Tag Archive | testimony

I am (fill in the blank)

2015-03-01 NGChurch (80)2

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

A Wise Leader (Part 1)

© Depositphotos.com/ robertprzybysz

© Depositphotos.com/
robertprzybysz

This is a multi-part blog based on my experience of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback.

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

I’m involved in a two-year leadership program at my church. It’s been both challenging and rewarding as we learn about leadership characteristics, church history and movements, and ultimately, what it means to be a Christ follower leading with a servant’s heart. We also break into smaller discipleship groups and talk specifically about what God is doing in our lives, how He’s teaching, loving and caring for us, as well as using us to show His love and compassion to others. Each week we set ourselves aside and soak up what the speaker has to say, what God wants us to hear and how we can move more freely in what He wants us to do. It’s truly a great opportunity to come alongside others who want to be living fully in God’s presence specifically in an area of leadership, wherever that may be.

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)

A few weeks ago we heard a talk about feedback versus criticism (delivered by my wonderful husband, Craig, by the way). I admit this has been a very difficult place for me. I hear through the lens of criticism most of the time. I’ve realized over the last two years that I do not trust many people and even those I trust most, I am still hesitant with in certain situations and with certain topics. I don’t expect others to think the best of me. I also expect to be sacrificed for the sake of others.

God’s love, and the way we are to love each other, is a sacrificial love. It’s a love that gives, serves and even dies for another. But this sacrificial love requires a willingness on the part of the one sacrificing. It is a choice to put yourself in front of an issue and take a stand understanding the risk versus someone taking a step back or no step at all and putting you out in front to take the brunt of the problem.

What I’ve come to understand and am learning to accept is that God is my protection regardless if I’m “sacrificed” by my own choice or the decision of others. Regardless of what comes at me or what I’m thrown into, God has my back. He loves me unconditionally and I am safe, accepted, protected, and loved simply because I trust Him to do so. He is the One through whom all blessings flow, all good things come and He will never leave me to figure things out on my own. He’s in it with me. I just need to trust and obey.

So, back to the point of my message … feedback and criticism.

We were tasked with sending out a review to people who are over, under and next to us. In other words, those who we answer to in our work or volunteering, those we work or serve alongside and those who answer to us in some role or have experienced us as leaders. This can include at work, at church, in ministry, volunteering, family and even friends. (i.e., my husband and I are part of a small group and we’ve organized many functions together. They know how I operate in a group setting working together to accomplish a common goal.)

After I sent the survey, the first thing I did was make a list of every negative thing people could say so that nothing would surprise me. This way, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad to actually hear what a failure I’ve been. The next thing was to go through the list of rated questions and rate myself. I don’t know that I would actually recommend doing either of these things, but it’s just the truth of what I did at the time.

We received our responses this week. In my next blogs I’d like to share a few things I learned about myself and others through this process. For now, I wonder if you’d be willing to consider a few questions yourself.

Something to Consider…

  1. Do you understand the difference between feedback and criticism? Here is a simple definition of each:

Criticism – to find or point out fault

Feedback – to give evaluative or corrective information

Criticism tells you what you did wrong. Feedback helps you move forward. In The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell addresses this topic. I highly encourage you to check out this book if you are interested in growing as a leader.

  1. How well do you do at giving and receiving feedback? Do you dread hearing what others have to say about your quality of work or your ability to respond and interact with others? Or do you welcome counsel and advice about how to improve your skills both practically and relationally?
  2. How might God want to grow you in this area? How might God want to use you to help others grow in this area?

 

That’s Not How It Works

grass and sunset“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.Ephesians 2:1a, 4-5, 8-9

I love the commercial with the older woman who “posts” her events to her wall … not her Facebook wall, but the actual wall in her home. She puts up notes and pictures and has friends over to see them. When her friend calls her out on something, she unfriends her while she’s sitting in her living room.

This same friend is befuddled and tells her very clearly, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

While many people do “get” how Facebook works, many people like to make up their own ideas about Jesus.

Here are a few ways people misunderstand how God works:

  1. It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

God is the Sovereign Creator, Ruler of all. He either is or He isn’t. He can’t be for some and not others which means what He says goes for all people. Your sincere acknowledgement of Him is key in your relationship with Him.

  1. You can pick and choose what you want to believe from the Bible.

The Bible is God’s inspired word, His testimony about Himself, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You can’t pick and choose what you want to believe. If you told a story about your own life and someone said part of it wasn’t true, they’d be wrong and be calling you a liar or you would actually be a liar. Is God trustworthy or is He a liar? He can’t be both.

  1. God sends people to hell.

Jesus came for all who need a Savior. God doesn’t send people to hell. We end up there based on our own choices and God actually makes it possible for you to be saved from the consequences of those choices. You have free will to choose not to go to hell. You don’t want to be a robot to God and God is clearly not a vending machine so the only thing left is a relationship which is found through faith in Jesus. We all sin and fall short. The only thing that keeps you from God is believing you don’t need Him.

What misconceptions have you heard from others and you think, “That’s not how it works.” Are you a good enough friend to tell them?

Maybe you’re the one with questions needing a help section on just what faith in Christ is all about. How does it work? Why does it matter?

The good news is that God is not only willing to communicate with you, He is very clear in His answers.

It often appears that we want a God with some wiggle room, but instead we have a God who is merciful in our failings. We want a God who dismisses our sin as simple choices of lifestyle or personalities. After all, He’s the one who created us this way. But instead, we have a God who asks us to participate in the life He’s given us according to His ways. He asks us to sacrifice our own ways for His. He creates us and then asks us to let Him transform us into a new creation through a second birth. We are born into sin. All of us. And every person has a transformation waiting for them if only they would come and let God work in their lives. And this work only comes through the grace offered in faith through Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

This is how it works.

Searching for some answers to your difficult questions regarding the Christian faith? Check out Alpha and find a course near you!

Fight or Flight…or Die? (Part 4)

This is the final post in this four-part series.

field water“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

This has been a long and painful journey for me, but victory in Jesus is my reward!

The fight or flight mode is about survival. God has wired our minds and bodies in such a way that we can make reasonable decisions and respond so that we can have the best chance to survive. Do I believe I am strong enough to come out on top if a battle should ensue? Or do I believe I can outrun my enemy? In either situation, if I am wrong, I die. At least, that’s the way it works on Wild Kingdom.

My desire to be loved, appreciated, thought of or at least, acknowledged by this world is wearisome. There is always someone else to please and something else to prove. I have never found real pleasure in praise, but rather relief in no punishment. I thought staying out of trouble was good enough. As long as I wasn’t causing problems, God and others would be good with me.

But the truth is God doesn’t want me going along to get along or just existing. He wants me living, thriving, and loving. And love is risky business. We might get hurt. We might be rejected.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:27-28, 32

I thank God that my bout with anger didn’t last long before He showed me how I needed to love and serve those under my authority, taking control of what I could and giving up to Him control of what I couldn’t. And again, God met me where I was and showed me how I couldn’t ignore or deny my responsibility to love others through difficult situations. Even people who I do not consider an enemy will mistreat me or hurt me at various times. How should I choose to respond? Too often, this is the sentiment proclaimed in society: “Run far from those who cause you problems! Get them out of your life! You don’t deserve their treatment and they don’t deserve your kindness!”

Well, that may be true, but it’s not good…and it’s not love. God says we are to love, do good, bless and pray not just for those who do the same for us, but for those who hurt us as well.

At the heart of deciding not to fight and not to run is surrender. “I give!” I had to acknowledge that I am not perfect, I would not please everyone, and I could not do everything. In relying on myself, I denied the power of Christ in my life. In looking to others to save and protect me, I had taken my eyes off the one who had already saved, sealed and delivered me. He has already overcome the world!

God has called me beyond my comfort zone, beyond the safety of my own little world where keeping the peace was more important than speaking the truth. All this time, God was working in me, transforming me into someone new. Hidden in Christ’s perfect love, I have no need to fear. I have died to Him so no one can take my life. I answer to Him so no other approval is needed. No more fighting, no more running, no more hiding. I have surrendered; I can rest.

Something to Consider…

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.’” Luke 10:41-42a

Surrender doesn’t mean compromising your standards, values or principles which are founded on God’s truths; it means fighting for the right things with a humble heart of compassion, mercy and grace. Don’t waste your time fighting for things that have no real value. Pick your battles wisely, boldly fighting for and standing on His truth.

Surrender also doesn’t mean we run from our problems and give up; it means we run to Jesus and invite Him to be the solution. In what areas of your life do you know you need to move forward? In what ways can you be strong and courageous each day, taking one step, choosing one thing you can do to make progress following His lead?

In Christ, we have all we need to live and die without fear, walking in His perfect love!

Fight or Flight? (Part 3)

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

Two Empty Chairs in a Field“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I can’t speak to how anxiety manifests in any other person or why others struggle. I only know my story and if there is anything anyone can relate to and learn from then it’s worth telling.

This has been by far the most difficult post to write. I have anguished over how to describe my anxiety: what caused it, how I reacted, what it turned into, how it affected me, how it affected others and finally realizing that everything I thought I knew about it was wrong.

Flight, n.: The act of fleeing; the act of running away, to escape danger or expected evil; hasty departure.

I grew up believing lies about myself, about others and about God.

It’s funny how the smallest thing can change your perspective of yourself. I have spent my entire life trying to hide and keep myself safe. I have feared the opinions of others, their judgment, their rejection and my own failure. I avoided and ran from anything that put me in the spotlight. As long as I was left alone to do my work I was fine. No challenges, no confrontations, and no humiliation. To even consider the thought of making a mistake and being found out was paralyzing. Running and hiding was my way of taking control, but you can’t out run God and nothing is hidden from His sight.

The stress associated with my fears manifested physically and the anxiety grew with each incident. My internal flight instinct grew. I was trying to escape a perceived danger.

There came a point when I truly began to understand the lengths I was going to trying to protect myself. All these years, I was hoping that someone would step up and protect me. I needed to believe I was worth protecting; that somehow I was worth more than the pain and suffering they would endure.

And then God reminded me of Jesus, the pain and suffering He endured on my behalf to protect me from death, to set me free and to give me a place in this world for Him.

See, God was calling me out of the shadows and He wasn’t giving up on me. The more He worked, the more I fought and the more I ran from the very situations and people He was using to grow me, change me, and transform me. I questioned His authority and control over my situation. I struggled with the reality of who He was making me and who everyone else expected me to be.

When my knowledge was challenged, I assumed I didn’t really understand. When I wasn’t perfect, I assumed I’d never really be good enough. And when I gave in to pressure, I assumed I’d never really be different so why bother.

What I had forgotten was that Christ is not only with me, He’s in me. When I am uncertain, He knows. When I think I’m not enough, He is more. When I don’t trust myself, He is faithful. I didn’t need to rely on my own understanding or strength, but turn to Him in every situation and His peace would be my guard and my protection.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

There was a time when I didn’t know better. But that’s all changed. And in my knowing better I have decisions to make. I can rely on my fears and worries to keep me safe or I can turn to God, relying on and trusting in Him completely.

Something to Consider…

Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. We are to trust in God and in Him. (John 14:1)

In what areas do you worry or doubt the most? What is your ultimate need in the moment? Give this worry to Him and tell Him about your need. Trust that He not only knows, but he is faithful and more than enough to meet your every need.

Into what lie does God want to speak His truth? As you give Him your fears, He will tell you the truth about who He is, who you are in Him and what that means for you going forward. Peace is found when we rest in His truth.

Fight or Flight? (Part 1)

 IMG_1655This is my story…well, at least one of them. This is what came from years of trying to deal with, manage and hide the truth. I am not perfect, but I have gained ground and found freedom. I hope by sharing my story someone else will gain ground, find freedom and have hope as well.

I was recently at the doctor with one of my daughters. I was listening to the doctor and her carry on a conversation about the nervous system. She had recently covered all of this in her high school biology class and was completely engaged in the conversation about all the different systems and what they control.

I, on the other hand, could barely listen without feeling like I was going to pass out. That was until I heard the part about the sympathetic nervous system which brings about the “fight or flight” response.

I have been plagued with anxiety since the early 2000’s. From approximately 2002 to 2007, I didn’t really understand the occasional attack that would send me into a panic. There had to be a physical problem for this feeling so I would go to the doctor to get various issues checked never considering the anxiety itself was the problem.

In 2005, depression was added to the mix. It wasn’t until 2007 that I finally went to a counselor after an anxiety attack landed me in the emergency room. We talked through all of the situations that came to mind with my angst and all of the situations that led to my thinking a certain way about myself and others. During this time I found ways to deal with and manage my anxiety. I also discovered the tale-tell signs of an attack.

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me. This happened in situations where I felt I had authority. I was ready for a fight.

At other times, my mind would race with worry. The thoughts flew at me and my mind ran circles trying to avoid the barrage. In those situations where I felt I had no authority, I would have a worrisome fear. Flight: getting as far away from the situation as I could was the answer.

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:4

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

In both situations, my anger and fear were over things in which I felt I had no control. Neither response was appropriate and the weight of the guilt was overwhelming.

The truth is there are many situations and circumstances in my life in which I have no control. The idea that I could not change where I was and that I had limited options on how to survive threw me into a fight or flight response.

The truth is in Jesus I don’t need to go to extremes in my response to problems. Jesus is helping me turn anger into a solution and worry into peace. In my next few posts, I’ll go into more detail on just how that has been possible for me.

Something to Consider…

How do you react in difficult situations? Do you tend to strike out with a fight mentality? Or do you retreat escaping in flight, ignoring the situation or denying the problem?

This may not be an extreme issue for you, but you may find you have hot buttons that when pressed set you in one direction or the other. How does your ability to control the situation influence your response?

Ask God to show you the truth of the situation. Choose to be open to what He has to say.

Created for a Purpose

Family“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will,” Ephesians 1:11

When my husband and I rededicated our lives to Christ, it was the first time I really believed God had a purpose just for me. I had always felt I was here for a reason, but didn’t really know what it was, what I should do about it, or that I could actually know that purpose with certainty.

One night, as I was lying in bed ready to fall asleep, I let my mind go to this place of purpose. This was often the time I spent asking God various questions over the years: at night, in the dark, quite and feeling alone with Him. My mind immediately went to the thought of a dangerous mission trip. “Don’t go there! Don’t give God permission to send you there!” (As if God needs my permission to decide what His purpose is for me…) Rather than think of all the things that could be my purpose, I finally settled on simply asking Him the question and allowed myself to fall asleep.

As I began to wake up, while I was still in that foggy place of coming to, I sensed God sharing His vision for me.

“Love your husband and support him in his work. He works hard to provide for your family.

“Love, care for and teach your children. You do not know what they may grow to do, what I have planned for them.

“Manage your home. Do not let it be a burden to your husband. He has enough to deal with. This is your responsibility. Remove that weight from his shoulders.”

Three simple tasks. Was that really all there was to my purpose? Did I just make that up? Was I taking the easy way out of a mission trip? What purpose would this serve?

Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is my first call. This is my second.

When I lose sight of this purpose, my world begins to fall apart. I am not weak; I am just not living in my sweet spot. I am not living in alignment with God’s will for my life.

My life. Not yours or someone else’s, but mine. And yours will be different or may be similar.

I love my husband’s heart for his work. Craig has an honest desire to work hard and help his company be successful. He also has a desire to see the client’s best interest served and that they would prosper as well. I know God has a purpose for him where he is so I need to honor God by honoring my husband.

I admit, many women I have known over the years would not have agreed with this purpose and would not have encouraged me. But God did not put a yoke of oppression or burden on me. He said to me, “You are able and capable of doing this. It is not too much for you nor too little. I will help.”

And then there are my children. I have often wanted to say, “Do what you want! I give up. It’s your choice.” But as the thought crosses my mind I realize I cannot give them that permission. I cannot relinquish my authority or influence in their lives. I cannot nor should I squelch the Spirit in their lives; while at the same time, I need to teach them the difference between the Spirit and the flesh.

They now, at their young ages, have a stronger, firmer foundation of faith than anything I had at that same age. My husband is moving toward God in all areas of his life. Did these three simple tasks change the entire trajectory of my family? Did simply loving my family the way God called me to show them His love for them?

My purpose serves His purpose not only in my life, but in the lives of others around me. I am grateful to God for how He has worked in me and through me to make a difference in the lives of my husband and my children for Him. It was a bigger, greater purpose than I could imagine.

Something to Consider…

As my children grow to adulthood, my authority and influence in their lives will change. I’ve made it clear I will use whatever authority and influence I have, but do understand it will be different. I know that as my life changes, God will have new opportunities for me to serve a purpose for Him.

Do you know your purpose? Have you asked God what He has planned for you? Are you willing to move forward should He give you His vision for your life?

Have you been living in His purpose for you? Are you at a crossroads in your life with a decision to make about how you proceed? Is there a dream in your heart that is beyond your imagination?

No matter how big or small your purpose may seem, God will be served. He will bring good things from it not only for you, but for those around you as well.