead I am just His work in progress.

I know I have a purpose in this earth.  There are days, weeks and even months that I question what that purpose is.  Yet I know that it is more about God working out things in me that would destroy the purpose he has for me.  I do not believe that God will leave me here on this earth once my purpose is fulfilled.  I believe that is part of His predestined time.  Until then He will keep working on me and I will keep growing in the plans and purpose for my life.

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The voice in your head

POD #26: The voice in your head

Very seldom do I write things off, due to the voices in my head.  I may set a goal and say “when…then.”  Like I want to go sky diving and bungee jumping, however I am morbidly obese and I don’t think that is the smartest idea.  However, I am on a journey to being fit and those two things are on my to-do list when I reach my goal.  I have little goals of things I want to try along the way as I reach other milestones in the journey.  I share them with others so they will help hold me accountable along the way.

If I really pause think about the broken record that places in my mind, the voice I listen to most often says, “You have no idea how to begin.”  I don’t really hear it as a “you can’t, as much as a “keep searching.”  The vision and dream I have before me, I really have no idea how to reach.  I know that I am walking in it, but I am not sure how to go to the next level of it.  I just know to do what I am doing, and let God connect me in His timing with the next step, and hope I don’t miss it due to my stubbornness or disobedience.

record-336626_1920About thirteen year ago I attended a conference and they talked about “One-Church, One-Child.” It was the idea that if each church in a community would support one member of their church answering the call to foster, there would be no children who had to stay in a shelter or group home because of lack of foster parents.  I loves the idea.  At the time I worked for the state in the foster care system and it felt like a worthy cause to run with.  I sent out a compelling letter to every church in our community.  I received two calls back.  I felt very defeated and saddened.  While this is just a small piece of my dream, it really did impact me.  At the same time I was reaching out to the churches in our community with no response, there was a fight at the state level to give the right to foster to same-sex couples.  People were up in arms about it, but at the same time there was little response from those who God called to step in and be a father to fatherless.

I wrote the experience off that maybe it was because at the time I was affiliated with the state. I decided that churches might be concerned about the separation of church and state – despite the fact there was a movement at the federal level to fund faith initiative programs.  I reasoned the letters were sent to the pastors, and they might not have shared it with their congregation, so people really might not know the need.  I just didn’t start in the right place. (On a side note, there was another organization that was started the same time in my home state – and the churches do answer the call even now.)

A few years later, I tried again.  I wasn’t asking anything other than to meet with churches to know what services they were offering – Celebrate Recovery, Mother’s Day out, Christian Counseling, etc.  I knew several churches in the community offered programs that would be beneficial to the birth families (Of the foster children) that I had been working with.  I thought if I could compile the resources, it would be an option for parents that would point them in the direction that would really change their life.  I also believe it could help build a healthy support system around these families that may not have had a good example growing up themselves.  Again, one call, one meeting.  I decided that I really don’t know where to begin.

When I moved away from that community, I took my dream with me.  It is still there, waiting to burst forth.  I so want to see hurting people connected with God’s hands and feet in this world.  I want to see Christian’s engaged outside the four walls of the church, being the Church to meet the tangible needs in the community.  For now, I connect people. I know the resources in my community, and if someone needs a place to get involved – I connect them to places they can give and volunteer.  When I come across people who are hurting and in need – I connect them to resources, especially those in my community with a spiritual component that I know can help them.  I get to do this weekly, sometimes daily on an individual basis.  It doesn’t look like what I thought it would, but I’m doing my part and letting God do the rest.

The other voice I hear a lot is “You don’t have time.”  When you live a pretty structured schedule, there is some truth to the statement.  However, I have learned in the past few years that we make time for what is important, so if it is really something that I want to do, I will make it a priority.  It may mean getting up a little earlier or staying up a little bit later.  It may mean saying no to other things, but I have the ability to apply my time to things that I feel that I should be doing.  I still need to work in this area.  I know I spend too much time mindlessly online or in front of the television instead of making mindful decisions of where I invest my time.  Although it is much less than I use to, it is still too much.  It is a daily decision I have to make.

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Lost (and found) arts

POD #25: Lost (and found) arts

As much as I would love to come up with some profound lost art, when I think of lost arts, I immediately think of a conversation I overheard with a man living in poverty.  He was a man who once had a promising future in the executive world, and then based on poor personal choices, found himself begging for help to make ends meet twenty years later.  We were sitting in a church looking at a picture of their first congregation standing on the footsteps of their original building.  It was a black and white photo, full of elderly people dressed in their Sunday best with stern faces.

He commented about how those were real Christians, who said what they meant and meant what they said.  Those were people who when they told you they would be there for you, would give you the shirt of their back if needed or bring you meals for a month because you were ill.  He went on to say that now people say they will be there, but if you go knocking they won’t answer the door and phone calls are ignored.  It broke my heart.

I look back on my childhood and think about how my life was impacted by the elders in the church – and by that I mean anyone older than fifteen because I stopped going to church when I was thirteen.  We went to the largest church in our community.  It ran thirteen large school buses for Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and vacation Bible school.   Yet most everyone knew everyone by name.

My thoughts are overwhelmed with the people who poured into my life, and the life of my family – that I still remember by name.  And when I run into them in the community, not having attended that church for over twenty-seven years, once they know my name, can still tell me the name of my parents.  They frequently tell stories that I have long forgotten from my childhood.  Many are upwards of seventy, some even in thier late 90s.

There was Mr. Drewry he treated me like the sun and moon set with my friendly hello and precious smile.  They yongest of five kids I often felt ignored.  He was always the first one I would search out when I got to church, I would plop down in the pew in front of him and turn around on my knees to talk to him and he listened ever so intently to my ramblings.  Seeing him three decades later, he and his wife still remembered  me.

lostandfoundMr. Nolan, he drove me crazy as a pre-teen because he insisted that we be quiet during service.  By that time, I mostly went to church for the socialization, but he was faithful to sit with us and do his best to keep us quiet.  One day he said something that stuck with me.  He told me I  never know who is being distracted in the rows around me by behavior.  He told me that could be the one chance they gave for God to speak to their life, but I was too busy whispering to my friends for the person to pay attention to what God was speaking through the pastor.  I didn’t appreciate the message then, but I sure do now.  I still hear him when I hear others talking during worship or preaching.

Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Levine were teachers in my Sunday school classes when I was pretty young.  They taught me about memorizing God’s Word.  Even though I didn’t know it at the time, those scriptures would carry me through some pretty tough times as an adult.  Both women were both so encouraging to me.  They helped me pull on the truth they had planted decades later when I found myself a young, divorced mother in need of guidance.  I wasn’t part of their church, or even a part of their life until our paths crossed one day while I was at work.  You never know where God will bring that connection.

I could talk about Ron and Jackie – some of the Children Church leaders, or Mr. Floyd or Mr. Bryant who ran the bus ministry in our neighborhood, Brother Bobby – our children’s pastor, Brother Dale our pastor, Doug, Kenny, Brent, and  Jimmy – older teenagers who took the time for a bratty little kids, The Coffees,  The Kennedy, the Meltons, and Dana – other members in our church.    They were people who walked our family though some difficult times.  I remember being at their houses, and I remember them being at ours.  We did life together.  They knew me.  They knew my family.  They knew our struggles and they walked along side us through them.  Not because they were asked to, but because they cared enough to be invovled.

Someone in the church always reached out if we missed service.  We got a personal postcard that they missed us and knew we were not there.  We often got an in person visit if we missed.  They helped with meals when someone was sick.  Someone, and often multiple people visited if a family member was in the hospital.  The drivers in the bus ministry made a personal visit to every single house on Saturday before running the route on Sunday.

The lost art in the world, that I would love to find its way back into society is  people  really being there for each other – especially in the Churc.  When Church wasn’t filled with blood family, but family by the Blood,  When fellowship meant more than just congregating  in the foyer before and after service and over a Sunday potluck.  When the Church wasn’t a building you went to on Sunday and Wednesday but the people who made up the congregation.  When people paid attention to others around them well enough to know by the look on a face when something is wrong and just reach out in concern.

I haven’t seen that is so long.  Yes, it was easy when I attended small churches for a few years.  When you have a congregation of fifty it is easy to know everyone’s name.  It is easy to see who is missing.  Small communities know when someone is in the hospital or sick and a drive across town is a small task.  Its easy to do life together when you need a weekend babysitter and you only know a few people in the small town.

We have filled our days with meetings and activities, and somehow miss the people.  As we move more and more to online communications and social media, we lose more connections.  Churches may be growing in number, and outreach may be enormous, but relationship is lacking.  People don’t know what is going on with others.  Names an faces are easily forgotten.  Needs go unnoticed.  People fade away, and no one ever knows.

I wish I knew how to bring this lost art back.  I am not always good at doing my own part.  I want it in my life, but I don’t know how to see it created.  Making connections with others seems so much harder now.  People are suffice to know about you, rather than to know you.  Social media creates a façade of relationship that is severely lacking in connection.

I want the Church to be a community that all people feel connected, loved, valued, and needed.  I want the Church to be a community that reaches out to hurting both within the community and in the world.  I want the Church to be a community that sees need and meets it, sees people and builds true relationships.  I want a community that sees the lost and loves on them until they are found.

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Annus mirabilus

POD #24: Annus mirabilus

Last week I was encouraged to read Ephesian 2 in the Message version, the entire chapter.  In it there were several lines that really jumped out at me about how to live not just a annus mirabilus, but a life mirabilus.

You let the world…tell you how to live. When I spend my time trying to do what the culture around me dictates, I am usually steered away from my purpose and led towards conformity with the world.  I am not usually a follower, but at times I do find myself going along for the ride.   I let someone else dictate my direction – even if it is just for a short period.  I was not called to walk someone else’s path; I have a unique path laid before that I must choose to walk out to see the miracles, the auspicious moments God created me for.  To live fully, I must not let the world tell me how to live, but let God tell me.

You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.  To live the amazing life I was created for, I have to stop and realize that my life is made up primarily of what I put into it.  If I want to see remarkable things happen in my life, that will not happen sitting on the sidelines of life.  I can not fill the majority of my time with unproductive activities like watching television and scrolling through social media and expect to exhale productivity into my present or future.  I have to take time and breath in things that will fill me with belief in my dreams, passion and purpose.

All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. I have seen the most amazing miracles occur when I step out of the way and just let God work through me.  When I spend my efforts to accomplish something, I can certainly do it with effort and time; but God can accomplish more in a split second than I can even fathom.  I just have to trust Him enough to listen and obey.  When I let Him do it, He not only starts it, but will complete it.  I play a supporting role, He is the director and lead role.  Just like a supporting role in a play, my role is to highlight and support the lead role and take instructions from the Director.  calendar-2052492_1920

He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. In order to have a remarkable year, to live a remarkable like, I have to allow God to tear down the walls that keep me arms length from others.  In order to accomplish what God place inside of me, I need God and I need other people.  I need people who have been where I am that can help me learn from their experience.  People who will speak discipline, correction, and encouragement to help expedite the process.  I need people to walk alongside of me, to encourage and support me.  People with a similar dream and passion who will help carry the burden of the purpose before us.  And I need people who will need what I have to offer.  People who not only will receive it, but who will take the wisdom and knowledge I impart and make it the stepping block for something bigger and better in the next generation.

You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone.  To really live in the concept of annus mirabilus, I have to be willing to accept the calling God has placed on my life.  I can not walk in anything I don’t accept.  I have to accept everything He says about me, and not listen to those who tell me that I am not qualified, or don’t have a right.  I have to accept it, and then walk in my annus mirabilus. 

I can choose this year to let the life that I was designed to live roll out before me.  I can choose to see the miracles come forth that God wants to do both in and through me.  I just have to stop letting the world dictate my future.  I need to be more careful about the things I spend my time doing, as I will only get out of life what I put into it.  I need to trust God through the process and just let Him work.  I need to evaluate the relationships that I have and invest in them instead of allowing insecurities and fears to create distance. And then I need to just walk in the fullness of who my Creator says that I am and what He says I can do through Him.  This could be my annus mirabilus!

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Your Natural State

POD #23:  Your natural state

Immediately as I ready the title of today’s prompt I thought I live in the natural state!  Arkansas used to be the “Land of Opportunity” when I was born, now it is the “Natural State.”  If only it was as easy as changing a slogan or crossing a state line to be able to drop my fears and walk in the version of myself that I was designed for by my Creator.

Fear is by definition an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  How quickly, even as children, we begin to develop this sense of fear as we interpret the environment around us.  Often, the more we are exposed to the world, the greater those fears grow.  This is especially true when we live in an isolated version of the world and are interpreting danger, pain or threat from the third-hand reports of others.  One need only look at the fear frenzy caused by social media in regards to political events, community tragedies, and social problems to see this.

balanced-rock-2069028_1280I think fear comes from the unknown – not knowing what the truth is.  There are things in my life that I have faced where initially the seed of fear was placed because I did not have the factual information of what lay ahead.

The idea of going to college in a new place, away from family and friends created a certain amount of fear.  When I went and toured the school I fell in love with the community.  When I located housing for my family the fear lessened.  As I made connections in the community I had even greater peace.  The more I knew, the less I feared.  Or starting a new job creates a certain level of fear, but usually after a few weeks that fear subsides because I come to know my environment and what is expected from me.

Many people fear people who are homeless.  Having been homeless for a stent in my life, I do not fear people with no home.  I know that there are good and bad in any group.  I know some people truly chose to be homeless, others made a series of poor choices that led to the situation, and still others have ended up homeless due to events outside their control.  I also know that desperate people do desperate things, and sometimes people act outside of their character to meet the needs of those they care about.  Having knowledge about the causes of homelessness and the barriers they face helps me not to fear homeless people.

So I think that to un-acquire, divest of, shed or release any and every fear I have acquired over my lifetime takes wisdom and knowledge.  When I look at my life and the areas where I have fears, I need to educate myself.  First I need to rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom to guide and direct me. I can also do my part by researching and educating myself from the knowledge that has been given to others through talking with those who have faced what I am fearful of, reading books, and watching material that has been created.  I need to make sure that information I am obtaining is from reliable and trustworthy resources.  I need to make sure that I am not just looking for information that agrees with my opinion, but really provides a rounded view of all sides of the topic.

When I envision a version of myself that moves about the world boldly, freely and with confidence that, ultimately, everything is actually working out in my favor, it is a version that stands firmly on the promises in God’s Word. When I seek God’s wisdom, His word promises in Proverbs 8:35  “Whoever finds me (Wisdom) finds life and receives favor from the Lord.”  When I look for it, I see God’s favor on my life; but it is easy to let my fears drown out wisdom and ultimately his favor if I left it.

When I envision a version of myself that stays constantly certain that everything is alright, regardless of the current state of my circumstances it is because I am trusting fully in God.  I can be certain that it will be alright because of the promise contained in Romans 8:28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  When I stay focused on God instead of giving way to fear, I can look towards the process that I may be going through; knowing that despite where I am at in the moment, ultimately God will work everything out for my good.

Fear drives me to listen to the world around me, instead of the one within me.  Fear keeps me from stepping out into the gifts and callings that God has placed inside of me, and prepared for me long ago.  The fearless me, would speak out for others who have lost their voice – those marginalized by society – the homeless, the single parents, the broken, the abused child, the trafficked woman, the hopeless.  The fearless me would rally the communities around these people to reach out and support the causes that help them – to rally them to support with their time and with their finances.  The fearless me, would reach out to the churches with the urgency that Christ warns us about to begin to walk in love and unity with each other, across denominational lines, to be the hands and feet to meet the needs of those that society has marginalized, those that we have learned to fear instead of love as Christ did.  I would be fearless.  I would be undaunted in my pursuit. I would be spent on what I know God has called me to do.

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 Your guidance system

POD #22: Your guidance system

I have never really thought about my internal guidance system,  but I do not generally trust it. I do trust myself to make sound decisions and to not intentionally place myself in danger.  I trust that I will not do anything outside my character.  I trust myself to do things that I am good at.  However, when it comes to everything else, I often question if I am being led by the right motive.  I question if I am being prideful, selfish, or a show-off, all things that I strive hard to stay away from since I fully grasped that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

Since I ask these questions, I often fail to step out when I feel like I should because I don’t want to make things all about me.  Instead I find myself, pausing and waiting; often missing the moment of opportunity.  I bargain and say things like “if such and such happens than I will know that I am supposed to do that.” Sometimes those things happen and I will step out, other times nothing happens.  I will also often wait for someone to ask me to do the specific thing before I step out into it.  I reason even if I felt like I should do it before, that if someone asks I am meeting a need, not thinking more highly of myself than I should.

Yesterday, my husband and I had stopped at a store and there was an older lady that came out with a full grocery cart.  She wasn’t necessarily elderly or feeble at all, she was just older than me.  I felt a prompting that I should walk over and help her load her groceries into the car.  I didn’t.  I reasoned away the opportunity that she might be offended or that my husband might think I was just showing off “my goodness.”.

Helping the lady with her groceries would not have cost me anything, not even more time.  I was just standing there waiting for my husband to smoke his cigarette before we got back on the motorcycle.   He was still smoking when she finished loading her groceries, put her cart back, got into her car, and drove away.

Looking back on my life, I realize I don’t regret anything I have done.  My actions have made me who I am.  Even the poorest of decisions I have made shaped my life for the better as I learn from my mistakes and shortcomings.

Yet, as I look back, there are many regret of things I have not done.  Opportunities missed, often never come around again.  I let my past self-centeredness stop me from guiding me to step out into good and better things.

architecture-1867993_1920I don’t have a solution for learning to trust my guidance center.  I say that because I also have the Holy Spirit inside of me.  He also offers guidance and direction.  Yet, just as I reason with myself, I also reason with Him.  The one difference when I question if the voice is coming from Him, I can ask two questions 1) Does what I am hearing line up with what God’s Word says in the Bible? 2) Does it bring glory and honor to God?  These two questions, when answered yes, mean that it is not something contrary to God that is trying to influence my thoughts and actions.  I know that because the devil is a liar and he doesn’t want to bring honor to God.  I do trust God that He will continue to work in me and through me until His perfect will is done in and through my life.

 

 

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His Time

This morning during my reading plan the phrase “His time had not yet come.” stuck out at me.  I can be impatient at times.  I like to think I have gotten better, but I was reminded of my short-comings in the area as I drove to brunch with my daughter and got behind a car traveling ten miles under the speed limit, with her phone visibly in her hand.  I didn’t slam on my horn, or speed around and past her, but I did ask who taught her to drive as she pulled parallel into a driveway without using her blinker right as we passed through a stoplight.  Then I promptly thanked God for getting her off the road before me.

And then there are things I am waiting on God for, clear words of instruction on things that He has promised.  Yes, I wait on Him, and at times through great peril, but really I am not very patient in my waiting.  Really what I would love for God to do, is more similar to the Burger King slogan “”My way, Right away.”  I think He should do things how I think they should be done, in my timing, but with His results of course.

There is vision He has given me, that I have full faith and trust that they will come to pass in my life.  However, there are times I question if I really heard from God because I am seeing very little movement in those areas.  Sometimes, He reminds me, and shows me that just because it doesn’t look like I thought it would – doesn’t mean He isn’t laying the groundwork for those promises to come to pass.

clock-407101_1920Time is mentioned 996 times throughout the Bible in different contexts.  Yet today, hearing those words “His time had not yet come” brought me peace.  No one had a more important mission on this earth than Christ.  Yet, even He was bound by time while on this earth.

His first miracle, He knew it wasn’t yet time for Him to step out in His glory.  Yet, in obedience to His mother, He turned water into wine to meet the needs of others.

John 2:4 Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

There were also others in His life that tried to speed up His destiny.  However, they were unsuccessful because the timing was not right.

John 7:30  Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.

John 8:20  Jesus made these statements while he was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But he was not arrested, because his time had not yet come.

Promises given were only fulfilled in God’s perfect timing.  The angel came to Zechariah and told him that his wife would give birth to John the Baptizer.  Zechariah questioned how and the angel responded:

Luke 1:20  But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

Jesus knew when His time had come.  He knew leading up to the Passover, that His time had come.  He knew that He was about to walk into destiny.  The time was right.

John 13:1  Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.

Matthew 26:18 “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’”

I realize in these scriptures that God’s timing is perfect.  Sometimes He lets us walk in a moment before our time, because of a request to meet the needs of others.  Jesus stepped out at the request of others.  Maybe we haven’t been fully equipped for the plan and purpose He has for us, but there is a person who needs what we have right then.  And God’s glory shines through.

It doesn’t matter how much others wants to make something happen, to push me into my destiny.  God’s timing is perfect, and it will not come to pass until all the pieces of the puzzle of my life are in place for the masterpiece that He created me to be.  I can not be forced to walk in things before His time.

However, when God’s timing comes, no power in hell can stop what He wants to do in and through me.  I will know when I am walking in the complete fullness of what God wants to do in my life.  His glory will be revealed when that time comes, and everything will fall in to place as others will also understand the time has come.

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The glove of indirectness

POD #21: The glove of indirectness

I sometimes make assumptions, probably more than I should.  If I don’t understand something I don’t have a problem directly asking questions until I do understand.  However, if something is said that could just be misinterpreted, I might not ask for clarification.  Not because I can’t, but because I assume I might not like the answer,  I might not want the true interpretation because it might hurt more than what I heard.

I could make an assumption that they meant to hurt me, which creates a distance in our relationship.  If I am hurt, I might withdraw and then they might not try to see what is wrong.  So the distance grows.  One punch in our relationship might not cause me to fall.  However, with enough misunderstandings that are never cleared, I’m down for the count and then the relationship might end prematurely – all because of what could be a misunderstanding.

Instead, I have another Jackie-ism that I use when I have interpreted something someone close to me or important to me says that I receive with hurt feelings.  I ask myself “What is their heart towards me?”

See people who are not important to me, they don’t have a heart towards me, I can shrug off what they say with “If it had been anyone else.”  However, if they are important to me, I know that their words have power.  So instead, I look at what they would mean to impart into my life so I can see what they are saying in light of constructive criticism instead of hurtful banter.  I can again decide if it is something that I need to work on in myself, allow God to work in through me, or if they are speaking out of their own situation at that moment.

box-1331470_1920If I know their heart towards me is good, I will eventually discuss with them what was said.  I generally wait because if I’m hurt, my lion personality will come out and I will directly cause more pain in our relationship than they ever meant to.  Plus that gives me time to do the soul-searching on the truth behind what was said.  Then I can come back to them with “Man that hurt me when you said…” or “Man, what you said the other day really gave me pause.  Thank you for caring enough about me to bring that to me.  I realized I really needed to work in that area, nd here is what I was thinking….”

What I am not good at directly communicating, is my needs.  First and foremost, it is hard to me ask because I generally don’t know what I need.  My life is content.  But, on the occasions when I do find myself in need, I really do have to work up courage to ask.  Usually I remind myself “You have not, because you ask not.” and “The worst thing that can happen is they say no – and you’ll be no different from now.  But they could say yes.”

Sometimes I assume others know what I want.  I especially do that with those close to me.  I think that they should know me well enough to know I want presence over presents.  I prefer service over material things.  I want quality time together over quantity of time.  These are things I believe that people close to me should know. When they fail to live up to my expectations, then I remind myself I am not a mind reader, and others probably are not either.  If I get upset enough by those needs getting met, then I will ask for time or share how I feel.  However, even then I wait a bit because again, when I’m hurt that lion personality comes out and every negative trait about it surfaces.

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It ain’t about you

POD #20: It ain’t about you

If your words have power is the first of my Jackie-isms, the second would be “If it was anyone else it would bother me.”

I remember the first time that this thought came to me.  I was sitting in a meeting at work.  We were, as a group, planning to participate in Relay for Life in honor of our county manager who passed away from cancer.  I was a new kids on the block in our office, but I loved our manager.  He was just an all around great guy.

We were brainstorming ideas.  I threw out an idea, and one of the “old-timers” who had been at the office for decades shut me shot me down.  It wasn’t just a polite “no, that probably wouldn’t work.”; he really belittled the idea.  Many of the people in the room looked at me in pity for how he had treated me – publicly.   I was in shock, and hopefully showed little response.  However, inside I was crushed.  I had never felt more humiliated and small in my entire life.

When the meeting was over, I made my way over to my cubicle and sat down in defeat.  One of my coworkers came over and made a comment about the treatment of the “old-timer” towards me.  That’s when the word’s escaped my mouth, without pause I said “Yea, and if anyone else had done that to me it would bother me.” And I meant it.  The “old-timer” eventually because a respected colleague and friend, who stayed in touch even after I left the agency.

However, at that moment in time, I had come on board and been handed many of his families that he worked with.  Then I completely changed all that he had been working on with the families.  I was a new social worker and had every intention on changing the world.  He was a seasoned worker, who knew the families, and their parents, and grandparents – he knew the history.  I knew that my approach was different from his, and he didn’t like my “new way.”

Although the comments he made were personal.  I didn’t take them as that longer than a moment, because I knew his response wasn’t to me personally, but to the perceived threat I brought to his was of doing things.  So I knew that if someone else had made those comments, it might have been personal.  However, this time I could discount what he said because his anger was about something else.  And I kept the mantra “IF it was anybody else it would bother me.” since.

There are times that I get caught up thinking that comments are geared towards me, or actions are because of me.  Typically, they come when I feel excluded from things.    When it is comments, I apply my mantra “If it was anyone else, it would bother me.”  Comments I can generally let go of pretty quick.  Actions, take a little more work.  Eventually I work it out, realizing it  has more to do with my framing than the intentional actions of others.

fall-163496_1280Who I am is not dependent upon the opinions, or actions of others.  Just as currency gets its value from the treasury where it is created, my value comes from my creator.  If I take a $100.00 bill and tell you it is worth more or less, it will not change that it really is a $100.00 – no more, no less. It doesn’t matter what others say about me, it does not change my worth or value.   If I spend that $100.00 on doing something good, or spend doing something bad – it doesn’t change its value.  It is still worth $100.00.  It doesn’t matter if the things I have spent my life on are good or downright evil, it  doesn’t change my worth or value.   If I take that $100 bill and use it to snort cocaine or even tear it up so that it is barely able to be pieced back together with tape – it is still worth $100.00.  My worth and value doesn’t change just because someone slights me, or because of the terrible things that have happened to me throughout my life.  My worth my value can only be changed by my Creator.

With that truth engrained in my life,  I need only refocus back to the truth when I start feeling swayed by the opinions of others.  Other’s opinions about me, I can take it and see if there is truth to what they are saying.  I can take it to my Creator and say “Is this something I need to work on.”  A lot of times the answer is yes, but it is His opinion, not that of someone else that will bring about the change I need in my life.  There are also times that I take that opinion, and say “Sorry, that is who I am.”

There are also times that I have to stop and look at who is saying or doing the thing that I am taking personally.  Where are they at in the moment?  Are they speaking out of love?  Are they speaking out of anger?  Are they tired?  Are they hurt?  I know that I sometimes speak things I would prefer to take back when I am angry, tired and hurt.  I have to afford others the same grace that I want extended to me.  I have to realize that everything said ain’t about me.  I have to know that people’s behaviors also aren’t always about me.

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The Power of Your Word

POD #19: The Power of Your Word

One of the quotes that those close to me would say is a Jackie-ism is “Your words have power.”    I grew up hearing the scripture that “the power of life and death are in the tongue. ” But I don’t know when it really clicked for me that what we say truly is creative in our life.

The power of spoken word is something that I am a firm believer in, and a guiding principle for most things I say.  I am not perfect by any means with this, but if I catch myself, I correct it.  When others speak negative things, I immediately point out their words have power too.  I drive my co-workers crazy with it, but I can not help the firmness of my belief.  I can’t stop what thoughts come time my mind, but I can control what I allow to come out of it.

I do my best not to speak out things that can have a negative impact on my life.  If I claim I have a headache – it is generally after I have spoken it out of existence for a while and it continues with intensity.  I do not speak illness into my life, and I am a healthy person (Still working on being fit, but I am healthy.).  Not that I am good about speaking blessing over myself, but I do not speak the negative very much.

In the power of my word in others’ lives, I think the first time it really understood this principle was around 2003.  I was a very negative person; not that I couldn’t see people’s strengths and point them out, that was my job and I was great at it.  Yet, I really focused on the negative with my husband, my children, and those closest to me.  My marriage was really struggling at the time, and a good friend asked me rather frankly “Jackie, why are you married to your husband?”  After the initial shock of her question wore off my face, she went on to say “You never say anything nice about him – ever.”

That statement cut me to the core.  So I set about to change.  Initially, I would have to catch myself mid-sentence.  Then I started being very selective to who I might complain to about my husband.  Eventually, I would only complain to God or share with a friend one time what my husband was doing that was driving me nuts.  It really was a life changing statement my friend made.  My marriage quickly took on new life as I stopped speaking negative about my husband and it has only improved since that time.

wordpowerI realized I had the same pattern with my children.  I admit this is an area I still struggle with, there are weeks I feel like the only conversation I am having with my youngest daughter is how she doesn’t pick up after herself and I am tired of doing it – most every parent’s battle.  However, I now usually try to balance out correction with positives.  There really are so many positives about my now grown children.  I didn’t do a great job of it when they were younger.  They were probably in their early teens when I started asking myself (And admittedly they would also sometimes ask me) “If this is the worse thing my kids ever do, would the world still go on.”  The answer was always a resounding “yes.”  Looking back, I am so thankful for God’s grace covering them from a lot of my negativity and anger.

I know my negative pattern came from my mother when I was growing up and some from my siblings towards my parents and each other.  The environment I grew up in was not at all nurturing.  Our physical needs were always met – we always had food, shelter, clothing.  My parents took care of birthdays, Christmas, and start of school.  They were very good at meeting our spiritual needs  – taking us to church, reading the Bible and showing us that with problems – even big ones God could be the answer.  They even met our educational needs – making sure we attended school and did our homework.   But our emotional needs were completely ignored.

There were times that nothing we did could please my mother, she was such an angry person.  She could always find the negative things we had done and harp on them for hours, days or weeks.  I think I was blessed as the youngest child, because she was wore out.   She began working full-time from the time I started school and so my exposure was limited to weekends, holidays, and summer when we would be home when she was awake.  I also had the benefit of have older siblings, aunts, a grandmother, and many other adults who spoke life into me.

When I get focused on something that someone has said about me, something that is draining my life – I remind myself that my worth and value do not come from what I have done, what others have done to me, or what others say about me.  My value comes from my Creator.  Then I work to refocus my thoughts about what He says about me.  I won’t say I am always successful, but that is the strategy I use when I find myself slowly dying from words spoken over me or to me.

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