Tag Archive | character

Anxiety, Depression…Anger

DSC06926“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Anxiety was my response to the reality of having no control over or in certain situations. Depression was my response to the reality that I wasn’t taking control of what I could.

Anger is my response to the reality that I want control and don’t have it, can’t have it or, actually, don’t want it.

God has been doing an amazing work in me. The past 12-18 months have been some of the toughest in my life and yet I rejoice because I know God is at work in me, transforming me into the person He created me to be. It’s painful, but most good things are at some point.

It takes determination, perseverance, pain, struggle, and failure, along with focus and commitment to do anything that really matters. You will succeed only if you truly believe in what you are doing. Why suffer so much if it doesn’t really matter? (This is a post for another day…)

Because it does matter.

Last summer I posted about the process God had been moving me through, working out in me, to help rid me of anxiety and depression. My fight or flight response to problems was wreaking havoc in my life and the lives of others. In the first post, I stated:

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt uncontrollable rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me.

So here I am, angry…again. Why?

I thought my anger would subside when my anxiety and depression were gone. I’d just be a happy, go-lucky person. But each layer God removes reveals more. It reveals something deeper, darker, more difficult to deal with.

Anxiety and depression are acceptable issues in society. It’s true. There are commercials touting the positive effects of medication to control anxiety and depression. There is a commercial that encourages people to ask about a person’s depression, ask them if they want to talk about it. They make it commonplace, acceptable and manageable.

But it’s not. Yes, it happens. Yes, we need to be able to be real about it. But God doesn’t want us living in anxiety and depression. I don’t think He really wants us expecting it to just be this way. He wants so much more for us. As I’ve said before, I do believe medication is necessary and helpful in some situations, but I also believe that if you are willing to let medication be your savior in this situation, you will miss the work of the true Savior in your life.

So I choose to let God do the painful work of exposing the deepest, darkest, most painful areas of my life and conditions of my heart so that I can be free of what the world says is acceptable and truly be free in the love of God.

Anger, on the other hand, is not acceptable. It shows no compassion, tolerance or acceptance. But, anger does have a place. Its purpose is to move us toward good, toward making things right, toward ridding ourselves of those things that hurt us and each other.

But anger can be misused. It has been my new form of protection. God is going deeper and showing me that I want control. I do, I want it…BAD! I want it so bad I’m angry about it. I get rude and ugly. It’s truly horrible. I hate it, while at the same time feel completely justified in it.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Message)

My true colors show that I’m not so sure how much I trust that God is really in control. I want God to move faster, if He’s even moving at all. My anger and desire to control shows that I think I can do it better, understand it better and want better than what God can do, knows and wants.

But I know that’s not true. God can do whatever He wants. He wants what is good, what is best. And He also knows exactly what it’s going to take to get to that outcome and He is always on the move. He not only wants this for those people and situations in my life, He wants it for me personally.

The NIV version puts James 1:4 this way: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To be or become mature and complete, not lacking anything, not only means I seek to gain wisdom, new thinking, and new attitudes, but that I give up the old foolishness and behaviors. This anger needs to go.

Lord, as I fix my eyes on You and Your goodness, I am thankful for your loving working my life. As You peel back each layer and fresh wounds are exposed, You are my Healer. As You reveal to me those things that keep me from loving You and loving others, You are my Wonderful Counselor. As you ask me to walk into difficult situations and conversations, You are my Strength and Refuge. You have never given up on me and it is my deepest desire that I not give up on You. I trust you with the people I love and the situations I don’t like or understand. Your love is pure and right. It is the best of all things. Help me recognize quickly when I am trying to take control; calm my heart, reassure me of your love, protection and provision and let me rest in You. Give me Your heart for others and peace in Your ways. Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.

 

 

Be Intentional!

FSE019“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

I have not always been a fan of the female gender. And yes, I do belong to this category.

Backbiting, jealousy, gossip, envy, manipulative and down-right malicious behavior is how I would have described many of my relationships with girls growing up. I would usually have one or two really good friends, but at some point they would end; occasionally because someone moved, but usually because of a rift or a drift. Something about the relationship seemed difficult to maintain so it was easier to let it go. While it takes two to make a relationship work, I admit I owned much of the issue.

But God is good and as I had the privilege and honor of raising two beautiful daughters who He entrusted to my care, I learned more about the female mind, character and heart than I thought I would ever care to know. Wanting for them more than I ever knew I could have, my desire has been to teach them how to be confident in who they are as daughters of the King of kings, precious treasures not because the world has deemed them such, but because Jesus paid the ultimate price for them. They are valuable…as is each woman, man and child in this world.

I now spend more time with more women than I thought possible. Between social activities, retreats, studies, and volunteering, I have met and fallen in love with the nature of women as created by God and seen through His eyes and heart. We are made in His image and it is His nature we long to imitate as we learn who we truly are in Him.

There is a group of women who meet at my home weekly to support, strengthen and encourage each other. This past Tuesday, our group met and talked about the different seasons of life we are each experiencing. We are in different stages of marriage, ages of children, career experiences and because of these different stages, God is working in each of us in different ways, teaching us what we need for our current or next season. At the same time, He is teaching each of us to be intentional with our time and other resources as well as in our relationships.

As we serve God, we serve others in His name and to His glory. God’s gifts in us and to us are not just for us personally. They are to be used to reach the world for Him.

We are intentional about serving each other in our group through helping with child care so more women can attend and be encouraged. We are intentional about truly getting to know each other, trusting each other and caring for each other in practical ways. We also pray for each other regularly.

We are intentional about serving our community through our church partnership with a local public school. They have a number of ways individuals and groups can volunteer and maybe someday become mentors for kids who need as many positive adult role models in their lives as they can get…just as each of our children need. Our group is taking on the task of at-home projects for the teachers and staff. Since we often have children with us, we can continue to meet, grow in our relationships with each other and God, while at the same time meeting a need in our community.

We also have the desire to be in intentional in our relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, etc. – whomever God places in our path. As we step out in faith to acknowledge and love others in our lives, we pray God would use these opportunities for His love to be made known through us.

Life gets crazy and at times, maybe too often, time runs short. But, all that will matter at the end of the day is how we loved God and loved others. We choose to be intentional in all we do.

Something to Consider…

What season of life are you in? What is God teaching you about Himself, yourself and others in this season?

How can you be intentional in this season to invest in and grow relationships based on how Jesus loves? What gifts has He given you to use so others can know His love and grace through you?

Daddy! I need you…

photo

“the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15b-16

I saw this in the grass the other night when I took our dog out before bed. It looked like a little bird, but I had no idea what it was. It’s still there and I still don’t know.

photo (2)

 

This morning I saw something next to it. Now, some of you may know exactly what it is and I would certainly appreciate it if you would share you knowledge with me, but it’s got me a little befuddled!

Is it some type of exotic mushroom?

Is it a hive or nest of some kind?

Is it a seed pod from a tree or a body snatcher pod from the movies?

If I get a long stick and try to flick it, will something fly out of it?

Will it know I flicked it and come after me?

Will my neighbors know I flicked it into their yard?

I would love to put this off and leave it for my husband to remove. (I do that on occasion, but don’t tell him.) The problem is that he’s not going to be able to deal with it for a while and it’s right where we take the dog out so it would be easy to forget and overlook. The last thing I want to do is accidentally step on it or have the dog try to eat it.

And even as my mind goes through all the scenarios of what could be and how I could take care of it if should I choose to accept the mission, I am reminded of another such situation over a decade ago.

In our family room two houses ago, we had a bar type counter with a space for a waste basket. I was cleaning, bent down to remove the garbage and in the corner of the cabinet was a big, dark, furry looking creature. I was armed with a bag of garbage, an empty can and a broom. Maybe some of you can relate to the idea that this was not going to cut it. The bag wasn’t heavy enough to crush it if I should get it out with the broom. If I was able to capture it with the can, how would I then get it out from under the can? And besides, it would probably grab onto the broom and climb up the handle before either of these could be valid options!

So what did I do while my husband was at work?

I called my dad.

Yep, at the time I was a thirty-something wife and mother and I’m calling my daddy to kill the bug. Of course, that meant my mom would come as well. Never mind that they are older and move slower than me so whatever reaction time I was worried about with my own abilities would be cut by some fraction. Never mind that they lived half an hour away so I would need to wait and keep an eye on the cabinet lest it get away. Never mind that they were always out and about enjoying the retired life so they might have to stop what they are doing to come to my rescue.

In spite of all this, I called anyway.

And my daddy came; He answered my call. He always did. I never doubted that he loved me because his actions always showed me he did.

I understand this isn’t the truth for everyone. Not everyone has a dad who answers when called, who loves at all times.

But there is a heavenly Father who loves unconditionally; who is ready and waiting to answer your call for help and is already intervening in ways you don’t even know. He knows you, loves you and is for you. All you need to do is call out to Him.

Because of my dad, I’ve had a better understanding of God’s love for me which leads me to ask the question: will my children understand the love and sacrifice of Jesus better because I am their mom? Will they know the importance of faithfulness and kindness, peace and patience? Will they understand the difference between punishment and discipline and be grateful for me choosing to do the hard thing?

When I’m not sure if what I am doing is the best for my children, I know I have a Father in heaven who will answer my call for help and show me His loving ways.

By the way…the big, dark, furry bug ended up being a candy bar wrapper that missed its mark. My dad had a great laugh, too!

Something to Consider…

Do you know God as a loving Father? Why or why not? Who in your life has painted the picture of who God is to you?

Do you believe He is always available, ready and willing to come when called…already by your side in times of trouble?

Who in your life will know the truth about Jesus because you have given them an accurate picture of who He is through your words and actions?

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son (Jesus) into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba,Father.'” Galatians 4:6

Fight or Flight? (Part 2)

woman in field - yellow dress

This is the second part in a four-part series.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

As I mentioned in Part 1, in those areas of my life in which I felt I had authority, I would suffer uncontrollable rage when there was a problem.

At the time, my only real area of authority was in the lives of my children. Unfortunately, they bore the brunt of my anger, specifically my oldest daughter. I expected my home to be the one place I was in control. What I said is what everyone did…except they didn’t.

Each task someone added to my already overloaded schedule, every poor decision that needed to result in a fix or consequence, and every request that came with an expectation that I would, of course, meet it was suffocating.

I also assumed a role of authority in my marriage even though it wasn’t mine to have. When we were in a public arena, I would unleash on my husband in a very controlled, but demeaning tone. My statements were short and accusatory.

Each time I felt I was losing control, my anger put me back in control. I knew this was wrong. I didn’t like how it felt during or after the confrontation. I would sometimes apologize later, but the words I spoke and my attitude had already left its mark.

“It (love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

My anger looked after my own comfort and convenience, it built on each mistake others made and it sought to prove that the issues were their fault, not mine.

But God in His mercy showed me how my anger would not bring about His righteousness in the situation or my heart.

While the truth is the actions and decisions of others are not my fault and not in my control, how I respond to them through my actions is my responsibility. I was not to exhibit control, but self-control. There is a difference. Control focuses on the actions of others while self-control focuses on my own actions in response to God’s love and righteousness.

God began to show me that using self-control was more about my response to love others in the midst of the problem than solving the problem itself.

As I slowed down and let myself listen to not only my daughter, but to God, I was able to see the work He wanted to do and was already doing in her life. As God took my eyes off myself and put them back on Himself, He was able to shift my perspective and understanding of who was really in control.

Ultimately, I was fighting God. I was fighting His truth that I was not in control and that I did not need to prove myself, my value, or my worth to anyone. I did not need to display my authority through anger, but I could serve others, myself, and God better with a spirit of love and self-control.

Something to Consider…

Do you think if others could just get it right, your life would be easier? Does your anger win out when you feel like you don’t have control or need to prove something? In what specific situations and with which specific people does this happen?

God is ultimately in control of everything. Jesus who has absolute authority and power did not strike back in anger, but let His love lead His way. He knows you make mistakes and loves you anyway. God’s righteous anger acknowledges that what is going on is not right and Jesus is the solution that makes things right. Through Jesus Christ, God has made a way for the problem of sin to be removed from our lives so we can be made right with Him. Every relationship problem has a solution when we have the desire and make the decision to love first.

How can a perspective shift change how you relate to and love others? How might self-control help you slow down and listen and in turn lead to a life of love?

Growing Pains

Light Streaming Through the Crown of a Tree

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.” Ephesians 4:15 (The Message)

When my children were younger, I was constantly measuring their growth: height, weight, and abilities. Can she crawl, sit or walk? Does she respond to her name? Does she stack the blocks or just consider them a no-calorie snack? If their mental attributes along with their physical attributes don’t change, they aren’t growing in a complete manner.

Growth can be a challenge. All growth is the result of action and we must be diligent and intentional about the type of actions we take. Even a baby doesn’t just grow. If they are not receiving enough food, they won’t grow physically or mentally and if deprived of food for a long enough period will die.

Spiritual growth is the same. I’ve known a few people who really wanted to grow or at least thought they did. What it seems they may have wanted more was to continue doing what they had always done, but somehow manage to have peace and feel good about it. But nothing that grows stays the same. There will be changes. To ignore or deny the truth of what is needed for growth will only bring about death. The truth of Jesus is the source of eternal life.

Spiritual growth begins with knowing the truth about Jesus. You hear about Him, ask questions, learn some more and eventually have enough information to make a decision about what the truth of Jesus means to you and for you. If you are not seeking to know the truth, if you are not asking questions of people who know the truth, you will not grow in your understanding of who Jesus really is and you will have no reason to move forward in a relationship with Him. The problem with this is that everything else you consider about Him will be false. Just like eating protein will add muscle and eating sugar will add fat, growing in the knowledge and truth of Jesus will lead you to eternal life while ignoring or denying the truth of Jesus will lead to eternal separation from God. False teachings will lead to a false understanding which in turn will feed you with empty calories which will not sustain.

One of the growing pains involved with knowing the truth of Jesus is that we soon realize there are things we like, think or do that are not actually good for us. They seem good because they make us feel good and give us some enjoyment, at least for the moment. We don’t want to give it up because we don’t really want to believe it’s bad. Maybe it’s easier than changing. We operate out of our feelings rather than facts. We live for what seems good rather than what is truly good.

When my daughter was three years old, we could tell she wasn’t eating well. We pulled out our Dr. Spock baby book and did some research. We wanted to know answers and the truth about what might be causing this problem and what we could do about it. We learned too much sugar would ruin her appetite. Right away we knew the problem: apple juice. She loved apple juice! But the juice was hurting her, not helping her even though she enjoyed it. We promptly removed the apple juice from her diet and replaced it with water or milk only. For three days she cried! Each day was a little better until rather than cry over not getting apple juice, she asked for milk. Her eating improved and she chose milk over almost every other beverage for most of her childhood.

But those three days were painful. She wanted what she wanted and was willing to forsake the good thing for the enjoyable thing…until she realized the good thing was better.

Something to Consider…

Do you struggle believing the entire Bible is true? Does it contradict what you’ve been told is true? Is it difficult to understand how God’s ways are better than your ways, how they are truly the best way?

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” 2 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for empty satisfaction. God in his goodness sent His Son, Jesus Christ so we would know His grace and truth. You have the opportunity to choose the better thing. The growing pains of faith are real, but the truth of Jesus is better than any lie the world would have you believe. Seek to know and understand His truth and discover the real source of all you need to be able to change and grow up into all He created you to be!

Love Never Fails

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Love ListWe’ve had some trouble in our family as of late, a bit of poking and prodding, provoking and pushing of buttons. We pass it on to our friends and others we come in contact with whether we realize it or not. They notice our attitude, look, tone and body language, making judgments on the state of our hearts and minds. They don’t mean to be judgmental; they just don’t know how close they want to get to us in our current state. And they have good reason to want to keep their distance. Our demeanor could rub off on them. They could feel the rough sting of our indifference toward them. We are so caught up in how we feel, it doesn’t really matter to us how we make others feel.

God is not indifferent. His heart longs for each child He has created to know His great love. Jesus came to make His love known in this world. He truly cares what we believe about His love for us and what face we put on our relationship with Him. How will His love through us rub off on those we are around? What does His love look like? What does His love convey? What does His love do?

My daughter’s favorite section of Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I read this section and decided to take it apart. On one side of my paper I listed everything it said love is. On the other, everything love is not. I decided to type it out and hang it on our refrigerator at home where we could all see it.

Love: Love:
Is patient Does not envy
Is kind Does not boast
Rejoices in truth Is not proud
Always protects Does not dishonor others
Always trusts Is not self-seeking
Always hopes Is not easily angered
Always perseveres Keeps no record or wrongs
Never Fails Does not delight in evil

Everything we do will fall on one side or the other of love. God is love so everything love is, God does in love. And everything love is, we can also do in His love. I’ve already found myself recalling these two lists and recognizing when I’m on the wrong side – the “is not”, “does not”, don’t do side. God has helped me reconsider my attitude and bring it into alignment with who He is and what He does. In this practice, I’ve been more at peace with letting go of issues rather than holding them over the other person.

Something to Consider…

When you think of God’s character, which side of the list do you gravitate towards? Do you think God is patient and kind or do you think He is easily angered, keeping track of everything you’ve done wrong?

When you think of those closest to you, how do you see yourself in this list? Do you protect and rejoice with them or do you compare and think they deserve the bad things that happen?

God offers His love freely to those who come to Him through Jesus. Embrace His love, choose to rejoice in His truth and let His love change how you love today.

Pray for Your Leaders

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NIV)

I admit, I have not prayed for my leaders as I should. I have not been diligent in seeking God’s guidance, understanding or wisdom for leaders in government offices, whether elected or appointed. I have not prayed regularly that those who do not know Jesus would not only come to know Him, but would seek to follow Him in their role of leading others. I have prayed my will, my understanding, and my desires but even as I seek God, there are things I do not understand and I sometimes desire things outside of God’s will.

I have prayed for my husband, my children and myself watching God answer prayer after prayer in His time, in His way. Maybe my distance from the political office keeps me from believing my prayers make a difference. Maybe I’m just so critical and judgmental I don’t really believe they can change. Two issues arise in my own life when this is my mindset:

1) I give myself authority to judge what is only meant for God to judge. I don’t really know their heart. While I may not agree with or understand their position, only God can judge the true motives and intentions of their heart.

2) I limit what I believe God can do. It is not by the power of my will in prayer, but the power of our God that hearts are changed and emboldened for Him.

Why should we pray?

It takes strength, boldness and courage to follow the Lord. In Joshua 1, Joshua knows the Lord. He has been faithful from the beginning. He is the new leader raised up to take the place of Moses after His death. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. To remember and obey all that God has told Him through the Book of the Law. Even though Joshua already has a heart set on the Lord, He needs encouragement to stand firm. Times will get tough. People will want to go their own way. They may come up against his leadership out of fear or pride.

As we pray for our leaders to be strengthened and filled with courage and boldness for God, we are as filled as well. God meet us when we pray for others.

What should we pray?

There are many things we can pray based on the person and the specific needs of a country, community, business or organization but here are just a couple that cover some basic ideas.

1) Our leaders who do not know Jesus would come to know Him. If we are to follow God, it is best that those we submit to would be leading us His way. In surrendering to His authority, they understand the limits of their own authority.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

2) Our leaders would create laws that are fair and impartial. They would not be swayed by public opinion just to be elected. They would not use circumstances as an excuse or justification for wrong doing. And they would not allow wealth to keep someone from a consequence nor would they use it as a reason to have a heavy hand and take more than due. When laws are applied fairly, mercy prevails.

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)

3) Our leaders would be peacemakers seeking to reconcile and move forward with the necessary business they are in office to carry out. One key role for leaders is conflict management. As peacemakers, they are to help settle disputes between parties that disagree, quarrel and fight. Leaders should be unifying not divisive with their words and actions.

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 (NIV)

God’s perfect plan does not always play out the way we think is fair or just, but in knowing Him, we can trust that He is faithful. He is and always will be in control.

Something to Consider…

What attitudes, criticisms, or judgments have you held against your leaders? How does your attitude add fuel to the fire or help others move forward in solutions? How do your criticisms and judgments move you closer to or further away from Gods heart.

In your own role as a leader, whether at work, volunteering or at home, what attitudes, criticisms and judgments do you find others hold against you? What would you want others to see in you as a leader?

As you seek to be resolved as a leader who you would willingly follow, ask God to not only help you bring glory and honor to Him, but that those you submit to would also seek His glory and honor in all they do.