Monday, February 22, 2010

Are you lonesome?

Hebrew 13:56--I will never leave your or forsake you. Sometimes do you ever have what seems an empty place in your heart that needs to be filled? A place that others cannot fill? You call a friend and are unable to reach them and when you do reach them they seem preoccupied or put you off. You decide to call someone in your family and they are busy doing their own things so you don’t want to keep them from doing what they need to do. Could it be that you are experiencing some major changes in your life and you don’t understand yourself what is going on? Are you looking to them to fill the void in your heart, to ease your loneliness? That is when you feel it -- a sense of loneliness deep within your heart that no one cares, I don’t belong any where, I’m not like the others, I don’t fit in, people say they love me, but have a strange way of showing it-- I feel so alone.
How do you respond to feeling the emotion of loneliness? Loneliness is a strange emotion. You can be with a group of people and still experience it. It makes you feel separate from people and from God. You don’t have to feel lonely--you can turn that feeling into quiet contentment of solitude if you are willing to make a few choices. We are never alone in our loneliness. Each one of us at one time or other have experienced sadness and loneliness. God is always with us during those times. Sometimes we just forget that He is with us. In Psalm it talks about feeling like a pelican in the wilderness. Sometimes the sorrow of loneliness or sadness is like being in a spiritual wilderness. It made me think that God has met His people most intimately and tenderly in the wilderness. When it seems that no one is available, you still can enjoy communion with God.
Don’ t let the pain of loneliness close your heart. If you let your heart stayed closed, others cannot enter in. You begin to push everyone away, withdraw from relationships to spend time alone to lick your emotional injuries. It is okay to withdraw from others for a time of rest and spiritual refreshment--but it is another thing to disconnect and push others out of your life. You are the only one who can choose to open/close you heart to disconnect or reconnect again. You don’t have to stay lonely--choose to reach out in spite of how you feel. Be quick to forgive others who have hurt you, or cannot be there for you. Take your loneliness to God--He is the God of comfort and peace. Let Him fill your lonely heart with His love for you. When you feel loneliness trying to creep in and over take you, be quiet, listen for God’s whispers in the dark. Trust that this season of loneliness will pass in God’s good time. Try to keep a positive attitude instead of succumbing to the temptation of having a pity party. Ask for help --don’t insist on being proud and doing everything alone. If you are feeling lonesome -- open up your heart to share greater intimacy with God. Talk to Him, and tell Him how you feel. He will never make light of how you feel. He is there to help you understand your feelings, walk along side of you. Sometimes loneliness is a result of not having spent time with God in His word, at His feet or in prayer. Most of all remember--just because you are feeling lonely that you are not deficient or unlovable because you are lonely. God made you and promises never to leave you or forsake you.
Father: Sometimes the people in our lives, abandon us, turn away from us. Sometimes there are a few people we can truly count on and sometimes there might not be anyone. One thing is for sure, You love us, you will never leave us or forsake us. In our times of loneliness, let us always remember that You are right here with us. You have experienced loneliness--to a greater extent than we ever will. You know just how to comfort us and let us feel Your sweet presence. Thank You so much for always being here for us. Amen
As you walk in the journey called life, whether or not you may realize it, feeling lonely is just being homesick for God. Have a blessed week.
Janice CR E-Team

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

THE INITIATIVE AGAINST DEPRESSION

"Arise and eat." 1 Kings 19:5
"The angel did not give Elijah a vision, or explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable; he told Elijah to do the most ordinary thing, viz., to get up and eat. If we were never depressed we should not be alive; it is the nature of a crystal never to be depressed. A human being is capable of depression, otherwise there would be no capacity for exaltation. There are things that are calculated to depress, things that are of the nature of death; and in taking an estimate of yourself, always take into account the capacity for depression. When the Spirit of God comes He does not give us visions, He tells us to do the most ordinary things conceivable. Depression is apt to turn us away from the ordinary commonplace things of God's creation, but whenever God comes, the inspiration is to do the most natural simple thing - the things we would never have imagined God was in, and as we do them we find He is there. The inspiration which comes to us in this way is an initiative against depression; we have to do the next thing and do it in the inspiration of God. If we do a thing in order to overcome depression, we deepen the depression; but if the Spirit of God makes us feel intuitively that we must do the thing, and we do it, the depression is gone. Immediately we arise and obey, we enter on a higher plane of life."
thoughts from Oswald Chambers

Monday, February 15, 2010

How do I love thee?

Valentine’s Day -- the great day for expressing your love one for another. God’s love. We do not need a day set aside to celebrate His love for us -- it should be a daily celebration. Think about it, nothing can ever separate us from it, it is everlasting and eternal, it was so strong for us that He died on the cross for us, and covers all our sins. He loves us in spite of ourselves and our wicked ways. By His example, He gives us the guidelines to show His love to others. I always go back to I Corinthians 13, because that is the plumb line for love. (Vs. 4-7 ) There is forgiveness, patience, kindness, love of truth, love for justice, love for the best in a person, loyalty at any cost, belief in a person no matter what. It does not allow for jealousy, envy, pride, a haughty spirit, selfishness, rudeness or demand one’s own way. It is not irritable, or hold grudges. There are no stipulations on whether or not we are worthy. We are not worthy of that love, but He is the one who makes us worthy. Love does not know reason -- it defies all reason. Love is not blind --it sees but it does not demean, judge or condemn. Love is easy to feel, but sometimes hard to explain. Sometimes it is the pain of it that make people cry. Love accepts all the pain that we have to bear, because the one who loves us bore more than we can imagine. Love is not created by words or feelings, not by humans, but by hearts -- God within that heart. Love is better expressed in deeds than in words. Love should inspire you, give you joy and strength. Love must be brave -- brave enough to hold on whenever you can’t see the light, things go wrong and brave enough to let go when the time comes. Love may leave your heart like shattered glass, but remember there is someone, our Lord and Savior, who is willing to walk along side of you and help you pick up the pieces and will make you whole again. Let love be the light of your heart. Let God’s love for you be the reason you can freely love. Love is not how you forget, but how you forgive. Love is like air, you can’t see it, but you can feel it. Love is a friend who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. It doesn’t make the world go round, it makes it worth while. Love is family --families are like good fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts. To the world you might be just one person-but to one person, you may be the world. Sometimes falling in love is not easy, but staying in love is something very special. Love is sometimes doing things that you do not want to do or because you feel that certain people are not worthy of your love. Truth be known, none of us are worthy. Love is not a spectator sport. It requires a real commitment. When you choose to open your heart to the mystery of love, you are choosing to participate in God’s plan. Real love will bring transformation and change in your life. Do you remember the time when the love of God touched you? Think about the people you love now, the love of a mother for her newborn child, the love of friends and family who have kept you safe or walked beside you in stormy times. Are you opening your heart to God? Are you opening up your heart to others, bearing with them in their burdens and sufferings? What about your preconceptions? Love teaches the lesson of surrender. It knocks down walls, frees you from the prison of self, and leads you into a deeply surrendered relationship with God. Will you say to God -- open your arms and embrace His love, risk vulnerability, empathize with others and share in their joys and their sorrows? Will you cultivate love in your life? Will you believe in the transformational power of God’s love?
Loving Father: Lord, you have provided a simple but sobering test of Christian spirituality--our love for You can be measured by our love for others. Father all of us at one point have failed this test. Every time we refuse to lend a helping hand, to listen to a hurting friend, or we refuse to love or obey Your commandments. Father, would you strip away our selfishness, and help us to learn to love others. Father, there are some that have a hard time loving themselves. Give them hearts and eyes to see and feel your love. Teach us to love whole heartedly. Thank you so much for your great love for us--where would we be without it? Amen
As you go about your week think about I John 4: 7-8--- Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Have a lovely week. Janice- CR Encourager Coach

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gracious Uncertainty

Gracious Uncertainty
. . . it has not yet been revealed what we shall be . . . —1 John 3:2
Our natural inclination is to be so precise— trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next— that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, "Well, what if I were in that circumstance?" We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life— gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God — it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, ". . . unless you . . . become as little children . . ." (Matt 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, ". . . believe also in Me" (John 14:1), not, "Believe certain things about Me". Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in— but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.
-Oswald Chambers, “My Upmost for His Highest”

Two Scents of Grace

I have two favorite perfumes that I like equally but recognize they are appropriate for different uses and occasions. Both are from the Philosophy line of products and both have appealing names, Inner Grace and Amazing Grace.

Inner Grace is a subtle scent that, in the company’s own words, “is your own personal heaven and was formulated with a scent to help bring peace and balance to your life.”

Amazing Grace, on the other hand, is a more vibrant, floral scent that “allows a woman to embrace her beauty and express her femininity. Finally people will say "you smell so good" instead of "what is that perfume you're wearing?”

Both scents are filled with grace, but different kinds. As I was preparing for my day last week, and mulling over one of my recent lessons from my Celebrate Recovery Step Study, I couldn’t help but realize the connection between these fragrances and lessons throughout the Step Study.

In lesson 20, which reflects on Step 10, we learn about taking a Daily Inventory of ourselves, as well as the importance of making amends immediately for wrongs. Throughout the lesson, study participants are asked to identify the message in several verses. At first I thought it was overly repetitive that a majority of the verses all had the same basic to glean: wisdom combined with a peaceful heart creates less situations where amends are even necessary. (For those who aren’t to this step yet, don’t stop reading. This is a good lesson for everyone! The verses, by the way, are Proverbs 16:23, Eph 4:29, Prov 16:21, Prov 12:25 and 1 Cor 13:1).

I later realized though, that the repetitive nature of the lesson just drove home the point that this idea is true—a calm spirit and wisdom combine together to all for more peaceful interactions with others and with ourselves.

This, to me, is just like the fragrance Inner Grace. It’s all about softness, subtlety and balance.

But what about Amazing Grace? Where does that fit in? We’ve all heard the song Amazing Grace and many have heard the Chris Tomlin rendition that talks about the chains being gone from our lives. I can’t think of anything more appropriate to describe the first two steps in the Step Study, which are essentially realizing we can’t fix ourselves and we have to submit to God’s will and power. It takes an Amazing God, with an Amazing Grace, to not only be willing to do something like that, but to have the power. It’s like the fragrance—explosive with beauty yet not overbearing. According to this perfume’s description, its scent draws people to the wearer. Well doesn’t God’s Amazing Grace draw us to him?

Just as I value both fragrances equally but for different purposes, I realize that Inner Grace and God’s Amazing Grace are both important and vital to this road to recovery and our Christian walk.

Jamie, CR attendee

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sing your praise to the Lord

Good morning:
Sing unto the Lord a new song, then sings my soul, My Savior God to thee, how great thou art, Ps. 89 - I will sing of the Lord’s great love. Eph. 5:19 - sing and make music in your heart. The Lord is most worthy of praise. His praise will always be on my lips. How has everything been going for you lately? For some, things are as usual, but for others, times have been discouraging, depressing and painful. Maybe you have experienced loss or are suffering in some way. Maybe you are in the desert. Sometimes we have to travel these paths when we don’t want to. God wants us to have an abundant life, but that does not mean without pain suffering, discouragement or trials or desert times. John 16:33 -- in this world you will have tribulation, but take courage I have overcome the world. Are you cast down in your soul or are you praising God for being with you in the midst of the trial? We don’t always get the privilege to understand why we have to travel the path that we do sometimes and we are not immune from trouble, but Isa. 61:3 tells us that a spirit of despair can be replaced with a garment of praise. In your times of trouble are you literally “ putting on a garment of praise?”
Acts 16:23-26--Paul and Silas were beaten and arrested unjustly for casting a spirit of divination out of the young servant girl. Not only suffering from the severe beating they had received, their arms and legs were bound in a position where they could not move them. Have you ever been in a situation where you could not stretch out your arms and legs and you felt like your circulation was cut off and you began to have some muscle cramps? They were probably in a very damp place. The stench of that place must have been more than we could imagine, blood, death and decay and human waste -- no comfort what so ever. As they started to calm down and rest the best they could, probably feeling the throbbing of their wounds and thinking about the events of the day, they began to settle in for the night. The scripture gives the time of about midnight. Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. Their prayers and songs became instruments against the enemy. There was an earthquake and the foundation of the prison was shaken, and the prison doors were opened. Paul and Silas knew how to lift their heads above their troubles and enter into God’s presence and experience His power. Through praise and worship their hearts were raised into the joyous presence and peace of God and provided God a channel for His power to operate in their circumstances. God dwells in an atmosphere of praise. Praise is not merely a reaction from coming into His presence-- praise is the vehicle of faith which brings us into the power and the presence of God. It is the gate which allows us to enter into the sacredness of His glory. Ps.100:4 --Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise -- be thankful and bless His Name. Praise manifests God’s very presence. An atmosphere that is filled with praise and worship is very disgusting to the enemy, Satan. He wants us to fret, worry, look for the easy way out, cry, and to take our eyes off God. He wants us to speak with our lips our despair, complaints and so on. He thrives and rejoices when we do this, because our focus is not on God. Your circumstances may not change, but the way you perceive them and get through them will change. In your situation, whatever it may be, praise and thank God for never leaving you or forsaking you, and helping you to stand up and get through whatever it may be. When in that dungeon and you are wounded and not knowing what to do, trust in God and sing - worship and most of all Praise His Holy Name. It may not change the situation, but it will give you new eyes to see it, strength to endure it and an attitude of gratitude for God’s presence with you, and even His deliverance.
Great God with Us - How real you were to Paul and Silas. Day after day they saw Your power and love displayed all around them. Nothing could diminish their delight in you or their faith in your ability to save them or to be with them. Help us to see our tests and trials as opportunities to grow deeper in You and teach us like Paul and Silas to sing for joy in the darkness as we await our deliverance. Let our reaction to everything in life, not be one of despair or discouragement, but as a bump in the road, and the ability to get over it with singing and praising and worshipping you for who You are, Your steadfastness, power, great love for us, and your willingness to walk along side of us. Give us grateful hearts. Thank you Most Glorious Father.
As you go about on this journey called life, make it a habit to sing and praise God in all things. Have a praise filled week. Janice- Encourager Coach FBC NWA

Monday, February 1, 2010

Caught in the belly of a whale

Good morning Leadership?
What has God asked you to do recently that you just don’t want to do or even feel equipped to do? Is your attitude been like that of Jonah? God had a burden for the people of Nineveh and asked Jonah to go. Jonah thought that these people were undeserving and should die. He just did not want to go and teach a distasteful message to a distasteful people. In the beginning of Jonah did you ever count how many times the word “ down” was used? He thought if he kept a comfortable distance between himself and God, he wouldn’t have to do it. He certainly did not want to obey nor did he fear God. He did not realize there would be consequences for his disobedience and rebellion. He did not see that God’s will - will be done. He failed to see that God is sovereign. God begins to show him his sovereignty. He boards a ship and goes to the lower deck. God calls the waves and the storm and they respond to him. Jonah’s sin had consequences for the sailors. They began to frantically pray to their gods and went and got Jonah up and begged him to pray to his God. They decided to cast lots --if you look at that from a logical view point today -- what were the odds Jonah would have been chosen? God is sovereign over the casting of the lots. Can you image the terror on their faces to know that Jonah was the cause and them wondering what horrible thing he had done to anger his God? Jonah asked them to throw him over board -- these men did everything to save his life, even though Jonah had caused them this distress. What a contrast -- these men did not know him yet they did not want to see him die. They feared Jonah’s God and made sacrifices to him and made vows to him. They knew they would have to toss Jonah overboard.
The large fish -- God is sovereign over his creatures. While in the belly of the whale, Jonah prays. He isn’t asking for forgiveness, he is asking to be delivered. Wasn’t that what God wanted for the people of Nineveh? Are we like that sometimes? We want to be delivered from what we do, but we do not pray for the people who do wicked in the sight of the Lord and who are hurtful to us. We want it for us - but not for them? How quickly Jonah had forgotten how the Nation of Israel had done evil and turned their backs on the one true God. Weren’t they undeserving? Aren’t we to love everyone as we love ourselves? Doesn’t love mean forgiving? How quickly we forget the mercy, grace, forgiveness and not receiving what we deserve from God. If Jonah had realized this, would his attitude be different? He does go and half heartedly gives the message that God told him to give them.
Do you put your all into all that God has called you to do -- or is it done half heartedly? Instead of being happy that these people would not perish, he went outside of the city and waited to see ( still hoping ) that God would destroy them. He failed to see the sovereignty of God -- he was able to save the people of Nineveh --showing Jonah that the most unpromising mission fields are often the most responsive. How much do you care for the “sandpaper” people in your life? Can you love them without prejudice, could you and would you go and give them a message if God asked you to go? Do you have a burden for the “ lost” people of the world. Aren’t we to go and preach to everyone? Or do you go and pout and stay angry like Jonah did because someone who you thought was undeserving received the same grace that you did? At the end of the chapter, Jonah still does not get it. He isn’t praying for Nineveh or he is not even praying for himself. It seems like the story ends there. It ends with him wallowing in dejection and self pity, not having a change of heart or getting back into his ministry. God asks him a poignant question, “ Should I not be concerned about those people and that city?” Isn’t God concerned about each and everyone of us?
Gracious Father: you are patient and determined. You could have let Jonah die and find someone else to do what you asked him to do, but you still found him to be a worthy vessel. Sometimes Lord we get uppity and see ourselves slightly better than others and more deserving. Forgive us when we act so prideful. We are all sinners saved by grace. When you say go, place that burning desire to do what you have asked us to do in our hearts--and not to look at whether or not we think it should be done or not. Cleanse our hearts. Never let us forget to extend your hand of mercy, speak words of forgiveness, and to always rejoice over all that come to you. Amen
As you walk on your journey this week: if God asks, consider it a privilege, do it with a spirit of love, and do not even consider your feelings in the matter. Don’t find yourself in a whale’s belly asking to be delivered because of your own “ stinkin thinkin.” Have a blessed week..
Janice E-Team, CR Fellowship Bible, NW Arkansas