Forgive Those Against You.

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Saying some prayers this evening for those who have figuratively nailed me or anyone within my family (my parents and sister included) to a cross.

I may have not been “in the right” but neither were they. In all situations, it takes two to reach the outcome.  It takes two to argue.  It takes two to point fingers.  But it only takes one to stand up for what is right.

It is not one-sided, it is not a blame game, it isn’t a game of wits, and it isn’t about who told the honest truth over who told the personal truth dabbed with lies.

It isn’t about who has the ability to stand up for themselves.  It’s about who has the ability to stand up for Him.

You can judge me, you can criticize me, and you can persecute me.
But then you cannot stand and call yourself a believer.  You cannot stand there and preach against one thing and act another.

“Do not repay evil with evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.  If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” – Romans 12: 18-21 (HCSB)

I may not be (and possibly never will be) at a place where I can reconcile. It is my Christian duty to forgive others so that my Father will forgive me .

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him so that your Father in Heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.” -Mark 11:25

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The Never-Ending Hug.

One of my friends posted this picture yesterday and I couldn’t pass it up.

This picture speaks volumes.  Therefore, this blog is going to be super short.

I am so thrilled that I was able to return to my faith and finally see and feel what God was doing in me and in the lives of people around me.

I am thankful that He overcame death so that he could forgive every wrong that I have ever done and that I will ever do.

He speaks to us through His word and shows us that He is there for us every step of the way.  We just have to trust Him and allow Him to take us into His arms to show us the way.

Rebuilding.

Heavenly Father,

We live in a world where it is all too easy to become the center of attention; even if we don’t want it.  There are situations on the Earth that happen and we don’t understand why.

In those times, it may feel like we want to just give up.  We become so overwhelmed with human emotion that we reach a point where we can no longer carry ourselves.  We ask that in those moments, you are there to help carry us.

Your gentle hand gives us a breath of fresh air and helps us keep focus on you and your wondrous works.  You offer us solutions and help us adapt to the changes in our lives or our surroundings.

You offer us a sense of peace in the midst of chaos.  We have breakthroughs instead of breakdowns.  You heal us just when we feel as if we have been completely broken.

Today, I lift one particular family up to you in our prayers.  For you know how broken-down and weary they are.  I just ask that you continue to do your work in them as they continue this difficult journey that they are on.  Offer them guidance and clarity on the struggles that they are facing.  Continue to give them faith not only in You, but in themselves as well as each other.  Do not let them give up; carry them.  Turn their foundation from cracked and crumbled limestone into a foundation held sturdy with you as the cornerstone.

Give the members of this community the strength to not slander when they do not know the struggles.  You tell us in 1 Peter to build up one another instead of knocking each other down.  Help us to build up this family instead of knocking them down with words and actions.  If you are for us, who can be against?

Lord, we ask that you continue to give us direction and the strength to continue down paths that are pleasing to you.

In your name we pray,

Amen.

Living On Edge.

One of the biggest things that irritates me about myself is my temper.  Maybe more of my patience.  Not meaning I’m walking around angry all the time but more of the fact that I get so easily frustrated with situations that are not worth flying off the handle for.

And I get mad at the fact that I’m mad.  Then I get even more mad.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Today, for example, I was furious with Verizon Wireless after about…. 5 minutes of using their online chat.

Shane and I have been battling them over one thing or another since I can remember. (I was evening battling them before we started dating.)  We often times find additional charges or changes to our plan that were not authorized.  But recently, we have been dealing with the Edge plan.  (A plan through Verizon that you can get a brand new phone without paying for it up front and it is split up into payments that are added onto your bill; you also get a discount.  It’s pretty impressive actually.)  We were both eligible before we got married and Shane “Edge’d up” when we looked into it and I was going to “Edge up” when we got our plans combined.  I was looking forward to this since I have had numerous issues with my iPhone and just wanted to be done with it.  However, in the midst of all the changing and transferring, my eligibility was removed.  We made numerous calls and spent hours upon hours on the phone with different agents to see what we would do to remedy the situation.  We came up dry.  I got mad.

Of course I got mad.  My phone only works when it wants to.  You don’t realize how much you use your phone until you can’t.  I use it for everything; blogging/checking the notifications, banking, schooling, checking on my loans, social networking, researching different things; the list goes on.

However, I was contacting Verizon last week because my phone completely quit.  I couldn’t do anything.  I was disconnected from WiFi, it wouldn’t connect to 4G or 3G, in fact, it said “No Service.”  So, I hopped on Verizon chat and did some troubleshooting with the agent for a while and we just happened to be making small talk when our issues with the Edge program were addressed.  She couldn’t understand why nothing was done about it before since it was a simple form to fill out.  She promised that she would take care of it and I would see results.  I was impressed.

I went back on today to just check and see if there was anything more I could do on my end and what their system was showing.  BIG MISTAKE.  The agent I was paired up with could not differentiate between Shane’s phone line (who happens to be the account holder) and my phone line.  He was trying to tell me that I was already on the Edge plan and that I needed to pay off $300+ dollars in order to “Edge up” again.  Um.  No.  That’s my husband, not me.  I tried to explain it better (since all I wanted to know was if the form was filled out) in hopes that he would understand; no go.  The longer I sat there explaining the same thing over and over, the more frustrated I grew.  Like, crazy rabid squirrel frustrated; fangs showing, foaming at the mouth, pulling my hair out frustrated.  Eventually, I got tired of wasting my breath (after explaining the same thing over and over for about a half hour) that I asked for his employee ID to leave him a review and logged off.

My blood was boiling.

As soon as the chat was ended and I took a few breaths, I realized that I was frustrated over something so small and so stupid.  Then I started reciting this verse without realizing it:  “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be come angry.” – James 1:19

I often hear my husband mummer this under his breath when something is frustrating him.  He also happens to be one of the most patient, understanding, and forgiving men I know.  I have him to rely on and to help build me up and encourage me, but yet it is so difficult for me to stay calm in situations that try my patience.

Shane really is a living example of Christ’s love and how we, as Christians, should be conducting ourselves.  We need patience instead of anxiousness.  We need calm instead of chaos.  We need to listen instead of slander.

I can only pray that I can begin to show patience and understanding in my character.

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

Hidden Faces.

Betrayal (verb) : to deliver or expose to an enemy by disloyalty; to be unfaithful; to disappoint.
Denial (noun) : an assertion that something that is said or believed is false; refusal to believe doctrine; disbelief of existence of a thing.

At some point in our lives, we have all experienced one of these emotions.  Maybe from family, friends, co-workers, or maybe in some cases, ourselves.  There have been times that we may have denied a friendship or talked about someone behind their back with someone else, there may have been times that we refused to believe someone even though they were telling us the truth, there may have been times where we have disappointed others or ourselves.

But the extent that we have felt these emotions are nothing compared to what Christ felt.  He was betrayed not once but three times by one of His followers, He was mocked, He was tortured; all so that we didn’t have to be.

But His denial didn’t stop with Peter; it continues with us.  I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times where I didn’t admit to being a believer.  The friends I spent most of my time around in High School were not believers and I got tired to fighting the fight of trying to convince them to believe.    Even though I didn’t deny it, the fact that I didn’t defend my faith – defend Him – wasn’t close enough to betrayal – it was betrayal.  My betrayal to Him was worse when I stopped worshiping.  I quit going to church, I stopped praying, I took my issues upon myself and majority of the time, they got worse.

We turn our faces in fear as to what others will think.  We get the frame of mind that no situation is bad enough to where we need His help.  We lose faith because of things we may have been put through in our lives; deaths, abuse, divorce, life-threatening diseases/illnesses, and so on.  We become bitter and closed off because we just don’t understand “why us.”

But since Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we no longer have to live like fearful and faithless cowards.  We can stand proud, confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9
He is there to make our crimson stained lives white again.  He is there to cleanse us from all that is unholy.

Since yesterday was Resurrection Sunday, Shane and I braved watching The Passion of the Christ with the kids.  Talk about a tough movie to watch; especially with two kids who are visually sensitive to movies like this.

I first saw in in 2004 while I was in confirmation.  At the time, I was a bit put off by all the blood and gore that was shown but I didn’t fully understand the meaning behind it.

However, watching it 11 years later had a whole new feel to it.  I understood why these things were happening.  I found a greater appreciation for what He endured so that we didn’t have to.  But, the kids covered their eyes and hid their faces as the most pivotal points in the movie were happening. (But I can’t say that I blame them.)

But then I realized our biggest faults here on Earth.

We hide our faces.

We hide in fear that we may not “fit in” or that we will be viewed as “weak.”

We cannot keep living a life of masquerade.  How can He help us if we don’t allow Him to?

Sometimes we just need a pivotal moment in our lives to knock us down and show us that we cannot keep living our lives the way we had been.  My moment?  When I realized I had been brainwashed to become a person I wasn’t.  When I realized I was fighting with my family more than I was talking to them.  When I realized that that ring on my finger felt more like a noose.  That was when I realized that I needed Jesus and that I needed to stop living in denial and misery.

We have two choices; continue on a destructive path harming ourselves and those around us or ask Him to guide us back onto the path that He has laid out for us.

He gave His life for us, the least we could do is give up our lives to Him.

What is your choice?

Are you willing to uncover your face?
Are you willing to uncover your face?

The Demons Inside.

There are battles that we as humans go through every day; greed, lust, self-image, forms of self-destruction, etc.

Just yesterday, I was battling self-image.  I was getting ready for work and didn’t even recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror.  Her hair was lighter, her eyes were brighter, her lips were smooth and her cheeks were defined.  That wasn’t me.  I have lifeless hair that hangs, my eyes tend to stay a dull green, my lips are lifeless and my cheeks are sunken in and dull.  That person I was seeing was someone I could only dream of becoming; someone who my husband sees but I never can.  Only then was I able to see beyond my “flaws” and see me the way that God sees me; perfectly imperfect.  The only thing that was different between yesterday and any other day I felt that way – I actually believed it yesterday.

These temptations are daily struggles for most and we don’t even realize that Jesus is calling us – begging us – to continue on the right path even when we are going down the destructive path.  He fights the battles for us so that we don’t have to fight them alone.

I was sent this video this morning and I cried.  I had to pause it a few times to dry my eyes to continue watching it.

It’s tough but it’s something that needs to be seen; especially on the day where we learn more about His death and what He accomplished for us so that we didn’t have experience what He did.

Get your Kleenex ready and turn it up so you can hear the music with it.

Organized Chaos.

Heavenly Father,

You tell us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

However, we have not been good about sending our requests in God’s directions.  We feel that we can handle Earthly things on our own and tend to get ourselves in deeper than intended.

We ask that you give us your grace so that we are able to relax and get rid of the anxiousness.  We lift our petitions towards you and allow you to take control of the things in our lives that we have no control over.  Bring order to the different areas of chaos, bring beauty into ugly situations, heal those who are grieving, allow us to forgive those who have offended us, bring a sense of content and calm among those who have jealousy and envy, and bring sanity to us who are wandering around confused.

We ask that you continue to give us wisdom, knowledge and strength to handle the situations that we do have control over.  Allow us to handle them with your level of understanding and love.  For it is through those traits that we will be able to minister to those who may need you at the point in their life.

We ask that you continue to be with us today, Lord.  Calm our fears, fill our hearts with love, and encourage us to embrace one another.

In your name we pray,
Amen.

All I Could Have Asked For.

Throughout the week, I come across different things that I feel would be great to blog about.  But, of course, when it comes down to sit down and write, I draw a blank as to what should be my topic of the day.

So, I asked the husband what I should write about for my Thankful Tuesday post, and he did a wonderful job picking; however, I’m saving that for next week.  The reason?  He gave me something to write about in answering my question.

Shane is all that I’ve ever looked for in a life partner.  There are just so many reasons that I’ve fallen in love with him.  Things ranging in being able to hold a serious conversation one minute and then diving into a messy game of twister.  But there is one characteristic that I can say that will tie it all together.  He is an active head of the household.

He’s like the living Super Man.  He wakes up everyday at 4:45 AM, starts coffee, gets the dogs out and comes and wakes me up around anywhere between 4:50 AM and 5:15 AM.  (Depending on the morning and how tired I am… maybe 5:30 AM or later.)  He the proceeds to go to work driving truck and delivering products around the area.  Doesn’t sound like a whole lot for you who don’t know his job in detail but it’s a lot of manual labor.  He then comes home after a day that lasts between 10-12 hours.  He then does the dishes, does the laundry, cleans the house, monkeys around out in the garage, fiddles around in the yard, plays with the dogs, and on and on and on.  Add the kids into the mix every two weeks, and he interacts with them as well.

We see in different areas of the Bible what God expects from the head of the household.  1 Peter 3:7 tells us “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  Ephesians 5:25 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  1 Timothy 5:8 states “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Within those three small verses we see that husbands are to be considerate, respectful, loving, and provide for their family.

Just in that small paragraph where I described Shane, you can see that he is loving and provides for the kids and I.  But what I didn’t go into detail with is his consideration and how respectful he is.

Just to give you a glimpse into how selfless he is, when I found myself in a situation of abuse, he opened his doors to me.  He did not ask for a penny for bills since I was driving an hour to and from work daily.  All he asked was that I helped with the groceries as well as help with household chores.  But the months that I was there before we got married, he respected my space as well as my feelings.  He knew that there were days where I just needed me time.  He respected that.  In most cases, he ran a bubble bath for me, had a book ready with candles lit and he disappeared for 45 minutes to an hour so I could just escape my life for those few moments.

He also listens to me whine and complain about the little things that don’t go right or that are frustrating me.  All while he’s also probably had one of the worst days and doesn’t say anything until I’ve said my piece and he’s talked me into a calm.

He has done so much for me on a personal level.  But, he’s also helped me immensely on my spiritual level as well.  He’s become my rock in many spiritual battles that I’ve had as well as been a wonderful example of Christ’s unfailing love.  He takes responsibility for us getting to church on time and that we do our nightly readings and prayers.

He is just so strong and supportive and doesn’t even realize that he’s everything I could have asked for and more.

The Root Of All Evil.

When I ask you to think of the things that make you most happy in life, what comes to mind?  Your car?  Your house?  Your closet full of clothes?  Your electronic devices?  Any other material items that you may have purchased?

They say that money cannot buy you happiness, but yet that’s what society show us.  If you’re mad/sad/upset/etc., there is always retail therapy.  If you want someone to fall “in love” with you, buy them things – a lot of expensive-ish things.  If you mess up in your relationship, buy them flowers, jewelry, or clothes to say “I’m sorry.”

We don’t blink an eye at spending $50 on a large bouquet of flowers to say “I love you.” or “I’m Sorry.” or spending $50 at the liquor store for a “fun” Friday or Saturday night.  Yet, when the offering plate comes around at church, we cringe at the thought of throwing a $50 bill in.  Why is that?

Is it fear that we will never see that money again?  That that money may be spent in “better” places?  Let’s face it, we have spent large amounts of money on some ridiculous things that we didn’t need.  I’ll be the first to admit, a few years ago, I would have rather spent my money on fast food, pop, candy, etc. instead of throwing it in the offering plate and giving back to The One who gave me all.  I would have rather chased after that temporary feel good than chase fulfillment in knowing that my money was going somewhere much better than the local gas station or fast food store.

Matthew 6: 19-21 says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

A lot of truth rings out in that passage.  When we leave  bikes out in the rain, they rust over time.  When mice get into vehicles, they chew and destroy.  We put more money into repairs and maintenance over time than the initial purchase probably was.  Look at cars, for example, oil changes, tires, rotation, transmission flush, replacing brakes, replace wheel bearings, replace tie rod ends, head gasket repairs, and the list goes on.

With maintenance and repairs comes frustration.  “How much money are we going to have to put into this?!” The more money we spend, the more upset we get.  Sound familiar?

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  1 Timothy 6:10

Shane and I do not live outside of our means.  We don’t drive brand new vehicles, we tell our kids no, we budget wisely.  We weren’t aware of how much wasteful spending we had until we laid out the budget.  All the little $2.00 and $5.00 transactions added up.  We were placing our temporary feel good above our giving to the Lord – the one who provided us with the items for that feel good moment.

Shane and I have become much happier and feel more blessed now that we are actually “putting our money where our mouth is.”  We used to be the “hypocrites” who didn’t understand those who could spend endless amounts of money on alcohol or material items but claimed they couldn’t afford an offering; but we were no different with our pop or snack purchases here and there.  We didn’t need those things and they put a dent into what we could give.  There were weeks where it was too tight for comfort but we offered what we could.  After we cut our needless spending, we found that we were able to comfortably offer more unto the Lord when we weren’t so focused on ourselves and our desires so who were we to judge others?

We don’t realize how selfish we really are until we stake a step back and realize how much we do for our satisfaction (pop, fast food, electronics, etc.) instead of His satisfaction.

I realize that there are some of you who are doing all you can to make ends meet, I’ve been there done that.  God doesn’t care about the amount of money you have or the amount that you give.  However, he does care if we start to worship the goods that money can buy.

“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  ~Matthew 6:24

So, what makes you happy?

Living Examples.

If there is one thing that has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older is the amount of bullying that goes on.  When I was growing up, it was just name calling, picking on clothes or hair and other “small” things like that.  However, today, things have gone so far that bullying now includes urging people to commit suicide because “their life isn’t worth it” or because they are a “waste of space.”

I’ve seen both of those comments pop up in news stories that have come across my news feed on Facebook over the last year or so.  It’s just sickening seeing things like this happen to children as young as 10… maybe even younger in some areas.

Children have so much more access to bullying.  It isn’t limited to in schools anymore.  It can  be found on every social media outlet and well as in text messages and phone calls.

I realize not all kids are innocent but things like this make me wonder how much of an active role parents play.  Do you realize how rude your kids are?

I would like to think that Shane and I play a very active part in M&M’s lives.  Especially when it comes to how they treat other people or how other’s treat them.  We ask questions such as “How did school go today?”  or “What happened that’s bugging you?”  We try to get them to open up a bit when we can see that something is really bugging them.

Not only do I view that as “good parenting”, I view it as a way for them to relieve some stress, anger, frustration, etc.

Bullying has always had some sort of side effects to it (low self-esteem, etc.) but with how far it’s gone in the last 10 years, it’s scary to see what it can all trigger.  Things such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, inability to sleep, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, smoking, and other mental health issues that could lead to suicide.  (To read more, click here.)  However, I’ve seen cases where the bullying is so bad where the child (or adult depending on the person) suffers from PTSD.  Looking at it from the stress side, it can also lead to Trichotillomania, Shingles, hair loss, panic attacks, IBS, migraines, Bruxism, Personality Disorder, sleep walking and the list here goes on and on.

But.  We, as parents, have an obligation to our children.  Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Our children’s actions begin with US.  You don’t want them to fight with others, don’t fight with in front of them, find a different way to resolve issues.  You don’t want them to bully others, don’t criticize them on how they look; let them be kids!  You want them to accept everyone just as they are, show others love.

Whether we realize it or not, they watch every action.  As adults, we even bully without realizing it.  Sarcasm.  Backstabbing.  Two-faces.

You see?  We aren’t innocent either.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” ~Ephesians 4:29.

We are directed to help build others up, not tear them down.

But, thankfully there are steps what us parents and our kids can take to stop and prevent bullying.  The first thing is to recognize that there is a problem and not ignore it.  Children, if you see something happening, stay calm and stand up for the person; step in and ask the bully to stop.  Do not fight fire with fire, only then will someone get burned.  Do not hold judgment against them, just ask them a few questions and see if they open up to you.  But do not expect it to be done on the spot; especially if strong emotions are involved.

For those who are victims of bullying, I urge you to turn the issues over to the Lord.  There is no one greater to help than Him.  Exodus 14:14 says “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Do not fight back, know when to just walk away and hand it over to Him.

Maybe those bullies have a story deeper than we know.  Maybe they need a friend, maybe they don’t feel respected or loved, maybe they haven’t been shown kindness, or they don’t feel accepted for who they are or feel that they will never be enough.  Be a friend.  Be kind.  Be respectful.  Be loving.  Make sure they know that who they are is enough!  Be a living example of Christ’s love

But parents, it begins with us.  We can’t ask this of our children and be hypocrites.  Be the example of how you want your child to act, how they treat others, and how they handle tough situations.  “…but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”  ~1 Timothy 4:12

**If you know of someone who has been bullied and is now contemplating suicide or if you know someone who is just having thoughts of ending their life for another reason, please give them a hug and let them know they are not alone.  Give them the number to the suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.**