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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Letter to the Young Mom in the Fast Food Shop

An Open Letter to the young mom in the fast food shop with a two-year-old and a newborn:

My heart went out to you as you tried to just get a fast sandwich and small drink to have a little break or enjoy a quick lunch in peace. But your two-year-old was teasing his sister in the baby carrier and ran all over the shop. And as the line behind you increased, the toddler spilled the drink and then ran out the door.

My heart went out to your little boy as he ran out the door but then stood right by the door. I knew he was afraid and he didn't go farther. It was his cry for help. See me, mommy? I'm needy. My little heart doesn't know how to say, "I feel ignored. Baby sister takes you away from me. I used to feel so special. Now the only attention I receive is when I do wrong things. I don't want to but my heart cries out through my insecurity. Please help me."

My heart went out to you, young mom, because I want to say, "I know this is overwhelming. You may be depressed. For sure you're exhausted. You're uncertain about this new path. One child was hard. Two is harder. You want to give your little boy the attention he needs but it just feels easier to let things go."

My heart goes out to you wanting to encourage you to be consistent in disciplining. Yes, consistently give a consequence to your little boy. Even though you're exhausted and it just seems easier to let it go; to think, "Oh, he'll learn someday," don't be lax. Take the littlest bit of energy you have left and get up to help your boy to obey. The dividends will pay off.

My heart goes out to you when you only see your little boy's disobedience and not his cry for help. But see his need. Give the hug. Talk to him without frustration in your voice. Use moments when the baby is happy or doesn't need you to sit down on the floor and play with that little boy. The house doesn't need to be perfect. Use your boy's nap time to take a nap yourself. Take care of yourself.

I was once that young mom with a toddler and a baby. I was once that needy mom with two needy children. I was once that frustrated mom who felt trapped and tied down. But if I can learn to find joy, so can you. I learned to be consistent in giving consequences. I learned to value time with a needy little girl. And I learned to receive God's forgiveness when I didn't receive His empowering help.

And in the midst of my need, God was faithful and showed Himself kind. Young mom, God loves you and wants to help you. Cling to Him and see His answers. You won't be a young mom for long, even though right now it seems like forever. Some day you'll look back with longing and remember the good times. Enjoy what you can and trust God for the future. 

Someday that toddler will graduate from college or get married or hand his newborn baby over to you, and you'll be so thrilled. Someday he'll rise up and called you blessed.

An open letter to that young mom: don't lose hope (Tweet that!)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

You Don't Make Anyone Feel Any Way

Have you noticed how often we can say something like, "I don't want to make her feel ... sad...angry...left out...upset..." The possibilities are endless. As a result, we become very careful and try to figure out how to avoid "making" someone be in some sort of emotional pain. Or the opposite: we insincerely say or do something just because we know the person will feel good and then we'll feel good that we contributed. Either way, we've left out thinking of God's desires because the response of the other person pushes away seeking Him.

I remember one of the many ways I concluded I had the power to make someone feel bad or feel good. (Tweet that!)

One Saturday morning when I was maybe ten or eleven, I walked home from the bowling alley in a neighborhood I knew well. Every Saturday morning I bowled on a children's league. In those days (a long time ago!), it was actually safe to walk the streets, although my parents had always warned my brother, sister, and I to not talk to strangers. But it was almost not needed, the world was a different place.

I was walking along happily even carrying a box by it's handle that held my bowling ball which had my engraved initials. I was very proud of my engraved bowling ball. Then I became aware of how a car driving toward me on the same side of the street slowed down and stopped, just a few feet from me. The driver leaned toward the passenger side of the car and tried to get my attention, saying something. The pounding in my ears blocked out the words as I panicked. The stranger I had been warned about was actually here and I knew I was in danger. I ran! I don't know why I didn't drop the box.

After I'd run about a block, I slowed down and looked behind me. No car. No man running down the sidewalk toward me about to snatch me away. I stopped completely and looked around more. No man. No one around at all.

Hmmmm, I thought. This is strange. I guess there wasn't any danger after all. "Oh, Kathy, you are so stupid and silly. Look! You weren't in danger at all. You made a big deal out of nothing and ya'know what? I bet you made that man feel bad. I bet he only wanted directions to get somewhere or find his friend's house. How stupid of you because now he feels bad from my overreaction. Why do you do things like that? You should think better next time."

I continued walking, all the while berating myself for being silly, stupid, and unwise. Next time, don't make someone feel bad. It's really rude. Mommy has taught you not to be rude and instead care about people's feelings.

I'm sure you're already seeing the folly of my conclusions. Of course I did the right thing but my people-pleasing which was already well-honed had just made a wrong conclusion. It's my fault that man feels bad. I believed I had the power to control someone's reactions and it was all my fault.

I look back at that incident and see a huge tree that grew from that root of a lie.

Think of it this way. Do I have the power to force someone to think a certain way? Isn't it their choice? I didn't force that man to think or react a certain way. And there's almost a 100% possibility he didn't feel bad at all. Either he had wrong intentions or he chalked it up to a stupid kid who overreacted.

But I thought I had forced him to think and feel a certain way, and even judge himself badly. That incident among others fertilized the ground of that huge tree and I formed a lie that I needed to be very careful to say the right thing. Otherwise people could feel bad. But isn't that thinking I have a lot of power? In fact, it might even be concluding I'm a kind of god.

Well, maybe that's an exaggeration but it is true that only God Almighty can force anyone to think anything or feel a certain way. And usually He allows them to have the choice of their responses and reactions.

What a huge responsibility we put upon ourselves when we take credit for the responses of others or even judge ourselves poorly for the way others feel. But they hold the power to make their own choices and react. We don't.

Just think of how different people react to the same situation. Something can happen or someone says something that two people hear. One person reacts one way; the other person reacts another way. If it's true that what we say or do controls another person, then both should respond the same. 

How can we apply these ideas?

Stop thinking you or I can force someone to become a Christian or change their spiritual perspective. Psalm 49:7 says, "No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him." That person is responsible to take spiritual steps. We don't have the power through what we say or do to force salvation upon someone. Yes, we should share what God tells us to say, but not take on the burden of feeling responsible.

I hope you can see (and I need to remind myself) that we can have freedom to follow God's guidance in what we do and say and then trust God to work. What a relief! Their response isn't up to us. Tweet that!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Are Boys Sexually Abused Also?

Even after identifying myself as a sexual abuse survivor and learning about how to heal and help others heal, I was still startled when I met a man who was sexually abused. It hadn't really hit me forcefully that not just girls and women are abused, but boys and men as well.

Now that man, Bill Harbeck, ministers to other men who were abused as children or teens. He and his wife, Jillian, help others through their ministry, Holding Onto Hope (www.holdingontohope.org). His ministry also helps men caught in the web of pornography.

Although the large majority of my readers are women, there's always the possibility a man you know suffered from abuse and has not yet been healed. Bill and his ministry would be an important resource

I'm including here some important information Bill has written. I hope it will be powerful for someone's healing.

"Healing from sexual abuse is a complicated life long process.  The original trauma to the soul is soothed in that there is hope that one day wholeness will be restored. I get a sense that out there in the world there is a belief that some sort of systematic approach, if provided with great self-discipline and fortitude along with enough effort will at some point foster in complete healing. The desire to heal and mend completely is admirable. However, if ultimate healing becomes a goal we pursue with great determination, with that comes the potential for great disappointment. So many variables are outside of our control. In working with fellow survivors the one great common frustration is time.  Years pass as healing comes and goes. It seems at times there is no progress at all. 

"I was sexually abused the first time at age 12.  From that moment it took twenty nine years before I spoke out to anyone about the experience.  In that twenty-nine years I developed the ability to disguise feelings, and expectations.  I taught myself how to survive with deep seated  anger. I committed myself to believe and behave so that no one would ever hurt me again.  I fell prey to the idea that because of my abuse I was no longer of any value to anyone. I lived for twenty nine years in the bondage of shame and I hung on hoping that one day it would just all go away.

"Twenty nine years is a long time.  When I spoke out for the first time the weight of all those years was lifted and the feeling of freedom to this day is hard to describe. It took ten years from that day to finally begin to reverse the lie that I am not a valuable person.  It has been eleven years since then to today. That lie, the one that I have no value, even now is difficult to believe in my heart. Decisions, interaction with others, behaviors, motivations, desires are all filtered through the hope that I am truly valued and loved.   

"That's fifty years.  Fifty years of confusion and pain at the heart level holding on to a wisp of hope that one day the pain would end. Brennan Manning asks, "Is hope self-deception, the ultimate cruelty of a cruel and tricky universe?"  Is hope the power of positive thinking and if I work at this hard enough it will all go away?  Can I hope that someone will come along and fix all the damage that was done?  

"Time is the great frustration.  It is also the gift of grace that allows healing to progress.  I am not sure I will experience the healing to my soul that I so much desire in this lifetime.  The healing that will once and for all change the lie that I find so hard to believe.  The healing that will erase the memories.  The healing that will assist in building relationships that I have so effectively damaged.  The healing that will end the nightmare of pain. That is why I hold onto hope so tightly.  For the sliver of joy I experienced the moment I spoke for the first time.  For the slivers of joy I experience when I release control and allow my dependence to lead the day.  For the sliver of joy that comes from walking with another that is traveling the same path. This has become the heart of Holding onto Hope Ministries."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Beautiful thoughts from "Christ Crucified" by Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)

I'm currently reading Christ Crucified by Stephen Charnock (1628-1680). Over and over again, I've had to pause and take in the powerful and meaningful message. At times, I'm brought to tears, or deep gratitude for my Savior's sacrifice, and then as often brought to great joy in my salvation. Here's only one sample. It's not easy reading but I've found it well worth taking my time to sort through it. 

Although what I've included is one paragraph in the book, I'm breaking it up so that it's easier to read. Be touched by how much God loves you by sending His precious Son to die for you and suffer such agony on your behalf.

"Neither the infamy of the cross, nor the sharpness of the punishment, nor the present and foreseen ingratitude of his enemies, could deter him from desiring and effecting man's salvation. 

"He went to it not only as a duty, but an honor, and was content for a while to be the sport of devils, that he might be the spring of salvation to men. 

"And when he was in the furnace of divine wrath, and deserted by his Father, he utters a sensible, but not a murmuring, expostulation; 

"he received our sins upon his shoulders, to confer his divine benefits upon our hearts; 

"he endured the contradiction of sinners against himself; he despised the shame, submitted to the cross; 

"his own worldly reputation was of no value with him, so he might be a sacrifice for the redemption of forlorn man; and in the whole scene, manifested a patience greater than their cruelty. 

"From this paschal lamb typifying the Redeemer, the Jews might have learned not to expect a Messiah wading through the world in blood and slaughter, sheathing his sword in the bowels of his enemies, and flourishing with temporal victories and prosperity; 

"but one meek, humble, and lowly, suiting the temper of the lamb, which represented him in the passover."

Which statement is most meaningful to you?

(Vintage Puritan) Kindle 19% Location 487. GLH Publishing (April 25, 2017)

Stephen Charnock was a Puritan divine, and an English Puritan Presbyterian clergyman born at the St Katherine Cree parish of London.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What If I "Wimp Out" of Following God?

I recently emailed back and forth with a ministry friend who was wondering if she was "whimping out" about following God or He was guiding through the circumstances.

I wasn't sure I understood what she meant by "whimping out" so I asked her to explain. She told me that since opportunities to serve God weren't surfacing in the way she experienced in the past, she wondered if that was God's way of saying change her direction or she was misinterpreting it. Maybe He wanted her to persevere but she didn't have the courage to continue on because of so many obstacles and little "fruit." Which option was true?

I could relate. Two years ago I was seriously considering stopping my writing and speaking. I wondered, "God, are these obstacles and closed doors your way of saying this isn't your will for me anymore? I don't know. I'm willing to do whatever you want, Lord, but it's sure not making sense to me. Guide me. I don't want to stop because I'm lacking trust or perseverance."

I sincerely didn't know what God wanted me to do. The direction wasn't clear.

I think this kind of situation is true for many of us. We want to do God's will but it's not clear, and we can't seem to discern our heart's motives. Many times we are terrified of doing the wrong thing.

I remember years ago talking with my friend about whether she and her husband should adopt. They had two children already but they wondered if it was God's will to enlarge their family by adopting. She expressed her fear of doing the wrong thing.

I shared that as long as she was sincerely seeking God and willing to do what He wanted them to do, even if she made a mistake, God could cover it. He could fulfill His will for them even after a wrong turn because He is powerful enough to correct mistakes, even sins. Their desire to obey was the most important thing.

They decided not to adopt and as it turned out, they didn't regret it. She said she felt more peace knowing that even if they took a wrong turn, God could still guide them to His will.

Tweet this:

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

If you want to do what God wants you to do, that’s the heart of the matter. Be confident. He knows you want to follow. If you can delay making a decision, do that. If a decision must absolutely be made, choose how God seems to be leading  the most and then trust He is powerful enough to even take care of a mistake. He will accomplish His glory through us because He loves us and won't ever forsake us even if we've taken the wrong path.

As for my situation, God did lead and guide in His time to new adventures and opportunities in writing and speaking that I could not have created. But you knew that, didn't you? I'm still here.

Do you have any suggestions, ideas, or principles about being afraid of making a mistake in following God? Please share it with us in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How Patient Do You Think God Is?

Have you ever said things like:
  • I'll never get angry again 
  • I'll always show love toward that person who is unlovable 
  • I'll never be discontent again 
  • I'll always be joyful in every circumstance 
  • I'll have my devotions every day
It's easy to think that such determination will bring us success. We may think that God demands such commitments. But have you noticed that when we can't follow through, we get discouraged and give up? Even thinking God has given up on us also?
The good news is that God is more patient than we think. (Tweet that!)
And His patience allows us to grow in our sanctification "little by little." He's not impatient with us when it takes us time to overcome our struggles.
I Timothy 4:15 tells us that. It says, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all."
How does the pioneer do that? Little by little. He doesn't have a mile-wide ax to cut down a swath big enough for his house in a day. Instead, he takes one step and takes one chop in the brushwood with his ax. He progresses one step and chop at a time.
That's the kind of "progress" the Apostle Paul is encouraging Timothy to have. Step by step. Chop by chop. Little by little.
One of the principles I write about and speak about to give the biblical perspective of this is what I call "The 1% Principle." 

Tweet this: 
Instead of expecting 100% growth, we can make small goals—like 1% growth.
So let's apply that to the steps we wanted to make above.

  • I'll never get angry again becomes I'll concentrate on the time of day I often get angry and make changes that will support patience. 
  • I'll always show love toward that person who is unlovable becomes find one thing I actually like about them. 
  • I'll never be discontent again becomes I'll find one thing to be satisfied about right now. 
  • I'll always be joyful in every circumstance becomes I'll find one thing to appreciate right now. 
  • I'll have my devotions every day becomes I'll have my devotions 3 times this week. 
Such thinking in the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to make more progress because we'll be persistent rather than get discouraged and give up. 
Reaching a 1% goal encourages us and empowers us to continue trusting in God for the progress He desires. And we'll give Him the glory for the progress we're making rather than pour contempt on ourselves because we haven't reached perfection.
What 1% goal does God want you to make? I believe you'll make greater progress that way than forming unrealistic expectations.
Just remember that pioneer's ax when you think God is impatient with you.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Be Honest! You're Worried!

The winner of the book drawing for Dealing with the Elephant in the Room by Mike Bechtle is Mona!!!! Congratulations! I'll email you.

Although there weren't comments on the blog post, I received several entrants through email, so Mona, I know you'll be benefiting from Mike's book!

Now here's a post about worry. I know no one ever worries but me but I think I'll write about it anyway.

I’ll never forget that Christmas Eve in the Los Angeles basin. I was eight years old and we had gone to my grandparents’s home for our celebration. But when we left their home around 9 pm, a dense fog had socked in the area—so thick we couldn’t even see within ten feet of the house. We climbed into the car and headed down familiar streets for the thirteen miles to our home…slowly. Very slowly. My mother got behind the wheel and my father walked directly in front of the car trying to see ahead. At times, he literally disappeared into the fog and my heart leapt in my throat. I was terrified! And what made it worse was that we heard voices of people who were crying out, in seeming pain. 

“Mom!” I said, my voice rising in nervousness. “Those people need help! Do you hear them?”

“Yes, Kathy, I do,” my mom replied. “But it’s just kids playing a joke. It’s really OK, sweetie.”

I tried to calm my palpitating heart but I just sat in the backseat, worried! We made it home safely that night but I’ve never forgotten that experience. 

Sometimes when I’m worried, I feel like a fog of fear and anxiety is swirling all around me, blocking out the ability to think clearly and trust God. It quickly fuels responses like complaining, grumbling, being self absorbed and selfish, or making a quick decision that isn’t led by God. 

As I begin to worry, I remember that I’m a Christian and I’m not supposed to worry. So my defense mechanisms kick in. I reason:

  • I’m not worried, I’m just thinking! 
  • I’m not worried, I’m just wondering!
  • I’m not worried, I’m just concerned!
  • I’m not worried, I’m just mulling over a problem!
  • I’m not worried, I’m just a little bothered!

But then honesty rears its unwelcome head, and I am honest. 

OK! I’m worried!

I’ve gone through this scenario many times. It’s so easy to deceive myself into thinking I’m not worried—I’m just thinking too much! Besides, don’t I need to plan just in case something terrible happens? But at a certain point, thinking, wondering, being concerned, mulling, or being bothered becomes worry! And at that point, I’m not trusting God with my whole heart. 

Now, there is indeed a difference between fear, careful thought and worry. Fear can be a legitimate emotion which is God’s warning signal to do something—QUICK! (As in, that bear coming towards you looks really hungry!) Fear can turn into worry if we (a) don’t take action (like scream or play dead!) or (b) release control because we have no power over the situation or person (that doesn’t apply to the bear analogy!).

Fear in itself is not sinful when it’s based in something legitimately dangerous. If your daughter is late getting home from a date, you might feel fearful and it is based on something legitimate. But it doesn’t have to turn to worry as you pray for her safety.

Careful thought is what our mind does when faced with an uncertain situation or problem. That’s to be expected. God wants us to use the mind He’s given us.

But as we try to figure out the solution, our careful reasoning can easily slide into worry if we don’t turn our attention to God, ask for His input and trust Him. If your daughter is late getting home from that date, careful thought is necessary and you might take the action of calling her cell phone. 

When the Bible talks about worry, it’s not referring to fear or careful thought. Worry is not the same as insightful planning or feeling responsible for something that is legitimately ours. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online) says that at its source, the word worry has the idea of choking and strangling, along with torment. We begin to worry because we don’t turn to God or if we do, we don’t release the fear to Him. If your daughter is late getting home from that date, you might pace the floor and imagine her already dead in an auto accident. And when she walks in the door, your worry may turn into an urge to kill! That’s when worry is choking us and controlling our actions!

Tweet this: The first step toward trusting God more when we're tempted to become worried is be honest. 

Don't live in denial--that only buries the distrust and can't be dealt with. But buried worry is like a volcano which is rumbling but hasn't exploded. It will in time and so will worry.

So be honest and pray! That's what Philippians 3:5-6 is talking about:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

This excerpt is from my book Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries: Finding Peace in All Kinds of Weather. Here's where to order: http://amzn.to/2qr4xwA