Monday, January 2, 2017

My Prayer for My Family in 2017

I asked the Lord to show me a verse to pray over my family for 2017 and I want to share it with you. I believe He led me to Isaiah 26:3 which says,

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."

I pray that you would help us to keep our minds set on you; remove any impure thoughts that prevent us from seeing and hearing you. Help us to trust in you no matter the circumstances. Give us the peace that surpasses understanding as we seek to know you more this year than we have in the past. May our home be a place of peace and may all who enter experience the peace that comes from knowing you. As we strive to know you more, may others be drawn to you through your work in our lives to transform us into your image. 
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Is there a passage God is calling you to pray over your life or your family this year? If so, I'd love for you to share it with me so I can pray for your family as well.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Describe 2016 with One Word - GO!

One word. This was the challenge.  This morning I asked my Facebook friends to describe 2016 in one word. Many were heartwarming and made me smile; others hurt my heart.  How would I describe 2016 -- complete.

In 2016 I completed my dissertation; I completed the PhD program and graduated. I completed the national mental health counseling examination and achieved several longstanding goals.  Jorjanne finished driver's ed and completed her third high school drama performance. Jeff completed two thru-hikes as well as his first song-writing conference.

The election -- well praise God it is complete!

Several people I know and love completed the race this year; they fought the good fight and won the prize. I am grateful for the honor knowing some amazing people (I started to list them here but there are so many...suffice it to say we lost some "greats" this year.

In a few hours the year itself will come to both an end and a beginning. A new chapter.  I look forward with great anticipation to what 2017 will bring.

So what is your word?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

5 Ways to Deal with Family Conflict during the Holidays

The holidays bring families together; this can be a joyous time of celebration OR it can be a time of intense conflict and stress. Over the years, I've experienced both the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child, and the horror of unfiltered, angry words instigating heart-wrenching pain.

If Christmas brings joy and peace in your home, give glory to God and thank Him for this gift! If the holiday season brings out the worst in you, or in those around you, here are some tips to help you cope during the holiday season.

1.  The Bible calls us to pray for those who persecute us. Pray for the "black sheep" in the family. Pray for those who have hurt you in the past. Ask God to help you to forgive them. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

2.  Take time outs. Be sure to schedule breaks where you can get away by yourself and refuel. Do this before things escalate out of control.

3.  Pause before you speak and think about the potential consequences of your words. The Bible likens the tongue to a match that starts great fires...guard your tongue.

4.  Read the Christmas story in Luke 2. Jesus humbled himself and left his throne in heaven to live in a world that would hate him, humiliate him, and ultimately kill him...and He knew this before He came. Why did he come then? Love. He loves the unloveable. He loves us in spite of ourselves. We can follow his example and extend love and grace to those who are difficult to lvoe.

5.  Practice gratitude. When you are spending extensive time with your family, look for reasons to be thankful. Many are alone during the holidays; if you are with family, be thankful you are not alone. Many are grieving the loss of loved ones; be thankful for the people in your life today. Many are hungry and in need of shelter. Be intentional about practicing thankfulness.

When we do these things, our circumstances may not change, but our attitudes may. It is amazing how a change in attitude can become contagious. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Learning to Listen

Panic. Dread. Unprecedented Fear. These emotions describe the turmoil in our car just moments before Jorjanne's first driving lesson.After a quick prayer, I gently instructed her on keeping it between the lines, knowing when to brake and when to speed up. As I did these feelings slowly began to dissipate. Peace and calm gradually filled the space once filled with anxiety and worry.

As I've reflected on our time together in the car I realized that in order for Jorjanne to focus on driving we had to tune out the distractions (turn off cell phones and radio). She listened intently to my voice and worked diligently to obey the commands given to her.

God wants us to do the same in daily lives. Too often distractions drown out his still, small voice until we are consumed with doing what the world deems important, and our thoughts become consumed with worry.

Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and psychologist, wrote "Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life."

Let me say that again. "Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life."

If this is true, how many of us are failing to live a spiritual life? Why is it that so many of us avoid getting alone and being still before the Lord? I believe the answer lies in our own inability to stop our thoughts from wandering. 

I don't know about you, but when I get quiet my mind starts to race. I think about my to-do list and have to fight the urge to not "do something." If I am quiet long enough anxieties, fears, hurtful memories, anger, and pain threaten to consume me. Uncomfortable with these feelings, I want to stop this "inner chat" and resume my life of busyness. "We are surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when he is speaking to us."

This is the opposite of what God calls us to do. We are to be still before the Lord. It is only when we allow these thoughts to permeate us, that God is able to counter our hurts and fears with the peace that surpasses understanding. Slowly the Holy Spirit does a healing work in the deep recesses of our heart and soul.

One of my professors in seminary required that we spend 3 hours alone with the Lord. Honestly, I dreaded this assignment and thought it was a waste of time. So out of obligation, I gathered my Bible, a hymnal, a journal and my guitar and headed for the state park. In the beginning there was a lot of awkwardness. My mind wandered, and I would fight to bring it back to the Word. As I disciplined myself to be still, I experienced one of the sweetest, most intimate times with the Lord that I've ever had. I left that park different than I arrived. I left with contentment, peace and joy even though my life circumstances remained the same.

Nouwen stated it this way. "Our hope is not based on something that will happen after our sufferings are over, but on the real presence of God's healing Spirit in the midst of these sufferings."

Spending 3 hours alone with God daily is not realistic for most of us. The point of this blog is to encourage you to find a starting point for solitude. Consider scheduling time in your calendar for solitude and don't let anything change that appointment. Get up early on Sundays and spend time preparing your heart for worship -- maybe even go to the Church and find a quiet place to pray and listen.

Solitude is not easy. It is awkward at first, but it has the potential to radically sanctify us and make us more like Christ. If Jesus was always intently listening to the Father, how much more do we need to do so?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Venting on Social Media

You've seen it. Someone is upset and they use the internet to "air out" their frustrations with someone else. College students complain about roommates. Individuals air the family's dirty laundry on Facebook, seeking to shame each other. Ex's use Instagram to denigrate the person who was once loved. Let's not even start with how bad this has gotten in political posts.

I'm not sure when the shift began, but more and more people are using social media to vent their anger, frustrations, and disappointments with others. Why? What is the point? Do the people engaged in online bashing hope to gain sympathy from others or are they attempting to bring shame and guilt to the alleged perpetrator -- or maybe it's a combination of the two.

I have to say, when I see this, rarely do I feel compassion or empathy for the person who has been "wronged," nor do I feel outrage at the accused. Instead, I often feel disappointed in the person who is posting derogatory comments about another person.

Slander is slander, and gossip is gossip -- whether in person or on social media. The scriptures compel us to go to the person we have a problem with and talk it out with them. If they refuse to listen, we are to take someone with us to talk to them. I wonder how many people who are lambasting others online have bothered to talk to the person with whom they are angry.

As I read people "venting" online, many of them do so because of unmet expectations. My husband often reminds me that expectations are premeditated resentments. We have to be careful not to expect others to read our minds, to know what to do, or even to do what is right. We can only control our actions, and not that of others. When others disappoint us, pointing it out to the world via social media may bring cause them pain, but it also smears our own reputation.

Now, as a disclaimer, I'm not writing this in response to any particular post, lest you think I am being passive aggressive and lashing out in my own subversive way. I've just noticed an increase in cyberbullying from adults. We talk about how this is wrong for our youth, but what exactly are we teaching them through our own social media posts?

If this post describes your past posts, I pray you will feel conviction and not condemnation or judgment. I pray that you will think twice before posting negative comments or posts about others. I admit, there have been numerous times when I was tempted to respond to posts with a tongue lashing of my own but I am doing my best to refrain.

The world of social media is a tangled web, but we can do our part to keep it classy.