Friday, November 28, 2014

My Accidental Dating Life

I recently took one of those tests on Facebook...you know the kind...Can we guess your real age? Can we guess your job? What color describes your personality?

I don't even remember what the test was about because I ended up signing up for a dating service. There was an ad at the top of the page that I didn't thoroughly read. I only saw Men and Women. I thought I was supposed to choose which one I was for the sake of the test. I chose Women, since that is the category that best describes me.

I was instantly shown some very un-sexy men in my age category. I would later find out that it was an app that I downloaded, and with that download, I allowed this site to have access to my Facebook information. Scary. Very scary. In fact, I sort of freaked out. I was suddenly a happily married woman trolling Facebook for the scum of the earth to have an affair with. Help!

It got worse. My e-mail inbox was flooded (okay, so a light trickle; I'm not that desirable) with emails from desperate and lonely people who sent me an "ice-breaker," a question about myself to start the conversation. Oh my! I didn't even open them. I continued to freak out. What have I done? And how do I undo it? 

Someone help!

I finally figured out that it was an app and all I had to do was uninstall it and everything went away. No more ice-breaker questions. No more emails. No more men who don't care what they look like thinking that they might be attractive to a happily married woman who writes a Christian blog and might decide to talk about them on said blog.

But this little slip of the finger taught me something valuable:

Life is not a series of apps that we can just undo to make undesirable things go away.

We often make mistakes, and we have to deal with them. We have to suffer the consequences of our impetuous decisions, our impulsive purchases, our immature words and actions.

I was lucky that this was an easy fix.  But what if I wasn't happily married? What if I was lonely? What if I was "just curious?" What if the man who popped up on my screen looked like George Clooney...or WAS George Clooney? Isn't that how sin begins? Temptation. Oh, I'm just going to look; there's no harm in that. Oh, it's just this one time. I only cheated a little. 

You can't sin "just a little bit." You either don't give in to temptation or you do. And if you do, you've sinned.

The good news is that God always forgives us when we repent. Always.

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9)

The bad news is that we often leave a mess behind us. A mess that God won't clean up for us. He might supply us with the means, and he might send folks to come alongside and encourage us and support us, but he won't do it for us. Ironically, that's also good news.

Anyone who is a parent understands the importance of letting their child clean up his or her own mess. If we do it for them, they'll never learn. God does the same for us.

God forgives our sins, but he allows us to be uncomfortable in our consequences. It's the only way we'll learn.

We can't just uninstall our mistakes. We can't just turn our beliefs off and on, like we do our computer, and hope that temptation doesn't pop up again each time we reboot. And unfortunately, the beauty of editing something written doesn't happen in real life. We can't edit what we say or do once it's said or done (Oh, how I wish I could...). We can't always undo our actions. 

Hopefully this helps us think twice about our actions. In a lightning fast world, it's easy to get caught up in "gimme it now." But as my accidental dating life can attest to, "now" is not always the best option.

Think!

(Maybe one of these days I'll tell you about the time I answered an ad on Craig's List for "adult actors" and talked to the guy for 5 minutes before I realized I was pre-auditioning for porn. True story. Like I said, "Think!")

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Sharing this post with Deb at Blessing Counters, Rosilind with A Little R&R, Janis at Sunday Stillness, Barbie at the Weekend Brew, Terri at Good Morning Monday, Joan at Sharing His Beauty, Laura at Playdates With God and Naomi at Monday Musings

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Time of Thanks? Not So Much.

Everyone has been jumping on the blogging bandwagon these past few weeks and talking about thankfulness.  Gee, I wonder why?  Could it have something to do with turkey?

By the way, we're having ham.  All these years I've been cooking turkey and everyone prefers ham. Huh.

At any rate, since it's a busy week, I won't inundate your mailbox with more than today's post. 

I won't bore you with all that I'm thankful for. Most likely, it's the same list as yours. Family, friends, health, a job, a safe place to live, a warm bed, good health, freedom to worship a glorious God.  

Yes, I'm thankful for all of those things. And I'm not trying to diminish thankfulness. Not at all!

However, this time of year is not a cause for celebration for everyone.  Some folks are estranged from their families. Others have lost loved ones, and are still grieving. Still others are just lonely or depressed. They're told to be grateful and joyful and they feel anything but. They want to hide under the covers until it's all over, or punch all the happy people in the face. 

Let's not be too hard on those folks. In fact, let's invite them in and give them a hot cup of coffee, a warm piece of pie, and a listening shoulder. Let's try to understand where others are when they're not where we are. Let's learn to listen.


For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...truly I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of  these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25: 35-40)

Finally, in my own little self-absorbed blog world, I'd like to thank you, my readers. Without you, if no one reads it, what's the point of blogging? Thank you for listening to my ramblings!

I'm so grateful for all of you, and I do pray for you.  I may not know every visitor who stops by, but I do know who is on my email subscriber list, and whenever one of you comes to mind, I stop and pray.

When you're feeling blue, lonely, grief-stricken or disconnected, come on in and have a virtual cup of coffee, a virtual piece of pie, and know that you're always welcome in my virtual world, as well as my physical one.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Shating today with Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Judith at Wholehearted Wednesday, Joan at Sharing His Beauty

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaving the Old Whine Behind

I used to be a world class whiner. I could have been the poster child for complaining. 

And I stayed stuck. 

Stuck in mediocrity.
Stuck in negativity.
Stuck in pessimism.

And I was a bible-toting, born-again, worship-leading, prayer-warrior Believer.

Believer is a tricky word... believer of what? Who?

Deep down, I loved God, but I didn't REALLY believe for myself everything that I believed for everyone else. Somehow, I didn't feel quite worthy of it all.

I was pouring new whine into my old whineskins.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins (Mark 2:22)

You can't continue to live the old life in the new. You can't whine and complain and still say you believe.

Whining says this:

W hat about me?
H ow can I get my way?
I t's not my fault!
N obody listens to me.
E veryone else gets all the breaks.


People don't like to be around whiners. 


Eventually, I didn't want to be around me either! So, I decided to take the initiative to change. But how does a lifelong whiner change? There are no 12-Step recovery groups out there for whiners. Actually, I never checked. There very well could be, but my guess is that everyone got sick of hearing each other and quit.

The answer is gratitude and praise. 

Read the Psalms. Specifically Psalms 103-118. Almost every one of these psalms either starts or ends with "Praise the Lord," or "Give thanks to the Lord."

The psalmists are notorious whiners. 

Really. Most psalmists lament and whine about their enemies and their problems, but they always turn it around to thanking God, blessing God, proclaiming the greatness of God, and praising God. 

Try it. Instead of whining, try finding something to thank God for. Praise Him simply for who He is. Get your mind off yourself.

Praise involves this:

P ause
R eflect 
A sk
I nitiate
S peak
E stablish 

Pause. When you take a moment to think about what direction you really want to take, you'll be able to think more clearly. 


You have the ability to choose how you want to view the situation.

Reflect on the situation/circumstance and on the WHINE acronym. 
  • Is it about you...really? Or are you just being overly sensitive/self-absorbed? 
  • Do you need to take responsibility for any part of this?
  • Is "nobody" listening to you because they've heard it all before? Maybe they're tired of hearing it again.
  • Could it be time to let it go?
  • Most important...do you really want your way or are you ready to do things God's way? That might mean giving up your agenda...actually, it most likely will mean that.
Ask yourself, others and God. You've already started asking when you reflect on the old WHINE. Ask yourself if what you're whining about is true, or are you falling into the trap of the enemy. Ask God to change your heart. Ask others for help, if needed. Instead of griping, ask.

Initiate change. Once you've determined what you need to do, put it into action. Not doing your part, not doing what you need to do to change will keep you stuck in passivity and pessimism. And staying stuck will keep you in your old whine.


Speak forth the truth. Read the Psalms, specifically Psalms 103-118. Speak praise into the air. Read Psalm 119 and speak forth the truth about how much God loves you. Speaking it out loud will not only break the assignments and lies that the enemy has against you, but hearing it yourself will cause you to believe it more than just reading it.


S also stands for Sing...Sing your way to praise


If the video does not display, you can open it here. Yet I Will Praise You (Vineyard)

Establish a new pattern of thinking based on these truths. Learn to recognize your whining. Learn to say no to it. Choose what you think about. Choose to think on those things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). 

Have nothing to do with thoughts that are demeaning, demanding or devaluing. 

Put these things into practice and the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:9). 

And if the God of peace is with you, than who can be against you? (Rom 8:31)

Before you know it, you'll have left your old whine behind. The new whine? Well, there is no new whine. It has fermented and become praise.

Blessings Along the Path of Praise,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Being the Funny Bone in the Body of Christ

Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the "body" of Christ.

If the foot says, "I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand," that does not make it any less a part of the body. And what would you think if you heard an ear say, "I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye."? Would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye---then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?

But that isn't the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! So he has made many parts, but still there is only one body. (I Cor 12:12, 15-19, TLB)

Chances are, you've heard this teaching at least once. I guarantee, this one's different. Please read on.

Have you ever considered what part of the body you would be?
Mary, wearing her"special" sunglasses:
For partly sunny days (the lens fell out)
If you're a blogger/writer, you probably consider yourself a hand, or a mouth, because a finger isn't very glamorous. And you have to share the hand with nine other fingers. Well, technically seven. Thumbs are in a class of their own. (Those are apparently the Clumsy in Christ---you know..."all thumbs?")

If you like to speak, you probably consider yourself a mouth. 

If you pastor, teach or evangelize, you most likely consider yourself a mouth.


Did you ever notice that there are a lot of mouths in the Body of Christ?

We all want to be a hand. Or a mouth. Or a heart. Or a mind/brain. Those are the glamorous parts of the body.

No one wants to be the gall bladder. That's just a storage unit. And apparently it can be taken out at any time, so we must not really need it. Nobody wants to risk not being needed.

You would think that the liver is a pretty gross job. But actually, the liver's job is to clean the blood and produce bile, an important digestive liquid. It also stores energy in the form of sugar. So the liver of Christ would be someone like a counselor; someone who helps to clean up a new Christian, renewing them with the cleansing blood of Christ, and mentors them with bile that helps them digest the Word of God, energizing them with the sweetness of Christ if you will.

Okay, it's a stretch, but let's get creative here! As we read in 1 Corinthians, we can't all be the eye or the heart or the mouth. So you have to pick something else.

I wanted to be a mouth, but I was immediately disqualified on a technicality. My foot is usually in my mouth, and I'm only allowed one body part. That's technically two.

I think I'm the funny bone.



The funny bone is located on the inside of the elbow. It's actually not a bone at all, but a nerve called the ulnar nerve which, when hit, gives you a strange sensation. You don't know if you should laugh or cry. It just feels weird.

I don't mind being the guinea pig in a group. I'm happy to be the brunt of the joke for the sake of breaking the ice. I'll venture out first when no one else wants to. I'm a bit strange or quirky, or weird, and I'm flexible (being located in the elbow necessitates flexibility).

I've always enjoyed entertaining people. I love to make people laugh. But I've been told that sometimes I have the ability to hone in on what's at the heart of the matter, thereby having the ability to allow people to feel safe and cry if they need to. 

In essence, people don't know whether to laugh or cry when I'm around them. 

So, funny bone it is.

I just hope I don't make them feel weird.

Ah well, it's better than being the rectum.

Blessings Along the Path,










sharing this post with Laura at Playdates With God, Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Rosilind at A Little R&R, Judith at Wholehearted Wednesday, Holley at Coffee For Your Heart, Shari at Word Filled Wednesday, Beth at Wedded Wednesday, Lyli at Thought Provoking Thursday, Crystal at Thriving Thursdays, Laura at Faith Filled Friday, Angie at Heart Filled Fridays, Deb at Blessing Counters, Barbie at The Weekend Brew, Janis at Sunday Stillness, Naomi at Monday Musings, Good Morning Mondays, Joan at Sharing His Beauty

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop Worshiping Silly Idols

Last weekend I was searching for some old writings that I'd done when I came across some other writings that I'd forgotten about.

I found this little nugget from several years ago. It was published in our church's women's newsletter. I thought it would be good blog material, so here it is. I hope it blesses someone today.



I recently had the opportunity to feel sorry for myself, and I took it...momentarily. I was at a function with a group of people who had decided to go out together after the function, but neglected to include me. I could have invited myself, but it's not in my nature to be so forward (that's sarcasm).  

Truth be told, I was waiting to be invited. I wanted to be included. And I wasn't. And that hurt.

There was a time in my life where that would have devastated me, and I would have left in tears. But as I drove home, I heard God whisper to me in my spirit. He was inviting me. 

I realized that no invitation comes close to one from the King of Glory.

I sing that He is my all in all, my everything, all I need, but when I'm excluded, something or someone else becomes what I need at that time, and I lose my hold on God. I forsake Him. I cleave to that which is in my face at the time, attempting to satisfy my flesh. The irony is that my flesh is far from satisfied. It is wounded.



When I got home, I told my husband about my hurt, and his very male response was, "I wouldn't let it get to you." His advice was simple and right, but women tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. 

Having been wounded, my flesh demanded even more attention.

So in an attempt to satisfy, I decided that I needed food, preferably something sweet. But there was nothing. Not even something sweet to drink, so I said, "I guess I'll just have a big glass of water. I'm getting fat anyway." My self-pity helped to feed the offense. 

But God was still standing there, inviting me, and He was waiting for my response. 

So I left my pity party, and went to my prayer place.

My bible "happened" to fall open to Jeremiah Chapter 2 and this specifically caught my eye:

Yet my people have given up their glorious God for silly idols! (v11)

For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me, the Fountain of Life-giving Water, and they have built for themselves broken cisterns that can't hold water . (v13)

The Hebrew word for forsaken means to loosen or relinquish. My desire to be included caused me to give up my glorious God and allow others to become my "silly idols." The need for acceptance became my cistern...one that could not hold water. 

I had turned my back on God, allowing my faith in God's total acceptance to be relinquished! 

This, we are told, is considered an evil thing. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I needed to repent! And...I needed to forgive those who had unknowingly hurt me. Because deep down, I knew that they didn't purposely exclude me.

The funny thing is that I didn't want to go with them anyway! I needed to go home and be with my husband, whom I hadn't seen all day. It was late, and truthfully, close to bedtime. I simply wanted to be included. How quick we are to give up our peace for "silly idols!"

I remember very clearly that after this newsletter was published, one of the people who had excluded me (and who happened to go to my church) came up to me and said, "I read your piece in the newsletter. Was one of those people me?" I responded that yes, it was, and she was so upset that she'd hurt my feelings. She never intended to, as I knew. She thought that I'd been invited and declined (Which is what I would have done anyway). Most likely, everyone in the group thought someone else had invited me.

Don't let the silly idols of your fleshly desire to be accepted cause you to lose your peace, build a cistern that holds no water and forsake your God. The same God who invited me and then stood there, patiently waiting for my response, the same God who accepted and loved me even after I had forsaken Him is inviting you today.

What will your response be?


RSVP: JEREMIAH 33:3

Blessings Along the Path,









sharing this post with Laura at Playdates With God, Joan at Sharing His Beauty, Naomi at Monday Musings, Holly at Testimony Tuesday

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Update on Pearlina

For those of you who have followed the blogs I posted about Pearlina and Katie Meyler, from the More Than Me organization (on fighting ebola in Liberia), I have an update on Pearlina:  


She is out of the woods, having tested negative for the virus! 

AND her grandmother and her father have been found, so she is no longer an orphan!



You can read all about this charming 3-year old here.

For more information on the More Than Me Organization, please visit their website at www.morethanme.org

Blessings,
Mary

sharing with All Things Bright and Beautiful

Friday, November 14, 2014

Gifted Ignorance: Part II: Passive vs. Active Prayer

I've often heard people say things like, "God told me to (fill in the blank) and now I'm just waiting for the right people to come alongside me and help me." And then they sit by their computer/mailbox/phone and wait.

or 

"I'm praying for the right job to come along." But they don't actively look for a job.

Well, I think, you might be waiting a long time. God is not a genie.

What I want to say is, What are you afraid of?

Okay, grace is not my best attribute. I admit it. 

Merriam Webster defines passive as used to describe someone who allows things to happen or accepts whatever people do or decide without trying to change anything.

When we hear that word, we typically think of a "passive" person, one who doesn't like confrontation or doesn't set boundaries; someone who lets others make decisions. 

But "passive" also implies inertia, a lack of movement or activity, especially when movement or activity is wanted or needed.

Active involves and is characterized by action and participation rather than contemplation or speculation.

Maybe "active" is not a fair description of the "doing" type of prayer I'm talking about. Quiet prayer can also be active. But for the sake of this post, I'm going to stick with this term.

I've never been the kind of person who waits to be rescued out of my circumstances. I've always been a more active than passive person. Once I see the solution, I go after it. If there is something I need to learn, I learn it. If there are classes, workshops, lectures or conferences, I go. If I need to meet people, I figure out how to meet them. Whatever I need to do to get to where I need to go, I do it. Hence, I tend to be an active-prayer type person. "Show me what to do, Lord." 

So it's often difficult for me to pray with a passive mindset. By passive, I mean not actively pursuing the outcome. Sometimes we need to be still and let God be God and do what God wants and needs to do. Sometimes active-type of praying people need to be less active and keep our hands off things so that we can watch God move. Pray and let it go. Stand back and let things unfold. Our activity can actually hinder God's plan.

But sometimes we need to get up and do what needs to be done after we've prayed about the situation. Sometimes God puts people in our path to help us and teach us. But we usually have to actively pursue those people and find the parts that fit into the puzzle of our prayer. Passive-prayer type people need to learn that sometimes you need to do your part. 

Jesus told the invalid at the pool at Bethesda "Stand up, pick up your mat and walk." Instantly, the man was healed! He picked up his sleeping mat and began walking. He did his active part.



There have been times when God ordains the right people at the right time. For instance, Jonathan Cahn tells the story of how his book, The Harbinger came to be published by a divine appointment on an airplane. And we've all heard stories of how an opportunity or a job seems to just "fall in your lap." It happens. But it doesn't typically happen that way. 

I'm not diminishing the power of or the need for prayer. Not by any means. But ignoring the advice of people who try to help you in an attempt to "wait" for God to move is like waiting for a train at the bus station and ignoring the bus driver each time he says, "Do you want to get on? I'm going your way." No thank you. I'll wait for the train to whisk me away. Even though I see no tracks, I'm quite sure the train will come anyway.

That's not trust. That's ignorance.

On the other hand...

Sometimes, I admit, I pray "actively" because I'm afraid. Afraid that if I don't do something, I might miss an opportunity. God might pass me by and move on to the next person. God might need my help. I often find it difficult to be still (and know that He is God-Psalm 46:10). I find it hard to trust Him in the quiet. I find it hard to understand how someone can sit and wait and not do anything.

I admit it...that's ignorance as well. My way is not the right way.



Sometimes God wants us to be still. And sometimes He wants us to do something. Knowing the difference is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity.

What type of prayer do you gravitate to? I want to challenge you today to try to see things from the other type of perspective. 

I believe that we resist praying in a way that is not comfortable or natural for us because we are afraid that we'll do it wrong. And if we do it wrong, maybe God won't hear.

God always hears. Prayer is never wrong. And He is always with us. Even when we get it wrong.

Ask yourself, "What am I afraid of?" 

If you tend to wait, try taking an active approach.  Ask others who can help. Listen to what they say. Do the work. 

If you tend to move, try being still. Wait to hear God's voice. Watch God's plan unfold. Let God be God.

God just might surprise you.

Blessings Along the Path,









photo credit
Sharing this post with Laura from Faith Filled Friday, Deb with Blessing Counters, Crystal with Thriving Thursdays, Lyli at Thought Provoking Thursday, Angie at Heart Filled Fridays, Barbie with The Weekend Brew and Janis at Sunday Stillness

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Stories Behind the Songs: Now I Know My Father's Love


I took piano lessons as a kid. Who didn't? I loved my first teacher, Mrs. Wright. She came to our house.  She had beautiful swooping handwriting and a quiet voice. We all loved her.

Then we moved. My new teacher, whom I shall call Mrs. P., was high strung and demanding. I had to go to her house, and her small children played in the other room with a babysitter. My lesson ended at close to dinnertime, and by then everyone was on edge--the kids, the babysitter, the teacher and the student. And every time I hit a wrong key, I heard, "No!"

That's all I remember about Mrs. P----an unhappy woman who was demanding and unforgiving.

That is what I carried with me my whole life when it came to the arts, whether it was the piano, clarinet, guitar, voice or acting.

I was also a very insecure child. I don't know why. I just was.

A terrible combination.

In fifth grade, the chorus I was in had tryouts for solo parts. I was deathly afraid of singing solo in public, and I didn't want to audition. But my friend talked me into it. I figured that I had to audition to get into the chorus and I didn't die, so maybe this wouldn't kill me either.

The room was packed with little girls (and probably some boys) hoping to earn the coveted solo spot. Not me, but I had no choice. I couldn't turn back. I went to the front of the room, opened my mouth and someone else's voice came out. It didn't sound anything like me! I found out that day that in addition to a "chest" voice and a "head" voice, I also had a "nervous" voice.

I didn't get the part. Thank God! My friend did. I remember watching her the night of the concert and was so struck by how confident she was. I didn't have that. I was happy to blend in.

But there was always a part of me that didn't want to blend in. A part that wanted to be heard. A part that wanted to create and share and soar and be noticed. But I had no confidence. 

25 years later I found myself in the same spot. I was singing in the church choir, really enjoying my night out for rehearsal. But I still had no confidence. And I was still very insecure, even though I had given my life to Jesus. By now I had "issues" that were heaped on to my insecurity---my parents' divorce, personal breakups, a marriage that wasn't so great and years of being mocked and criticized by people that I took to heart.

I really believed that I couldn't sing. I was so insecure that I remember going out to the bathroom once during rehearsal and on the way to the bathroom thinking that the rest of the choir was talking about how bad I was but allowing me to stay because that's the "Christian thing to do." Of course, none of this was the case. Try telling that to an insecure person.

At this time, I rediscovered my dusty piano. I loved the worship music at church and wanted to worship at home. So I tried playing hymns from the hymnal. That didn't work so well. Hymns all seem to be written in keys like Eb. I couldn't play songs with all those black keys. 

So I found praise books. I tried playing the songs I heard in church, but it was slow and tedious because I had a hard time reading music. I was frustrated because I could feel this tension inside me...a longing, a desire to worship the Lord through song. Something welling up inside me that was screaming to get out. My fingers wanted to dance on the keys, but were instead paralyzed. 

Then I discovered the guitar chords on top of the music staff...could I play those instead of reading the music?

This opened up a whole new world for me. I realized that I could play by ear and improvise. My piano playing went to a whole new level. 



I've always loved writing, and even as a kid, I wrote songs. The ones I wrote in high school were dark and depressing. But now, even as I was learning and playing, songs started coming...songs about God's love, forgiveness, goodness, blessing and promises.  Modern-day psalms. Like the psalms in the bible, my songs often started out describing the pain, the fear or the darkness I felt, but always turned into a praise.

I sat at my piano long into the nighttime hours when everyone was asleep (it was in the basement) praising God for who He is and for his faithfulness. The more I played, the more I learned from the Holy Spirit.

One night I had a revelation:

As I poured out my heart, my insecurities, my fears and my paltry offerings of praise, He poured back into me His love, mercy, forgiveness...and even confidence. Even greater abilities...which I poured back to Him through worship.

It was a beautiful cycle that never ended and only got better and better.

I had confidence in Christ; therefore, I had confidence.

Through the gifts that God bestowed on me (along with some great support/recovery groups), I was healed of insecurity, hurt, the fear and pain of rejection, and so much more. 

Amazing! It was through my own gifts that He healed me. Did I say, Amazing!?

I came to understand the deep love of my Heavenly Father; a love so deep and wide and long and deep; a love that goes beyond any earthly love of any parent, spouse or any other deep love.

I finally understood my Father's Love. And this is what I wrote to and for Him (you may have already heard/seen this on Friday...or it may not open for you, if this blog was automatically emailed to you. If that's the case, you can open it here)



Blessings Along the Path,







sharing this post with Word Filled Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Wholehearted Wednesday, A Little R&R, Wedded Wednesday

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gifted Ignorance: Part I: Overspiritualizing Your Gifts

People who are insecure with the gifts and talents that God has bestowed on them often overspiritualize their gifts. Sometimes it comes across as being a bit arrogant, overly self-assured, or prideful, but it's actually the opposite. 

A person who is insecure may even be afraid of the gift...afraid of the responsibility that comes with that gift, so they put it back on God, in case anything goes wrong. In case anyone finds out that they don't really know what they're doing and the gift gets taken away. Then they can say that God removed the gift. 

But He is the Giver of all gifts and He doesn't take them away or change His mind. (Rom 11:29)

An insecure person may realize that God has given them this gift, this talent, but they may not know what to do with it; how to develop it. They become afraid of falling into pride, so they attempt to stay humble by giving all the credit to God. This is sometimes called false humility.

Often, they tend to give God more credit than is due Him.  "Oh, it's all God. I didn't write any of it. It was all Holy Spirit inspired. It was God moving through me. It wasn't even my voice."

Guess what? It's not that good. If it were, your book would be included with Matthew's, Mark's, Luke's and John's. Your songs would be Psalms Version 2.0. Your wisdom would be Proverbs Reloaded. And your (or my) blogs might be labeled, Mary's emails to the New Jerseyans. You're not that good. And neither am I. We're human. What we do is never, "all God."

In fact, I'll go one step further and declare that it borders on insulting God to compare our measly human attempts with the Holy.


We are God's voice. But we are not God. Never God. 

He anoints us to write/sing/speak/preach/teach/evangelize/whatever...but we need to always remember that we are human. 

And because we are human, we will make mistakes. 

We are flawed. And whatever God gives us will be characterized by those flaws. If it weren't, we would be perfect.

And there is only one perfect and sinless one....Jesus Christ.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

The gifts are perfect. The Giver is perfect. The recipients are flawed.

We must always remember that everything we do is from Him, to Him and for Him. But it comes through us. We are vessels. Yes, God anoints us for service and allows us to do things we may not find ourselves capable of doing in the natural. And yes, Jesus desires us to continually draw closer to Him to hear His Holy Whispers. We can even admit our failings and our desperate need for a Savior. 

But unless we are willing to accept that we sometimes get it wrong, that we mess up, even in the middle of using those gifts and talents He has instilled in us, simply because we are human, we will never be able to truly accept and understand those gifts and talents He has equipped us with.

Several years ago, someone paid me a compliment at church after I'd played and sung a song I'd written. I was so insecure in my newly discovered talents/gifts that I proceeded to tell him what was wrong with the "performance." He looked me in the eye and said, "Just say thank you."

I never forgot that. 

You don't have to explain your shortcomings or figure out how much credit to give yourself and how much to give God. Just know that when someone compliments you, they were blessed and they are acknowledging both you and God.

Saying a simple "thank you" acknowledges the gift as well as the Giver. We don't need to complicate it.

If you are one of those who finds yourself saying things like, "It's all God." I want to challenge you to take that to the God who gave you the gifts. Ask Him if you are giving Him "too much" credit. Ask Him if you're insecure in what He's entrusted you to do, if you are dealing with false humility. And then ask Him what you need to do to become so confident in His love for you that you will become confident with your gifts and talents. A person who is secure in his or her gifts and talents understands balance.

He will not remove the gift and He will not leave you to figure it out yourself.

This is a great worship song from Clayton Brooks, worship pastor of Oaks Church in Red Oak, TX called Every Good Gift. Please give it a listen and let it soak into your soul and your spirit. (If you can't open it...for some reason, those who have my blog emailed to them can't...here's the link



Blessings Along the Path,




 




Photo credit

Sharing this post with Barbie at The Weekend Brew, Janis at Sunday Stillness, Laura at Playdates With God, Naomi at Monday Musings, Joan at Sharing His Beauty, Donna at Mondays@ Soul Survival, Holly at Testimony Tuesday

Friday, November 7, 2014

Now I Know My Father's Love

For those of you who don't know, I am a singer/songwriter as well as a writer.

Several years ago, I published two albums back in the day when cassettes were still a viable option and CDs were the hip listening choice (shameless plug: purchase here).

They (cds and yes, cassettes as well) are currently taking up valuable real estate in my basement closet. I'm not great at marketing myself, and I really didn't know how or where to sell them. I published these cds for the same reason I publish my blog: I had a lot to say (via music) and simply wanted to share my stories, my experiences and my hope for healing with others. 

Much of what I wrote on the first album was written from the place of pain and heartache from a divorce; a place where Jesus met me and offered the balm of Gilead. It also includes revelations of God's love, faithfulness and promises from the years prior...my "formative" years.

A few nights ago, I finally figured out how to create a "movie" in order to get my music on YouTube. It took me hours to do a simple slideshow. It was actually not that hard, and pretty cool, but technology is really not my thing. And the slides didn't change where I wanted them to. Whatever. 

So, here is my first video:



Out of all the songs I've written,it's not my favorite song, but there's a reason I put this one up first: because it goes along with Monday's post: Gifted Ignorance: Overspiritualizing Your Gifts.

So why don't I just wait and include it in Monday's post? Good question. Because I really want you to hear another song that goes so well with the topic (one that is not mine).

I never write a song for no reason. Every song has a story behind it. And I always get to live it out. This one is no exception.

Beginning next week, I'll be sharing with you some of my "stories behind the songs."

I'd start today, but I've already babbled enough. Besides, I need the weekend (and maybe beyond) to figure out how to write it concisely. 

Look for the title, "The Stories Behind the Songs: Now I Know My Father's Love" sometime next week---hopefully on Tuesday.

Have a blessed weekend, and 
Blessings Along the Path,









sharing this post with Faith Filled Friday, Blessing Counters, Essential Fridays

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Have a Dream...or a Few

Martin Luther King uttered those words over 50 years ago, and they serve as a catalyst to dreams still today.

I have a dream too.

Well, I have a lot of dreams.

One of them is to write a book. Or a few books. I'm working on that.

But I have this other thing...I'm not sure if it's a dream or simply a desire...I'm not sure I even understand the difference between the two (something to explore at a later date). 


I want to hike the New Jersey section of the Appalachian Trail.

on the AT earlier this year
Hubster enjoying a work day on the trail

Hubster and I have actually decided to do this sometime next summer. 

Okay, you think, that's completely doable. A realistic desire that can easily be achieved.

Well, yes, if you don't mind breaking it into day trips that will take months to do. And if you don't mind hiking several miles each trip just to get to the AT (that's hiker lingo for the Appalachian Trail) and several miles to get off. And taking two cars so that you can drive back to your starting point.

Or...

We could do all 73 miles in a week and...

...camp...

But I hate camping.

Hate. Hate. Hate.

Actually...

That's a lie.

Well, it's not really a lie. I do hate camping.

But I realized that I've been using that truth to fuel a lie.


Huh? What are you talking about, Mary?

I have been telling myself and everyone else that the reason I don't want to do this all at once is because I hate camping, which is true, but the real reason is that I'm afraid.

It's easier to admit an aversion than to admit fear.

I'm afraid of the creatures of the night.

The Hubster is not. He likes camping. What man wouldn't prefer a week's vacation in the woods, where he doesn't have to bathe, change his clothes, shave or spend money on trinkets? The only trinket I'll be wearing is my bear whistle, and I sure hope it doesn't strangle me at night while I sleep on the ground which is home to millions of insects. Oh, did I mention free (the other thing that every man likes to hear)?

That's right. The AT is all-inclusive, which means all meals and accommodations are already paid for when you purchase your tent, sleeping bag, portable stove, backpack, freeze-dried food, water filter, granola bars, water and whatever the heck else I'll need. 

I really have no idea how to do this. But I'm not afraid. At least not of the daytime activities. 

I'm not afraid of bad weather, blisters or bugs. 
I'm not afraid of eating lousy food, filtering my water or becoming weary from all that walking.
I'm not afraid of boredom or not having access to the internet for a week.

I am afraid of bears at night. Okay, during the day too. Yes, I know all about bears and what to do if (and most likely, when) I encounter a bear---make myself big by waving my arms, make a lot of noise, give the bear plenty of room, don't make eye contact, etc.
Photo credit
That doesn't mean I'm looking forward to the encounter. Especially at night.

I'm used to hearing Hubster and the dog huffing and snoring next to me in the middle of the night. But not a bear. No, I'm not used to hearing a bear outside my sleeping quarters. Or inside.


I am afraid of rattlesnakes, copperheads and other poisonous snakes...okay, pretty much any big snake. Again, give them room, and they usually go away.


Little ones don't bother me. 



I've even seen a few big ones, but as long as they're not sharing my trail, I'm okay.



But what if they decide to share my tent? That's really not okay.

And what about murderers who seek refuge in the woods, hoping nobody will find them? What if they murder us in the middle of the night?

And what about when (that's definitely not an if) I have to pee in the middle of the night? I have to actually go outside where it is very, very, very dark. What if I shine my flashlight into a pair of eyes that don't belong to the Hubster? What if it's a skunk, and he turns and...sprays?

And we won't even talk about going...#2.

And what about the darkness? 

Ah, the darkness...finally, we get to the root of the fear.

But I'm not afraid of the dark!

I'm really not. 

But apparently, I am afraid of what lurks in the dark. The unknown. Those things that exist to cause me harm. Boogeymen and monsters under the bed, if you will.

I just got finished teaching a series on Overcoming Negative Thinking, where I taught that the antidote to negative thinking is to meditate on Phil 4:8-9. One of the things we are to think about is those things that are true.

So, when fear comes rushing in, I must ask myself, Is this true? How likely is this to happen?

Okay, the likelihood of any of those things happening is...well, I don't know. They could actually happen. Or they might not. The only thing to do once I've determined that they could likely happen is to be prepared. And to face the fear when and if it comes.


To face fear that has not yet arrived is counterproductive, tiresome and just plain silly!

It's like worrying. 

Well, it pretty much is worrying. And Jesus asks, Can any of you add an hour to the length of your life by worrying? (Luke 12:25)

Which is actually an interesting question because none of us know when our life will be over, so how would we really know just how much of that life has been extended by the worrying that we've done? Sorry, rabbit trail.

Maybe, just maybe, God is asking this independent woman, Do you trust me to protect you?

And maybe, just maybe, God is asking this independent woman, Do you trust your husband to protect you?

ouch.

If Hubster is unafraid, and he is my covering, shouldn't I be unafraid?


Sometimes the dreams and desires we think are our own are actually God's way of teaching us in a way that we'll understand.

So if I appear obsessed with hiking and camping in the next couple of months, please forgive me. It's only my sad, human attempt at trying to learn the lesson ahead of time so I won't have to actually go through it. 

Yes, I know it doesn't work that way.

Blessings Along the Path,







sharing this post with Holley at Coffee For Your Heart, Judith at Wholehearted Wednesday, Beth at Wedded Wednesday, Rosilind at A Little R and R, Lyli at Thought Provoking Thursday, Crystal at Thriving Thursday