Monday, February 14, 2011

Dying to Grow

My maternal grandfather and uncle loved farming. Memories of hearing them discuss farming and crops is real. One thing I remember is that for a plant to grow, the seeds need planting. Obvious I know, but hang in here with me. One of the things I learned from my farming grandfather and uncle is that a seed, once planted literally experiences a death first before the new seedling begins to form underground. The symbolism here is what I become intrigued with. 

Dying daily to self is not an easy task. It involves allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the attitudes, behaviors, and feelings we have participated with that are in opposition to the transforming presence of Jesus. If you have prayed for the Lord to use you, that your life is His, and what you desire is to be more like Him; trust me, He will take your prayer seriously.   

A process of therapy is for people to become aware of their attitudes, behaviors and feelings which have contributed to the immediate problems. Sometimes the process brings a grief response to the surface. “Good grief” I like to call it as it means the person has the opportunity to take responsibility for what they have done and see the new options available to them. Old patterns die, new patterns are born. 

Plant the seed of His Word in your spirit. Expect a "death" (of sorts) to come to pass. In saying good-bye, you will say hello to more of God's character. In this way, I trust we are all dying to grow. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I love singing. Singing lifts my spirit; cleanses me within. The sense of completeness that comes from singing to the Lord is overwhelming to me at times. Do I think everyone feels this way? No. However for those of us who enjoy worship, alone or with the church family, you may understand the what I am expressing.

Scriptures encourages us to "Sing O barren one..."! (Galatians 4, Isaiah 54) Please keep in mind that I know the word sing often is translated "rejoice". Avoiding the pitfalls of potential differences in this, my whole point is to encourage all of us to lift our voices, inwardly and outwardly, in worship to the Lord who gives us all we have need of and will continue to do so. There is cleansing, lifting, completeness to be found when we come before the one who has so graciously poured into our lives.

Barrenness in our lives may take many different forms: Emotional, physically, familial, financial, and social. No matter the form of your barren place this day, remember to sing...lift the voice of your spirit in song...lift your voice in song...let the words of your mouth express your gratefulness for the lack of barrenness that God has promised. In so doing, we allow the Lord to take our face in His hands and speak into our lives the very hope, contentedness, and wealth we desire...unfailing love. (Proverbs 19:22)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sit Still!

Remember being told to “Sit still!”? Sometimes, I think it was my mother's favorite phrase! Those words are difficult for me as I can always think of something that needs to be done. The list in my head seems to never come to an end. As a child, my list was more like this: Tattling on my brothers, telling my sister what to do, or crying “unfair” at just the right time when I felt treated unjustly.  In a desire to be fair to myself and to what I know about children, I wanted to belong and be significant as we all do. I found a way to be special through making sure all my tasks were checked off. Much to the chagrin of my sibs, I took it upon myself to ensure they knew what they were to get done, too. ;-)

As a grown woman and one who is trained as a family therapist, there are patterns of behavior and interactions that I have learned. It is my hope that these skills will help people work towards health in their relationships.  Often, ideas of how things should take place, in what order, by whom, and how frequently run through my mind. It is easy to forget the necessity for and the wisdom of four simple words.  When the Lord recently told me, “Sit still, my daughter.” (Ruth 3:18), you know what? He was right. All my little formulas, ideas and plans for others, although they may contain truth, do not compare to the wisdom that is revealed when one takes time to sit still watching what God puts together. His artistry goes beyond what my finite mind can even begin to comprehend. 

There is a knowing that comes with being quiet and humbled in His presence...a knowing that brings rest and confidence which in turn provides strength. I want that kind of strength as a professional, as a woman and as a child of God.  I pray the same for each of you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fear vs Character

Yes, it is true. I am a person who has been run ragged with fear. Well, at least at times anyway. I think this is true for all of us. I express it as "has been" because I came across something that help me remember the source of my confidence. 

Each of us have our areas where we feel the most vulnerable. Maybe you are someone who is afraid of not being accepted. Or, perhaps you are the type of person who would tolerate all kinds of disrespect simply because the thought of conflict feels way too scarey. On the other hand, you may be someone who just plain goes with the crowed because the thought of being alone is the worst thing you can imagine taking place. No matter the fear, God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. This means he will never race ahead, get distracted by a better situation, or lag behind. This fact is an amazing promise to stand on. Bottom line: you can't get rid of Him. He walks right along side with you, matching your pace every step of the way. 

These four core fears influence our beliefs and our behavior: conflict, abandonment, rejection, and failure. They are not easily faced. The lessons learned in facing the fear does not always come easy. However, that is the point. Character does not come from a life of ease. It comes from being willing to face adversity in light of truth. We come face to face with the distorted beliefs (fears) or behaviors (based in fear) that keep us in unhealthy patterns. The grace and mercy of God is available; Make it a point to trust in that fact. Trust His promise to never leave you nor forsake you. That is the beginning point of your healing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

34 Years Ago

She is eleven years old.  Relating stories told her by family members about a father she never knew, she drops silent, tears running down her face. We sit together for some time in the silence of her grief. Struggling to talk she manages to get out the words, “I have to get through the tears first.” The simple wisdom of her words seem so clear. She is not concerned so much with understanding why as she is with allowing her grief to be just what it is: grief. 

We rob ourselves of an opportunity to experience God’s love for us when we try to cover our grief with intellectual analysis, busyness, or plain old denial. My response to the death of my brother parallels this. Seven years I attempted to deny the fact I felt grief. Only after allowing the grief to surface and God to comfort me did I embrace the reality that loss exists and is natural. The understanding that followed centers around the impact this life event has on my character, personality, and life’s work. My brother died 34 years ago today. 

In time, this eleven-year-old girl may not grieve as hard for her loss. Meanwhile, her focus is simply to cry and receive comfort. May we unashamedly do the same. Whatever your loss, ask the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort to feel the loss with you. Allow His presence to silently yet lovingly be present. In time, we will be able to declare:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Real Freedom

Children amaze me. They are vulnerable, small, precious, and challenging, yet open about their most basic desires. If hungry, they ask for food. If they are upset, they express it. If they want something, they ask or reach for it. If they feel selfish about their things or parents, they push others away. The smaller the child the more basic the desire and expression. Their vulnerability evoke a very protective, guiding, and corrective response inside the adults who love them.

One of the things about the Apostle Paul to be admired is the parent-like stance with the young churches he is nurturing. In talking with the Galatians about their freedom in Christ, he expresses confusion and frustration with their insistence upon returning to the "elementary principles of the world"; The idea that they can work their way into spiritual freedom with Christ.  Like children, they need guidance and correction in knowing how to think and act about 'elementary' principles around being children of God. Paul questions the behavior of the Galatians by stating, "But now that you have come to know God or rather be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world?" (Galatians 2:9 ESV)

As you know, the Lord will challenge us to grow up in Him; take the basic child-like desires and learn to manage these natural responses differently. Real freedom comes in believing the Lord longs to be with us every step of the way. Moving towards maturity in the Lord, invite Jesus in to the "elementary" responses we struggle with. Invite Him to feel what we feel and think what we think. This does not mean He will participate with sin. What it does is invite His Holy Spirit to be with us in the struggle; to be Lord of the most basic desires we have as sin-filled humans. And, over time, the Lord begins to re-wire who we are. (Romans 12:1)

Lord Jesus, feel what we feel, think what we think today. Feel with us our tendency to respond first out of rules rather than the realness of your love and grace. We invite you to be Lord of these responses. We need your wisdom. Walk with us, heal our spirits so we, in turn, may become all that you have for us to be.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Being A Somebody

Let's face it...receiving blessings from those who hold positions of authority is cool! We feel special and like we are significant. Nothing can encourage us more to keep on keeping on. Paul knew this first hand in that he studied at the feet of the best of his day. He was looked up to and followed by many early on in hopes of being seen as "somebody".

Paul's candidness often makes me chuckle. He is so honest about how trival position is! Look at how he describes his contact with some of the Jews. "And from those who seemed to be influential...those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me." (ESV Galatians 2:6)

I laughed to myself because Paul hit it on the head. Those individuals "seemed influential", and, they added no sense of importance or significance to his existence. Paul refused to look to them for validation or worth. He knew and believed his worth was rooted in the work Christ did on the cross for him and the grace made available daily.

Every time we look to others for favor or some sense of acknowledgment we run the risk of being hurt and disappointed. This is so because they are human and fail us just as we do. Having looked to others for signals myself, the disappointment has been huge. In the same light, the disappointment brings us to our knees, face to face with the only one who can really give us a sense of significance and worth.

Is it nice to receive acknowledgment from someone who seems influential? Yes! Does it add anything to our life that God has not already provided? No...Wrapping my heart and mind around this truth will free you to bless and minister even the least of those you have contact with. In God's hands, we are already favored and freely in the presence of this truth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


It is rather early on a Saturday morning that I am writing to you today. Turning to the first chapter of Galatians, I began reading, "Paul, an apostle - not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father..." The phrase "...not from men nor through man..." made for pause in my spirit.

There are many, including myself, who work very hard, to do and be what is believed that God would have us be. Even this week, I had the privilege of listening to a young adult describe the dilemma in his own heart and mind regarding his attempts to avoid behavior that is considered not Christ-like.

I felt sad as I listened to him, becoming aware of how often we buy into the idea that, somehow, our performance is more important than God's Grace. Our behavior is important, this is true. However, the song (based on a Psalm of David) reminds us that The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercy shall never come to an end. They are new every every morning. Great is thy faithfulness O Lord! Great is thy faithfulness! God new we would fail him and fail Him daily. The Lord graciously reminds us and Paul had a firm grasp on this reality; Our position with Christ is not based on performance for or from the approval of man but on the work of the Cross. Thus, Paul was able to confidently state, "Paul, an apostle..."

Be encouraged today! Your position with Christ is secure; Not because of man's approval or because someone says so. In His hands, you are secure because Jesus paid the price and our Heavenly Father deemed it to be so. Paul had a handle on this and it freed him to be himself; succeed or fail. And, he was honest about ALL parts of him. Nothing frees us more than being honest with the Lord (and those we trust) about our successes and failures. His love and mercy is available every morning. We can then state with assurance (place your name in place of Paul's), "Brenda, a child of God...not from men nor through man...but through Jesus Christ and God the Father..."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Boasting Success

Nothing can be more irritating than when you are talking with someone and everything leads back to how wonderful THEY are. The focus becomes touting their own successes more than any genuine interest in you or what may be taking place in your life. In circumstances like this, we find ourselves wanting to run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction. The entire time, filled with the realization of how easy it is to do the very same thing.

Paul is defending his ministry when he writes this verse. "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." (2 Corinthians 10:17-18 ESV) He is discussing the limits of his influence and his determination to not boast beyond his area of influence (Vs 13). Knowing the limits of our influence is not always easy to discern. However, speaking genuinely about what we do know and giving the glory to the Lord is to be the focus of our 'boasting'.

Hope rises when we see how Paul handles his success. He knew his area of influence was assigned to him by God. Paul spoke candidly about his limitations. His honesty about desiring to increase is just as candid and expressed with reason; for the sake of the Gospel. And, he pointed to the only thing any of us have to boast about...the Lord.

Lord, help us remember that any success comes by your assignment only, that it has boundaries, and that all the glory goes to you and you alone.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Living Grace

Relationships continue to challenge me to the very core of who I am. When I reach the core I am not pleased with what I find very often. Reading 1 Corinthians 4, my mind raced with the many ways it applied to who and how I am with those around me. Paul begins and ends the chapter with "...we do not lose heart..." Sandwiched in the middle is an amazing discourse on the reality of being afflicted by others in seeming irritating ways, confusion in understanding their ways, accused or not well thought of and, yes, even being left.

Paul's emphasis is on the inner transformation that is taking place. All the problems people face in relationships are never talked about as abnormal or unusual. His emphasis, over and over, points them to the eternal goal: becoming like Jesus, becoming a vessel of glory.

I know, I have heard it a million times yet I saw it differently today. Paul says in verse 2, "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.". In verse 7 he reminds us, "...we have this treasure in jars of clay,...".   The work of ensuring success in my relationships begins with what I am willing to renounce. Then, am I willing to remember that others and I will always be earthen vessels?! In the end, do I believe God is molding, shaping, forming me to be a vessel of glory. To this I say, "Yes!"

Do not lose heart! Refuse to go to a disgraceful or dishonest place in your thoughts and behaviors with one another. This is the foundational principle that helps relationships succeed and here, Paul, is living out that very principle. The challenge is to continue to live and extend grace, to keep our eyes on the eternal goal...not the one opposite you. In time, you will learn the skill of extending grace yet maintaining healthy relating skills. For now...let the hands of God do their work. In time, you will give grace out of the grace you have been given.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Find Yourself

"Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea. Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath..." Acts 8:40-9:1 

Chuckling inwardly, I read and reread the phrase, "Philip found himself...". The stark contrast of the context in which this is written began took shape. In the midst of great suffering Philip experiences a miraculous event. It would seem he was so wrapped up in doing what God placed in front of him to do that he ignored or, at least, was not hindered in any way by the threats Saul was expressing. 

The dichotomy of finding oneself in the midst of great opposition often leaves us frustrated yet we, hopefully, would not trade those times for anything. Longing to be all we can be; all God would have us be we become disillusioned, discouraged. Facing threats, real or imagined IS a part of finding yourself. Giving out to those you come in contact with in the daily routine IS a part of finding yourself. 

Suffering in the midst of giving out will always be an opportunity to find the source of your strength, your sin, your ministry. My dear friend, trust what God places in front of you today to accomplish, use whatever ability you have for His glory. You will experience suffering...I so wish I could tell you differently. The beauty of it all is, in the end, you will find yourself, and stand amazed at what God can do!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Shame - Embracing Humanity

"For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle..." (1 Corinthians 15: 9) Reading these words this morning, I found myself admiring how Paul seemed able to live powerfully and honestly with the reality of his past sin. Paul's words seem so opposite of what his life came to represent to those of us walking with the Lord two centuries later. He did not live thinking that he would be remembered for eternity and his letters placed in the Word of God as we know it. Paul just lived...taught...encouraged...challenged...and loved. 

Somehow, he was able to embrace his humanity. Many that I have the privilege of counseling struggling with admitting their contribution to the issues that bring them to my office. Gently, over time, they are challenged to embrace the truth of how they participate in the problem. For some, they are not able to see their part. Others, respond with remorse, repentance and move forward to healthier behaviors. 

Any shame Paul experienced was repeatedly brought back to the truth of what God's grace had provided for Him. The same is true in the healing process. Reminding my clients of God's grace and steadfast love will always be a part of the journey they are in. must be a part of our daily walk as well. There are times we need to remember the place God's love has rescued us from. Paul reminded himself of his moral littleness. Then... accompany it with the reminder of God's work of Grace. (Vs. 10) Paul goes on to say, "But by the Grace of God I am what I am..." This practice does not mean we are without responsibility. It just means we are aware. Aware of our participation with our humanity and aware of God's gift of grace. 

As a result, like Paul, we labour all the more to allow grace to have its way in the daily interactions and tasks that life brings. Embrace your humanity today with the help of God's grace. Great hope and freedom awaits you on the other side of this kind of honesty.