Be a Person of Refuge

Safe Haven Hug

The world feels both full of potential and scary to most teens, and to many people in general.

This is truly a different day we are living in.

And yet, one of the wisest persons to ever live, King Solomon, commented, “There is nothing new under the sun”.

Truly, evil has existed for a long time, but good overcomes it, always.  In overcoming and in expressing the love of Jesus, we become safe havens.  Yes!  Each and every one of us!  We have the potential to provide shelter (emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, if needed) to those who are floundering around without an anchor.

So, how do we prepare ourselves to be a refuge to a teen in need?

Look to the Word…

…the heart of the Father is there.

“Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.  Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.  For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.  …  Do not forsake me when my strength fails.  For my enemies speak against me;….  O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!….  O God, you have taught me from my youth;… Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high…. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” (Psalm 71)

Notice from this one Psalm alone the character of God the Refuge, who sent His Son Jesus the Greatest Friend, who left this earth for a time so that the Holy Spirit Comforter would come to us.  God understands how to be a safe haven for us, and we can learn from Him.

So here are a few traits of a Person of Refuge, gleaned from above:

  • Someone who can be resorted to continually
  • Someone who acts in justice and against oppression when they see it
  • Someone trustworthy
  • Someone who is nearby and opens their lives, able to teach…
  • Someone whose own example mirrors the righteousness of God (no one is fully perfect!)
  • Someone who understands how to comfort, and
  • Someone who can be truth in love

If you search through Scripture, and spend time with Jesus, you will be transformed “by default” into a person of refuge, as you give yourself to God’s leading.  We are only as “safe” as we are teachable by Him.  He will knock off our rough edges and purify us so that we can love without strings attached.  So that we can welcome somebody who acts offensively.  So that we, ourselves, can have unoffendable hearts.  And so that we will be in a right place if the time comes to say, “I love you, and I can’t enable you…so I need to draw a line here…but I am always FOR you.”

Being a person of refuge means being willing to open our lives and our hearts.  Isn’t this what discipleship is?  Jesus told us to make disciples (not attenders).  Disciples follow their instructor-friend through life, doing life with them.  They absorb the victories, challenges, lifestyle, beliefs, inspirations, faith…so much.

Discipleship is to being a refuge as a painting is to mere sentences on a page.  It speaks a thousand words.

It seems we’ve spoken enough words for many lifetimes, right?

But what kind of community could we create if we actually modeled being persons of refuge?

 

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Is it Time for a Mediator?

Conflict in life is unavoidable.

And conflict can be unnerving, but it is not impossible to navigate.

Actually, it can be worked through quite well, with just a few choice tips at your disposal.

Whether its working through a disagreement with your teen, talking to your spouse, or talking through a situation with someone you know, please read on if you want to know how to do conflict BETTER.

Most of us care about us resolving an issue – very acutely.  And yet, there are circumstances that can make this action more challenging.  For example, what if you’re healing from a physical illness at the same time you are having to deal with conflict resolution?  You may not feel good enough to know how to proceed in a timely manner.

Let’s take that very scenario – physical illness – and use it as an example here.  When you’re unwell, untangling an emotional or situational “mess” can be harder than usual.  You don’t feel your best, and, in fact, you can actually feel a lot more vulnerable.  You need to know that there are steps you can take before trying to work out the conflict in person.

The first step is always to pray and ask Holy Spirit for wisdom, clarity, and guidance.  Ask Him to show you areas where you need to clear your heart.  Forgiveness and a blameless heart are key to proceeding well.

Next, you may need to write a letter, which is the first step in being able to “mediate” a conflict situation.  It may be that you need another person to stand in as you talk out your heart with the other individual or group, but, for now, consider beginning here.

Here is an example of a note that you can write to the person in question that you wish to resolve the issue with, and it can either be delivered or you can paraphrase as you talk on the phone.  It can also just be used as a springboard for when you discuss in person:

“Dear ____________,

How are you?  I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you to see where you are at after we talked last, and to share a bit about what I’m feeling.  You’re really important to me, so this was at the top of my list to do so that the situation can get better as soon as possible.  I am not asking for answers here at this time – again, just sharing.

I am concerned that ___________________

I want to also apologize in advance for those things I said or did that hurt you.  Please forgive me – I know we can work this out.  I haven’t been in touch as soon as or as perfectly as I should have been because I’ve not been feeling my best lately.  Sorry about this! 😦

I’d love to set up a time at your favorite coffee shop to talk to you face-to-face (or wherever else you like).  [set a time that will allow you to recover some health/strength/energy if needed].  Do you have any ideas?

Again, you mean so much to me and I’m looking forward to getting to the other side of this with you as my friend.

With love,

____________________”

If you would feel like the in-person meeting needs the help of a mediator (someone to be a calming, fair, impartial presence), then you can add this in the letter

 

Right now, I foresee us being able to go forward in one of two ways:

The first option: schedule to meet with a third person we both trust (how about _____________ (date/time)?

The second option:  get together just you and me and focus on hearing each other out, first, and then talking more.

Thanks  in advance for understanding!

You can text, email, or call me with when works best for us to meet.

I look forward to seeing you,

________________”

Now, obviously you’ll need to modify it a bit based on who you’re talking with; some things may not be best worded for your teen/spouse/friend.  You’ll know as you revise it.

When you actually meet with the person, it’s best to keep in mind how you’re going to proceed with the conversation, and set some loving guidelines down ahead of time.  It’s got to be fair for both people.  It’s important that both sides feel safe, respected, and have a chance to be heard, without being interrupted.

A mediator is not always required to solve a conflict, but they can be a very beneficial part of successful conflict mediation when the going gets tangled.


Note, if you are struggling with an illness during a difficult season of life, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.  It’s good to seek health wisdom from those who are trained and certified to best assist you, but it’s equally important to consider natural health solutions and help from those who also affirm your faith.  Health is so integrally connected to our God-given spirit, soul, and body.  For more information, visit revivehealthinstitute.org, or contact your holistic specialist or physician.

How to Hear from God for Your Teen

Isn’t it astounding and comforting all at the same time to realize that the universe’s Creator knows you, knows your teen, and has something powerful to speak to you both.

In a way that bonds and builds.

If you’ve never realized God speaks during all times of the day, not just during your quiet time, let me share an amazing reality with you.  You see, Holy Spirit exists to be a guide, be a support, be an encouragement, be a teacher, and be a friend.  His heart beats fast when we turn our attention to Him continually.

What we read, biblically meditate on and consider during time with the Word becomes fertile ground for hearing His voice outside the prayer closet.  We know and can discern His voice, because a stranger’s we will not entertain.  We will have spent enough time with the Truth so that the counterfeit falls on deaf ears.  He speaks and we feel it deep within as it resonates 3-fold – body, soul and spirit.  His Word becomes part of our DNA.  We are trained to KNOW Him in these encounters.

As we know Him, we then discover that He has a lot to say about people.   Words of wisdom, prophecy, understanding, and even gentle rebuke.  Words that are wielded like swords against our enemy of darkness.

Because, see, as He can trust us with more of Himself since He sees we carve out time to be with Him and grow in His likeness, He’ll be giving us more to steward.  I’m talking about revelation that comes to us which is on another level.  He’ll unfold mysteries, plans, schemes, strategies, and details about people, things, and places.  Most importantly, He’ll begin to use us as His mouthpieces.

That’s where the profound gravity of what I’m sharing gets amplified.

Hear this….

When you hear from God for someone, especially for your teen, you speak with anointed words to them.  As a beloved Presence bearer, you become His witness (in your own skin).  Your teen can begin to experience you through the love of Jesus.  They can hear words in safety and love.  They can hear words that are latent with supernatural power, with life, and with assurance.  These words speak to the spirit.  They bypass the mere mind, though they stop there to make an indelible print.  They go right to the core.  Something dynamic happens there.  This is the place of dynamic encounter in the Spirit where your relationship with your teen becomes a dream come true.

This is not to say that your times of sitting down with your son or daughter to talk will be without challenge as you seek to share what you hear.  Nor will you leave your discernment about timing and delivery of the words at the door.  You will still learn to speak at the right times, as God impels you.  Sometimes God will direct you just to listen.  Or, even just to exist in their space, wordless.

But, be sure, when it comes from Him, it’s going to make its mark.

A final word, be diligent to ASK for divine words for your son or daughter.  Ask God for revelation, insight, understanding.  Ask for vision for them.  Ask for His thoughts about them.  And be sure to clear your heart of any baggage that exists that would color those precious things the Holy Spirit will uncover.

Once you ask these things concerning your teen, begin to ask for other teens as you are around them.  You will be amazed at what God will do with your “ask”.

I’d like to share a testimony that still has me spinning.

Recently I headed to the store to buy a few groceries for the week.  As I walked up to the automatic doors, I asked God who He was highlighting to me.  I heard, “Kevin.”  Immediately I felt excited, expectant, and maybe a little nervous.

At the checkout, I asked the young guy scanning my items if his name was Kevin.  “No, sorry.”  “Is anyone here named Kevin, in the store, tonight?”  I pressed.  “I don’t think so,” he smiled and shrugged.  Then I casually added, “Anyone you know by that name?”  Still, the answer was no.  So I let it go at that and gathered my goods.  Just wait, Jesus spoke to my heart.

The next day I sat down to work at my desk and realized that my printer and computer were not getting along.  The printer sat numbly at the command to produce.  After an hour of amateur troubleshooting, I realized it was time to call the techs.  And call, I did.  The phone was answered by a young guy on the other end who offered to login to my screen and tinker around until a solution was had.  He’d never formally trained for what he did – he garnered his skills by playing computer games and “grunging around” in the guts of machines.  Of course,  I was more than happy to let him have a go at my predicament.  And as his sync chat box appeared on my screen, I couldn’t help but suck my breath in quickly when I saw his name…

…Kevin.

While he waited for the computer to download a driver, I quickly told him how God had allowed all of this just to get a word to him.  I opened my mouth, trusting God would give me more to speak to Kevin.  And He did!  Love flooded my heart for this young person in another country who sat incredulous on the other line as he heard the answer to the cry of his heart – “God, are you THERE??  Do you care about me if so?  Why have you forgotten me??”

Kevin had been so traumatized recently and struggled so much that he had all but given up on believing that there was a God who loved Him and wanted to know him personally.  So I talked further.  He ended up receiving the life of that message and turned his heart to Jesus over the phone!

Now, understandably not every encounter will end like this one did…but, my point is, when you speak on behalf of Jesus, you’re speaking power.  Power that melts hate, drowns hurt, shatters fear, and produces hope, trust, and destiny.

You can pursue THIS kind of communication in your family.  Don’t be afraid to look silly doing it.  Don’t be afraid to “fail”.  At the very least, you are conveying LOVE.  You are caring enough to express yourself at this new level.

This is part of what it means to really give the gift of life to someone you treasure so deeply.

 

 

The Power of No

As we’re in ministry (or just in life in general), we will encounter constant situations and predicaments that will either require a Yes or a No from us.
Our Yes will not just involve a word – it is an unspoken commitment of our hearts, our resources, and our time.
Our No will not just involve a word – it is an unspoken revelation of our own awareness of our callings, our limits, and our godly boundaries.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU NEED TO SAY NO TO SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT LIKE HEARING NO?
Script it.  Literally.  If you know in your soul that you need to say no, but you feel you’re going to have a hard time of it, write it out ahead of time.  Keep it by your phone (or, in your phone!) until you are going to call the friend/person you need to get back to.  If it’s someone you live with, read the “No” statement many times, until it becomes “an automatic response” that you can fall back on as you open your mouth to speak.  I have personally done this, and was delighted and surprised by how it helped me grow!
Here’s what your No can sound like:
“I would really love to do ___________________________ (come over, do this errand for you, spend time with you, etc).  But this time I can’t do it.”
If the person protests (likely), you can say, as many times as you need to, “I understand.  I’m not available this time, but maybe at a later date.”  Or, “I understand.  I’m not available at this time.”
You might feel like you need to then lapse into a soliloquy explaining all your reasons — guess what?  Not required!  It’s not necessary, and it just gives the person arguing material, leverage for their cause.  We love and bless them…and we don’t need to explain to them.  You will be able to discern who you can (and could/should) explain to.  Remember, the goal is LOVE.  Love allows people to grow up in God, not just “feel good”.
WHAT HAPPENS AS YOU BEGIN TO SAY NO MORE OFTEN:
Again, NO explanation is needed – your No is enough.  (Yes, there are exceptions–save them for when you graduate from being able to say “No” healthfully.)  It may feel awkward at first, but saying no is how you learn the healthy boundaries that God is looking for in order to entrust you with more of your destiny!  He understands that He can’t advance you without you being able to say no as well as yes.  A person who says yes all the time cannot distinguish priorities – the BEST from the “good”.  A person who can say “No” understands what to truly go after to bring the highest return on the Lord’s investment.
THE REWARDS OF HEALTHY BOUNDARIES AND THE GODLY NO:
A godly, rightful NO brings peace, contentment, and an understanding of where you’re at in life.  When you feel the need to say No to a request, it’s probably right.  At the very least, if you’re not sure, say, “Let me get back to you on that” (and then be sure to set a reminder so that you will have integrity to follow through).  It leads to happiness.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T SAY NO
Not being able to say No leads to resentment, frustration, confusion, fatigue, over-busyness, being overwhelmed, and disease.  It leads to loss of health, wealth (resources squandered in medical bills, food, a rising number of relaxation aids, etc.), peace of mind, and joy.  It leads to avoidance and withdrawal from those we love, leading to the very thing we don’t want, which is separation from community.  Not saying “No” to others means that you believe you are their savior, instead of Jesus being the Savior.  It is saying, “You can’t live without me, and I want you to need me.”  It is enabling them in their immaturity.  Wow, being able to say No is a powerful skill!
HOW YOU MAY FEEL AS YOU SAY NO
At first as you say no, you might be tempted to feel guilty, wrong, or even “bad”.  Take those thoughts captive – they are from Satan.  If you don’t receive those messages, you don’t receive the curses that come from them :).  It’s the armor of God, at work in your Renewed Mind!  Hallelujah!
THE PEACEFUL REWARD OF SAYING NO
As you begin to say No more often, you will find that feelings of anger or frustration at the person in question will dissipate, and become replaced with compassion, understanding, patience, and even a godly sadness (as you humbly see their spiritual/emotional condition and that they are trapped in an unhealthy behavior).
——————————————–
More excellent resources that will help you on the journey of how to say the godly No:
Telling Yourself the Truth, by Marie Chapin, et al: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004FV4T48/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Healthy Boundaries, by Cloud & Townsend (helpful as we learn…then, as you have healthy boundaries, you can begin to learn selflessness better, ironically)
And, to understand how LOVE operates in us, selflessly and supernaturally, please visit Youtube and watch any of Dan Mohler’s videos – they are an awesome example of how to be free from ourselves/free from others, and joy-filled in the Lord!
Matthew 5:37 NKJV:  “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’.  For anything more than these is from the evil one.” (Understand this in context, and as Holy Spirit guides – it does not mean you can never explain yourself, but it all must be done in love.)

Seeking Him for Your Happiness

Education shot

Sometimes happiness feels like it is out of my control.

It’s at this time that I’m tempted to put the responsibility for my happiness on the shoulders of another person.  Or, to blame someone for my dissatisfaction.

Truth is, I’m basically saying that I don’t control myself – someone else does.

This is an untrue statement.  I can choose my attitudes and responses.  It’s actually one of the things that no one can take from me – I give it of my free will!

Knowing these things brings peace, and righteous power.

Still, it’s easy to fall into the trap that Satan fashions.  He wants me to be angry at those I love and live with when they don’t give me what I want.  He tells me that it is their fault if I am not feeling awesome.  If I’m alive for myself, if I live for me and not for Jesus, his lies are easy to believe.

There is a way that I can escape his schemes, and it has to do with building a memorial in a sacred space.

In my house, there’s a place I go to.  I have set up a little corner to include meaningful objects that signify to me who God is to me.  He is 3-in-one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In all the experiences of my life, He has walked with me.  He has shown His nature to me in every challenge.  He has made known an aspect of His character and His name to me.  He is a genius – He is building relationship with me.

In my memorial space, I have placed objects like a heart (reflecting Jesus, the Lover of my soul), a little banner to represent how a flag waves when the breeze blows across its surface (symbolizing Holy Spirit), a dollar bill (symbolizing the provision of the Father), and so on.  When I am feeling needy, and when I am tempted to lean on another person wrongly for my own happiness, I am training myself to go to this place.

This is where I seek out the One who is my “very great reward” (Genesis 15:1).  This is where I take hold of the object that reflects the aspect of the Lord that I need, whether it is His affection, His security, His provision, His healing, His guidance.  As I hold onto this object, I am praying, talking with the Lord, pouring out my heart, giving Him my need.  I DO ask Him for fulfillment in my earthly relationships as I am there.  But the very act of me sitting before Him, seeking His face, is a declaration that He is the only One who can perfectly meet my needs.  And I am recognizing and prophetically declaring this in my actions.

Once I have poured out my soul to Him, I wait, and listen.  A conversation with the Lord must be like that with anyone else – both speaking and listening.  He has things He longs to say to me.  I desperately need to hear His voice like I need the oxygen which continually fills my lungs.  In that space, I encounter Him.

Encounter.

There’s nothing like encountering the Living God, Yahweh Himself.  It is thrilling.  It is life-giving.  He is life!  At this point, I am transformed, and the Word states that I am going from “glory to glory” as I engage Him this way, as I walk in obedience, as I am open to Him.

Having had my deepest needs met by Him during this holy, real moment, I can now leave to go about His business, with my center rightly fixed.  He is the center.  I will not have another person in this place.

This is the secret of controlling the state of my happiness, in choosing it.  Now I am free from me – He has met me in every area of deficit that I have lifted to Him.  This puts me in a position to be honest, loving, and unselfish toward you, because I now do not look to you to meet my need or to bring me happiness.  And, when you do, it’s just “cream on the top”.

Improve Your Communication

Father and Son_black

Do you want to be a person skilled at communication?

Do you want to be able to bring peace into discussions instead of inflaming others around you?

The good news is, communication is a learned skill.  Some people are blessed with personalities and dispositions that lend themselves to peacemaking.  However, for the majority of us, learning to communicate well comes with time, experience, and connection with the Great Communicator Himself.

Schramm’s Model of Communication

Schramm's Model of Communication

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from Schramm’s Model of Communication, it’s not as simple as “You tell me a message, and I understand it immediately, perfectly, exactly as you intended to share it.”

If only!

When I share a message with you, those words go on a trip through various filters and then are received in a particular way by you.

There’s skill in relating a concept, and there’s skill involved in receiving and interpreting it.

The point that so many miss is to hear the message as the speaker intended it,  not as we’d want to hear it.

Good communication is worth pursuing, as it sets the tone for unity, helps those we love feel cherished and appreciated, and brings glory to God.

9 steps you can take NOW toward gaining GREAT Communication:

  1.  Refuse to interrupt.  Let the person finish.  If the speaker is someone who tends to overtake conversations, you will need to step in at some point and gently ask if you could share some thoughts.  Feel free to set the tone at the beginning of a discussion that helps everyone remember that interruption is not welcome.
  2. Repeat words (to encourage explanation) and rephrase what the speaker says.  This way, they feel that you are really listening.
  3. Use phrases like, “It sounds like…” or “I think I hear you saying…” or “It seems like…”.  Again, it will build satisfaction and trust in the speaker.  They will sense that you are there to get the gist of their point, rather than just working on your next soliloquy.
  4. Affirm them and build them up verbally.  This need not be fake – give genuine praise, and watch your listener bloom with newfound joy.
  5. Seek to understand, not be understood.  You can’t control whether or not you are understood – never give that power to someone else.  No one should have the power to make you happy.  Happiness is a choice you alone have to make.  Ironically, when you seek to understand someone else, you receive the joy of walking in love.
  6. Take a breather if conflict intensifies.  Before getting into an unproductive argument, kindly excuse yourself for a brief getaway to the next room to collect your thoughts.  Never continue out of an explosive, passionate anger.  If you start to feel triggered (shutting down, angry, defensive, etc.), ask if the other person would pray for you.  Also, pray for them.  If you’re at a point where you struggle to pray for them, you need to have a brief separation so that you can be in control of your own emotions and words.  Proverbs 16:32 says this: He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules (has control over) his spirit than he that takes a city. Did you catch that?  Wow.  God is saying that, if you are a person who does not fly off at the mouth whenever you’re angry, you’re better than someone who takes a whole city by force!  It’s easier to affect destruction by sheer emotional determination than it is to bridle your tongue.
  7. Have an attitude of belief toward children.  Give “the benefit of the doubt” when talking with a child.  This one may seem out of place.  But, as adults, we have a tendency not to understand the communication of children and want to pass it off for convenience’ sake, or because it may seem silly.  But kids are trying to communicate subjects that may be hard for them to articulate.  They also are in a developmental place of life where they need much encouragement, not shut down.  Their spirits and hearts are tender.
  8. Apologize and forgive.  Do this as often as necessary, as is appropriate.  Keep your dignity, but be humble.  Apology clears your heart from harboring offense.  We make mistakes along the journey to maturity in Christ.  Instead of expecting ourselves and others to be perfect, we walk in holy grace.
  9. 9.  Pray to be a better communicator.  Pray God’s Word.  Actively claim it and decree it.

 

Sowing LIFE with Words & Actions

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2 Corinthians 9:6, 10:  He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.

What we choose to do with anger, fear, frustration, and upset will determine our health and our relational health.

It is true that you can eat all the right foods in the world and miss many of their helpful benefits because your emotional and spiritual health are not good.  How can we be healed if we harbor anxiety, anger, fear inside?  Here is where we can make the connection – diseased minds equal diseased bodies.

Jesus bought our peace on the cross.  He paid for us to enter into Hebrews 4 rest.  While the world tells us to STRIVE to gain peace and happiness, Jesus says, “I have already accomplished it legally.  You can never earn a place of rest.  Rest comes by being in right standing with Me.  Come to Me, for my yoke is easy, and My burden is light.  I do the ‘heavy lifting’ so that you don’t have to!”  These promises from the Lord give us the ability to kick out destructive emotions and oppressions.

Anger and unforgiveness actually produce poison in the body that not even superfoods can totally eradicate.  Anger signals a personal goal that has been blocked.  Additionally, anger causes great inner tension and turmoil, which leads to pain.  Our bodies can manifest this issue as stomach ulcers, reflux, heart disease, and more.  Fear is also devastating, and has been shown in the research of Be in Health ministries and other Spirit-filled ministries to be a major contributor in the lives of those battling cancer.  We are 3-fold beings, and we can’t separate our physical self from our emotional and spiritual selves.  It’s part of God’s design.  If you think about it, the design is ingenious.  It allows us to know when we’re not living in total freedom, so that we CAN receive what God has in the way of His perfect release.

Worry also robs us of our wellbeing, in ways both subtle and obvious.  Worry and fear aim to lower the immune system’s function.  Spending time worrying is like biting into a sugary donut – it feels desirable at first, but ends up putting us at risk for sickness.  Resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness are not our friends, either.  There’s a saying that goes, “Bitterness is the poison we drink hoping that someone else will be harmed”.  It’s so true!

Jesus is really the example we look to when assessing how to conduct ourselves while on this planet.  Being human in form, He experienced weariness as a result of the normal day-to-day activities and travels.  At the end of the day, He certainly felt that He had spent Himself and given of His physical energy.  Yet He never suffered with the bad health brought on by anxiety, fear, worry, and the like.

Did you know that even less than 15 minutes of ungodly anger can sap you of a large quantity of strength that you could have applied toward productive living?  It’s true.  God has blessed us with the ability to help grow His Kingdom, and if we spend our vigor on unworthy, ungodly things, we are actually holding His grace in contempt.

But, not to invite condemnation, for there is NO condemnation for those in Christ, who cling to a life surrendered to Him.

If we sow to self-pity and selfishness, we will reap a harvest of them.  If we say “YES” to God and the life He has given us, we will reap the fruit of the Spirit.  Sometimes we find ourselves in a place of frustration over our situation in life, and we are tempted to be ungrateful, angry, frustrated, and unloving.  It’s understandable.  However, we cannot give the darkness free reign.  We must “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”.  We have been given divine authority, and we must choose to use it.  Using it requires a choice to exercise our will and our discipline, which we cannot freely do without the supernatural empowerment of Holy Spirit.

Be blessed as you begin to agree with God and line up with His heart for you.

Are You a People Pleaser?

FOOD is really only a secondary nourishment.  Our PRIMARY food is our relationship with God and with others.  I believe we need to focus more heavily on relational healthiness than on anything else.  Do what is good with food – but really focus on the relationships with those significant people in your life.  The first Person to grow close to is the Lord, the Lover of your soul.

Most of us who are aware of the detriments of attempting to co-dependently please others seek to grow away from people pleasing and into God-pleasing.  This is how we rightly fulfill the call of Deuteronomy 6:4.

Trying to unhealthily please another person is related in some ways to trying to offer what only the Savior can.  Attempting to be anyone else’s savior is sin (by default), and it will drain us completely.  On the opposite end, trying to get our happiness from another person is also idolatry – these things can be so subtle and sneaky, staying under the radar for years – I know!

Our ability to first see and perceive what is going on is huge!  It is the beginning in the journey of wholeness.

What is Jesus saying to you about your relationship with those closest to you?

What is Jesus directing you to let go of concerning your closest relationships?

(Don’t worry about HOW to do this – just…what do you hear.

What does Jesus tell you you will gain out of allowing Him to be the daily Savior and Lord?

What does He tell you are the burdens and drains that you get to SHED by releasing people-pleasing?

———–

Some of the biggest lies the enemy has over us before we change an unhealthy relationship with someone are:

1) “I can’t handle the relationship if it changes”

2) “This person will not love me anymore”

3) “This person will be angry with me and never speak to me again”

4) “I can’t bear the outcome of my decision to release them – it will be too painful/unpleasant/guilt-inducing/etc.”

Most of these lies are rooted in the need to be loved and accepted, I’ve noticed!  Thank you, Jesus for this insight!

So, you can see that, if you feel fear in breaking off codependent relating, it shows a need for more love from the Father.  And, breaking off rejection, unloving spirits, and other related spirits of abandonment and fear.

The truth sets us free!  And, the truth is, if a person is manipulating you and requiring you to be there for them (“or else”), then they were never really giving you love to begin with.  In other words, you have nothing to lose – absolutely nothing to lose – in the way of authentic love.  What you’re really craving – you can’t lose!  Isn’t that SO GOOD!

What do you stand to lose?  Depression that stems from being someone else’s savior.  Anxiety and fear from people-pleasing.  Stress and strain on the body.  Fatigue.  A weight on your soul.  Feeling bad in your body.  A restriction over your life and social life.

What do you gain?  Peace and life.  Love from the Father.  Increasingly good health in your body.  The ability to help the co-dependent friend or family member gain a healthy life for themselves!  Rest.  A lack of feeling rushed and hurried because of toxic relationships.  Ability to love yourself better at the food level, at the relational level.  Ability to attract a healthier spouse – remember, like attracts like, when it comes to emotional and spiritual health (and, usually in terms of physical health)!  Boundaries that will translate into future relationships, bringing peace and sanity to all.  The chance to model healthiness for your kids and/or those who learn from your life.

It’s never too late to grow and be transformed!

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My story: Why I support House of Hope Central VA!

Aunt G and Uncle M

When you grow up in a family of divorce, life is not usually uncomplicated.  And rarely is it conducive to a healthy emotional life.  As a child and teen, my heart felt the ongoing devastation created when my parents divorced when I was 3 years old.  It’s not that I seek to blame them, as I am now married with kids myself and understand how challenging relationships and parenting can be. Yet, at that tender age, I was searching for wholeness, searching to be free from the pain that always haunted my heart and gave my eyes a sad and hollow look in the yearbook photos.

In high school, I left the turbulence of my home life temporarily and sought refuge with an aunt and uncle.  I was related to my aunt by blood, but my uncle had recently married into our family.  Yet he treated me as his own daughter, (and this after having lost a daughter and son of his own!).  This amazing man, disabled after sustaining an injury in the workforce, spent long hours praying for me, counseling me, listening, and writing me beautiful, raw, encouraging letters on scores of yellow legal pad paper.  He used to end his sentences with cartoon-like exclamation points, giving a unique zest to his important impartations.

When the time started approaching for the school dance at the end of my junior year, he told me he was hoping to send me off in style.  So, one Saturday afternoon, ramped up on pain pills, he cinched up his neck brace, and drove me to the nicest boutique in town to purchase what turned out to be the most exquisite robin’s-egg-blue gown I had ever set eyes on.  To my fingertips it felt like angel hair, and it shimmered like a celestial river.  To say the least, I was nearly in unbelief that this dress was mine, and that my Uncle Michael would cherish me that much to invest in such a gorgeous, expensive treasure.

The dance came and went, as did several romantic interests.  Through each excitement or heartbreak, Uncle Michael was there to listen, help, guide, love, and was the hands and feet of Jesus to me.  It was a very healing place where I felt safe.  Because I did not have a father in the home while growing up, his presence spoke to my soul about my true worth and value.

My high school years passed and I was off to college.  Still, my aunt and uncle remained incredibly faithful to me, pillars of support, examples of what selflessness looks like.  My aunt always wanted children and loved my sister and I as if she had given birth to us.  She spent untold hours creating delicious meals, talking, exploring God’s Word and sharing her love of folk-art crafts.  My uncle continued to write me yellow legal pad letters, complete with whimsical exclamation marks, as well as stories and Scriptures that meant so much.  Many a day, I drove that 20 miles or so from my college door just to relax with them in their livingroom, chatting and laughing.  But it was always deeper than that; it was a teen girl, absorbing the mentoring of an older generation who cared enough to help mold my life.  And I believe that, in the process, the two of them, and especially my uncle, received a certain satisfaction concerning their longing to function as a complete and close family.

Then Uncle Michael became suddenly ill, his body overloaded with inflammation and medications.  Though he looked to be in his mid-forties, his body was degenerating rapidly.  He was rushed to the hospital for emergency care.  His heart failed and he breathed his last here on earth.

I was in the midst of activities at college when I received that tearful call from my aunt.  My heart shuddered.  The perception of the whirring pace of everything around me came to a chilling standstill as I tried to process those painful words.

My second father was gone.  And I cried.  I cried because I missed the smell of his mustard-colored Timberland boots.  I cried because I missed the way he threw his head back and exposed all his teeth when he laughed.  I cried because I longed for one of his super-sized hugs.  And I cried because a beautiful heart that had given so much to me had exited and taken its place in Heaven.

Where would I have been, who would I be, without this man’s, this couple’s presence in my life?  They were the love of God, lived out, to me.  House of Hope Central Virginia (HOHCVA) did not exist when I was navigating through some of my darkest hours.  Yet now I realize that what I experienced was much like that of the ministry of the House of Hope Central Virginia, where a teen comes to live, in the shelter of loving hearts who are skilled and blessed with overflowing love.

House of Hope Central Virginia is an incredible ministry that reaches out to troubled teens and their families.  Just as I was able to sit down with my uncle or aunt and talk with them, so teens out there can come to the House of Hope Central Virginia and be truly heard.  In my time of need I found perspective, hope, and restoration.  Had my uncle and aunt not been there to shelter me, I sense that I could have spiraled into an extremely destructive adolescence.

Hurting teens at House of Hope Central Virginia can and do pour out their deepest and most vulnerable inner lives with the counselors who give their time at this ministry.  Teens make the transition from depression and brokenness to healing and wholeness, and ultimately into joy and destiny.  It is nothing short of a miracle – but it happens all the time at the National House of Hope (which includes the House of Hope Central Virginia).  Over the past 3 years, House of Hope Central Virginia has played a major role in the reality of over 40 teens and their families being set free from all manner of heartbreaking issues and scenarios.

But House of Hope Central Virginia is at a crossroads; it needs the funding to finally open the doors of the two residential homes in Central Virginia which are already purchased and waiting to be inhabited by desperate youth.  Research has proven that teens in residential ministry settings do far better than teens who merely receive counsel and continue living at home.  It’s not always easy for the parents to release their kids, either.  It feels much like a catch 22; they dearly need a solution and need a respite from the intensity of interactions with a broken teen, but they also are emotional about releasing their teen into the care of someone else.  An anonymous psychologist once said, “For a parent to admit that someone can do a better job with the person they love best in the world is a very humbling place to be.”

And yet, that release of the teen into a healing environment is exactly what is often needed for both sides to be restored.  Wisely, counsel and ministry is geared toward the family as a unit, and not just toward the teen.

Parents and teens have shared from the heart about what House of Hope Central Virginia has meant to them.  I will share a snapshot of that here.  One teen wrote to their counselor, “I miss you a lot.  And I love you.  Thank you soo much….  I really hope I can come home soon.  I really just want to be back with my family terribly.  This month has just been bad for me.  I promised my mom I wouldn’t run or do anything anymore, and I mean it.  I also gave myself to God and I couldn’t be happier!  I really hope I can continue to keep meeting with you.  I feel close to you, and I’m comfortable with talking to you, and telling you anything.”  A mother of a teen girl wrote, “Deeply grateful for all that you have done for Ashley.  Your love and sensitivity to the Spirit has been an incredible blessing. You are amazing and I am deeply grateful for you in our lives!”

These words bring tears to my eyes now, because they return me to the memory of my own season of restoration from crisis.

House of Hope Central Virginia is ripe for our support!  It’s places like these that our communities need, so that the teen violence, the shooting sprees, and the suffering can be replaced with healing and wholeness, and a resurgence of joy-filled young people who can meaningfully contribute to society!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for opening your hearts even more as I have shared my story! Please help ensure that every teen has this vital opportunity, through Jesus alone, to receive healing and the chance to engage in truly healthy relationships!

Build Your Marriage…Better

Couple holding hands

 

Marriage isn’t like a gravy mix – “just add water”.

If you’re going to “cook up” a good marriage, it’s going to take all the right ingredients, love, care, a little skill, choice resources, the community of loving Believers, and guidance from the Lord.  This truth shouldn’t overwhelm you – in fact, let it encourage you.

Why should you be encouraged?

Because you didn’t enter in to this covenant with 100% manifestation of what you need to have a successful, awesome marriage.  If you count your relationship with the Lord, then, yes, in theory you did.  However, the point is, when you get married, you are entering into an experience that is going to unfold with help.  And, with time.  And, with resources that will come about as you need them, when you are trusting.

Your spouse cannot be your “one-size-fits-all”, Mr. or Ms. Perfect.  They are the companion called to support your life journey.  Someone once said, “They are the person who will complement you in ways you have not even discovered yet.”  Your husband or wife is the person who will weather life’s storms, share the joys and sorrows, endure the trials and savor the sweetness along the way.

If you’ve been facing a degree of unhappiness because you’ve been unconsciously expecting more of your spouse than they can deliver, take a moment to center yourself in the Lord.

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1.  What issues are bothering you, or are on your heart?
  2. What do you crave right now?
  3. How is your quality of connection with God, in the Word and in prayer?
  4. Who can you spend time with to enrich your marriage?  Friends are the true spice of life!
  5. Who can you go to for wise counsel about the troubles you just cannot seem to navigate?
  6. How can you express love to your husband or wife today, in a way that speaks their language?

Marriage may not be as un-complicated as we’d like it to be, but it’s possible to find abundant joy and to be fulfilled within this one-of-a-kind relationship.  God is gloriously hand-detailing you and your spouse in every way, just as He promised He would.