Archive for the ‘Journal Writings’ Category

How to Clean Burnt on Caked on Food from Cookware

There was a time when I’d sooner throw away a burnt pan then try to clean it. There were however, several occasions where I did try to scour and scrub a pot or skillet with little hope of it ever sparkling again. It may have been given a hiding place of shame in the back of a cupboard, but eventually if not immediately it would end up in the trash heap.

However, lately I have spent a lot more time in the kitchen, reacquainting myself with good home cooking, and in the process finding myself attached to some beautiful stainless steel skillets and pots that my husband brought into the marriage. Tossing them, or hiding them away is not an option I would consider, so I have found through trial and error how to actually clean them up with little or no “elbow grease”. So now when I discover that my unattended food is melting into a tarry black layer of crusty gunk at the bottom of my favorite skillet I don’t go into panic mode. I realized that the same principles for treating a burn your eyes, stinky, burning pot, applies to relationships.
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Does My “Ex” Want Me Back?

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“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6: 38

I had one of those “my ex-wants me back dreams” the other night. If you have not experienced one of these, I liken it to the dreams where I make a regrettable choice. I have one such dream where, being an ex smoker, I casually light up a cigarette. I feel at first, caught by the surprise of the feeling of satisfaction as I draw in a breath. But this is quickly disrupted by a sense of foreboding and instant remorse. All of the “ex wants me back dreams” are the same. Things seem casual and light, then my dream mind starts reeling knowing I am about to make bad choice.

That all said, this “ex-wants me back” dream was not like that at all. This dream was different. I did not have the predictable emotions: like the satisfaction “winning” my ex back or the confusion of making choices I was not given in real life. So, I woke up puzzled. I found that in the dream, I was just simply (more…)

Discoverying Your Purpose

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR they shall

be satisfied. –Matthew5:6

It is the spirit who gives life; flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak

to you are spirit, and they are life. –John 6:63

On the last day, the climax of holidays, Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If

anyone is THIRSTY; let him come to me and drink. For the Scriptures declare

that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who

believes in me. John 7:37..

…”anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again but those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13

I can’t help but notice how many people have expressed the overwhelming excitement that god is doing something “big” in their lives. That something is often vague and unclear, but when they talk about it they light up with anticipation what our pastor calls “giddy”. Yet because of the enormity of the “something” there is an underlying sense of fear.

Interestingly, when I was in Indonesia, our team was asked to teach a group of young people on the wide open topic of “Maximum Satisfaction”. I noticed that in the first scripture I found on the subject, Jesus says that you are blessed if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, because you will be satisfied. It seemed that key to satisfaction was having a thirst and a hunger. (more…)

What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion.  
We will fulfill our vows to you. All of us must come to you.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.
What joy for those you choose to bring near,  those who live in your holy courts
What festivities await us inside your holy Temple. 
You faithfully answer prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior.  
You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by you power and armed yourself with mighty strength.
Psalm 65: 1-6

Spending time in prayer can be  a joy or a chore.  Today and yesterday, it seemed I was in a hurry to get my “daily time with God” checked off my list of things to do.  So for the last couple of days,  my attitude toward prayer was seeing it as  more like a chore. 

I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  There is a saying  that says “God’s word does not come up void.”  So  I know that whenever I am reading God’s word something will come of it.    So today as I dutifully read from the Bible, the passage took root.   After reading (the above scripture) I had to acknowledge that  I forgotten what it was like to “hear” from God.  I remember being eager to see how the scripture was going to fit into what was happening in my life.  As today,  ironically reminded me, though I was admonished for taking my daily time for granted, settling in to hear what God had to say to me  brought me such joy.   And so today I was reminded that God does have something to say to me.  And that intimacy with God is something so valuable that the enemy would use any device to de-value the few tools we have to bring us into that intimacy.

  step 10:  We sought through prayer and mediation
 to improve our conscious contact with God,
 praying only for knowledge of His will for us
and the power to carry that out.

   The action word in step 11 is  not “pray”, nor is it “meditate”;  The action word is “sought”.  (Praying and meditating are those  tools that I  can use to improve my conscious contact with God.     

I am  to seek to improve my conscious contact with God.  (No need to seek after Him, as he is in always in contact with me).

There are times when uninterrupted talking or sharing are beneficial; but wha joy  is there to be found when the creator of the universe acknowledges he has been listening and what more is; He loves me and cares for me anyway.

Did I do enough?

This was a question that many had as I surveyed and had conversations with the people of Ireland. This was a question they would ask Jesus. This was not a question I was asked to answer for them. I was there to encourage them to read the Bible & to share with them how God had touched my life.

In recovery,  one of the most empowering statements has been, “Your best today is good enough.” For me the power was in being able to use that statement to “let go” of that which might hinder me, so that could press on. Or, as Paul says, ‘ forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

But is that really so? Was my best good enough? How can it be when sometimes my best for the day may have harmed others, or myself?

Abel became a Shepard, while Cain became a farmer. At harvest time Cain brought the to the Lord a gift of his choice lambs from the best of his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering. This made Cain very angry and dejected. Genesis 4:2

I have read and heard a lot about why God didn’t accept Cain and his offering. But in this passage I can see only that Cain realized he was not accepted.

Why are you so angry?’ the Lord asked him, “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” Genesis 4:6

“Did I do enough?”

I am drawn again to Paul’s teaching in Philippians where he says:

I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness. or ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me.

Did I accomplish what God wanted me to accomplish in Ireland? Did I do enough? Was I acceptable? These questions I recognize call me to compare, weigh, judge, evaluate, justify, blame, live in the past and doubt. Yet, I found myself asking myself these questions. Neither I, nor anyone else can give me the answer to these questions. But God can and he does so I searched his word. As I sought scripture I found a resounding

“NO!!!”

I will always fall short. BUT that would not change God’s love for me. It couldn’t change the fact that God’s intentions for me are good. I am worth enough to Jesus that he died for me. What else matters?  Your best today is good enough…Because Jesus tilts the scale in our favor.

This article first appeared in Crosstalker’s blog

Scar-wars was originally posted on “Tides of the Heart” 

photo: by Angela = )

 The scene takes place in the galley of a fishing boat. Three men, who 24 hours earlier, shared mostly contempt and arrogance toward each other, had just survived “round one” of man vs. nature. But now they were acting like old friends. I wonder if it was because they were removed from the “battle field” where it was evident that they were up against something bigger than all three of them that began the bond. The began a game I though clever to call “scar wars”. It sounded like this: “hey look at this scar. I got it from an eel… or this from a bar fight, or this from the girl who broke my heart…

The games the primary objective was to match scar for scar. It was a game that may have been played by warriors returning after a raid, a challenging hunt, or fending off a wild and deadly animal. Later it evolved to a grown up game of show and tell and it helped to break awkward silences. The silent times that came when we realized how small we actually were in the scheme of things. I called these exchanges “Scar-Wars” because the exchanges are territorial at first: ” I can do better than that look at my scar it’s from…” Still the stories open a window that reveals just how alike we are in our human-ness. We are all at times vulnerable, silly, clumsy, or week.

 Back to the fishing boat: The atmosphere in the galley scene changes. Someone in the “scar-wars” exchange takes an interest in an obvious scar that is not brought into play by one of the players. The one upping, and bragging ceased. Had this player intended fold without showing his “trump” card? Maybe because he knew that death could be waiting around the corner, he decided to give an answer to  the inquiry by sharing the story behind the scar. When he (the most unlikable of the three) begins talking, the room becomes still and quiet. The men stop smiling and listen compassionately maybe even introspectively. They knew that his story might touch on some of their own untold stories, and they knew that this scar might reveal more about who this salty old dog really was.

I sat among the theater audience listening much like the characters in the story, thinking, “oh that’s who you are.” My heart softened toward this contentious character and I found myself not wanting him to die.

The scar was self-inflicted. It was the result of an attempt to remove tatoo. The tattoo served as a reminder of two life changing battles in this man’s life. The last was a tragic battle he had with nature. After being torpedoed, he and several shipmates watched helplessly as man-eating sharks picked them off one by one. He bore no visible scars because even though he shared many days in the water among the sharks, he was never bitten. Surviving and not being bitten came at a high price and it was not something worth bragging about. On the wake of this man versus nature battle, he had successfully delivered the Hiroshima bomb. Again, he couldn’t brag about winning that battle either and again there was no visible scar. But there was a tatoo. The tatoo that would serve as a reminder of the tragic stories he was part of. It was that tatoo that he tried to remove. As if the removing the tatoo would erase the memory.

But there was still a scar.

So it is that some wounds don’t seem to leave a visible scar. But visible or invisible all scars have a story. Whether the scar is on the flesh or below the surface, like the tatoo, removing it often leaves a scar too.

I am familiar with these invisible scars. I have unfortunately considered them a “badge of heroism”. My personal trump card for the ” I am tougher than you ‘star wars’ game”. I believed they gave me justification to be bitter and guarded. They successfully put distance between me and experiencing other people’s feelings. When someone was going through something that was a little too painful or familiar I could use my trump card to secretly put myself above them. (After all I survived much worse). Mercy was a concept I couldn’t get. Pridefully I considered my hardness as strength. Maybe it was even fear that kept me from entering into another person’s story. But, as long as my scars stayed hidden, my ability to relate to others was limited.

One of the steps found in recovery programs instructs us uncover (or take inventory of) each and every scar. I found for me that I had falsely believed that, because scars were from old wounds they had no potency on my life. WRONG Once the inventory was made, the program required the sharing of this “inventory” with myself, God and another human being. My “inventory” showed that my unspoken stories were still very potent. But when I shared these stories, the secrets were less powerful. By sharing my scars I allowed people and God to speak into my stories. They gave me encouragement, empathy and acceptance. At times we shared laughter or tears. More importantly the people I shared with, revealed some of the scars they had from their lives. Wow. connection.

1John 1:9 says: “if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (all: that which was done by me or to me). All is washed clean by the God who made me, the God who gives me strength, the God who cares for me, the God who reveals truth to me. When he cleanses me from the unrighteousness there is no scar. I am given soft new flesh. I learn how to laugh in what delights God, and to cry at what breaks his heart. More importantly God reveals the scars he bears for me (and by which I am healed). And I learn to be in agreement with God, who in the beginning said, “It is not good for man to be alone”.

  • (scene references to the motion picture Jaws)

(to visit “Tides of Heart” and read more like this click here)

Spend your time and Energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.

Physical exercise has some value but spiritual exercise is much

more important for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT

 

I love it when I am “re-awakened” to experiencing God.  At any given time I can say, that I am blessed, that God is dwelling richly in my life.  I am in daily contact with God.  I put aside time each day to read God’s word.  But there is something profoundly different when I am actually in the midst of what God is doing in my life.  It is then, I look back and “remember”  the richness of God’s blessing  and love.   And realize that I have been settling for less than God’s best for me.   It’s like the difference between:  talking on the phone( or even across the room) to someone who loves me  and supports me, and actually being wrapped up in a big hug with that same person.  (Interesting the latter doesn’t really call for words).

 

So this weekend I “went forward” for prayer at church.  We have a time at the end of our service, where  we can go forward for prayer, a special touch from God,  repentance, healing,  or a refilling  from God.  Often going forward is like that big hug….NO Words necessary.  This week however, I went forward as I wanted to go to God in repentance.  Repentance  for the same things I confess  at least weekly  to my accountability partners and at meetings.  Step 5 We admitted to God ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  “Therefore confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 a

But “going forward in repentance”  is like step 6 and 7  :

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

 – James 4:10

We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.

“If we confess our sins He is faithful and will forgive us our sins

and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

-1John 1:9.

 

I realized (a reoccurring realization)   that when I “go forward”   I am at that place where I am entirely ready to receive what God has for me.  I may be going forward to have God take away my defects of character…but I think that what really happens is God doesn’t take it… let it go… 

Admitting  and being accountable are good…but going to God in repentance is better.   Why?

BECAUSE UNLIKE OTHER PEOPLE, OR MY OWN STRENGTH AND DESIRE

GOD CAN FIX IT!

GOD KNOWS JUST WHAT I NEED.

AND

HE IS READY TO GIVE IT TO ME.

I felt the healing power of God’s gracious forgiveness.  I felt God’s  favor.   I felt restoration as I my eyes were again open to the wonderful gifts He had for me and had already given me.  And what is more, being reminded of who I am in Christ, propels me to move forward in renewed strength that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

 So to wrap up…The act of “going forward ” to me is not just a physical action.  It is a spiritual action  as I am “going before God”  and receiving, from Him,  what is beyond words.    

 

 

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander as well as malicious behavior. Instead be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you” Ephesians 4:26-27

I recently was reminded to consider the tone of voice I use with my family.   Hearing how someone had noticed a shift in how they talked to their family as a result  coming to meetings, I thought it would be not only desirable to talk to my spouse with the same kindness I showed strangers, but to speak to him with the same secret intimacy we shared at the beginning of our relationship when it was, “us and ‘them’”. 

There was a time that I struggled with rage on more than a weekly basis.  It was because of the work God did in me through recovery that I have been rage free for over 5 years.    AA teaches an acrostic that has helped me in this area.  H  A  L  T   Halt reminds me that my tendency to rage, or act out can be triggered when I am  too

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

 “Don’t Sin by letting anger gain control over you, don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil” Ephesians  4:26-27

I see more clearly the importance of not only starting my day with God, but  before ending it;  it is important to check in with him as well.  So even if I have been so caught up in the business of the day, at the end of each day I can check in with myself and God and put myself in his hands.  Remembering that it is God who feeds me, gives me peace, is my companion, and gives me rest can release me to give my spouse the same break I give to strangers. 

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I  don’t know which is more of  a trial…overcoming relapse or getting that first chip (be it a first thirty day, first year, etc).    I didn’t understand what people meant when the said it took them 5 years to get their first 1 year chip, but after struggling with relapse…I get it.  Today I found 2 encouraging scriptures.   I remember feeling doomed at times in my recovery.  (Would I ever get my 30 day chip, or was I ever truly “sober”).  It  was during those times that  I dreaded checking in with myself and my accountability team to confess that I “fell short” in  my sobriety.

Today’s step 10 devotional reminded me about the importance of repeated forgiveness…for myself.

Peter asks Jesus, “Lord how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?  Seven times?”  “No, not seven times, ” Jesus replies, ” but seventy times seven!”  (Matthew 18:21-22)

I am reminded that if this is to be our attitude toward others, then it should also be the attitude I should have toward myself.  After all,  when it comes to relapse for me, it is a sin against myself.  Paul also writes in Romans 5:3-5:

” We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems, and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance developes strength of character, and character, strengthens  our confident hope of salvation…For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

So each time I am faithful to admit my sin, and accept God’s forgiveness; I can rejoice that God is building character in me.   I can be sure of God’s commitment to me.  Accepting this I can hold my head high, and continue in the work he has set out for me.  If I remember this, the enemy can not use shame,  to tempt me into giving up.   After all, each trial is a trial of faith.. more than of substance or character..For I know nothing good lives in me.  And as I step out in  faith, and I use the tools  I have acquired along the way I can be sure to make progress.

You may be doing everything right.  You announce that there are  volunteer sign up sheets for those who want to serve….   So where are the volunteers? 

When we started recruiting for Celebrate recovery we asked ourselves the same question.  None-the less it was clear that God was moving forward in  this ministry  and my partner and I buckled in to see what He was going to do.

It was a shaky kick-off, but we trusted that God’s healing would happen regardless of our capabilities.   So with humbleness and prayerfulness we stepped into what God was doing at our church through Celebrate Recovery.   And in contrast to our pre-launch meetings  in only a few weeks  we were blessed with committed  volunteers.    What was the difference?

This weekend we gained some insight:

After church we were approached in the parking lot by someone who wanted to know if we would like him to run the soundboard and power point for us for Celebrate Recovery.   The exciting thing was we had just gotten out of meeting where one of the requests we had was for tech support.

You can imagine our excitement when minutes later our need was met!   How could this person have  know we needed a tech, and how could his timing have been so perfect: 

II Corinthians 12:9 says, ” My Grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness”.  

  I John 5: 14-15 And this is the confidence which we have before Him that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And  if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from him.  

 So it would seem that we are blessed with volunteers because of  these 2 things:  Our need for God’s grace in our weakness,  and asking according to his will.

I know our volunteer had heard both Rodger and I  apologizing for our technical problems during our last meeting.  No doubt  our weakness was showing. I get that, but  he  had no idea that had just  asked for help, but God did.   God’s timing makes the point pretty clear.

 Looking back to when our sign up sheet filled up, it was a similar story.  The meeting was running rougher than usual  as  my ministry partner had to run the meeting solo.  He said apologized for being lost without his partner (ahh he is also my husband).   So rather than offering an “opportunity to serve”, or telling people we had a volunteer sign up list, he simply asked for help.  There you go.

Two weeks ago we asked if anyone wanted   to help us by doing a  testimony about amends.  You guessed it.  We had a volunteer.

So it  seems,  asking for help has  nothing to do with doing everything right  and   finding volunteers who want to serve.   But it does have to do with allowing our weaknesses to show,  and asking  for help, God does the rest.   Maybe that is why our steps are about  “humbly asking God..”  

 

I hope you are encouraged. 

 Proverbs 12:25  Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.