Can we talk …….. at all!

The art of speaking with one another, we just do not do it well anymore, not that we did it with such style and grace previously.  Listening to the current events in the nation leads me to think all we do is fight, argue, bully and kill each other.  Not much going on in today’s world that makes us want to engage other people in conversation – I know I fear getting out in public more because if I do speak and someone takes it as an offense, then what will the outcome be, probably not what I expect.

I use to find such enjoyment in going to the movies, I loved watching great movies on the “big screen”, and it is the one time I mindlessly enjoy popcorn; it is a must for the theater.  As of last Thursday night, July 23rd, I have no desire to be in a darkened theater if someone is angry at the world and is there with a hidden legal handgun and repeats what happened in Lafayette Louisiana.  That was for me, the undoing of another place I considered to be safe.  I will still attend my worship services with fellow believers, but the senseless tragedy in South Carolina is robbing me of peace in my surroundings.  What I have concluded is that we, as humans who have the ability to reason, verbalize and choose our behavior; we are becoming incapable or unwilling to use that God given ability.  Yes, we all have free will given to us by God, the right to pursue happiness given to us constitutionally and because of the freedom of speech which gives me the ability to blog and pen a book, it has all changed for me – and I do not think I am alone in that perception. Just as the Ten Commandments were ordered to be taken down in Oklahoma, I feel my individuality is under attack and being taken down.  As my children and grandchildren go to the beach, I worry about their safety and simultaneously place them and their safety in the hands of my God and Savior.  When choosing my word for the year, perseverance was the one I found that appeared to meet my needs scripturally and spiritually. In 2 Peter 1:5-7 of the New King James Version of the Bible I found these words that would lead me to my goal of inner peace and strength to persevere.  Peter writes: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” As I review the road to perseverance I am checking off my mental ‘to do’ list that will take me on my journey as well as a framework for checking off my progress.  Proverbs 31:10-31 instructs me on how to become virtuous as a woman (always a work in progress), then I started searching for knowledge, not book knowledge but knowledge about the character of God so that I capture growth in faith and perseverance, I embarked on a journey of studying God’s Word. After starting and stopping on daily study on my own, God provided the opportunity to participate in organized and topic focused study through a small women’s group at my church on Friday night and through the Women’s Bible Café (www.womensbiblecafe.com) online. I am learning so much about God, my own faith and gaining an understanding of the scripture that was lacking in my life.  The self-control  in the above list is where I find myself at this time in my life due to my awareness of the violence; hatred and anger are in the world, outside of my safe place to fall which is on God, and out of my control.  I repeat the scripture “Be anxious for nothing …” (Philippians 4:6), and that calms me but I still am concerned over how to stop this downward spiral that is happening around me.  In trying to simplify the problem, communication is the key, or the missing link, which is totally based on my perspective of the day.  Advancing on my goal to grow in the areas found in 2 Peter as mentioned above, our ability to talk by social media or on media, texting or email – we do not communicate thus we do not do well in social interactions.  The lack of open feedback, challenges to our interpretation of actions and events and the inability to cope with our emotions leads us to where we are today. We are a people who are civilized but do not practice civility, or the love that is the goal of walking by faith in the Lord.  Closing with a scripture, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). This is just one solution to the lack of caring about one another, speak only wholesome talk and build one another up not tear them down because of their personal beliefs.  Be available to speak those encouraging words, when it is an observation that a person is isolating and withdrawing – speak an encouraging word, extend a willingness to listen in hopes that this will be an exchange of thoughts so an opportunity for enhancing a person’s ability to cope or just being a sounding board of acceptance.  Even if we disagree, we do not have to say we disagree immediately – give an answer of “I hear what you are saying and I need to think about that” which tells them you honor their opinion at least enough to think about it and end with something encouraging.  Determine to not be a catalyst of anger, bitterness and resentment.  I am not there all the time, especially since anger has been both my strength and my lesser strength that has helped me to cope.  But I have learned to not act on my anger; my anger is my problem, and not something to take out on other people or to act out publicly in a violent manner. I have to give that to God, He loves me unconditionally.

Getting ready for battle … the example of David facing Goliath … and my Five Stones

Picking up on my blog from last week, we will continue in 1 Samuel 17 and taking up at verse 31 when David has decided to accept the challenge that the armies told him about, a chance happening when his father sent him to take food to his brothers who were soldiers, and he was the shepherd, too young and not skilled at war.  Saul reminded David of the futility of his desire to fight in verse 33, reminding him that he was “but a youth” (those labels that I chose to address in Chapter 5 of my book).  How quickly the world seeks to take away our determination and shake our faith in doing what we are called to do in this life with just a few words spoken to remind us of our humanity.  Saul’s grim reminder of how Satan deals with us, how the negativity can seep in and rob us of our confidence and our strength.  Just as quickly as I determine God has something for me to do or face, Satan sets out to remind me of those five stones – mentioned last week and strives to weaken my resolve and faith by reminding me of my past missteps and failures.  In a futile effort, Saul attempted to help David by equipping him with his armor, with the tools that had worked for him.  1 Samuel 17: 38–39 describes the great armor Saul provided to David, to equip him for the battle, but it wasn’t God’s armor.  David could not function to the best of his ability using what had “worked” for others, because God chose him in his ability to use his skills as he had done in defending his sheep from the predators, David was chosen for his own unique abilibities.  David was a skilled shepherd, he knew how to guide his sheep to food and water, protect them from the storms and the natural predators who sought out his sheep to take from him and devour.  Life for me is the same as the picture painted for us in this story.  I have predators, and like sheep I have to have help.  Sometimes I look to those around me seeking the equipment and support I need to face the struggles, challenges and giants that seek to devour me.  But their equipment is not designed to work for me, because my battle is different and God called me to face the giant.  God uses who we are and what we have to accomplish His purpose and it is the same for each of us.  David did find strength in the words of Saul who said: “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (v.37).   Words of encouragement and strength are what we all need from those from who we reach out to for support.  I know how I feel, how I am girded in the prayers and support of others.  I still have to find my weapons for whatever I face which is why my reference scripture has changed throughout my life, a need defined by the battle.  Whether it is running a race (Phil. 3:14), believing God will supply all my needs (Eph. 3:20), facing the results of a \medical test (Phil. 4:6) or preparing for what I know will be emotional and spiritual warfare (Phil. 4:13), my equipment may change based on God’s direction in my life but needing others upholding me in prayer and even walking with me physically is how I face my giants.  My armor changes, but God does not.  So David went into battle with five smooth stones (v. 40) in his shepherd’s bag, and a sling.  I go to battle with God in my heart and on the path going before me.  But the stones re-entered my study of this scripture because now they transition from the giants in my life to those things I carry with me into any battle (if I leave the giants behind).  Prayer is the first stone – it sets the tone of the day; Bible Study is the second stone in my arsenal because it is how God assures me that I am ready to face the giant, Satan’s challenge in my life.  The last three stones in no particular order of preference are Faith – the sword of faith that has been the constant in my life; followed by entries into my journal, the way I identify what I am truly feeling and striving for in order to set my sight on the purpose God has called me for; and lastly the security in the hope I have in what the Lord can and has done for those who are His children.  What can top the great sacrifice of Jesus and the promise of eternal life (John 3:16).  All of this in preparation for the battle, David still has not faced the “bully” that was issuing the challenge to the Philistine army.  David did seek to learn why the battle was not “being fought” and knew the cost to his people if he failed, but it did not deter him.  He was secure in what the God who established His people would continue to honor His promise to His people.  The Israelites were residents of their promised land, so David knew the Jehovah God that established them would continue to supply their needs, and I am promised an eternal life in heaven where I can worship and praise the God of my salvation.  God extends this promise to all who will accept the invitation.

Rick Warren When God gives you an assignment

Image from http://www.saddlebackchurch.com and the studies from his book What on Earth Am I Here For; the Purpose Driven Life.

The Knot Prayer from Facebook

This came across on Facebook today from my cousin and it speaks to why I chose to write a book whose subject looked at labels, the labels that can, if we allow, stop us from reaching our potential.   Divorcee was probably the toughest label I had to deal with, but I did.  I will be a Baptist, a Southern Baptist, but that was my identity more than I was my own identity for years until I started exploring the scripture in a totally different way.  I was more of a “Southern Baptist Covenant” person, and there is a difference.  I am a Christian, that is my directing force.  Then as I moved through the step-parent label I really came to understand why we can freeze in time, stuck in a label.  Then cancer came, I learned then that I had to determine my path – either a victim or a survivor. I was afraid when faced with danger, so I was a victim then until I allowed God to carry me through that experience.  I am a daughter, an obedient daughter, and that proved to be a tougher role as I matured, because many times I had to be okay with my parents, even as they completed their journeys on this earth and I became the care giver and the roles were somewhat switched.  I am a wife, and that can be confusing if living by the “submissive” rule, because I am independent and, at times, stubborn.  But I have learned to compromise and remain “cool, calm and corrected” as Robert H Schuller suggests in his book, The Be (Happy) Attitudes.  These and more lessons learned are in Asking ‘What’, No More ‘Whys’.  I lived by the “can nots” for so very long, victory came through the lessons of life and allowing God to place me on Eagle’s Wings and Soar.

The Knot Prayer

The Knot Prayer

Learning to let it go

When God has presented a lesson three times, I need to “learn”. First the test, then the lesson. While on our recent fishing trip, I hooked a big catfish, or it hooked me. After it secured itself around a stump, my husband and I struggled for 30 minutes to claim my bragging rights. It was not to be and I was finally ready to give it up. I told him to cut the line, that is the lesson. Two days later, there were two more hooked catfish that I never could pull up to the surface, so the battle again because I was still not so willing to ‘let it go’. The first of the two, I pulled for about 15 minutes, then let Joe cut the line. The next one, again headed for the stump and this time I knew, cut the line. That is a life lesson. Know when it is time to let something go. Children, grief, anger, emotional eating, relationships and labels that can hold one back from accomplishments. Eating is in the list for a reason. Although food sustains life, I eat for more than the purpose of sustaining life, so that is a dependency that needs to be “cut”.

When I let go of my girls, they found their way and did just fine with me on the sidelines of life. They were able to become what God needed them to be, they were never mine, they are God’s. There have been losses to death, employment and relationships. While carrying my grief and the weight of unhealthy relationships, I ran and grew weary, I could not climb on to the wings of the eagle God sent my way (Isaiah 40:31). I have been tethered to the things of life, secured to a dead stump. One has to learn to let go, because we are God’s. We can not be in control, and that is what led me to my anger, shame, disappointments, guilt, dependency on others and emotional eating. Specialty emotional eating, chocolate for anger and Mexican food for depression. So I am learning to let go of those unhealthy relationships, learning to forgive (still pulling on that line a little) and moving on. I know I have to cut the lines that keep me tied to things of this life: possessions, memories, people who do not need to be in my life and emotions that are my mountains.

I am a survivor of breast cancer and as God’s child, I have a ministry (1 Cor. 12:9) and I will be less valuable while clinging to the lines of earthly entanglements. I have to use my faith, the verb, and let go. All of this from a fish. It was just a fish, but Jesus used a fish to feed the multitude!