Thursday, 22 September 2011

Encouragement in ...difficult times

I didn't expect to reach a time of despair doubt.  I'm not allowed to feel despairing: Paul didn't, so I mustn't. He was just 'perplexed'.  Still, the dictionary gives 'a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.Distrust. A state of affairs such as to occasion uncertainty.'
That's where I am. With a chronically sick husband, unable to work at the moment, we wonder if he will ever be well. He doubts it. And with the doubt comes uncertainty, and depression.
I'm too physically and emotionally drained to even start searching for wonderful blogs for some encouragement. Which is just as well, since they pop into my mail box without my even looking.
When we married, we became as one. When he hurts, I hurt. When he is down, I struggle. So when I read some wonderful advice from Holley Gerth on 3 simple ways to help someone in my life, my attention was caught. She says:

As a life coach and counselor I'm often asked, "How do I help this person in my life?" There's a simple strategy you can use when someone shares with you--whether it's a coworker having a bad day, a relative facing a sudden crisis, or someone at church who's confiding a struggle. Think of these three steps as your trump card. They let you always play an ACE that helps those in your life win.   
A - Affirm the emotion God gave us a part of our brains called the amygdala that takes care of our flight or fight response. It lets us take action quickly (like when a bear is running after us). While we don't face many physical dangers in our lives, emotional stress causes this system to kick in as well. When you're dealing with a stressed out person you're talking to their amygdala. This is not about rational thought. Express a message that says, "Hey, I recognize your emotion and validate it." That calms the flight/fight response and lets the decision-making part of our brains (the prefrontal cortex) kick in and start doing its job. {Example: "Wow, you sound really frustrated. What happened?"} 
C - Call out the best in the person In our most stressful moments, we all have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by guilt and a feeling that we're not living up to our own or others' expectations. Or we simply forget who we are in the heat of the moment and act in ways uncharacteristic of us. What we often need most is someone who can see through to our hearts and remind us of who we really are--the best of us--at the worst of times. That can help us refocus on what matters most and move forward in positive ways.  {Example: "I've seen you deal with situations like this before. Your strength and love for others always shines through in the end. I know it will this time too." 
E - Encourage the next step Here's a secret: life coaches and counselors don't have the solutions. In all of my training, what's been emphasized most is not magic-bullet cure-all approaches. Instead it's being a partner on that person's journey with God to finding their own answers. Usually, they've already got what they need--it's just a matter of providing a safe space for it to come out. Resist the urge to give advice or tell others what to do. It's one of the greatest gifts you can offer (and much harder than it seems).
{Example: "I care about you and I wish you weren't going through this. Now that we've talked about it for a few minutes, what do you think you'll do next"?}
At this point, the person may respond with another emotion. For example, she might say, "I don't know. I'm just really hurt." If so, start back with A and go through the process again. We often try to make helping others more complicated than it really needs to be. Practice this approach and then make it your own. You are often the best gift you can offer someone who is hurting and you truly do make a difference.
Still, it doesn't work for me in this situation. But right underneath this mail was another, from Bonnie at Faith Barista: Autumn's song: what we fear and how God heals. All about change, a time to let go: of problems, people, places and even dreams that we were never meant to carry. Scary scary stuff.

Bonnie gives me hope. I can't quite believe it, that there is light at the other end of the tunnel - I suffer doubt.  I suffer uncertainty about the truth and uncertainty about our future. Yet she gives me hope to cling on to a God who is good, who wants my best, who loves me. I 'just' have to surrender 'my' best to him and wait - and hope - that I recognize HIS best when it comes in the spring.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Choosing joy...

I've been reminded to 'intentionally choose joy' by Ayla recently. And have heard myself saying that happiness is a choice...yet it's hard, sometimes, to actually do that.
Lysa Terkeust has some words of wisdom to help with that: when we ask:
'Why did this happen?  Why didn’t You stop this God?  Why weren’t my prayers answered?
Have you ever been there? Have you ever had a big situation in your life where you just couldn’t process why God would allow this to happen? Or maybe even a small annoyance like losing your keys or having a flat tire on a morning you really needed to be somewhere.

It’s so tempting to wallow in the why.
Asking why is perfectly normal. Asking why isn’t unspiritual. However, if asking why pushes us farther from God rather than drawing us closer to Him, it is the wrong question.
If asking why doesn’t offer hope, what will?
The what question.
In other words: “Now that this is my reality, what am I supposed to do with it?”
I like to call this verse “directions on where to park my mind.”
Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)
Instead of wallowing...say:
This is my reality, now what am I going to do with it?
What can I learn from this?
What part of this is for my protection?
What other opportunities could God be providing?
What maturity could God be building into me?
Switching from the why to the what question paves the road to parking our mind in a much better place.
Is it always easy? Nope.
But is it a way to find a perspective beyond situations where we feel God has allowed something in our lives we don’t understand and we absolutely don’t like? Yes.
I pray this helps you today. You can also download a free resource on how to change your why questions into what questions. Just go to my blog, and click on the button “When God Hurts Your Feelings.”

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Life breaks

Great post over at (in)courage on Life Breaks: Bella says:

"Life breaks.
Life wounds.
This world swirls with tragedy that can pull us down, bend our human bodies, and break our spirits.
And still, through it all, God stands.
He stands willing to take all of the brokenness and raise it into something beautiful.
He stands willing to take back the sinner, to hold the brokenhearted, to comfort the lost with words of love.
He stands strong for us when we are weak.
He saves from the flood.
He saves from the fire.
He saves, because he loves.
In this world we will always be hurt. We will confront cruelty and injustice. We will be beaten down by circumstance and by pain.
The world is designed to injure.
So we look to the heavens for comfort.
And He is there, always.
He has not promised that life will never hold deep and bitter things. He has not promised us that loss won’t touch us, or that we won’t become lost.
What he has promised is that in all things, and in all circumstances, He will never leave us.

So we fear.
And we worry.
And we wait out the storm.

Because we are human.

And He watches,
and waits,
and saves.
Because He is God.
Life breaks.
But as long as we hold tight to Him, we never will."
Life breaks. BUT GOD MENDS.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Living bountifully...blessed

It's encouraging how much God wants to bless us: right in the beginning, man and woman were told to prosper and reproduce (Genesis 1:25-27). Noah was blessed in the same way after the flood. (Genesis 9:1-3) Abraham was to be blessed with children, whose descendants would be so bountiful that they could not be numbered. (Genesis 22:14-16)

God has said he will bless his people.

Yet with blessing comes responsibility.

We are responsible for what we are blessed with. Responsible to use blessings wisely, to be thankful, to be generous, to be unselfish.
Responsible to train others in God's ways. (Genesis 18:16-18 )

So we can't just sit back and say 'thank you very much, very grateful' to God for his blessings. We are to use them, putting God's love into action. Saying 'Bless you' is a call to step further into God's goodness, to learn more about his character and his purposes.

A call to growth.

I'm linking to Holley's series on 'In God's heart I am...'.....blessed.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

A shadow of a doubt

Hmmm... phrases repeating themselves. This time, this one: a shadow of a doubt. There's a word missing: BEYOND. 
'BEYOND a shadow of a doubt' ie absolute certainty.  This time, the focus is on DOUBT and the shadow it is casting over our lives. My life, in particular, at this moment.
Renee Swope talks about this: that shadows
"are created all around us when something blocks light. And so it is with the shadow of doubt. When we focus on ourselves and how inadequate we feel, or what others are thinking about us, we cast a shadow of doubt in our minds and block the light of God’s Truth in our hearts.
Our thoughts end up being mostly about ourselves: how we’re performing and what others are thinking about us. It’s not that these thoughts are bad. It’s just that when we focus our attention on ourselves, we turn our attention away from God.
We become too concerned about what others think of us instead of what God thinks about us.
And just as Paul warns us in Rom. 8:6, “the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” so something in us slowly dies when we become self-focused.
God created us for so much more than self-preservation or self-promotion. It’s just too much pressure. Even if we achieve success or have a few good days, eventually it won’t be enough.
If we want to live beyond the shadows of our doubts, we have to take our eyes off ourselves and turn them toward the Light by focusing on God’s thoughts towards us. When we feel insecure, we need to think about His strengths instead of our weakness. When we feel inadequate, we need to turn the focus of our hearts to promises that tell us who He is and how He wants to work in our lives.
...a shadow of doubt had been cast over my thoughts and emotions because I had stopped living in the light of God’s promises. That is how I ended up paralyzed by the darkness."

Renee talks about doubts of:
"I’m not good enough.
I’m always disappointing someone.
I can’t follow God consistently.
I’ll never change."
I wanted to add some more, but I think she's got it all covered in those four short sentences.  All big fat lies, of course, but how easily we believe them.

How do we deal with doubt? By..
"Turning away from self – Turning toward God
Turning away from doubt – Turning toward Truth
Turning away from darkness – Turning toward Light

Instead of waiting for God to zap us with confidence and remove our doubts, let’s ask God to use our doubts to draw us into a deeper place of dependence on Him and His promises. It’s not necessarily going to be easy, because it requires turning, but it is possible and worth what it takes to turn.
Turning leads to transforming, as we allow our thoughts to be made new, and transforming leads to believing as God’s thoughts become our Truth. "

Oh yes, I thought. Definitely right. Because Jesus says: I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIGHT. I read today in John 17, in Jesus' prayer for his followers:
I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.

They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed...       John 17:6ff, The Message

A deeper dependence on God - through turning my eyes on Jesus, looking full in his wonderful the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.