Now is not forever

Years ago, I worked as a mentor in a program called Life Hurts, God Heals.

It was a 12 step program designed to help kids between 11-25 who are struggling with addiction, be it cutting, substance abuse, toxic relationships.

One of the healing axioms we used was

NOW IS NOT FOREVER!

This phrase serves as a great reminder that what we’re going through today, even though if feels like it’s devastating us, will not last forever.

To those in recovery (from anything), these are important words. A friend in recovery used to give me the coins she earned for each step along the way. The first was was for 24 hours sober. Just 24 hours, but such a huge step to someone in recovery!

For most of the teens in the program, their whole lives revolves around the drama from which they were trying to escape. Most of them hadn’t yet experienced enough of life to learn this principal, that this, too, a shall pass.

In her book, Masquerade , Charissa describes feeling that way with the death of a particular friendship that meant the world to her. She didn’t know this phrase at the time, nor fully understand the principal, but as enough time passed, she learned.

Over the past few weeks in our youth group, we’ve been discussing FORGIVENESS. In the process of forgiving one another, time is an essential ingredient to heal our hearts when we’ve been wronged or have wronged others.

If you feel like you’ve been kicked in the teeth by life or circumstances lately, just remember that now is not forever. Sleep on it. Keep putting one foot in front of another, over and over until enough time has passed for you to realize you WILL survive the crisis.

Be blessed today, my friends

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved.

If you’ve read Masquerade already, I thank you! If you haven’t, pick up a copy today! If you have and you enjoyed it, please consider writing a review! Thank you!

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Church is…

I didn’t write this and I don’t know who did. A friend posted it on their Facebook page.. Very good read—

“Church is hard.

Church is hard for the person walking through the doors, afraid of judgement.

Church is hard for the pastor’s family, under the microscope of an entire body.

Church is hard for the prodigal soul returning home, broken and battered by the world.

Church is hard for the girl who looks like she has it all together, but doesn’t.

Church is hard for the couple who fought the entire ride to service.

Church is hard for the single mom, surrounded by couples holding hands, and seemingly perfect families.

Church is hard for the widow and widower with no invitation to lunch after service.

Church is hard for the deacon with an estranged child.

Church is hard for the person singing worship songs, overwhelmed by the weight of the lyrics.

Church is hard for the man insecure in his role as a leader.

Church is hard for the wife who longs to be led by a righteous man.

Church is hard for the nursery volunteer who desperately longs for a baby to love.

Church is hard for the single woman and single man, praying God brings them a mate.

Church is hard for the teenage girl, wearing a scarlet letter, ashamed of her mistakes.

Church is hard for the sinners.

Church is hard for me.

It’s hard because on the outside it all looks shiny and perfect. Sunday best in behavior and dress.

However, underneath those layers, you find a body of imperfect people, carnal souls, selfish motives.

But, here is the beauty of church—

Church isn’t a building, mentality, or expectation.

Church is a body.

Church is a group of sinners, saved by grace, living in fellowship as saints.

Church is a body of believers bound as brothers and sisters by an eternal love.

Church is a holy ground where sinners stand as equals before the Throne of Grace.

Church is a refuge for broken hearts and a training ground for mighty warriors.

Church is a converging of confrontation and invitation. Where sin is confronted and hearts are invited to seek restoration.

Church is a lesson in faith and trust.

Church is a bearer of burdens and a giver of hope.

Church is a family. A family coming together, setting aside differences, forgetting past mistakes, rejoicing in the smallest of victories.

Church, the body, and the circle of sinners-turned-saints, is where He resides, and if we ask, He is faithful to come.

So even on the hard days at church—

The days when I am at odds with a friend, When I’ve fought with my husband because we’re late once again. When I’ve walked in bearing burdens heavier than my heart can handle, yet masking the pain with a smile on my face. When I’ve worn a scarlet letter, under the microscope. When I’ve longed for a baby to hold, or fought tears as the lyrics were sung. When I’ve walked back in, afraid and broken, after walking away.

I’ll remember, He has never failed to meet me there.”

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. All of us have a story. I know that not all churches are healthy, but blessed is the person who finds a church where they can feel welcomed despite their failures, and grow in healthy ways with people who encourage you every step of the way.

None of us have it all figured out. We all need Jesus.

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came in Christ Jesus”

Be blessed,

SB

When to walk away —Surviving Deception

Motivated by a strong desire to help hurting people and an inherent desire to take people at face value probably marks me with naivety to believe people who tell me they are seeking God Or really want to change their life. I truly want everyone to know the peace that passes all understanding. I see the world through rose colored glasses. My rose colored world is a nice pace to be. There are others like me in the world, who, out of desire to do good for someone, have gone back to toxic relationships time and time again in effort to rescue someone from themselves, only to be hurt over and over again. I’ve been watching it for some time in the lives of several with whom I am close.

Some people aren’t being honest with themselves, and we know that hurting people hurt people. Some people are deliberate in their deception, wanting to cause destruction to other people. Perhaps there are people who don’t even realize they’re deceitful because they themselves are being deceived. Whatever the cause, there are those in the world who would deceive others. Those of us with tremendous compassion need to be able to keep them at a healthy distance. Knowing where and when that point is not always easy. Being able to do it requires grit and I dare say help from God Almighty.

The Bible warns believers about those who will come to deceive. In fact, God knows that without Him, we are deceitful in and of ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Still, He warms us to be on guard against those who would seek to hurt us with their deception.

Colossians 2:8. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Romans 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

2 Corinthians 11: 13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Interestingly, though, the Bible paints an understanding picture of the depravity of mankind, and in a compassionate way offers a way out to those truly who seek Him.

Titus 3:3-7

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Gods desire is that none should perish but all come to an understanding of faith and redemption through Christ Jesus. My desire is The same, and I know the others going through similar experiences are also motivated by a desire that all should know Christ.

1 John 1:9.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Romans 10:13
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

My prayer today for those who are deceiving, either themselves or other people, is that they would see Jesus; truly experience the life-changing blood of the Savior.

At some point, though, it’s time to cut the toxic relationship out of self preservation, even if the cut is initially painful. When the relationship hurts physically or emotionally, it’s time to cut. Severing the relationship does not mean we don’t still want what’s best for the person; it only means that for now, we can’t be a part of it.

Get to a healthy distance in the relationship, particularly if the hurt has been physical. Let them hit rock bottom. Keep praying for the hurt soul, that they would find peace through Jesus. Never stop. I’ve seen God work miracles in valleys of despair. Sometimes what they truly need is a “Come to Jesus” event to help them find. Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to draw them, and watch from afar. The truth is, it’s not our responsibility to fix them, or make them know Jesus, especially if they don’t want to. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to draw them, and it’s up the them if they will accept. All we can really do is be ourselves.

God is not hiding. The Bible tells us that we will find him if we seek Him with all of our heart. I pray those who need Him genuinely seek. And genuinely find.

And to those who have been deceived, rest in the hope that God and His angels have you covered by their wings. He will pick you up and put your feet on solid ground. There is recovery from failure.

Praying,

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life All rights reserved.

All the rooms.

Each summer, our youth group attends Creation Festival Northeast, in Mount Union, PA, a five day festival of Christian music and speakers held every June (kind of like Woodstock, only different. ;-))

Last summer, Todd White was one of the speakers. A bit unconventional with his dreadlocks, Todd passionately delivers the message of how God delivered him from addiction to drugs and changed his life in a powerfully dramatic way. He was reconciled with his wife, and became a radical disciple of Jesus.

(Todd’s testimony)

Todd receives his fair amount of criticism, but you won’t find that from me. I love Todd’s passion and fire, and found his message to be inspiring.

One of the anecdotes he shared painted such a vivid picture of giving ALL of ourselves to Jesus, I’d like to share it with you. I’ve searched for a recorded version of it but wasn’t able to find, so I’ll do my best to recreate (paraphrased, of course).

One night, a man went to sleep in his house when he heard a loud banging at his door.  The Devil put his elbow in the door and forced his way in, ransacked the house, beat the man up and left.

The next day, there was knock at the door – it was Jesus, and he asked quietly if He could come in.  The man asked Jesus to stay, and gave Him his master bedroom – the best room in the house.  That night, a terrible pounding at the door – the devil forces his way in, ransacks the house and beats him up again.   In the morning, Jesus came downstairs and asked what had happened.  The man said, “Where were you, Jesus??”    Jesus answered, “I was in the only room that you gave me.” 

The man agreed to give Jesus half of the house – the entire upstairs, thinking surely he is safe now – Jesus is on his side.  That night, the devil forced his way in again, and pummeled the man.   The next morning, the man, frustrated with Jesus, said, “Jesus, where were you??”    Jesus replied, “You gave me half of your house.  I want the whole house.” 

Knowing that he needed Jesus to fight the Devil for him, the man agreed to give Jesus every room in the house – except one.  He said, “I’ll give it all to you, except for this one – you wouldn’t like what’s in that room.”   That night, the devil came once again to pummel the man. The man was in the one room he hadn’t given to Jesus, and once again, was beaten up by the devil.

The next morning, the man said to Jesus, “You can have all the rooms in the house.”   That night, when the devil came to the house expecting to pummel the man, he was greeted at the door by Jesus, who said to the man, “I’ll handle this.”

Jesus wants our FULL SURRENDER – for every room in your house to belong to Him.  Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, even if we walk with Jesus, have areas of our lives where we haven’t fully surrendered – for many reasons – could be that we like what we’re doing and don’t want to completely give it up – could be that we want to control it ourselves, or think we’ll do a better job with it – who knows.  The reality is, if we’re able to let Go and fully surrender, God will bless us beyond our wildest dreams.

Exodus 14:14  “The Lord will fight for you.  You need only be silent”

All the rooms… does He have all the rooms?

I’m a work in progress, If I’m completely honest. There are days I feel He has all the rooms and days I’m still hiding in a few. I’d guess if we were all honest, we’d perhaps all have some areas of life we hold onto.

Trying to let them go,

SB

Copyright 2019  Journey For Life  all rights reserved.

dichotomy

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the odd dichotomy that occurs when both blessing and curse happen nearly simultaneously.  For me, as a parent, one of those occasions occurred between April 8 and April 9, 2014.  It’s a dichotomy that I still struggle to wrap my head around despite knowing that God has and will continue to use these events to shape everyone involved.

My then-16-year old daughter played defense on the high school lacrosse team.  Their practices ran from 8 – 10 pm every night, and she’d come home and work diligently on her homework.  The oldest of three, she’s always been a self-starter, hard worker, and an overall excellent student.  She never liked to miss school (unlike her mother, who may have skipped school a time or thirty!).  Her even-tempered nature made her likable, and by all accounts, she was a pretty good kid.  Except on April 8, 2014.  I don’t know what kind of wicked temper overcame her personality late that night after lacrosse practice when she was working on a homework assignment that she apparently despised, but she became like the little girl in the movie, Exorcist.   Sometime after 11 pm that evening, after angrily slamming her school notebooks down on the floor and storming around the house, I calmly said to her, “Go to bed.”   I had had enough of the attitude and just wanted her out of my sight for a while.   The ensuing argument left me bewildered, wondering if this was what everyone complained about “teenage” years – a phenomenon that we had not yet experienced.

“I CAN’T go to bed!” she exclaimed!  “I HAVE to finish this homework!!!!”

To be honest, at that point, I could have cared less if she took a zero on the assignment, but as a type-A honor student, she had always been hell-bent on getting every point she possibly could, and extra credit when possible.   I offered what I thought was a reasonable solution.  “Go to bed, and get some rest.  Stay home from school tomorrow and finish the assignment.”

“I CAN’T miss school tomorrow!  I have a Lacrosse game on Thursday and if I’m not there tomorrow, I can’t practice!  and if I can’t practice, I can’t play in the game!!!”    She was angry like I had never seen before in her entire life.   I offered another solution:  “Go to bed  – work on it in the morning – you can go in late.  What’s the latest that you can go in and not be considered absent for the day?”

She seemed to settle with this suggestion, we agreed she’d get up in the morning and finish and I’d take her to school late.   With that, she went off to bed and I went to make a cup of tea to calm my nerves.

My son, a fifteen year-old freshmen at the time, was very good-natured and empathetic, and genuinely cares about people.  He had asked me if I could take him to school early the next morning.  Our youth group was getting ready for a spring retreat and he wanted to ask a friend of his to come.  He had taken some flyers for the event and wanted to pass them out before school began.

On the morning of April 9, 2014, we got up early.  I ordered three books on Amazon: The Art of Loving One Another, Building Up One Another, and Encouraging On Another (books I had selected as part of my self-development).  We left early for school as my son requested.  We prayed for his day, as we had done every day for the previous ten years.  We said an extra prayer for his friends – specifically the one he’d been praying for to come to the youth retreat.

A short time later, we learned of an incident that occurred at the school that morning where a student stabbed 21 people with two 8 inch kitchen knives.  (for the details, please see previous posts:

The Blood That was spilled)

(Keep ‘em Safe in the Hallways)

I naively called my boss that morning to let him know I’d be late to work because of an incident at the school.  As I texted the rest of my direct staff to let them know I’d be late, I learned the incident had already made national news.  Still, I didn’t quite have the presence of mind to contact family members who might learn of the events.  Quite honestly, I think in hindsight that I may have been somewhat in a state of shock.

We received calls from the school district informing us what to do to retrieve our kids.  Of course, because my son was considered a “witness” to the event, he needed to stay at school to make a statement to the FBI.   It was hours before the non-witness kids came home from school, even longer before I could get my son.  I remember pulling up to the school, being directed by police where to park, where to enter, and where I could wait for my son to be interviewed.  I was ushered to a classroom to wait with other parents, similarly dazed and very somber, were waiting for their kids.  Occasionally, as a student was reunited with their parents, the room would break out into tears, but was otherwise relatively quiet as each person tried to comprehend what had happened.

It well after noon when my son and I returned home.  By that time, our house was filled with teenagers who had come over to decompress with one another.  Our youth pastor called to see if I’d help plan a service for our kids that night – he felt they would need some time to be with one another in the presence of God.  We got together to plan the service, which, at the time, was intended to be for our own youth group.  Little did we know that hundreds and hundreds of people would pack our church – including CNN and other large news networks.  Again, we prayed for the victims and sang songs to help us feel the presence of God in the face of the evil that had just occurred, everyone still trying to fully grasp the magnitude.

In the days that followed, I spent countless hours hanging out with our teens – driving them from hospital to hospital visiting their friends who had been stabbed.  Miraculously, none of the victims died, although some of their injuries were life altering and very touch-and-go for a while.  At various points, I found myself alone with my son, who was working very hard to process everything.  He said to me, “mom, I saw things that day that I can never un-see.  I heard things that day that I can never un-hear”   and I knew he was right.  He grew up in a heartbeat that day.   On one hand, I was incredibly proud that his Godly leadership allowed him to bless others with prayer that day – on the other hand, I was incredibly sorry for what he and his classmates had experienced.

The dichotomy for me, as a parent, comes in knowing full well that God had somehow allowed my daughter’s immature behavior the night before to keep her from being present.  I know full well that if she had been, she would have been beside her boyfriend, and could possibly have been stabbed herself.   Ironically, however, I know that if I hadn’t taken my son to school early that day, he would not have been there.  For me to reconcile that God prevented one child from being there while seemingly delivered the other child to be there to face evil is something I don’t think I’ll ever understand on this side of Heaven.  I have seen first hand how this event has shaped both of my children’s lives (as well as those of their friends who also experienced it first hand), and know well enough that God will use all of it for His glory somehow; however, the duplexity of the blessed curse or cursed blessing will haunt me for years to come.

Mostly blessed (sometimes cursed  ;-)),

SB

copyright Journey For Life 2019.  All rights reserved.

 

Fix your home

Ten years ago – or more – an idea popped into my head– an idea to build a business that would honor God. I was super pumped about the idea and was sure God would be, too. In fact, I was sure the idea was His. I prayed about it, expecting God to show me the details. What I heard was the inaudible yet unmistakable voice of God say, “fix your home”. Almost as if I didn’t believe my ears, I prayed again, this time telling God that I was on fire for Him and wanted to spread His love across the world. Again I heard, “fix your home”.

Friends, I’ve got to be honest. I know how to fix a lot of things. Being an engineer, I’ve come up with creative was to fix all kinds of problems. But my home? My home was a wreck at that point of my life. Truthfully.

Six years prior to that argument with God, I had made a very deliberate decision to stop feeling. The decision was made out of self preservation, a defense mechanism to protect my heart. My heart had been trampled so many times, I was tired of hurting and was in a very, very dark place.

Just prior to that decision, I began to reach toward Jesus to help me out of my depths of despair, which, at its worst, included thoughts of suicide. Over the course of a couple of years, God truly reached down and rescued me, and I was living for Him in most areas of my life. I was not only attending church and Bible studies, but I was serving Him in music ministry.

Still one of the areas of my life I found difficult to surrender to Him was my home. In truth, I had tried to submit my home to Him years before, but for reasons I don’t want to share yet, that part of my life wasn’t on the table for God to have.

I didn’t realize it was actually possible to turn feelings off, but I learned it was. It worked remarkably well actually until the moment God said, “fix you home”.  I had no idea how to do that. I felt like I had surrendered all other areas of my life to God, but He wanted this one. My heart was so cold and dead I couldn’t even pray for my husband.

Needless to say, God and I were at an impass. I knew that He wouldn’t honor my wishes until I obeyed his command. I had to lay my home before his feet and ask Him to do it for me… not even help because I truly didn’t know where to begin, but just ask Him to do it.  It was a process for sure.

Often, I think, we rely on ourselves to change things, but God works best when we get out of the way of ourselves and turn our hot mess completely over to Him. In the case of my home, I knew I couldn’t fix it. It was broken far beyond what I could repair. Interestingly, it was probably As much about changing my heart as it was changing my husbands. It was definitely not instantaneous. There were additional heartbreaks that God allowed in our life to begin to soften us (see my post: Applegate Miracle)  I will also tell you it isn’t done. I can tell you, though, the place where I stand today is much different than that muddy pit I stood in all those years ago. I can honestly say that I love him and am confident he loves me. I will also confess that the path has not been a straight one; a crooked one filled with potholes and wrong turns, but I am learning to trust That God makes all things beautiful in His time. We will celebrate 24 years married (33 total together) this summer, and I’m thankful neither of us gave up.

Once again, i learned it was about full surrender to a God who loves me and wants what’s best for me.

I am a recovering control freak (can’t think of another name for it, but I feel like I need to know the details and plans). For those of you in recovery you know that sometimes life is about one day or one hour at a time. For this hour (maybe not the next, though), I am content to rest in His plan. He has brought me this far, He will bring me home.

Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Be blessed today, my friends.

Humbly waiting for the fulfillment of His plan in me,

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved