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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Winner is.... AND... Insights On Grief

And the winner is...Felicia! Thank you so much Felicia for entering your name in my drawing to win a copy of my new women's Bible study book Whispers of My Heart. Please send me your mailing address: KathyCollardMiller AT gmail DOT com. If you'd prefer a Kindle copy, send me your Amazon account email to me. 

In a recent post I wrote about how I killed my heart with a 12 gauge shotgun when my 50-year-old father died suddenly of a heart attack. I was prompted to write about it because my brother had died just a week earlier.

Now it's been a month since my brother went to heaven and my grief experience has been profoundly different than when my father died over 40 years ago.

When I used the shotgun metaphor I didn't think through how the metaphor could work. A 12 gauge shotgun shoots pellets. And as I pondered grief and my journey, I see how a heart can be wounded by the lies about grief. Each lie is like one of those pellets which kill the heart. So here are some thoughts about the lies and the truth of grief.

Grieving doesn't mean our faith is weak. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. We don't know the reason considering He knew He would momentarily raise Lazarus back to life. But Jesus had faith! So grieving doesn't necessarily mean we don't have faith. By the way, I wonder if Jesus was weeping because He so felt the grief of His friends. He was empathizing with them. 

Grieving doesn't mean we have to cry all the time. I've been surprised at how my grieving "looks." Sometimes I seem unaffected but then suddenly I'm sobbing. Sometimes I know the reason why and sometimes I don't. Something will remind me of my brother or I'll think, "I have to call Chuck and ask him about this." Or I'll notice the photos of him around the house and the loss seems profound. Other times I honestly feel numb...and that's the next point.

Grieving involves numbness and that's okay. Shock and numbness can be God's gift of going through the initial days when so much needs to be done. Of course, I don't have the responsibility my sister-in-law and her children do. But I think God used a certain level of numbness to empower me to share at his service about our childhood before over 500 people. I did sob later but God surprisingly gave me that gift. 

Grieving can be sweet while being extremely sad. I've been surprised, even shocked, that as I grieve the loss of my brother and think of him, there's a sweetness of focusing on him. Thinking of him, I enjoy reflecting on who he was and what he meant to me and so many. I can appreciate the fact we had a close relationship--something I know not everyone has. I don't berate myself or tell myself I shouldn't experience that sweetness or that I should feel it every time. It's a gift from God that comes as He leads. 

Which of those are surprising to you, if any? What have you experienced in the grieving you've experienced? I'd love to hear and so would my readers because it would be a blessing to them and me. And thank you for your caring prayers for our family as we continue our grief process of losing a fabulous brother, husband, father, friend, and Christian. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book GiveAway!!! My New Women's Bible Study Book on Prayer

Here's my next Book GiveAway! And I'm so excited! It's my own book--a new women's Bible study called Whispers Of My Heart. This is an expanded and revised version of the book that came out back in the 1990'sIt's about prayer and is a part of my Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. Whispers Of My Heart has ten lessons that are wonderful for individual study or a group. (Tweet that!)

To put your name into the drawing, you only have to post a comment on my blog or email me: KathyCollardMiller AT gmail DOT com.

I will draw the winner on Monday night, Feb 6th, 2017, and announce the winner the next day.

Here's the link for ordering if you want it right away: http://amzn.to/2ksLALx

I'm including here the first lesson. If you don't want to go through the whole thing, flip to the end and you'll see the "Letter from God." At the end of every lesson, I include one that refers to what the study studied. I know this will bless you.

Whispers of My Heart
Copyrighted Material, Do Not Reproduce
A Ten Lesson Study in the Daughters of the King Bible Study Series
by Kathy Collard Miller

Table of Contents
1. Joyful Focus—On God
2. Effective Prayer—Our Helpers
3. Powerful Prayer—Its Characteristics
4. Intimate Conversation—Two-Way Conversation
5. Obstacles—Tearing Down Barriers
6. Our Example—Pray like Jesus Did
7. Knowing God—Touching the Heart of Heaven
8. Intercession—Prayer for Others
9. Gratitude—Humility in Thanksgiving
10. Praise—Our God’s Right
Lesson 1
Joyful Focus—On God

Prayer. What joy we experience when we take the time to focus on our great God. Whether we think we pray enough or not, we know we can never spend too much time talking to our heavenly Father.
We know God’s Word calls for us to pray, and we sense God’s wooing to focus on him, but the challenge comes when any number of obstacles bombard us. We can question whether we’re praying in the right way. We can wonder if God hears us. We hear someone else pray beautifully, and we believe we aren’t eloquent. We hesitate to pray when others are listening.
The doubts and confusion can swirl around in our minds and hearts and block our confidence in seeking God. And then when our prayers aren’t answered the way we asked, we conclude God doesn’t love us. We can even claim biblical “promises” about prayer but the answers still seem a part of some big mystery we don’t understand.
Truly, there are many blocks and much to learn. The most wonderful thing is God invites us to seek him while he continues to teach us. There is hope.

  • How do you define “prayer”?
  • Why do you think we should pray?
  • What has confused you the most about what other people say prayer is?
  • What do these verses say about the purpose of prayer?
  • Acts 1:15-24:

In this example, it’s instructive that the Apostles first narrowed the possibilities down to two candidates for one to replace Judas. Then they asked God for guidance to choose one of them. These verses show one way prayer includes our own involvement.
Jesus had personally picked each of the disciples in the beginning, so it made sense to them even in the early days of the church, that they should pray to ask him to choose the next man for leadership.

  • I Timothy 4:4-5:

Although we can apply this to what we call “saying grace” at a meal, it refers to everything in our lives. In the previous verse (vs. 3), Paul says it refers to marriage. Overall, whatever God has allowed is good and can be received as a good gift as it is dedicated in prayer.

  • James 1:5:

Although God wants to give us wisdom about everything, in the context of this particular passage, James says these persecuted Christians should ask for wisdom in how to respond to the intense trials and temptations they are facing.

  • I Peter 4:7:

Of course, we can and should pray whether we’re joyful or sad. But in this context, Peter is warning his Christian friends they will be facing a difficult time which requires special seriousness. Peter could be using “the end of all things” to refer to each person as they face death. Or it could refer to some catastrophic event including persecution. Neither Peter nor his readers could have known their “world” of Jerusalem would soon be coming to an end, because its destruction by Nero wasn’t far off (70 A.D.).

  • Even if we didn’t have all those reasons, why should we still pray (Matthew 7:7-11)?

Our loving heavenly Father wants us to know every single concern we have and every part of our lives is of interest to him and can be brought to him in prayer. He only intends to answer and provide whatever is best for us. We may not consider his answer to be for our good at the time, but if we trust him, we can receive his answer with thanksgiving.

  • According to I Timothy 2:1-3, Matthew 26:41, and II Thessalonians 3:1-3, what are other purposes of prayer?

In these verses, God communicates even more thoroughly we can bring every person, even those in high standing, to his attention. Whereas very few of us can imagine ever having an audience with an earthly king, we do have access to the King of Kings who is in charge of the activities of everything and all people, including the most influential people on earth.

  • Eve’s “Daily Quiet Time” was different from ours. She physically walked with God while she talked with him. How did Eve fail to benefit from that privilege (Genesis 3:1-7)?

Eve may have been talking to God but there was someone else talking to her. Sometimes we can mistake Satan’s evil whisperings for God’s voice.

  • How do you think prayer can prevent us from being deceived as Eve was (Genesis 3:13)?

Eve replies to God’s inquiry but if she had talked with him as soon as the serpent began to whisper evil ideas, she could have prevented succumbing to the temptation.

  • Eve experienced many unpleasant results when she hid from God (Genesis 3:8-16). What results have you seen in your life when you didn’t pray about something?
  • When we pray, we are the beneficiaries. What are some of those benefits?
  • Proverbs 28:13:
  • Mark 11:24-26:
  • Philippians 4:6-7:
  • James 5:13-16:
  • I John 1:9:
  • Which of those benefits is most meaningful to you?

Although our motive for prayer shouldn’t be to gain something, God loves to benefit us. Like a loving father who rewards his children, God, our heavenly Father loves our attention and he loves lavishing blessings on us. When we’re blessed, we’re also an example of God’s love to others.

  • What truth does God reveal about prayer in Proverbs 15:29?
  • Read John 9:31. Why do you think God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers?

The wicked in effect are saying to God, “I want to be separate from you. I want to do my own thing, so get away.” God honors their request. Since those who pray are saying, “Please be with me and help me,” God responds to them by drawing close. We are each receiving what we’re asking for.
All of us are sinners as Romans 3:23 tells us: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But the “sinner” represented in John 9:31 is the one who rejects God repeatedly and remains in his or her sin, not receiving God’s saving grace. Unfortunately, the prayer of the sinner who says, “Get away from me, I want nothing to do with you,” will have his prayer answered “yes.”
If you want to acknowledge your sin, you can respond in repentance to God and receive his offer of salvation. He is reaching out to you with his gift of forgiveness and cleansing. Pray to him and ask him to forgive you. Tell him you know you deserve spiritual death but you want to claim Jesus’ death and resurrection to apply to you. He always hears and responds to that prayer. And then read the Bible, pray often, and find a church which preaches the Gospel—which is the “good news” of Jesus dying on the cross for sinners and how we can depend upon our position in Christ for daily living.

  • How do your prayers make God feel (Proverbs 15:8)?
  • Why do you think God values your prayers so much?
  • What “sacrifices” might an unbeliever make to God today?
  • Why do you think the Lord doesn’t value the wicked’s sacrifices?

The sacrifices of the wicked are unacceptable to God because their motive is not to acknowledge he is their only hope but to appear to do the right thing as they work to earn their own salvation. They then can feel proud thus lacking dependence upon God.
The “upright” are not those who act perfectly, but who have claimed their inheritance in Christ through his sacrificial death on the cross. The upright acknowledge their neediness and approach God with a humble heart.

  • After the disciples and followers of Jesus had seen him ascend into heaven, what did they do (Acts 1:12-14)?
  • When we don’t know what next step to take, how can their example help us know what to do?

So often when we’re unsure of what to do, even in our service to God, we flail about just keeping active doing anything. We might fear if we do nothing our inactivity will be judged negatively by others—and even ourselves. Sometimes it’s better to wait on God’s further orders and faithfully keep obeying his last instructions.
Not only did the disciples and followers not know what to do, they may have been afraid Jesus’ enemies would try to harm them, as they had Jesus. Yet to their credit, if they were afraid, it would have been reasonable—from a human perspective—for them to flee the city and area.
But Jesus had told them to stay put (Acts 1:4) so if they fled, they would have been disobeying him. To their credit, they remained despite the possible danger.
Their response of prayer was a wise one and an example for us. Whether we’re confident of God’s directions or not, we can pray and continue to seek him.

  • The writer summarized the desire of his heart in a prayer expressed in Proverbs 30:7-9. What were his two requests?
  • If you had to summarize the desires of your heart in two requests, what would they be? Write them in the form of a prayer.

The writer, who is identified in Proverbs 30:1 as Agur, son of Jakeh, is only mentioned here in the Bible. Commentators believe he lived in the era of Solomon, which of course, is when the biblical book of Proverbs was written. Most of the proverbs in this biblical book were written by Solomon.
The word agur is from a Hebrew word meaning “collector” and Agur is indeed known for collecting numerical sayings as this chapter reveals.

  • Read Isaiah 26:3-4. How does prayer help us have a steadfast, trusting heart?
  • How do the following spiritual principles connect with prayer and what results from each?

  • What principles of prayer do you see in:
  • Nehemiah 8:2-6:
  • I Kings 8:38-40:
  • Psalm 77:1-3:
  • Psalm 95:6:

Obviously, there are an unlimited number of verses referring to the importance of prayer and the impact God wants to have in our lives through it.
Prayer is most simply two-way communication with God. There are various aspects of it. Whether we are seeking God individually or in a group, whatever the purpose or the need, regardless of the form prayer takes, every time and in every way we pray, God is listening. He loves for his children to seek him and depend upon him.

  • The simplest things we do can indicate our attitude toward God. What principle of prayer does Jesus teach in Matthew 14:19, 26:26?
  • What can these different kinds of prayer indicate about our attitude toward God?
  • intercession:
  • grace for food:
  • praise:
  • thanksgiving:
  • confession:
  • plea for help:
  • How does prayer help to make adjustments in your attitude toward God, toward others, and life’s circumstances?
  • Can you give a specific example?
Read Matthew 26:36-46. What did Jesus request from his Father (vs. 39)?
  • Why do you think Jesus didn’t want to drink the cup of judgment for sin?
  • Regardless of what Jesus wanted, what was his attitude (vs. 39b)?
  • What insight does Hebrews 5:7-9 give about the purpose of God’s answer of “no” to his Son?
  • What should we learn from God’s “no” answers to our requests?

Jesus experienced every aspect of being human—except sinning. He completed his Father’s will to die for the sins of men. In his humanness, he didn’t want to suffer, as any person would respond. Yet, he accepted his father’s answer of “no” to his request to be spared. Because he wanted to avoid the pain and the shame, his obedience is highlighted. He could choose to suffer because he trusted his Father’s ultimate purpose of the “no”: redemption from sin and restoration to God for people would be accomplished. Additionally, he would rise from the dead overcoming the power of death, thus giving hope of heaven to Christians.
The more we can trust our heavenly Father’s good plan even when he says no to our requests, the more we can live in peace knowing he’ll be glorified.

  • God said “no” to his Son and made our salvation possible. What can we be assured whether God answers us “yes,” “no,” or “wait”?
  • Jeremiah 29:11-13:
  • Romans 8:35-39:
  • Philippians 4:19:
  • James 1:17:
  • Which of those verses is most meaningful to you?
  • How do they encourage you to trust God more? 

My precious Princess and Daughter:
I do love the times you talk to me. Whether you’re in trouble and asking for help; whether you’re confused and asking for guidance; when you come to me with your praise and thanksgiving; or whether you just want my attention for any reason, I delight in your call to me.
There is joy for both of us when you seek me in prayer. I long for the fellowship of your attention. I wanted it so much, I sent my only Son, Jesus, to die for you to make it possible.
I want you to enjoy our time together as much as I do. I want you to feel loved and approved as we communicate. I look at you with eyes of love and acceptance because you are my precious Daughter.
I know you may not always appreciate or understand my answers to your requests. But please believe, dear one, I only respond with what I know will be best for you. Will you trust my wisdom and permit me to do what is right for you? If you could see the situation the way I do, you’d choose the same thing.
Please continue to seek me. I don’t want anything to keep us from our times together. They mean so much to me. And so do you.

Your heavenly Father, the King

Friday, January 20, 2017

My Brother's Story of Trust in God

As I'm on this continuing journey of getting in touch with my grief over the loss of my younger brother, I'd like to share with you what I read at his memorial service. God graciously gave me the joy and strength to talk about my brother to over 600 people who honored Chuck. I hope you are encouraged by the story of his life and his journey of trusting God in the midst of physical pain.

I’m Kathy Miller, Chuck’s sister. I’d like to share what my sister Karen and I know about our wonderful brother Chuck.

“Kathy, Karen, and Chuck”:  Our names seemed to go together. We were Rich and Viv’s kids. The 3 Collard kids. That’s how it’s always been. I’m the oldest, then came Karen 22 months later, and only 20 months after that, baby Chuck was born. 
The Young 3 Collard Kids

As we grew up, along with the other Collard kids, our cousins, Steve and Kim, our world was with family that did a lot together. Our grandparents were involved in our lives, along with uncles and aunts. We all spent a lot of time together.

As a child, Chuck was tender hearted. He wasn’t very competitive. He was low key and peace loving. And always lots of fun. 

Growing up on a kid friendly street in Norwalk, California, Chuck played baseball at the Little League field at the end of our street. Our dad along with our bachelor Uncle Frank were most often his coaches. Chuck skateboarded and rode his bike. Our daddy fixed an archery set in the backyard and we learned to shoot a bow and arrow there. We all walked to school even though it was over a mile away.

We took swimming lessons every summer. We went on family vacations for one week per year camping in a tent at Yosemite or the beach. During the summers, we took day trips to the beach during the week and on the weekends. Seal Beach, California, was our family favorite and our dad taught us to body surf. Our family was not wealthy and we brought our lunch with us.

Chuck’s closest friend was cousin Steve who usually went on vacation with us. They spent their time using plastic army men in the sand of whatever place we camped. Or they played cops and robbers with plastic guns and bandanas over their mouths. Another theme was cowboys and Indians.

When Chuck was in 5th grade, our family moved to Downey. Chuck was eventually in a band playing guitar, rode a unicycle, and was creative and fun loving. One time he created a miniature hot air balloon by fashioning straws together holding tiny candles, putting a plastic bag over it. After lighting the candles, the creation lifted into the night. We watched the flickering of the candles for a long while. We loved Chuck’s playfulness and inventiveness. It was later he found out it was illegal to fly something like that in the sky. Chances are that didn’t stop him from doing it again.

When I married Larry on June 20, 1970, 17-year-old Chuck was a groomsman in our wedding. I asked Chuck to help me by returning the candelabras I had borrowed for the ceremony. I stressed they needed to be returned after the wedding. Chuck was so conscientious that as soon as everyone filed out of the church, he grabbed the candelabras, put them in the truck and took off. As a result, he isn’t in our wedding photos. But I sure appreciated him keeping his promise to help me.

The 3 Collard Kids
Six years later, on January 15, 1976, our father died suddenly of a heart attack. Chuck was 24 years old—a profound loss in a young man’s life. And of course in our lives as well. Chuck graciously moved in with our mom. He supported her emotionally in that way until she moved to a new place.

Many years later, Chuck began to visit our bachelor Uncle Frank who lived in Jamestown, in Central California. His wife Leslie, and two children accompanied him. We were so grateful that he was willing to do this until Uncle Frank died. He had a tender heart and we appreciated Leslie being willing to help. 

After we two sisters became Christians, we prayed for Chuck. At one point, the women of the family including Leslie, formed a Bible study and we met at different homes. After meeting one time at Chuck and Leslie’s house, Chuck told Leslie the next day, “You girls sure laughed a lot.” He seemed surprised we could have fun studying the Bible.

Karen and I envisioned that when he came to Christ we would receive a hoot and a holler from him about making the commitment. But we heard in a round-about way he had talked to the pastor after a service to commit his life to Christ. Then he became the evangelist of our family. He was winsome and effective in sharing the Gospel. It seemed like he felt totally comfortable sharing Christ with anyone.

As adults, family togetherness was very important. One year, our mother decided to rent a beach house for a week. It was a great success. Two years later we decided to do the same thing but were considering a different place to stay. After looking at a home that we were really interested in, we wondered if there could be an opening. Chuck spoke up and said, “Let’s pray.” In the street behind the house, he gathered us in a circle and prayed for God’s favor for us to rent that house. As a result, we rented that house for one week for the next four summers. 

Chuck was the fun factor and the evangelist. He could tell stories and keep us entertained. 
Chuck and Karen

Chuck was a loving and selfless son to our mother. He took wonderful care of her. He faithfully spent time with her and loved taking her to the Angels games. 

Chuck was caring, good hearted, peace-loving. He wasn’t a fighter. He loved Christ and lived for Him. He inspired us with his trust in his great God his whole Christian life—but especially during the past six years of battling cancer with God’s strength. Of course, we prayed for Chuck's total healing and God did give us more years with him than originally thought, but his total healing on this earth was not to be.

About a year ago when the doctors gave him up to six months to live, Chuck told me, “Just think, Kathy, I might see Jesus face to face within six months.” His face was lit up with trust, peace and joy. He didn’t want to leave us but he trusted God’s plan and knew he would be in Jesus’ presence. 

Karen and I find great comfort in knowing Chuck was not a citizen of this earth. He was a citizen of heaven. As an alien on the earth, the pod that he wore here faded away but his soul remained the same as he made the transition to heaven.

But our grief is profound and though we trust God’s plan as modeled by our brother, the threesome is broken and we feel like an arm has been cut off. We love our brother so much and we know he loved us. We’re so grateful that God made us a family.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Killed My Heart with a 12-Gauge Shotgun

Have you ever killed your heart? (Tweet that!) I did, forty-one years ago, as if I'd shot it with a 12-gauge shotgun.

In the middle of the night of January 15, 1976, I was sleeping soundly when the phone rang. I answered and my sister, Karen, whispered with a teary voice, "Daddy just died." I tried to understand what was going on in my muddled mind. She explained she was with mom at the hospital and my fifty-year-old father had been pronounced dead of a heart attack.

The shock was profound. I knew he wasn't in perfect health but to die? Only later did we find out he had gone to bed early after writing my mother (who was out at a meeting), a note saying, "I don't feel well. I'm going to go see the doctor tomorrow." Tomorrow never came for him.

But tomorrow came for us. The next morning, my husband Larry, our fifteen-month-old baby, and I traveled to my mom's where I gathered with my younger sister and brother. I don't remember at what point I decided, but I reasoned this in my 26-year-old immature brain. "I'm the only Christian in the family. If I grieve, it'll seem like I'm not strong in the Lord and I don't trust God. That won't represent the Lord well. I mustn't cry." I had only known the Lord for nine years and my belief system was muddled by wrong beliefs about emotions. I killed my heart with a loaded shotgun full of lies, vowing never to cry.

And cry I didn't. I stuffed the grief inside my heart, killing the feelings, and hardening my heart. Oh, certainly, some tears spilled out regardless but I refused to be "out of control." I wiped tears away quickly if they dribbled down my cheeks. And I forced myself to smile regardless to tamper down the feelings.

My sister and I remember that we three kids sat on the front row during the funeral giggling at one point. We all were unable to handle the emotions and instead we chose laughter as a means to cope.

For ten years I never allowed myself to fully feel the grief of losing my father. Instead, I poured myself into helping my widowed mother. I doubt we talked about my father much. It was too painful and definitely not the way to submerge feelings.

For ten years, I kept shooting my heart with that shotgun labeled "Don't feel. It's too painful and overwhelming."

Yes, for ten years!

Then God intervened. At a conference, I heard the speaker talk about the dangers of killing your heart. I knew I had been doing that. I found the little chapel at the conference center and for the first time I let myself grieve. I wrote a letter to my father and cried for thirty minutes. Deep sobs. Cleansing sobs. Cries of anguish in losing the most significant male person in my life. I gave myself full permission to feel and even explore what was happening. I knew my heart was being made alive again. And I also recognized the lie that a weeping and grieving Christian is a weak Christian who isn't trusting God. 

What relief. Comfort. Freedom. Healing. I left that chapel without any make up on and eyes puffy almost unable to see. But I left knowing I needn't be ashamed of my emotions. 

Since that significant experience of freedom in grieving, I've been learning, lo, these many years to grieve healthfully.  (Tweet that!) And as my brother neared his death and as he left this earth and entered heaven a week ago, I've experienced God's power to grieve as one who has hope. 

In my next post, I'll write more about that. 

Grieve well, my sisters and brothers. It is possible. Don't kill your heart with a 12-gauge shotgun of lies.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Are You Depositing Quarters to Earn God's Love?

Some time ago, I arrived at our local regional park prepared with the six quarters for depositing into the machine that controlled the mechanical arm at the entrance of the park. I deposited the six quarters and then looked forward, anticipating the mechanical arm to rise. Much to my surprise, I realized there was no mechanical arm at all attached to the machine. It had been removed for some reason. Nothing had prevented me from entering the park all along.

"I just wasted my six quarters," I exclaimed. "I could have gone in free!"

"Here, God, is my quarter of loving that person I hate. Do you love me now?"

"Here, God, is my quarter of having my devotional time today. Do you love me now?"

"Here, God, is my quarter of serving in the nursery even though I would rather go to the service. Do you love me now?"

We put in our quarters, while all along, the mechanical arm that should block us from God's love is not there. Jesus died on the cross in our place and has shattered the obstacle to God's unconditional love. Instead of putting in the quarters, we can move forward into experiencing God's love.

Certainly, God does want us to obey him, to love others, to have our quiet time with him, and to serve in our church. But those things should be done out of our love for him—not as a means of earning his love and our entrance into heaven.

Are you willing to give up depositing your quarters trying to earn God's love? He wants you to know his incredible, unconditional love so that you no longer have to feel like he doesn't approve of you. He loves you and wants only the best for you—whether or not you’re holding quarters. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Have a Blessed Christmas

I Wish You a Blessed Christmas

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Luke 1:38 (NIV)

Mary’s obedience, though it meant she was misunderstood and judged, brought a blessing that has been the most amazing blessing of all time: Jesus.

“Throughout the Bible...when God asked a man to do something, methods, means, materials and specific directions were always provided. The man had one thing to do: obey.”--Elisabeth Elliot

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I'm the Grand Wizard of Making Everyone Happy at Christmas Time

I mentioned in my last post that I'd continue the discussion of perfectionism. So now let's look at one of the results of perfectionism which is People Pleasing. I confess! I’m a People Pleaser! I’m motivated to please others for a variety of reasons and one main one is thinking I should never say “no.” This can especially impact me at the holidays when I think I'm the Grand Wizard of Making Everyone Happy at Christmas time. Tweet that!

Over the years I've examined my heart a lot about why I feel this way. At this Christmastime when perfectionism can influence us through wanting to please others, let's see what might be going on inside of us.
  1. What will they think of me if I’m not the Super Woman who can say “yes” to everything?
  2. If I don’t say “yes,” then I’ll miss out on the fun!
  3. If I don’t say “yes,” the opportunity won’t get done to my standards!
  4. If I don’t say “yes,” they might not ask me the next time.
5.  (Put in your own reasoning).

People Pleasing is all about depending upon the opinions of others for our approval, rather than God. (Tweet that!) We fear making other people unhappy with us or think poorly of us. So we strive to do everything we can to appease other people and promote ourselves as important, valuable, or whatever vow we've made to promote or protect ourselves.

There are many examples of People Pleasing in the Bible. The most known one may be when King Saul succumbed to this Strategy. His reaction is featured in 1 Samuel 13:8-14. Remember the story? 

Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to come so that the burnt offering could be given. But Saul saw the people scattering and he panicked. What did Saul fear that said about him? So Saul offered the sacrifice anyway. When Samuel showed up at the last minute, Saul knew he was in big trouble. Samuel asked, “What have you done?”

What was Saul’s reasoning? “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 

Samuel saw the folly of Saul’s reasoning and rebuked him. “…now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 

Saul defends himself primarily giving the reason that the people were scattering. Could it be that he felt personally rejected by the people? Maybe them leaving meant they lacked confidence in him. As People Pleasers, that’s not what we want to hear, see, or feel. We need to feel the approval and support of others.

What was God looking for? A man after God's own heart, but Saul's heart was all about himself and the approval of others.

Where can we all get the courage to choose God’s approval and not depend upon people's opinions?

Lay hold of God's promise, “What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6). God is the only one who will love us perfectly. Only he can provide unconditional love and approval because of the  “robe of righteousness” we wear because of Jesus' redemptive death.
Know your position in Christ. This is a common theme of mine because it's so important, especially during the pressure and stress of a busy holiday season. Your performance and the opinions of others does not affect who God sees you in Christ. "In Christ" you are perfect, holy, righteous, forgiven, cleansed, redeemed, and many other things. You might want to study Ephesians 1 and make a list of all the wonderful things you "are" in Christ. Knowing God's opinion of you never changes will enable you to be diminish being the Grand Wizard of Making Everyone Happy at Christmas Time. 

Know you are not responsible for the choices of others. (Tweet that!) People Pleasers are convinced they can control another's happiness with their own behavior. But truth is, a person's happiness, joy, or contentment is their own choice. Even if I treat someone horribly, they can choose to look to God to provide what they need. If you don't provide the perfect gift for someone and they are disappointed, their disappointment is their choice.

Which of those three ideas are most important and meaningful to you? If you have a moment to spare in your Christmas preparations, give me and my readers a comment. We would love to hear from you.

Guess how I'm going to practice diminishing my perfectionism and my stress? I'm going to risk disappointing you by declaring that I'm pausing from posting on my blog until after Christmas--maybe even the New Year. Thanks for understanding. Have a blessed Christmas!

By the way, if you'd like to explore these kinds of ideas further, the book Larry and I have written will help you. It's called Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today. We offer the tools for identifying “why I do what I do.” And then having a heart change so that you can trust God more. We’ve seen these tools strengthen us for increased obedience and joy. We hope you’ll join us in the quest for seeking God’s approval as our “audience of one.”