I’m at a loss

“And further, submit to one another out of reverance for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. for husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her…In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”  Ephesians 5:21-25, 28.

My husband and I minister to couples both inside and outside our church. We have seen them at their best and their worst. We have been witness to God’s restoration miracle  and the devil’s irreparable attacks. Lately, I have seen more of these horrific attacks. While I know God is still a God of miracles, it appears as though Satan has achieved such a stronghold on people and they are willing to be his puppets.  I say “willing” because we know the exits when the father of lies comes calling.  God gives us the outs we need, however, we have to walk through those exits into His arms.  We are sinners and sin is fun (for a while) and therefore we stay and wallow in the muck and mire that threaten to drag us under.

I have friends that are neck deep in mud. One willingly, one not. My heart aches and breaks for both of them. While one seeks God, one seeks Satan. While one seeks wise Christian counsel, the other seeks worldly advice with devastating consequences.

Just as there is no such thing as a victimless crime, there is no such thing as sin that does not have far reaching affects. Men and women who are willing to walk away from their marriages, leave behind a devastated spouse; children who blame themselves, friends wondering how they missed the signs, a church family whose faith is rocked and others who may begin to question God. I bear witness to all of this.

What would happen if husbands and wives took Ephesians 5 a little more seriously? Maybe we would stop looking at ourselves and begin to see our spouses as the blessing and gift from God that they are. We are sinners.  We are sinful, selfish beings saved by an unconditionally loving God. If we turn to Him, He will guide our paths. We have to look beyond ourselves, beyond our own selfish desires and to Him.

To be a true follower of Jesus Christ, you have to be fully surrendered to God! ~ Allistair Begg

Choices

Life is full of choices. Some we make consciously. Others are more like breathing and we make these choices out of what seems to be reflex. I choose to get out of bed and go to work when I could, just as easily choose to stay home. I choose to eat a healthy diet when I could, just as easily, choose to eat unhealthy foods. I choose to spend time with God on a regular basis, when I could just as easily, choose to let worldly distractions keep me from Him (I admit I have done that in the past). Many years ago I chose to accept Christ as my Savior when I could’ve walked away because The Truth flew in the face of everything I was raised to believe.  One of the major choices I make everyday is to be positive in my mind and my emotions, It is not easy. There are times when I’d like to scream and rant and rave. Sometimes I envision myself as a spoiled petulant child writhing on the floor screaming until she gets what she wants.

Chuck Swindoll once said “life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how we react to it.” It took me several reads to fully understand what he was saying. You may not have any control over the situation you find yourself in. For example, someone in senior management makes a decision on how you need to complete a project. You see some of the possible pitfalls in this decision and voice them to management, management says, in essence, “just get it done!” Now you don’t have any control over what has just been demanded of you, (the ten percent). However, you do have control over your thoughts, feelings and reaction to it (the ninety percent). Let me explain. Taking the situation I just described there will be some thoughts going through your head. If you choose to have negative thoughts in your head, (i.e. “this will never work, my boss is such a jerk, I can’t believe I have to work like this) which will be the catalyst for negative emotions, such as, frustration, anger, resentment, which, in turn leads to a negative reaction such as yelling at someone, not doing a good job or quitting your job altogether.

If you take the same situation and choose to have positive thoughts such as, “let’s give this a try, maybe management sees something I don’t, maybe this will work”. These types of thoughts are positive and will lead to positive emotions such as, peace, patience, and relaxation. These positive emotions will lead to more positive reactions such as trying your best at the project, and opening a constructive dialogue to ensure project success.

While it is easier to choose the negative I encourage you to choose the positive.  If you are anything like me, the minute the ten percent happens the negative thoughts begin to play in your head like a tape recorder with no ‘off’ button. You are aware of these thoughts and that is the precise moment where you need to change the tape recorder and choose the positive thoughts because the positive outcome is so much better than the negative.

“we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

“A Thorn in the Flesh”

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger from satan to harass me to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this that it should leave me.  But He said to me “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, calamities and persecutions.  For when I am weak then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

Ever since I became a Christian I have wondered about this passage.  I questioned my seminary professors, I listened to many preachers’ interpretation of this passage.  I’ve read commentaries and scholarly articles that attempt to pick apart this passage.  Apparently, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is quite a popular topic of conversation in Christian circles.  There have been many hypothesis regarding the identity of the “thorn.” The overwhelming response…no one knows.  We cannot specifically identify the thorn.

What is the thorn in your flesh? We all have one. That nagging challenge, situation, mind-set, SIN, that besets you.   Mine nags me when I’m at work, when I’m with clients, when I’m with my family, when I sleep it comes out in my dreams and when I’m at church.  It is ALWAYS there.  Not always in the forefront of my mind but in the background.  It seems to cause thoughts to pop in my head that are not positive or Godly and compels me to participate in an emotional spiral that lands me in the depression pit.

What can be done about this thorn?  I have recently come to the conclusion that I have been living under a lie.  I have believed that God should fix all my problems.  That is a lie straight from the pit.  He has the ability to fix to my problems and I should definitely pray to Him and rely on Him in the midst of my problems, but there is nothing in Scripture that says he HAS to fix all my problems.

We need to counteract this lie with several truths. (from Nancy Leigh DeMoss and her book Lies Women Believe)

Truth #1:  God is more concerned about glorifying Himself and changing me than about solving my problems.  (2 Corinthians 4:17) Life is going to be hard.  Scripture says “you will have trials.” Changing yourself is difficult and takes time.  We live in a society of quick fixes.  Hungry, there’s fast food, have a headache, take a Tylenol, need to cook dinner on the fly, pop something in the microwave, need to lose 20 pounds, take a pill, have surgery.  We are all looking for the band-aid but the truth is we have a gaping, oozing wound and a little bandage only covers it up.

Truth #2: God wants to use my problems as part of His sanctifying process in my life.  (Job 23:10) God uses our problems to mold and shape us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is only when we internalize this truth that we will experience that “peace that surpasses all understanding” even in the midst of our circumstances.

Truth #3: No matter what problem I am facing, God’s grace is sufficient for me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)  We want God to wave His magic wand and fix all our problems. Truth is, God is using your problems to make you stronger, more like Him  and to reveal His power to the world in the middle of your weaknesses.

It is time to reframe our thinking and look at our problems as opportunities.  The opportunity to reveal Christ to a hurting world.  THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE!!!!!

Counselor, heal thy self

 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

The room is fairly spacious, with big bay windows and two doors, one leads to the nurses station, one leads to the backyard which is now overrun by smokers on break from group.  However, I feel cramped as I sit on the floor, cross-legged with seven other young women.  We range in ages, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.  We have two things in common, we all suffer with an eating disorder and now we are all in this group.  We sit, staring at the life-size roll of butcher paper lying on the floor in front of us.  The therapist has given us an assignment and we are all hesitating to begin.  “draw me a picture of how you see yourself, physically.”  She says with what appears to be a sadistic smirk.  I stare at the paper outstretched before me, and trembling I pick up a black permanent marker.  How do I see myself?  I close my eyes and an image forms. I am no artist, however, I think I came pretty close to drawing the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.  The face was round and had a double chin, no neck and the remainder of the body depicted layer upon layer of fat.  I remember thinking, “yup, that’s pretty accurate.”  Although, I hadn’t really seen my reflection from the neck down for approximately a week. I was said to be a danger to myself and therefore “strongly encouraged” to admit myself as an in-patient.   The mirrors in the bedrooms were small and narrow so you really only saw yourself from the neck up.  Therapists and medical professionals felt this helped to begin to alleviate some of the obsession with our already unrealistic body-image.  Yeah….ok….whatever you say doc!  

The therapist then tells us to take our drawings and place them on the wall at “our height.”  We all comply and pretty soon we are all gazing at each other’s self-portrait. I remember thinking to myself, “she doesn’t look anything like that, she’s so skinny.”  Then came the icing on the body-image cake…we stood with our backs pressed against our drawings, and a person of our choosing would take a marker of a different color and trace our body onto the drawing.  This would help us “really see ourselves.”  I remember stepping away from the completed project and turning around to face “myself.”  What I saw amazed me.  I HAD CURVES, I WAS THIN, I WAS NO LONGER FAT!  I stood in stunned silence and so did others.  This was when my healing began.  To this day I remember that feeling of relief and utter disbelief.  I promised myself I would never lose sight of myself again.

That was over 20 years ago, that I starved myself, exercised myself almost to death, and used various over-the-counter remedies to keep myself thin.  I have grown, I have struggled, I have doubted, I have regressed, I have overcome.  I go through stages where the reflection is unrealistic and stages where I like what I see staring back at me. I have recently lost a considerable amount of weight and did so in a very healthy way, with family and friends watching over me. Even though I have lost 30 pounds, and have reduced my clothing size by 4 sizes,  I admit to you I am stuck in the “unrealistic stage”.  I have voiced my struggles to those amazing women, my accountability partners, who walk through this life with me and they have recommended I seek counsel before this “gets out of hand.”  

Who does a counselor turn to for counsel?  Friends…accountability partners…family? These are all good, positive supports, however, there is One that is better.  How about turning to THE COUNSELOR.  The Counselor spoken of in scripture…the Holy Spirit.  When His disciples were freaking out over His leaving them Jesus basically told them don’t be afraid, I’m going to send a counselor, my spirit to guide you and be with you.  God still speaks, still comforts, still guides, and still has His Hand on us.  We may not be able to see him physically, but He’s here and He cares.

Whatever you are going through…whatever your past, your present or your future, God is there with you, right beside you, holding you.  Don’t lose sight of that.

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer ~ Mandisa (Overcomer)

Just like God

Proverbs 3:6

…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

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My husband and I enjoy hiking.  On Saturday mornings when I don’t go into work, we drive to Piestewa Park and hike on one of the many scenic routes that Arizona has to offer.  On a recent, non-working, Saturday, I attempted to wake up my college age daughter to go with us.  She was very comfortable in her bed so it was just my husband and me.  My daughter’s parting words to me…”don’t be a whiner baby.”  In other words, enjoy yourself and stop complaining about the climb. All throughout the hike my daughter’s words echoed in my brain.  I maintained a positive attitude and also did not whine.  Yes, I had to stop and catch my breath or allow my legs a small reprieve, but I did not whine.  While on the most challenging portion of the hike, I noticed something.  My husband would lead the way and encourage me to follow him.  He was able to navigate the easier ways to climb, with the more sturdy footholds and less chance to slide or fall.  Not once did he complain or use disparaging words to try to “motivate” me. He was just there with his hand out to me in assistance when the climb was steep.  If he heard rocks begin to slip underneath me his hand would extend and he would grab me.  When we reached the peak of our climb, we stopped for an extended water and rest break.  Looking around at God’s Creation, I realized all the physical exertion and shortness of breath had been worth it.  We had persevered and eventually conquered.  It was an amazing feeling.  I even heard the Rocky victory theme in my head.

That’s when it dawned on me. It is this way with God. He choses which path He has for us.  He attempts to lead us down the path He has for us and what do we do, we complain. We whine when it gets difficult and perhaps we even fight Him every step of the way.  He is there with His hand outstretched waiting for us to take ahold of it so He can guide and direct us.  He keeps us on the sturdy path, we often choose the path that looks easier but may be misleading.  Our own paths are created by sinners. God’s path is created from perfection. On our road the dirt and rocks we tread upon are built from our own desires and we are a selfish people. We do not see what lies ahead.  Although God’s path may be rock filled, we may slip, we may fall, He is there with us. He sees what’s ahead. He consistently reaches out His Hand and will catch us when we fall and guide us through the steep climbs and narrow passageways.

Where is He directing you?  What path has He laid out before you?  Are you going down your own path or His?  It may be time for you to change directions and allow God to lead.  His ways may not be our own, however, the best place for you to be is in the Will of God! Stop complaining and enjoy the view!IMG_0899[1]

It Bears Repeating

In high school…in the 80′s I dreamt of becoming a writer.  I wrote short stories, and poems of teenage angst.  One of my stories was actually published in my high school newspaper, The Utopian.  In light of recent tragic events, I believe God led me to find this article after being buried amongst decades of memories.  Therefore, I believe He is leading me to share this once again…lest we forget.

Reflections… by Mindy Alexander (circa, 1983)

My Grandfather told me stories. What it was like. For him. For the six million others.  The labor camps. Being forced to pile up the dead bodies. If you were too old to work you simply disappeared. Perhaps into the gas chambers or into a bleak hole in the ground. It was all coming back now like flashing pictures of the past from the wooden encassed television which sat on its cold metal stand.

I stared in disbelief as the machine was given life.  A man with small, squinty eyes and a square, black moustache glared at me. Me! He was looking at me.  Not just at me, through me. I met his eyes with a cold, hard stare.  A thick German accent spilled forth from his lips, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end. Fuzzy round spots danced in front of my eyes.  I felt as if my world had turned upside down. dizziness and confusion took over as I watched pictures of my people being shot down where they stood.  Limbs being blown off bodies. Blood an dpieces of flesh scattered upon the dusty earth. Slaughter. Holocaust. The Final Solution. Hitler’s SS men, the “superior” race, lining up thousands of innocent people as you would cattle at an auction.  I cringed with each shot fired.

Screams. Silent screams. With their eyes. Their silent, unrelenting cries echo in my soul. I could not bear to watch, yet I could not turn away. Their cries, “No please, I don’t want to die,” fading off into the horror of the early morning.

Men, hands tied behind their frail bodies. Forced down on their knees. Tow young men. Their whole lives in front of them. Two shots rang out echoing in my mind. As their bodies slumped forward I cringed thanking God for not letting me be born forty-five years ago. Tears streamed my face.

Pain. Anguish. Horror. Helplessness. All emotions they could feel. Were felt by me. Me. A child of the 80′s How could I feel it? No answer.  There was no logical reasoning I could find, except, that maybe, through my Grandfather’s stories they had become real. All too real. I wanted to forget. Needed to forget. But I couldn’t. Not when it was being played out like some sick, horrifyingly real movie. But it was real. And I was a witness. To it. To the horror.

People. Innocent people being carelessly thrown and locked up in the cold, damp cattle cars. Hands reaching out from behind the bars, groping, trying to scratch and claw their way out.  The “Angel of Death” silently patrols the dry desolate grounds surrounding these horrifying cells.  He slowly turns and signals to his men.  The train starts to, slowly, embark on its death ride. Women cry, men quietly pray, children, bewildered smile at their parents looking for a small glint of hope.  Desperate, these people cling to the last few hours of life God has given them. I sit motionless in my chair. My hands sweat profusly. They grip at one another tyring to ease the pain and anger inside me. A scream reaches the top of my throat.  My eyes widen in terror as I see my ancestors’ destination.

AUCHSWITZ!!

The cold, grey buildings loomed up in front of them like giant tombstones,. I could smell the damp, musky stench that came from these stony graves. “No,” I cry. But I knew it was too late. About forty-five years too late. As they were being unloaded from the train their eyes widened in horror.  One man struggline with the SS. One shot fired. A thud as his body hit the ground. Silence. Screams from a woman and child. His wife. His child. Ugly, grotesque men, in Nazi garb, shove these people in straight lines. Hittler-like voices tell them they are to take showers to get cleaned up. “No, don’t go in there!” I scream. They slowly walk into the square stalls. Oh, if I could only go back and change the past. It’s gas. No!! Screams. I can watch no more. I get up from y seat and run from the room.  My teacher is not far behind.

“Hey, you o.k.?” He asks, gently grabbing my arm.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” My voice shakes and quivers in my throat. My heart beats wildly. Tears stain my face. Black splotches of mascara cake my eyes.

“Listen, the video is almost over. Why don’ you go to the bathroom and get cleaned up.”

“Thanks.” I breath a heavy sigh of relief as I walk silently to the girls’ bathroom. I splash handfuls of cold water on my face. My nerves ease a little as I let the cool liquid tricle down my face.

I catch my reflection in the mirror. I walk closer to the glass, dabbing at my face with a paper towel. Words in the mirror quickly catch my eye.  Oh God!! I turn slowly to read them off the wall. KILL THE PIGS!!!

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” ~ John 15:12

True Healing

Years ago I remember standing in my fuzzy teddy bear robe, my Michigan, wool-lined slippers and a hot cup of coffee in my hands waving goodbye to my precious children as the morning carpool drives slowly off into the early morning sunrise.  I close the door.

Ahhhhh! A few rare moments alone before the daily hustle and bustle kick in.  I put my feet up and start flipping through the channels on our television trying to find out what’s been happening in the world while I was asleep.

Well, before I even made it to CNN my remote skidded to a halt on an HBO special about the so-called faith healers.   The cathedral was breathtaking; the attendees jumping, clapping, weeping and dancing in the aisles; the choir regally dressed in purple and gold; the orchestra vehemently bringing the music to a heart-pounding crescendo.  Then he makes his entrance, dressed in white, silver hair gleaming under the stage lights, the conductor of this great performance.  Leaping, jumping around on stage, yelling to be heard over the throng of the thousands of witnesses to this symphony.  He asks “do you want to be healed?!?”  “Yes!!!!” cry thousands of people looking for the external healing that this man claims he can bring.  He cries, “I feel a presence in this room tonight, a healing presence!”  Hundreds are hand-picked by the conductor’s apprentices and they make their way to the stage.  In wheelchairs, on crutches, limping, some even on stretchers they come, believing in this man.  The conductor says “rise” and they rise.  “Walk” and they walk.

Sounds good doesn’t it?  Too good to be true.  Well….it is!  I suppose I should tell you that while this man was leaping around on stage “healing” people, a scientist was talking in the background.  He was saying how he has been able to recreate all of this in the laboratory.  He was able to take people and put them in a sensory deprivation chamber, hook up electrodes to certain areas of the brain and recreate that feeling of euphoria, that sense of a “presence” in the room, even that feeling of healing.   The music rising and falling at certain intervals: the colors of the choir robes: the size of the cathedral: and thousands of people suffering from emotional struggles, physical pain, mood disorders, and the belief that they will be healed: all of this can cause certain chemicals to be released into the brain thus giving those in the wheelchairs, and on the crutches that momentary ability to get up and walk (i.e. the placebo effect).  Notice the word “momentary.”  The people who were “healed” at this man’s performances did not achieve any lasting effect.  In fact, most of them were back in the wheelchairs and on the crutches in only hours after this event.

People continually look for the external “feel goods” and external sources to make their lives better, to find happiness, security, healing or inner peace.  We look to crystals, aromatherapy, new age, cults, psychics, and astrology to find peace and tranquillity.  All of it is pure nonsense and it is only temporary.

God, Our Father is the author of permanent inner peace, of permanent healing, how to make our lives better.   He is our only hope of finding true happiness and security.  Peace can be yours for the asking.  Why look for something that only lasts a moment, that only feels good temporarily, when Jesus longs to give you the ultimate peace, and tranquillity that will last eternally? He loves you just as you are and He died for you just as you are: flaws and all.  Come to Him.  Surrender yourself to the One who died for you on Calvary.  He’s waiting with open arms.