Sunday, October 20, 2019

Marriage Troubles? Time to Apply & Integrate Your Identity in Christ - Guest Post

Hey Friend,

While I'm off to my 40th high school reunion (am I really THAT old?), my good friend, Beth Steffaniak, is stepping in to guest post.  I never miss a post on her blog "Messy Marriage."  Beth keeps it real and her posts on marriage are firmly based upon scripture.

Beth's story is not what you'd expect from a pastor's wife and life coach.  Beth admits that she came into marriage with emotional wounds and unhealthy patterns.  She admits that her baggage made her marriage messy in no time. 

Beth writes from a position of a life and story redeemed.  I've been blessed to attend She Speaks writers' conference with Beth.  She's the "real deal" and I am grateful to call her friend.  Beth is a new, gushing Grandma to Samson and since she'll be having major surgery on Oct. 24th, I encourage you to leave her some lovin' in the Comments on her blog (but know she may not be able to respond).

Marriage Troubles?  Time to Apply & Integrate Your Identity in Christ...

Staying in an unrelenting and difficult marriage can really take a toll on your sense of identity, making you feel as if you don’t know who you are apart from what you do.

People often try to fix this problem by doing more or different things—like exercising more so that you feel and look better. Though that’s a good thing to do, it should never be what you base your identity on. Those are roles and actions that can temporarily encourage, but do nothing to establish your identity in Christ.  Click HERE to join Beth at her blog, "Messy Marriage" for the rest of this post...
Just an aside...God does not ask you to stay in a verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive marriage.  You are God's precious child and He does not want you to endure such treatment.  Do seek professional help (even if your spouse won't).  God loves you!
I'll be back in my writer's seat in a couple weeks.
Be blessed....
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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Are You Struggling With Suffering?

Hey Friend,

What is the most asked question on Google?

I stumbled upon an article on this topic and was curious.  What was the burning question on everyone's mind???

If you know me, you'll know why I didn't even understand the is:

What is my ip?

I admit that I didn't know that "ip" stands for "internet protocol".  Over 3 million people ask this question every month.  This question doesn't keep me up at night, but another one used to:

Is there any good purpose to suffering?  or Why do good people suffer?

My life story is marked with joy, but it's also been marked by A LOT of suffering.  I remember people telling me that God comforts us in our suffering, and my response was, "That's nice, but I'd rather be comfortable without the suffering...thank you very much."

I remember thinking that God had truly abandoned me.  There is nothing so awful as thinking that the God of the Universe has given up on you and you are all alone in the mess.  It's agonizing.

I went to get my flu shot and before me was a little girl getting her shot.  Understandably, she was terrified.  She wanted nothing to do with that needle.  The more her mother tried to console her, the more she grew anxious.  Upon injection, she let out an ear-piercing scream.  It hurt!  Why was the nurse hurting her, and why was her mother holding her still and just looking on?

Her mother didn't relish the anguish that her daughter was suffering, but because of her child's health concerns, she KNEW that the painful shot was the BEST thing for her delicate daughter.

Through suffering, I have learned that God is more concerned about my character than He is about my comfort. 

He never wanted me to suffer, most of my life, with mental illness, but I have been plagued with anxiety and depression as far back as I can remember.  I have had several despairing experiences wherein I seriously contemplated taking my own life because ANYTHING would be better than the intense suffering I was experiencing.

So what have I learned from this suffering?

1.  How to pray for strength to endure.  I KNOW what it is to persevere.  A counselor once told me, "If 'Perseverance' was a course in school, you'd get an A+." 

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.  And HOPE does not disappoint us...  (Romans 5:4-5a) 

Hope is a byproduct of suffering, ironic, but true.

2.  I've learned compassion for others and developed an intimate relationship with the Lord.  Having gone through a season of six years marked by six major surgeries back to back, I have a compassion for others, that I know I would never have, had I not gone through such trials.  Suffering has born in me an empathy that allows me to speak the love of Christ into other people's lives when they are suffering.

I also know, that suffering is the necessary crucible that refines me and it has taken me to the deepest levels of my faith.  I know, without a doubt, that God is faithful to His promises.  He is good.  And, He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I can look back and see how His righteous right hand has held me through it all.  I would not have this confidence had it not been for the seasons of suffering.

3.  It has built my hope in the future.  Romans 12:12 foretells a time when "no resident will say, 'I am sick.'"  A day is coming when God will cure chronic illnesses that are beyond the power of modern science to solve.  We will be returned to our "youthful vigor."  

I don't have a "bucket list" because I know that this life is fleeting.  I'm not putting all my stock in the limited years I walk this earth.  I know that the real living will be accomplished in eternity.  This life is practice and a time of learning for what is ultimately to come.  

4.  It has helped me to experience true joy.  God graciously gives me glimpses of the joy to come.  After the suffering that came from being abandoned after 25+ years of marriage, I have joy and gratitude that I never could have experienced in my marriage of 5 years, had I not experienced the dark days of sadness.  I thank God every single day for the blessing of my husband and the second chance at living in a covenant relationship that He's given me.

5.  Struggling/suffering indicates the presence of Christ working in my life.  When Christ is vibrantly at work in and through me, the enemy is furious.  He wants to take me out.  I have never felt so persecuted as when I have been doing the Lord's work.  Working as the Executive Director of a Christian School that is bringing the hope of Jesus to orphans in the Middle better believe I'm constantly under attack, but I'm called to take up my cross and follow Him.  

If we follow Christ we will share in His suffering as well.  

The dark brush strokes of suffering make the bright brush strokes of joy stand out more brilliantly.

God's omniscient and all-knowing mind knows everything.  He is above ALL things, even evil.  Even though some suffering "seems" to have no good purpose, an "all-good" God has a good purpose for everything.  

God never desired suffering for us.  He created a perfect world and man ushered in the presence of evil.  We may suffer because of consequences of our sin or we may suffer for apparently no reason at all.

I DO KNOW that God can and will redeem every moment of suffering we experience and He will catch every tear that falls.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that you are an all-knowing and good, good, Father.  Your plans are plans for me to prosper, not to bring me harm. Help me to know, that even if I suffer, you will bring beauty from the ashes.  Enable me to lean into you and to know, with all confidence, that you will never leave nor forsake me.  Give me the strength and perseverance needed to walk THROUGH these trials with you.  I cling to your righteous right hand.  Thank you for the joy that you want to restore unto me.  Give me faith and trust when I have doubts.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you question why you or others you love suffer?  Do you want God to replace your doubts with belief?  If you are suffering, what might God be at work accomplishing in your life?  Do you trust His goodness?  What lessons have you learned through suffering?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Finding the Narrow Road to Life

Hey Friend,

Even our GPS seemed perplexed...

My husband and I had been winding our way down and around country roads for close to a half hour.  We could see our destination marked on the GPS system, but when we got to where we thought we could get to it, there was no road.

We made a right and traveled on what we thought was the correct road, but it didn't lead to our destination.  Frustrated, we turned the car around as a few cows lazily munched on grass and looked at us curiously.

We made another pass by and still we couldn't find the way in.  Finally, creeping along the main road, we saw a narrow gravel road leading off the road we were on, into the tall oaks.  It looked like the proverbial "road to nowhere."  We decided to follow it out of utter curiosity.

We wound around a few curves in the road, going deeper into the mix of pines and oaks, until we finally came upon a narrow gate.  The sign read, "Lavender Oaks Farm."  We'd found it!!  

Five hundred feet on ahead, the gravel road opened up to reveal a gorgeous lavender farm that was beginning it's spring bloom and burst into beauty.  What a gorgeous oasis out in the middle of nowhere.  

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

I have had to ask the Lord to open my eyes to the emptiness of this world - the broad road.

One of the allures of the wide road is self focus.

Yes, we need to take good care of God's temple - our body - but there is a shallowness to the whole booming business of self-care and self-pampering.  I love a good massage as much as the next person, but when my spiritual tank is empty, instead of a mani-pedi, I need to get into God's word and hang out with Him for a good stretch of time.

Those that seem to "have it all" often die unhappy, unfulfilled, and separated from God.

Another allure of the wide road is idolatry.

The world idolizes actors, actresses, models, singers, and sports figures.  There is a big difference, however, between fame and success.  I pray that I will not be tempted by the wide road that leads to destruction.

Instead of idolizing the shiny new car in my neighbor's driveway or how perfect her kids appear to be, I need to focus on thanking God for what and who He has put in my life.  Gratitude is a great cure for the green-eyed monster.

In my life, I want to be continually transformed into the likeness of Christ.

The real purpose of life is not to be "entertained," but to walk with the Lord and serve Him and serve others.

In my quiet time, I found this profound and alluring piece of scripture that I don't remember reading before.  It really spoke to me about finding the narrow road to life.  

In it, it refers to a narrow road that is called "The Holy Way".  I invite you to read it slowly and take it in:

A road will be there and a way;
It will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.

Fools will not wander upon it.
There will be no lion there,
and no vicious beast will go up on it;
they will not be found there.

But the redeemed will walk on it,
and the redeemed of the Lord will return
and come to Zion with singing,
crowned with unending joy.

Joy and gladness will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee.

(Isaiah 35: 8-10)

Dear Heavenly Father, enable me to find the small gate and the narrow road that leads to life.  I know only a few will find it.  Help me to not be lured by self focus and idolatry and all the other shiny things the world has to offer.  When my spiritual tank is empty, let me come and drink from your springs of life.  Let me have a thirst for your Holy Word.  What a glorious road it will be into Zion.  No sin, no beasts will walk upon it.  Fools will be turned away and only the redeemed made righteous in Christ's blood will find it.  What joy and gladness will overtake me and my tears will be wiped away forever.  Thank Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  How does the world lure you away from "The Holy Way"?  How is God calling you to redirect/change your ways in order to find the narrow road to life? How does this scripture speak to you, personally?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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