Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Critical Condition of Comparison

Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.~ Proverbs 27:4

Have you ever felt like the outsider?  Have you ever sat in a room full of people, and felt like you just didn’t fit in? Maybe other people made you feel that way, or maybe it was all in your head.  Either way, that feeling that creeps up on you when you feel “out of the loop” can fuel the flame and fire up the green-eyed monster of jealousy in us.

The court system has even termed a defense where jealousy is involved.  They call it a crime of passion.  Between 1976-2005, 30% of female homicide victims in the United States were killed by someone intimate with them in a crime of passion where jealousy was the motive.

Looking at the passage above from Proverbs, it says that jealousy is even more dangerous than wrath, which is being compared to a flood.  The visualization that I get is one being swept away by their emotions: totally out of control and just going wherever the tide takes them while trying to keep their head above water.  As a mom, I want to instill the kind of confidence in my children that they never feel that way. 

What can we do when our child comes home and is heartbroken because her two best friends have now become closer, and are starting to leave her out?  Not only that, what can we do if that happens to us as adults?  That’s a hurtful situation and being jealous is a natural response.  It can make you feel like you aren’t good enough, funny enough, and that you’re just not a likeable person when people get to know the real you.

Have you ever had a friend who constantly compares their child’s academic, athletic or artistic performance to yours?  Imagine how you feel as the parent and then try to think how your child must feel when they are compared to the other person.  “Comparison is the thief of joy” is a popular quote, and a very true one.  You will never find joy while comparing your life to others, because there is always someone who has it better in one area or another.

God made each of us as a unique creation.  No two people are alike.  No two lives are the same.  Each of us is on a journey that He intended for us, and if we seek His will in it, we will find blessings in each circumstance.  But HOW???

  • ·          When you begin to feel inferior in any way, and think about how to take action to combat it, ask yourself “Does this glorify God or does it glorify me?”.  You have been put into this situation for a reason, how can you make the best of it?
  • ·         Don’t apologize to your kids if they have to drive a used Ford instead of a new BMW to school.  Explain that their treasure is in heaven, remind them to be thankful for such a luxury, and don’t allow yourself or them to fall into that comparison trap.
  • ·         Write out your emotions, old school style.  Take out a pen and a piece of paper, and write a letter to the person who makes you feel envious.  Say whatever you want.  Then rip it up and throw the pieces away.  You might actually be surprised how emotionally freeing that can be.
  • ·         PRAY!  Ask God to take the feeling away, and replace it with love and appreciation.

Don’t let the focus on material possessions, or perfect grades, or wearing a certain size dress get to you.  You were made for a purpose.  Ask God to show you what it is, and focus on the positive things in life.  I would bet if you started listing the positives vs negatives…the positive side would be longer. 

Passages to Ponder:

John 3:27- John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.”

Galatians 6:4- Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.

Matthew 6:33- Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda, and Kim McClure

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Challenge of Change

“You can't stop the future
You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret to press play.”~ Jay Asher

There are changes on the horizon for me..BIG ones.  In June, my “baby” is going to graduate from high school, and she will head to college in August.  Two years ago, I sent my oldest off to school, and it’s almost time to send the other one.  Not only that, but sometime in the next 5-8 months, we will be selling our house and moving to a new location where my husband’s new job is.  So..I will be a 45 year old woman who has just sent her youngest child to college, living in a new town, in a new house and all the changes that come with it:  new church, new doctors, new friends, new hairdresser, I will spare you the rest of the list.

My husband and I have been married for 21 years.  We have had nine different addresses during that time, and no, he isn’t in the military and we aren’t running from the law.  For some reason, God has put us on the path to moving around a lot.  I meet a lot of people who think we are nuts.  I can’t count the number of times someone has told me, “I would never do that. I don’t like change.”  There’s something about that word that scares people. Change can be scary, but it can also be an experience for growth.

With each move, I have been blessed to meet and develop friendships with some absolutely amazing people from various walks of life.  My narrow viewpoint has been expanded, my pre-conceived notions have been challenged, and I have chosen to accept to learn what God has shown me through the people He has placed in my life. Yes, I used the word “chosen”, because I could just as easily decide that I don’t want to continue these changes.  My daughter is still going to college, but if I told my husband that I didn’t want to move again, we wouldn’t.  He loves me that much.

There are questions that pop up:
  • ·         What am I going to do with all of my time?
  • ·         What have I not taught my children that they need to know as they go out into the world?
  • ·         Which friendships will continue to be strong?
  • ·         Should we downsize? Build a new home?

Those are things I could choose to worry about, but instead I am choosing to trust.  Joshua 1:9 says, “This is my command- be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  I believe that.  He has proven it to me.  Our last move to Eastern Pennsylvania hasn’t been the easiest place to adapt to.  There are lots of lovely people here, but the culture is so different than the South and the Midwest that I was used to, that I shed a lot of tears in the first year we were here.  God provided, though..He always does!

No matter what changes have occurred, or you know are coming, or are going to come that you are unaware of, know that God doesn’t change. He remains the same, and if you ask Him for guidance, He’s there.  He is there!

As the quote above states,
“we can’t stop the future”, don’t be afraid of it.
“We can’t rewind the past.”  Stop living there. It doesn’t help.
“The only way to learn the secret is to press play”

I’m pressing PLAY and trusting God. Thanks for being on the journey with me.

Passages to Ponder:

Numbers 23:19- God is not a man, so He does not lie.   He is not human, so He does not change His mind.  Has he ever spoken and failed to act?  Has He ever promised and not carried it through?

Isaiah 41:13- For I hold you by your right hand- I, the Lord your God, And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 32:8- The LORD says, “ I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Kim McClure

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Put An End to the Excuses

“I will never be good enough. I’m just not capable.”
“I can’t get over things that I’ve done in the past.”
“Christians are hypocrites, and I don’t want to be like them.”

Have you heard any of those statements before?  Chances are, you have stated one or more of them.  Those are excuses, NOT reasons.  Here’s the truth:

You’re right.  You never will be good enough.
Every person sins every day.  Most of the time, those sins are unintentional.  The cartoon with an angel on one shoulder, and the devil on the other, isn’t that far-fetched.  Most of us have a persistent, nagging sin that we just can’t seem to conquer.  Whether it’s gossiping, or greed or lying, it comes up and we have that devil on our shoulder wooing us to do the easy thing and give in.  And guess what? Sometimes, we do. ALL of us do it.  Then, that feeling comes on us that we have let God down, and that He is upset with us.  That is NOT the truth!  That is that little devil on your shoulder speaking the words of the enemy into your conscience.  Satan wants to keep you down on yourself.  Jesus overcame everything through His sacrifice on the cross. He shed His blood for the purpose of forgiveness of our sins.  He didn’t come to make us good, He came to give us life.  Because of that, we can live in victory too, but ONLY through Him. 

You won’t ever be good enough, but Christ is more than enough and He paid the price.  Believe it and then live like you believe it!

Your past is history.  Gone! Poof!! Kaput!
Paul was one of the most effective ministers of the Gospel in history.  If you don’t know much about Paul, he certainly provides an interesting read.  He was there holding the coats of the people who stoned Stephen for teaching about Jesus.  He, himself, hunted followers of Christ down to kill them for stating their faith in Jesus.  Yet, God chose Paul, changed his life completely, forgave him, and equipped him to minister to many New Testament churches.  His words still minister to us through the books that he wrote in the New Testament.  Forgiveness is not just a pardon, it’s an empowerment to do something.

Do you think that Paul ever thought that he wasn’t worthy because of his past? I am sure he did.  If God can not only forgive someone who despised and killed His people, don’t you think He can forgive and use you too?  I John 1:8-9 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  Notice the words FAITHUL and JUST to FORGIVE, and ALL WICKEDNESS.   This doesn’t say that He might forgive some sins, it says that HE WILL FORGIVE ALL OF IT!  Salvation becomes a reality the day you accept it.

You shouldn’t want to be like me.   You should want to be like Christ!
If you are looking at any person other than Jesus as a benchmark to measure Christianity or as someone to model your life after, you have it all wrong.  This excuse is the one that hold so many Christians back from sharing their faith, because they don’t want to be labeled as a hypocrite, when they know that they are going to make mistakes.  If you expect anyone to be perfect, other than Jesus, you’re going to be disappointed.
The definition of hypocrite is “a person who claims to have certain beliefs about what is right, but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.” As stated before, we all sin every day.  Do people need to know that we love God and the awesome things He has done for us, even though we might have sinned earlier? YES!  People also need to know that we make mistakes.  Be honest with your story.  Be honest with your life.  Show God’s love and help others experience the growth and peace that comes from loving and being loved by Jesus.

When you read the Bible, you see how much God uses and loves messed up people.  I was reading about Jacob this morning.  He was a dishonest man who gained his inheritance through lies and trickery, yet he plays a huge role in God’s story.   We all have flaws.

Are you ready to stop with the excuses?   Are you willing to step out, live your faith out loud, and be a genuine person seeking Christ?  Please pray for the courage to do it.  Share your story, no matter how ugly it is.  God can make it beautiful, and if you’ve already received Christ as your Savior, it IS beautiful in His eyes.

I ask you to grant the courage to those reading this, to stop with the excuses, and to stop believing the lies that the world tells them.  We will never be good enough, but through the blood of Your son, You see us as whole.  Help us to stop living in fear of what others think about us, and believe in what You know about us.  Help us focus on the present and the future, and believe that You have forgiven and forgotten our pasts.  Open our hearts, and allow us to let the Holy Spirit do great things through us, all for Your glory.

Passages to Ponder:
I Timothy 1:19- Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear.  For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.
2 Corinthians 5:17- This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun. 
2 Corinthians 12:7b-9-So, to keep me from being proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time He said, “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda, Kim McClure and Marla McDonald

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Journey Above A Jamaican Jungle

Happy New Year to everyone!  When a new year comes, many of us make resolutions to do something, or to change a behavior.  January 1st means a fresh start.  When you make that resolution, do you consider what it’s going to take to achieve it?  One way that people achieve their goals is to find another person to help them.  This person is usually someone who has experience with achieving the goal, or has been trained in how to do it.  When you’re looking for that person, one trait that is vitally important is integrity.  Integrity is all about being honest and fair.  People with integrity are complete.  They are confident.  They stick to their code of morals and they don’t sway. 
When I decided to begin training to run a 5k last Fall, I contacted several people for advice and encouragement.  They were people that I knew had been successful in running, and I knew that I could trust them.  It would have been easy for me to contact someone that I knew would make it sound easy, and tell me it’s okay if I take a week off, etc..dumb, but easy.  Instead, I sought out people who had the experience to know that it’s tough, and there would be days when I just didn’t want to do it, and my body would hurt, but they would still encourage me with their words of wisdom and accomplishments in that area.
The photos above are from a trip to Jamaica that my family and I just returned from.  While there, my daughter wanted to go zip-lining. So, we went.  My family, another family of 4, and two older couples got in a van with a complete stranger and drove to the middle of the jungle (no, seriously) to zip-line.  Then, we signed our lives away, got helmets, and strapped in harnesses, by these young Jamaican men who didn’t look a day over 25. Then, one guide, Bones, proceeded to describe the process, show us the equipment, and the safety features that the company used.  It did reassure me, and let me know that he knew what he was talking about.  He spoke from experience.
 After riding to the top of a large hill, the harness was connected to this other piece of equipment that was attached to a set of cables, which is high above the treetops. One guide, Bones, went over to the first platform to catch us, while the other, Robby, stayed to strap us in and do a 4 point check on each buckle, clip, etc. on our equipment before sending us off to zip.  Then he would follow.

I never imagined that I would step off a platform and hang suspended on a cable through the Jamaican jungle. Never.  Now, my fear wasn’t being that high up  it was getting stuck in the middle.  See, they told us all kinds of stuff like to let go and you could spin ( not doing that), spread out arms and legs and play with the wind (not doing that either), and that if you get stuck before you get to the end, not to panic because they would come get you, but to relax and have fun because if you’re too tense, you will run out of gas and not make it over.
The first time I stepped off the platform, I could see the other platform as well as those who went before me, and as much as I love my family, I was looking for Bones, because if I got stuck, that’s who was coming to get me and he knew what he was doing.  By the way, the first zip was long enough for me to recite the Lord’s Prayer.  The 5th and last one was long enough to recite it twice and the wind made the cable sway a lot. When it was over, I was glad I did it because it was a lot of fun and I did something I never thought I would do.
As you can see from the photos, I never let go, but I did smile.  My husband, son, and daughter did let go and spun around and played with the wind.  They weren’t worried about keeping their knees up to keep momentum so they wouldn’t slow down too much and get stuck in the middle.
When you have a goal, I encourage you not to be afraid of getting stuck in the middle.  Keep your eyes on it,  and keep your integrity as you achieve your goal.  Just like the wind made my cable sway on that last zip, things are going to come into your life that are going to make you want to sway from your code of morals because it’s easier.  Don’t give in.  Find someone who you trust that can help you achieve your goal, no matter what it is, and as our Jamaican zip-line friends said, “Play with the wind”. More importantly, be a person of integrity that others can trust to help them.  Be willing to take a leap of faith.

 Kim McClure

Passages to Ponder:
Proverbs 10:9- People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.
Proverbs 11:20- The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.
Psalms 37:37- Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.