What Kind of Friend Are You to Yourself?

Photo Credit: Average Daydreamer’s Diary

On Monday my youngest daughter Tshanina posted one sentence on facebook that really got my attention.  It was this:

“If you had a friend who spoke to you the same way you speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?”

Reality hit me that I have not been a good friend to myself at all for a very, very long time.  This perfectionist, people-pleaser has had such high expectations of me that I’ve spent years berating myself.  Would I have put up with a friend like myself?  NEVER!  In fact, I would have run from a friend like me!

Andrew Carnegie was asked by a reporter how he helped the forty-two millionaires he employed become so valuable that he would pay them that much money.  Carnegie explained that “men are developed the same way gold is mined.  When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt; one goes in looking for gold and the more he looks for, the more he finds”.

Renee Swope shares in her book A CONFIDENT HEART – “I sense God whispering to me:  Renee, I am the gold miner.  You are the one who is so critical of yourself.  You are the one who focuses on your mistakes and beats yourself up with accusation and condemnation.  Those are not My thoughts.  I see the gold of My image, woven into your heart when I created you.  I want to bring it to the surface so others can see it too.”

Now that “I” have been brought to my attention, what am I going to do about “Me”?  The first thing that comes to mind is that I have got to purposely be aware of how I am talking to myself.  Am I so focused on my weaknesses that I am not even seeing my strengths?  Are my expectations of myself so high that even I cannot achieve them and as a result do I have such high expectations of others that I do not allow them to be anything but perfect?

There are a lot of layers to peel back here and the peeling has begun.  I’ve always pictured myself as “the good girl” with few problems that didn’t need any help, but the longer I travel through this journey of life alone, the more areas of my life I am finding that need work.

What kind of friend am I to myself?   What am I doing talking to a child of God the way I talk to myself?  What kind of friend are you to yourself?

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He Became Everything to Me

There’s one thing that became very real to me when I became a widow and that is that I can’t live a day without Christ.  I accepted Christ as a 9 year old girl and have lived all my life following Him.  In the busyness of being a wife, mother of four daughters and home schooling, I didn’t have that one-on-one close fellowship with Him.  From the time I woke up in the morning until I hit the bed at night, my mind was filled with all of the things that I needed to get done for that day.

It wasn’t until I became chronically ill at age 38 that my fellowship with Christ got back to where it should have been all along.  My life as I had known it stopped completely and I wasn’t able to do, do, do all the things that I thought God wanted of me.  I began to draw closer to Him and finally have that one-on-one relationship that is what He so much wants to have with us and wants us to desire to have with Him.

Years passed and one day my husband came home with a terminal diagnosis.  We were empty nesters and this wasn’t what we had planned for our later years of life.  I drew even closer to Christ as I worked hard to do all that I could do to enable my husband to stay with me on this earth.  I saw a deeper, more intimate spiritual side of Bob that I had not seen and we had such sweet fellowship together with God – especially in his last months of life.

The day Bob died for the first time I felt completely betrayed and abandoned by God.  I could not pray anymore or read my Bible.  My heart was filled with all those questions that you have when you lose a loved one and I remember saying, “I HAVE to know why God didn’t answer our prayers!  I HAVE to have an explanation for this!”

Two years and 3 months have passed now.  I still wonder what God’s reasoning was, but I am not demanding an explanation anymore because I know that no matter what explanation God might give me, it would not be good enough and when I get to heaven, I won’t bother to ask the reason why because I’ll have so much joy at that point that I simply will not care.

I’m reading my Bible every day and am even able to read the four Gospels now with tears running down my cheeks as I read the accounts of all those people that Jesus  healed while here on earth.  Yes, I still wonder why those people were singled out to be healed and why my husband wasn’t.  I have to admit that.

I’m also able to pray now even though to this point my prayers are for the most part consistent of “God, please help me!”.  Slowly I am branching out a little beyond that, but it’s taking time.  The part of prayer that always came so easy before – asking God for something for myself or for someone else – is now very, very difficult.  I”m glad that God knows my heart and can hear all the things that my heart is saying but my lips cannot.

One thing I know for sure is that God is everything to me now.  There is no one on this earth that loves me as much or like He does.  There is no one who is with me all the time like He is and there is no one who understands me or knows me completely like Him.

Jesus and heaven are more REAL to me now than they have ever been before.  They are truly REAL and I can’t even begin to image the JOY my husband embraced the moment that his heart stopped as he took his last breath here and the gasp that he gave as he opened his eyes in heaven taking in his first breath of celestial air in astonishment at the beauty and the glories of heaven!

Don’t Lighten the Ship of Suffering

“Pain and loss are bitter providences…..but, oh the folly of trying to lighten the ship of suffering by throwing God’s governance (God’s exercise of authority or control) overboard.  The very thing the tilting ship needs in the storm is the ballast of God’s good sovereignty – not the unburdening of God’s deep and precious truth.  God’s sovereignty becomes the pillow that the weary saint can lie down on.”

John Piper

A Prayer for Women

Photo Credit – Aimee Howarth

This is a prayer for women given by Pastor John Piper.

My earnest challenge and prayer for you is . . .

. . . That all of your life—in whatever calling—be devoted to the glory of God.

. . . That the promises of Christ be trusted so fully that peace and joy and strength fill your soul to overflowing.

. . . That this fullness of God overflow in daily acts of love so that people might see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in Heaven.

. . . That you be women of the Book, who love and study and obey the Bible in every area of its teaching; that meditation on biblical truth be the source of hope and faith; that you continue to grow in understanding through all the chapters of your life, never thinking that study and growth are only for others.

. . . That you be women of prayer, so that the Word of God will be opened to you, and so the power of faith and holiness will descend upon you; that your spiritual influence may increase at home and at church and in the world.

. . . That you be women who have a deep grasp of the sovereign grace of God which undergirds all these spiritual processes; and that you be deep thinkers about the doctrines of grace, and even deeper lovers of these things.

. . . That you be totally committed to ministry, whatever your specific calling; that you not fritter away your time on soaps or women’s magazines or unimportant hobbies or shopping; that you redeem the time for Christ and his Kingdom.

. . . That, if you are single, you exploit your singleness to the full in devotion to God (the way Jesus and Paul and Mary Slessor and Amy Carmichael did) and not be paralyzed by the desire to be married.

. . . That, if you are married, you creatively and intelligently and sincerely support the leadership of your husband as deeply as obedience to Christ will allow; that you encourage him in his God-appointed role as head; that you influence him spiritually primarily through your fearless tranquility and holiness and prayer.

. . . That, if you have children, you accept responsibility with your husband (or alone if necessary) to raise up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord—children who hope in the triumph of God—sharing with your husband the teaching and discipline they need, and giving them the special attention they crave from you, as well as that special nurturing touch and care that you alone are fitted to give.

. . . That you not assume that secular employment is a greater challenge or a better use of your life than the countless opportunities of service and witness in the home, the neighborhood, the community, the church, and the world; that you not only pose the question: career or full-time homemaker?, but that you ask just as seriously: full-time career or freedom for ministry? That you ask: Which would be greater for the Kingdom—to work for someone who tells you what to do to make his or her business prosper, or to be God’s free agent dreaming your own dream about how your time and your home and your creativity could make God’s business prosper? And that in all this you make your choices not on the basis of secular trends or upward lifestyle expectations, but on the basis of what will strengthen the faith of the family and advance the cause of Christ.

. . . That you step back and (with your husband, if you are married) plan the various forms of your life’s ministry in chapters. Chapters are divided by various things—age, strength, singleness, marriage, employment, children at home, children in college, grandchildren, retirement, etc. No chapter has all the joys. Finite life is a series of tradeoffs. Finding God’s will, and living for the glory of Christ to the full in every chapter is what makes it a success, not whether it reads like somebody else’s chapter or whether it has in it what only another chapter will bring.

. . . That you develop a wartime mentality and lifestyle; that you never forget that life is short, that billions of people hang in the balance of heaven and hell every day, that the love of money is spiritual suicide, that the goals of upward mobility (nicer clothes, cars, houses, vacations, food, hobbies) are a poor and dangerous substitute for the goals of living for Christ with all your might and maximizing your joy in ministry to people’s needs.

. . . That in all your relationships with men (not just in marriage) you seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in applying the biblical vision of manhood and womanhood; that you develop a style and demeanor that does justice to the unique role God has given to man to feel responsible for gracious leadership in relation to women—a leadership which involves elements of protection and provision and a pattern of initiative; that you think creatively and with cultural sensitivity (just as he must do) in shaping the style and setting the tone of your interaction with men.

. . . That you see the biblical guidelines for what is appropriate and inappropriate for men and women not as arbitrary constraints on freedom, but as wise and gracious prescriptions for how to discover the true freedom of God’s ideal of complementarity; that you not measure your potential by the few roles withheld, but by the countless roles offered; that you look to the loving God of Scripture and dream about the possibilities of your service to him.

Letting Go

“Pain leads to freedom because deep suffering leads to surrender and you start letting go of those deep things that you’ve been hanging onto.  When you are going through it, it’s overwhelming.  On the other side of grief and pain you come out different.  You come out better and enlarged.  You have more freedom and more liberation.  You would have never let go of those things on your own.”

Tillian Tchividjian

I Look to You

Thank You, Jesus, that as I am walking through all the uncertainties of life that You are there and I can look to You.  It’s in this time that I have more fully realized what Bob kept saying to You in his last months -“It’s all about you, Lord.  It’s ALL about YOU!

When It Looks Like Death Has Won

Photo Credit:  Turn Back to God

Message delivered by T.D. Jakes at the funeral of Whitney Houston

In moments like this it feels like death has won, but the Bible says that LOVE is stronger than death.  Your hearts are heavy.  Tears flow down.  Your spirits are wounded.  You look around and everybody you love and everybody you can count on and everybody you can trust seem to be slipping through your fingers.  And, it feels like death has won.

The first family – when Cain killed Abel – it looked like death had won.  Noah escaped the flood.  Still, he died.  It looked like death had won.  Isaiah was an eagle eyed prophet.  He could see thousands of miles and years away.  Still, he died.  It looked like death had won.  Habakkuk had come as a prophet to Israel – spoke truth so powerful, so profound.  But, no matter how close he was to God, still he died.  It looked like death had won.

We see scientists and astronauts and politicians and think of the great sages of the ages.  And no matter how profound, prolific or bright they were, still they died.  It looked like death had won.

But, the Bible kept saying that LOVE is stronger than death.  And they went at it like two gladiators in a fight every time they entered into the ring and it looked like death had won.  And I know to some of you today it looks like death has won.  But, I rose to tell you that two thousand years ago LOVE rolled into the ring and said, “Wait a minute, death!  You’ve been bullying people for a long time, but I want to set the record straight.  LOVE is greater than death!”

HE (LOVE) rolled up HIS sleeves and they fought all over Jerusalem and wrestled all through the cross and the fight went down to the grave.  And death said, “See!  I did to You just like I did to all the rest of them!

Death started having a party on Friday night.  It was one of those weekend parties.  Lasted all the way through Friday night and all Saturday.  Looked like death had won.

But early Sunday morning LOVE rolled up HIS sleeves and said, “Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!”  Snatch grabbed death and took the sting out of death and the victory out of the grave.

And I want you to understand in a very practical and pragmatic way that death has NOT won!  Your tears may flow.  Your pain may come.  The flowers will wither.  The cards will all be filed away.  The phone will stop ringing.  The cakes and pies will all stop coming.  Don’t you dare think that death has won!

You will learn what all of us know who have lost people that we love.  You’ll be driving down the street one day and you’ll hear Whitney’s voice talking in your head.  Something she said or something she did will pop up in your spirit and you’ll giggle inside of yourself as if she were sitting in the car with you.  And you will find that people that you really love may leave you outwardly, but they never leave you inwardly.

May the love of God, the peace of the Holy Spirit, the sweet communion that knowing that you are a child of the King keep you in this period in life when it might appear that death has won.  But, it’s a lie!  LOVE will last forever!  For God is LOVE.

Good News Bad

Photo Credit: Hannah April, Photography

“We are assured and know that all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.” Romans 8:28

Sometimes good news is bad.  Such was the news I received on Nov. 10, 2009,  when the ICU doctor stepped into the ICU conference room and said quietly, “His heart stopped.  We’ve been working on him for 10 minutes with no success”.  I am told that my youngest daughter said, “He’s gone!” to my oldest daughter, but I did not hear it in my shock.  The only words I couldn’t believe I was hearing were my own, “It’s okay.  Let him go.  I KNOW where he is.”

My first thought was, “He’s been in heaven for ten minutes”.  It was good news for him.  No more need for the port that had been put underneath his left shoulder blade.  No more needles.  No more treatments.  No more doctor visits.  No more hurrying to the ER because his temperature was up.  No more swelling in his upper body and legs.  No more trying to coax him to eat.  No more lying in the hospital bed at home or in the hospital.  No more gazing out his hospital room window looking at brick walls for weeks at a time.  No more pain either physical or emotional.  No more fighting to live.  It was the best news for him!

But his good news was my bad news.  I had left home at age 18 to go to college.  A month after my second year, I married my husband.  I had never lived alone in my entire life.  In our over 36 years of marriage, we had never been apart for more than a week.  Now he was gone and I had not gone with him.  This was a journey he took without me and he was not coming back.  This was the worst news  of my life.  How was I going to bear it?  How could I even get through the next minute knowing that until I went to heaven, I was never going to see him again?

Whenever I had encountered the hard things in my life, my dad would always quote Romans 8:28 to me and when I was able to think, that was the first verse that came into my mind because it had been engrained in me.  “All things work together for good to them who love God”.  I could see how that verse was true for my husband, but I could NOT see how it was good for me and I did not want anyone to quote it to me either.  I did not want to hear it.  I was too angry to hear it much less try to reason it out.  How could my becoming a widow at age 57 work for my good?  How could it?

Sixty-one days later my mother went to heaven.  Two days after that as I was sitting with my Dad in his room at the nursing home, I asked him, “Daddy, how does Romans 8:28 work for me and you?”  We had both lost our spouses.  For the first time, my daddy did not have an answer for me.  He sat there quietly with his head down and waited a few minutes before he said, “I’ll have to think about that for awhile.”  My husband’s and my mother’s good news was our bad news.  Sixty-three days later my dad joined my husband and my mother in heaven.  Good news for him…….more bad news for me.  Now I was not only a widow but an orphan and all in less than 4 months’ time.

I still have not figured out how Romans 8:28 is working out for me…………how this “all things” is working together for my good.  Every once in awhile I will get a glimpse of how it has worked for good in the life of someone else.  As a result of my husband’s death there have been several men that have realized how important it is to have plans made for the care of their wives and finances set in place.  As a result of the testimony of what my husband had set in place for me, there are other wives who now never have to worry should their spouse go first.

Lord, I don’t understand how these losses are working together for good in my life.  It makes absolutely no sense to me.  Help me to trust You in my grief journey and maybe someday I can see how all my bad news worked out for my good.

When God Seems to Withdraw

“It becomes very discouraging and very depressing when God seems to withdraw from us in the dark season of the soul.  If you did not know God, there would be no longing for His return.  His distance wouldn’t bother you.  But when saints feel the distance from God, it increases our appreciation, our affection for Him, our dependence on Him.  Explanations are a substitute for trust.”

Tillian Tchividjian