June 30, 2015

Provision from the Lord

Zechariah 10:1 NLT says, "Ask the LORD for rain in the spring, for he makes the storm clouds. And he will send showers of rain so every field becomes a lush pasture". 

Today, I am praising God for He has provided a way for me to go, He has met my needs with sufficiency, and He has shown me the provision of His hand.

I have blogged about this before, and I know I may sound like a broken record, but I cannot help it, I cannot help it. I believe that God always provides what we need, and that He ensures our sufficiency is met at each turn in the path or road we are on. I know that there are many Christians who are experiencing lack right now, they are behind on their bills, over their heads in debt, and struggling to make ends meet. I don't know why this is so, and because I don't know each person's story, I cannot offer a "pat answer" that will help them turn their situation around. For instance, I don't know how that brother or sister in Christ got themselves into debt? Furthermore, I don't know why they cannot pay their bills on time. For some people, these issues are self-induced by choices that were made many years ago or by unrestrained living. For others, this is not the case, and they simply are living "hand to mouth" because they lack the ability to earn more income or move into a more suitable line of work. So what I can do is pray for them without ceasing. I can pray, and I can ask Jehovah-Jireh to help them through this difficult time, to educate them on ways to right their financial situation, and to open a door of opportunity that may bring extra income or a new way to go.

Personal Experience

I know that in my case, I have lived at the borderline financially speaking as a result of choice. I lived meagerly for many years, and I suffered greatly from the stress and strain of never having "enough" income at the end of every month. For a very long time, I thought that the lack of financial security was simply a matter of time, you know, just a matter of working a bit harder, longer hours, finding more jobs (contracted), etc. I believed that earning more income was up to me and my husband, and it meant doing more work. Work harder, my ex would say. Take every job that comes to you, he would demand. The only thing that came from this approach was stress, and the feeling that I was spinning my wheels, but never getting anywhere, never moving forward.

This pattern of never having enough began to change when I separated from my ex-husband in 2010. As my son likes to say "correlation does not equal causation," yet I have to believe that the moment I separated from my husband's authority, I began to see a change in my ability to produce good income. Let me explain so that I don't say this incorrectly, and lead someone to believe wrongly...

I can bear witness to the fact that neither my ex nor myself were walking with the Lord in every area of our life. I did try to do this, but over time, I found it difficult. It was like walking in shifting sand. As the Lord would press upon me to do certain things, to let go, and to let Him lead, my ex would withdraw and refuse to follow. So we lived in this push-pull way, where I would believe that the Lord was saying to us to stop doing certain things, and he would tell me I was over-reacting or being unwilling to support him in his chosen line of work. The problem, of course, was that I did believe the Holy Spirit was convicting me, calling me to abandon the self-motivated and self-centered lifestyle we practiced, and that He was begging us to return in humility to the way of the Lord.

After 21 years of disobedience to the Lord and living in agreement to the sinful desires of my ex-husband, I decided to confess and to repent of my sin in 2006. I made the decision to turn my life around, and that day will be forever marked on my life because it is the day the Lord lifted me from the pit of slavery, and He set my feet on the solid path, the solid ROCK.

Over the course time, I had become a shell of a person.  The person I was when I married was filled with life. I was dedicated to following the Lord. I was committed to living a Godly life. I wanted to please the Lord in every area of my life. I believed that my husband loved the Lord too, and that together, we would build a Godly family. Instead, I became this "other person," a person filled with repressed anger over the sin choices my ex made during our marriage. I hated the direction we were going, and I hated the way I felt as an enabler to his sinful behavior. I was ashamed of the person I had become, and I was ashamed of the choices I made in order to keep my marriage in tact. Moreover, I was ashamed at choices I made, willingly engaging in sin myself, often to medicate the pain and emptiness I felt in my marriage.

You see, I had lived with a disagreeable heart for nearly all of our marriage.  I blamed my ex-husband for the way I felt because he had chosen to follow after worldly riches and new age mysticism in order to 'get rich' quick. He had left a good job in 1988, after just 3.5 years of marriage, and began to walk away from God in order to figure out the "secret" to wealth and prosperity. He became immersed in New Agism, and he dabbled in the occult. He would ask me to participate, and I would refuse. I would pray about it, but I felt so uncomfortable with it, that I couldn't follow along with him. The more we disagreed, the more miserable I felt. I was miserable beyond words, and I felt the oppression of demonic influence during those years. I cannot tell you how black our life was then, but it was dark, so very dark. 

As my ex continued down this path, my heart began to grow hard toward him, and I prayed often to be released from the marriage. The Bible speaks of two reasons for a spouse to divorce only, adultery and abandonment. In my case, I believed that my ex had been unfaithful to me, but I had no proof. He refused to leave the home, and he said to me that he would never let me have our child, so I knew that there was no way I could leave him. I did my best to be a loving, God-honoring wife, but in truth, I bore this hardness in my heart toward him because I believed he had lied to me, and that he had taken advantage of me sexually in order to get his way.  He married me, and he promised me that our life would be predicated on God's word.  However, it wasn't long after we were married that I learned the truth about his life, the lies, and the behavior he engaged in regularly. He was one person on the outside, and a completely different person on the inside. I was fooled into believing that he was a Christian who honored God. In truth, he was a man who had been seduced by the darkness that promised him a life outside the Word, outside God's provision and His plan.

The last few years of our life were very rough. I turned back to the Lord with a vengeance. I adopted a rather legalistic approach, and I became involved in the "head covering" movement (fundamentalist Christianity). I have to say that while I have changed my views on head coverings, I can tell you that I understand why women do this. During my practice, I felt closer to God than ever before. I felt purified, redeemed, and holy. I cannot really explain it, but I believe the Lord allowed me to spend time in this practice in order to cleanse me from all the darkness going on around me. Of course, my behavior caused great contention in our home. My ex was not supportive of what I was doing at first, but eventually, he relented and told me that I could do whatever I wanted. He cautioned me saying that he never married an "Amish" woman, and he had no intention of being married to one.

I practiced this form of religious obedience for two years, off and on, and while I do not practice it now, I can say that I never felt so safe, secure, and holy before. I was absolutely in a special place in my relationship with the Lord, and it was a beautiful experience for me. My family didn't understand, and they made regular comments about my appearance, about my choices. It was hard for me, but I did it, and I am proud to say that it was a good experience for me, a really good experience. I would liken it to a person who chooses to join a monastery or a commune for a time. They forsake all worldly things and spend a certain amount of time in utter devotion to God. This was what I did. My time was spent doing three things: reading God's word (for hours each day), praying without ceasing (for hours), and practicing gracious living toward my husband, his family, and the church as a whole. I did these three things in addition to homeschooling my son, serving in AWANA, and keeping the website design and hosting business afloat.

In many ways, I thought that the Lord had shown me how to live in submission to an unbelieving spouse. He gave me a way to live holy, righteous, and free from the oppression WHILE I remained under my husband's headship. In 2007 and 2009, of course, we experienced severe medical crisis, and we almost lost everything due to the medical bills. My ex-husband almost died twice, and I believe that for whatever reason, the Lord spared his life (the doctor's told me he should have died). I continued to practice obedience, but in 2009, I discovered my ex was involved in a long-distance relationship with a family member. Later that year, I discovered that he was having a relationship (internet-based) with an old college girlfriend. I discovered a lot more evidence of his behavior over the months, and then in 2010, we made the decision to separate. We did seek counseling, well, rather I demanded we go through counseling. I did my counseling, but he only went 3-4 times before he quit the program.

I share my story simply to say that God redeems the broken, He restores the sorrows, and He reconciles the lost years in order to re-establish relationship with Him. In my case, I ended up separated from my ex-husband after 26 years of married. We divorced after 30 years of marriage. I bear no hardness, no anger, no resentment toward him. I pray for him, and my hope is that he returns 100% to the Lord. He does attend church, but I don't know if he has changed his beliefs. He still seems to be very far off the mark, but at the least, he comes to church and he listens to sermons that are Biblically-sound.

God Provides

Over the last five years, I have witnessed the Lord's provision for my life. I have seen Him move in mighty ways to provide for me. He has provided a home, a job, and a plan that includes my graduate study and a new career and ministry focus. I have been redeemed from the pit of slavery, and I have been restored to a place of honor. The Lord is my devotion, He is my desire, and I seek Him with intensity. He is everything to me, everything to me.

When I stop and think about where I have been, where I came from, and I look at where I am going, one thing is for sure -- God's hand marks are all over my life. I cannot take any credit for where I am today. I am living a blessed, highly favored, and fortunate life because of the work of the Lord as He leads and He guides me.

I believe the Lord has a great plan for my life. I am committed to following after Him, and to living in a way that is pleasing to Him. I have thought about returning to that way, that walk of obedience, again because there are times when I miss that spiritual connection, that deep sense of pleasing the Lord in all things. I believe that following a life of obedience, in word and in deed, reaps great rewards -- spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical rewards. The Lord is honored when we make Him our Source for everything. The Lord is honored when we choose holiness, when we choose righteousness, and when we choose to submit and yield to the inner callings and workings of the Holy Spirit.

Today is a good day for me. I feel so blessed, so blessed. God has provided for my needs for the 2015-2016 school year. I have my teaching contracts in place, and I have my school tuition paid for by scholarship. I will be OK going into the fall. Yes, my summer is still a bit tight, but I can see the end more clearly now, and I know the Lord will not let my account run dry. I will have enough money to pay my bills, to buy food for my family, and to help with the rent and other costs associated with living in this home. God is good. He is so very good to me. Selah!

"Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them" (Psalm 107:31 NLT)


June 28, 2015

Abiding in the Vine

Another life lesson learned today. God has been working so diligently to get me to understand the importance and the value of abiding in Him. I have been stubborn, as usual, and I have struggled to "rest" and to "abide" in Him. I have felt so restless, so depleted, and so overwhelmed lately, and I have felt that the Lord was saying to me, "Carol, you must rest." I know, Lord, I know.

Today has been a blessed Sunday. My family has been in town visiting, and I have enjoyed spending time with them. My Leadership Theory and Communication class is over (officially tomorrow), and I feel good about the previous 7-weeks of course work. I have learned so much about being a servant leader, and about how to manage more effectively, should the Lord place me in a position of leadership some day. I am surviving the heat, which today, has been oppressive. We had a chance of storms last night, and there is another slight chance tonight. Still, the heat is getting tough to handle, and I will be really glad when the monsoon comes with its full force.

With everything on my plate this week, and into the weekend, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make it to church. I had prayed about it last week, and I had made the decision to return to SBC for the remainder of my time in Phoenix. The transition back to SBC has been difficult, and for a good 6-7 months, I felt out of place there. I was still stinging from the fact that my ex-husband and his girlfriend attend, and that the church I remember from my younger days simply doesn't exist anymore. Still, I have felt the Lord leading me back there, and so I faithfully returned last Sunday, and made the commitment to make SBC my home church from this point forward.

I prayed about church on Friday, seeking the Lord on whether or not I should plan on it, since my family would be in town. Most of my family, my brother and his wife, are strong Christians. My younger nephew and his girlfriend attend church regularly, but I am not sure about the middle children. They were all going to be in town this weekend, and I figured they would not attend church with my parents. I wanted to go, and like I said, I had made the commitment to attend SBC, and to make it a habit of regular attendance the previous week.

I prayed about it earnestly, and I felt the Lord was saying to me, "Carol, you need to go. You need to go on Sunday." So this morning, I was determined to get up and go to church. I woke up after a difficult night. I didn't sleep well, just not feeling well, and I woke up with the start of a migraine headache. I got up early, which is very unlike me, and I made my coffee. The Lord sustained me because the early hour made it possible for me to have a good visit with my brother and sister-in-law, and get some caffeine into my body. By the time, 9 a.m. rolled around, I was already in church mode (PTL). So the family split and went their way, and I left the house and drove over to church. As I pulled into the parking lot, once again, I felt this sense of peace, a settled peace. I headed into the Venue, where my son plays, and I took my normal spot over to the right of stage (in the back). This is opposite where my ex sits, and for the most part, while I can see him, he is not able to see me. It has been a good location for me, and gives me a nice line of sight to watch my son perform as part of the worship and praise band.

I was expecting to hear our Pastor Emeritus, Dr. Darryl DelHousaye preach, but instead the Venue Pastor preached. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to hear our former pastor teach today. As I sat there thinking that I was going to miss his message, I felt the Lord say to me, "rest," so I did. Worship was great as usual, and the service proceeded normally with the Venue Pastor overseeing baby dedication, etc. Finally, he started his message, and said that he would be preaching this Sunday and next from John 15:1-5 and 6-10.
I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
I should say that the Venue Pastor is turning into a very strong preacher. He has preached several times recently, and all of his messages have been life informing. So as I sat there, I relaxed, and I let things go. As I did that, I felt this sense of peace come over me. This passage of Scripture is one of my favorite metaphors in the Bible -- Jesus as the Vine, His followers as the branches. I have taught on this passage a couple times, so I am familiar with the text. Our Pastor did a great job, just like his message last week, and I felt like this was the reason why the Lord wanted me to be at SBC today. You see, I have heard His voice say to me "Abide in me," and I have replied, "Yes, Lord." My heart desires to obey, but in truth, I have not done a very good job of abiding in Him. I struggle. I strive. I want to do things my own way. I don't abide.

Today's message was slightly different from the normal Vine sermon. Our Pastor presented the topic initially by reminding us of the work of the Trinity. According to Scripture, God is the Vinedresser, Jesus is the Vine, and the Holy Spirit is the Fruit Bearer. We, of course, are the branches. I say the Holy Spirit bears the fruit in this way in order to explain the mysterious work He does to cause the fruit to blossom.  The branch doesn't make fruit nor does the branch have the capability to push fruit out. No, the fruit blooms through the spiritual influence of the Holy Spirit as He works in the life of the branch or the believer.

The message was pretty straight on to what I have taught before, but one thing remained with me today, that actually helped me immensely. The Pastor made a remark about abiding in the Vine, and he said that according to verse 5, anything we attempt to do outside of Jesus will never fulfill us. He said it this way...

If we look to anything other than the Vine for our support, our sustenance, and our service, we will never find fulfillment. Even good things such as marriage, ministry, a job, etc. while able to provide enjoyment or satisfaction, they will never sustain us because they were not designed for that purpose. What this means to me is that as long as you are looking to a job for your fulfillment, your peace, your joy, you are missing the point of abiding in the Lord. Yes, as hard as that may seem, the truth is that we are to seek the Lord for our support, for He is our Source.

I have known this for a long time, a very long time. In fact, the Lord has repeatedly reminded me that I am seeking fulfillment in things and not in Him. I know I do this, and I know this is the reason why I feel so unfulfilled in my work. Furthermore, I am placing a lot of emphasis on financial security, when the Lord is my security. He is my portion and my cup. I know this, I know the truth, and yet, I still do not abide.

So today, as I was leaving church and driving over to have lunch with my son, I prayed to the Lord. I am tired of struggling in this way. I am tired of feeling overwhelmed. As I consider the Lord's leading in my life, I realize that the more I place my faith in things or in people, the more I will be disappointed in the results. I loved the fact that my Pastor stressed how unfair it is for Christian's to do this to another person. He spoke directly of marriage, but his point was well-taken. When we look for a person to meet our needs, then we are placing a burden on them that they were not designed to carry. Only the Lord is able to meet our needs.

Today, I learned the lesson of abiding in the Lord. Most often when we think about the word abide, we choose the definition that says "to wait" or "to remain" in something. We think that we are to "to remain stable or fixed in a state," and while this is true, there is really more to abiding than just remaining stable.  In fact, abide can also mean "to accept or act in accordance with (a rule, decision, or recommendation)" or "to accept without objection," which suggests that there is an attitudinal component as well as a physical component. We must remain fixed to the Vine, but we must also understand the nature of the roles of Vinedresser and Vine.  God is the One who cares for the vineyard, who knows the business of growing vines. Jesus is the true Vine, and we are connected to Him. Apart from Him, as the word says, we can bear no fruit (produce no good thing). This suggests that all fruit is the result of our union with the Lord. Wild fruit that is useless, tasteless, and of no good purpose is grown when the vine is wild (a metaphor for Israel and the Jews). The True Vine gives life to the branches, and bears excellent fruit.

As Christians we must understand that the Vinedresser (God) tenderly cares for the Vine. He prunes the branches, and He gently lifts them off the ground so that they will bear more fruit. There is a beautiful illustration of the love of God in this story. We see that God carefully, and with great tender affection and mercy, takes care of His precious crop, His precision vineyard.

Metaphors are often difficult to understand, but in this case, we grasp that the only way to bear good fruit is to be vitally connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the AMP, verse 4 says, "Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me". The only way we will live a fulfilled and a satisfied life is if we abide (dwell with Christ, and allow Him to live in us).

I drove home from church feeling good about the day. I got the point of the message, and I realized that I have been striving to produce good fruit all on my own. I have been doing the Lord's work (Regent) without abiding in Him. God has graciously supported me, and I have born fruit, good fruit, but only after I relented and allowed Him to do it. It has been a constant struggle with me refusing to abide, and then when the mounting pressure hits the high point, I cave and I relent -- praying for forgiveness of my sin. I have chosen to attempt to control, to do, to be -- all in my own strength -- when the answer all along has been to simply dwell, to abide, to accept the fact that no good thing will ever be produced outside of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now as I think about my life, my current situation, my struggles, of which are many, I understand that I am in this season of my life, a season of pruning, of where the Father is tenderly trimming me in order to produce abundant fruit. One of the things our Pastor said that was interesting and was suggested as encouragement. He said that if you are in a season of pruning, do not feel as though your life is over, your progress is stagnated and not improving. He said that often we view our current struggle through a microscope rather than to see it in its continuity. He used a great example of the stock market over the course of the past 100 years. He said that if you only focused on the crash in 1929, you will never see the actual picture of the progress of the market. When you zoom out, you see many dips in the progress, but OVERALL, the progression has been upward. This is similar to our lives. Phil. 1:6 says that "And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you." So no matter where you are today, the final outcome is upward toward the calling of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:14 ESV).

I took heart today with this encouraging remark because it reminded me that where I am today is a far cry from where I was 6-9 or 12 months ago. I am stronger, I am better, and I am more ready to do the work the Lord has for me to do. I am not ready yet, at the least, I haven't arrived at the work He intends for me to do, but I am progressing toward that time. I am being made ready, being prepared, and I must abide in the Lord in order to not feel overwhelmed, to not feel so stressed.

I must remain, I must abide, and I must be content to be a branch in the Lord's vineyard.

June 27, 2015

Learning to Let Go...Again!

It is a beautiful Saturday in Phoenix, AZ. The sun is partly shining, so there is just a hint of grayness in the skies. Actually, the partly cloudy skies should help to beat the heat today. I am hopeful, so very hopeful.

I slept pretty well last night. I think one of the reasons why I slept so well is that I finished my Leadership Theory and Communication course, and I had a great conversation with my Chair regarding my dissertation topic. All of this to say that some of the pressure from school has been lifted, and I feel more relaxed and relieved. I still have two classes in progress, but both of these courses do not have a weekly discussion board requirement, so I am able to work on the remaining assignments at my leisure. In general, I feel good because 1/3 of my studies this summer are completed (praise God!) Now to wait for my grade to post, and then I can focus on what is left to do on my to-do list.

Learning to Let God Reign

Yes, I am back to square one on learning to let God be the Lord of my life. I know I say this often, so it is clearly a lesson I struggle to learn, but I am not doing well with the whole "God is in control" bit right now. Please hear me out, though, because I am not saying that I don't believe God is in control. I do, I really do! It is just that I am finding it difficult to stay in His peace because the cares of the world are falling heavy all around me. I am a good one for saying "God has me covered," and on most days, I feel this way. I feel so secure in His blessed hand. Then there are other days when I start to panic over the "what might be in my future," and I begin to falter and I think "Oh, Lord, what is happening to me, what will happen to me!"

"And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful" (Colossians 3:15 NLT)

I was reading a blog today on how to handle panic attacks. I am not having a full-on panic attack, per se, but rather the inkling of one. I used to suffer from panic attacks when I was a young person, and I am familiar with the whole process. I learned to deal with them a number of years ago, so right now, what I feel is this stirring in the pit of my stomach, and the uneasiness that accompanies it. It is a feeling that says to me "You are headed for a fall, Carol. Watch out!"

This rumbling is the start of panic, and this is something I haven't experienced in a good 2-3 years. As hard as that may sound, it is true. The last pre-panic attack I had was when I was working at CVS Caremark in 2013. I remember praying to the Lord one day after work. I was heading home and I was driving up through North Scottsdale, trying to avoid some of the rush hour traffic. I remember saying to the Lord, "Lord, I don't ever want to feel this way again. I don't want to panic again." I remember saying to Him that I was so tired of living like this, always fearful, always worried, and always panicked over the "what ifs" in my life. 

In truth, I had spent the previous 30 years living this way, partly due to my own experiences in childhood, and the fact that I lived in a tenuous financial situation whereby I never had "enough" income to live comfortably (minimally comfortable). I was always going without, having to tighten my belt, always having to make choices about whether to eat this or that (and going with the least expensive option). I had prayed to the Lord, and I had said then that I never wanted to be poor again. Granted, my version of poor and that of what we might consider true poverty are vastly different. I had a roof over my head, and I did have food on my table. Yes, often my electricity bill wasn't paid, my gas was turned off, and my car was not registered or insured. I drove on borrowed time, I lived from one pay period to the next, I robbed Peter to pay Paul. I didn't like living that way, and I begged the Lord to help me so that I would never live like that again.

I felt that I lived that way, not by choice, but by default. My ex-husband believed that the only work he could do was to be self-employed. He liked living "under the wire," as he called it. He didn't want the government to know his business, he would say, so that meant that he lived on cash, personal checks, and no credit. He liked hiding, and he felt that this way, he was protecting his rights as a US citizen. It was one of the reasons why he forbade me to get our son a SS card. He said the government didn't need to know he existed. The problem, of course, was that no one knew he existed so he wasn't able to go to get health care, to find a part-time job, or eventually go to college, without one. I finally took the reigns and got my son a card so he could get his driver's license, and then later, travel on a mission trip. I never wanted to live incognito. I never signed up for that kind of life when I said "I do."

When I got married, my ex had a really good job. He was a sales manager, and he made decent income. I worked for a tech firm, and I made good money too. Together, we had the makings of a modest, but happy life. However, after a couple years into the marriage, my ex told me that he had no intention of working for any one ever again. No, he was going to make his own way, and he was going to be self-employed. At first, it was fine. I was working, and we were still living off our savings. However, it became very apparent that we couldn't live on my $6 an hour job. We needed his salary to pay the bills. The cycle of paying, not paying, paying, not paying, started in 1988, and it didn't end until I took control of my life in 2010. Yes, once we had separated, I took control of my life, and I began to earn my own income, manage my own money and accounts, and pay my own bills. 

It took a while at first because I was working part-time. But in time, the Lord provided a good job for me, and I started to earn a salary. I panicked every single month when my bills were due. I panicked at the thought of defaulting, which to me, was like cutting my arm off. I mean it. I know people that say "So what? Everyone does this at some point." No, not everyone. Not my parents. Not the people I know who live within their means. Now, I am not coming down on folks who get behind, because this does happen, and for a myriad of reasons. I am just saying that so long as it can be helped, falling behind shouldn't happen unless there is a good reason. And, even then, it should be a temporary situation, not a permanent one. In my case, it was a permanent way of life -- by choice -- not because of circumstance. And, this life choice rankled my old fashioned Midwestern upbringing that said "If you cannot pay on time then don't borrow the money." Yes, my Father raised me to be responsible, and I think the reason I struggle so much with this issue now, is that I consider my life choice of adjunct teaching as irresponsible.

It is funny how things work out, I mean, before I started this blog post, I prayed to the Lord and I said, "Lord, I want this to stop. Please let me get to the root of this issue today." The Lord is good, so very good, and when you ask Him for His help, and you sincerely seek His wisdom and guidance, He will be faithful to supply it. So I asked for clarification, for help, so that I could learn to let go and let Him be the Lord over my life. I asked, and He answered. The root cause of all my panic, all my worry, and all my struggle is this...

I believe that leaving a good paying corporate job to become a college professor was irresponsible and foolish. 

There, I said it. No more hiding, no more second-guessing. I made a choice back in 2013 that put me in the position I am in today, where I barely make ends meet, and where I am relying on the Lord for His provision. I have tried to justify my choice, to say that it was better for me, for my schooling, etc., and while this is true in many ways, the fact remains that I am in a difficult position because of a choice I made. Furthermore, I asked the Lord to let me "try out teaching," so that I could know for certain that it was what I did or did not want to do. I asked Him, no I begged Him, and He gave me my desire. I became a graduate assistant first, followed by an adjunct teacher next. I am in this same position now, and while the experience has proved fruitful, and I have learned quite a bit, I am faced with the fact and the fear that I cannot make ends meet in this line of work. Sure, there is a possibility of teaching full-time, of a career as a full-time instructor, and I am hopeful that it will come to pass soon. However, I also know that I cannot teach full-time or will not be able to teach full-time until I am ABD or PhD. Even then, I may find it difficult to find full-time work. There is no guarantee, yet I believe that the Lord will provide, He will provide.

Until then, I am stuck in this role. I have asked the Lord to move me out of teaching and into a full-time position within higher education. This seems a closed door to me, so I have to pursue the path I am on for a time. Daily, it is a struggle for me, though. I mean, I look at my bank account as it drops by hundreds of dollars each week, and I know that there will be no new income until September. How much longer can I survive on the funds that I have in my account? It was better last year, but this year, well, it is very tight, very close to the line, and this panics me greatly.

I want so to be in control of my life, to no longer worry about where the money is coming from and when I will get paid. I am living in the same way that I lived when I was married, with the only difference being that the choice this time around, was mine. It was all my doing, at my own hand, and I am suffering because of my own stubbornness and refusal to do what the Lord clearly asked me to do. Yes, the Lord provided a job for me at a company that was growing, and that would have provided a good way for me. The work was boring, difficult, and I sat all day long -- with nothing to do. I hated the work, and I didn't like the job that much. In the end, I asked to go back to Grand Canyon, to teach and to follow that other path that seemed better, seemed right.

I am still not sure why the Lord gave me a great job, making excellent income, but with non stimulating and unchallenging work. Suffice it to say, He did it. He is Sovereign, and He knows His own mind.

I have begged, pleaded, and prayed for the Lord to fix this problem, to change my situation, to provide other work for me to do. He is silent. He hasn't moved. He is steady. I hear His voice, and He says to me "Rest." I know what that means; it means "let go and let me be God." Yes, Lord. I know you are God, and I know you know what is best. 

I am at the breaking point right now. I am back to where I was all those years ago when I refused to do the work the Lord provided for me to do. I wanted my own way, the way that was easy, convenient, and comfortable. I don't like this way, I don't like this feeling, and I want it to stop. I want it to end now.

As I consider my role in all of this, I cannot help but think the Lord has a lesson in it for me. I am to learn to trust Him (to have faith), and to rest (to let go and let Him be). I do not know if I have learned it yet, but I am praying that I have because I am tired of these feelings, and I want to get off this ride. I want to experience the peace of God again, peace that rules and reigns in every area of my life. I want to go His way, and I want to work in His job choice for me. I want to relent, to repent, and to turn around and follow after Him. I relent, Lord. I relent.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I have learned my lesson (again), and I have decided that no matter what I choose, even if the job is within your will, there will be elements that will be unpleasant to me. I have learned that what matters most to me is to be responsible and in control (under your authority). I want to pay my way, to be responsible, and to be a person of integrity. I also want to care for my family well, to provide and meet their needs, and I cannot do that on the meager salary I earn each semester. I recognize that teaching has been beneficial to me, it has helped me to learn how to speak in public, and to develop plans and curriculum. I have enjoyed teaching for the most part, but now I am ready to return to solid work, to a job where I can do good work, and get paid a fair wage. I guess I am agreeing with you that at this point in my life, I am too late to the game. It is not that I cannot teach or that I never will teach, but rather it is that I have realized that to get to where I need to be -- financially secure -- I need to earn significant income regularly, every other week, so that I can rest and know I am being honorable with my finances. I ask now that you would do whatever you feel is best to right my situation. I relent, and I accept that it might mean I will have to work 40 hours a week, with only two weeks off at a time. I will give up my holidays and my summers. I will live like the majority of people do -- working full-time. I think about this, and I know that while I will miss have big blocks of time off, the truth is that I like to work, to do projects, and to be a leader. I ask now that you will provide a job for me that will accomplish your will, provide well for me and my family, and permit me (in your time) to relocate to be near my love. Until then, I will remain where I am, living as you provide, and waiting on your provision for my life. Thank you, Lord, thank you for your mercy, your peace, and your presence in my life. In Jesus' name, Amen. So be it! Selah!

June 25, 2015

Interpreting Correctly

Lately, I have noticed a lot of error when preachers preach the Word of God. It bothers me when this happens, almost as much as when someone runs their fingers down a chalkboard. I am not a Bible scholar, by any means, and I often make mistakes when I interpret Scripture, yet still there is a part of me that recoils when I hear someone misuse the Word.

I have always been this way, ever since I was a child, and I believe it is one of the spiritual gifts God has given to me to use to help the Church defend itself against apostasy. I think about this often, and I wonder why the Lord would give this gift to me of all people. I mean, I am terrible when it comes to memorizing Scripture. I do my best, but often what I remember are impressions of verses rather than the word-for-word retelling. I know some people who can rifle off Bible verses, quoting chapter and verse, and they know it, I mean, they know what the words mean. I envy those people (in a good way) because I wish I could do that too. Instead, I am one of those people who says "the Word says this in John" because that is all that I can recall. I can remember the story, though, and that is what I share. I would like to be able to be as accurate as possible with the Word, but I fall short so often, so very often.

When my son was little, we did AWANA. I loved AWANA's emphasis on memorizing Scripture. My son had a very good memory so he always did well in his books. I remember 2 Timothy 2:15, which is the key verse for the program:

Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

I love this verse in the NLT. It says it this way in the Message (verses 14-18), which adds emphasis to draw out Paul's meaning,

Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples, throwing believers off stride and missing the truth by a mile by saying the resurrection is over and done with.

I love what the Peterson's translation is saying in this passage. When it says, "words are not mere words," I hear my heart cheering. The translation goes on to say "if they [words] are not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul." Oh, my goodness! How many people, preachers and bible teachers, appear as poisonous because they speak one thing, but do something diffierent!

My heart cries out with the Psalmist, when he says,

Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk and live in Your truth; direct and unite my heart [solely, reverently] to fear and honor Your name. I will confess and praise You, O Lord my God, with my whole (united) heart; and I will glorify Your name forevermore (Psalm 86:11-12 AMP)

I pray to the Lord, and I ask Him daily to not let me lead people astray. May I never use my words to lead people away from the Lord Jesus Christ. May I never include extra-biblical instruction as anything other than suggested advice that can encourage Godly living. May I only seek to lead people to the foot of the cross, and into the loving and forgiving arms of the Savior. May it never be anything about me, Lord. May it always be everything about you, Lord! Selah!

Today, I think about these things. I think about the truth of the Word, and I wonder about the apostasy that is here and that is coming in the future. Apostasy is defined as "the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief." In the Bible, it is described as a "falling away" by believers, a turning away from the truth of the Word of God in order to follow after the ways of the world. We read Paul's exhortation in 2 Thessalonians, verses 1-4, where he states,

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,  who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

This great apostasy is coming soon. We already see it as people are choosing to change their status from Christian to spiritual, to move from an evangelical position to a normalized position. More and more people who once professed Christ are choosing to live a life more normalized to the center of postmodern thought, to accept normalized views that run contrary to the Word of God, but are acceptable by the majority of people in the world. We must not lose our focus. We must not lose our direction. The Lord is coming back soon, and we must stand firm until the day of His return! Selah!

As I consider my life, and I see my own situation, my heart at times becomes overwhelmed with sorrow, with panic, and with grief for those who are lost. I see them, and I hear them, and I want them so much to find the sweet peace of forgiveness. I want them to come to the Lord, and to be restored to Him. There is great blessing in being restored, in being in a right relationship with the Lord. I want so much for them to experience the Lord, to truly experience the blessing of peace that comes from knowing Him. Selah!

Today is a good day, a very good day. I am blessed, and I am strongly encouraged to "keep on, keeping on," and I know that while I may not understand everything that is going on in this world, I do know enough to see the times and the signs of the times. I see the end, and I see that it is coming soon. Selah!

Ephesians 6:10-12 KJV says it this way,

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

We must remember that we are at war. We are in a spiritual battle, and we fight against that which we cannot see. Yet, we suffer as a result, and therefore, we must remain strong, and keep our faith in the Lord. We must dress for battle, putting on the full armor of God, and being prepared for the attack. 

I am most guilty of forgetting this step. I rely on the Lord, I seek the Lord, I run to the Lord, but I forget to dress for battle. The enemy takes his shots, and I suffer. I am wounded, and down I go. I feel the onslaught, and I become terrified. Yet the Lord has not left me without protection. I have his full armor to protect me, and it is up to me, to put it on every single day.

Today is a good day to be protected by the armor of the Lord. I choose to stand ready for battle, armed and prepared, because I know my enemy and his tactics. He knows my weaknesses too, and he hits me where it hurts most, my need for provision and for protection. The enemy knows that what I long for most is financial security, to have enough every day, and that when I do not have enough or feel that I do not have enough, I panic. Once I get into panic mode, he strikes, and he hits me where it hurts most. I know his route, and I must defend against it. If my flank is weak, then I must protect my flank. I must place barriers there to keep that side strong. My need for provision is not something I can easily overcome, unless I choose to walk outside the Lord's will for my life. I believe that I am where He wants me, so I must trust and rest in His provision for me. That means that to protect my weakness, where I am most prone to fall, I need to shore up my arsenal with Biblical words that counteract the claims of the devil. Therefore, when he accuses me,

Has God really said He would provide for you? Look at what you lack? Sure He has forgotten His promise to you...

I need to respond with words that say the opposite, such as...

“He prayed, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like You in all of heaven and earth. You keep Your promises and show unfailing love to all who obey You and are eager to do Your will” (2 Chronicles 6:14 KJV).

When the devil says that God is being slow in answering my prayer or in keeping His word to me, I must respond with...

"The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9 NLT)

You see, it is the Word of God that defeats the enemy. For those of us that know the Word, we must remember that it is our best defense. The Word comforts us, encourages us, teaches us, corrects us...but it also is a mighty weapon. Ephesians 6:13-17 tells us that our armor includes the following:

Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God, And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace. Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one]. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.

This says to me that as a Child of God, we have everything we need to withstand the evil day, to face the enemy, and to quench the flaming missiles that he launches at us. We have the truth; integrity, moral rectitude, and right standing before God; the Gospel of Peace; saving faith; salvation; and the Word of God.

Therefore, we can be victorious over every assault. We will win, if we use the tools that God has given to us. We lose the battle when we forget or we do not choose to arm ourselves well. I know this is my case entirely. I have lost so many battles because I have forgotten to put on my armor. Then I have forgotten to use the equipment in battle. The Word of God is alive, it is active, and it is sharper than any living thing. We must remember that God has not left us to defend the enemy on our own. We must look to Him, to our Victor and our Champion, and we must fight the good fight, and run the race of faith, staying strong until the end. Selah!

June 24, 2015

Following the Lord

It is a hot and steamy morning in Phoenix. Yes, our temps are high, and the humidity level is rising. Granted, our humidity is only about 20-25%, and when compared to other parts of the country, this is mild. Still for us, it is getting to feel sticky and icky. This change in the humidity signals the start of our monsoon season, generally considered to begin with three consecutive days of dew points above 54 degrees. However, in the last couple years, the National Weather Service decided that this was not a fair indicator of the monsoon start so they picked an arbitrary period that runs from June 15-September 15. I guess they decided it was easier to have a BIG TARGET instead of tracking individual daily dew points. This way, the monsoon can start anytime in between these dates, and the weather forecasters can be "right" in their predictions!

No matter what, most Phoenicians know to check the dew points around this time of the month. Furthermore, we listen for the cicada's to begin their annual singing as this "noise" coincides with the start of the monsoon rains. Of course, this is "legend or folk lore" here in the desert, but it seems to ring true every year. The cicada's begin to sing at night, and then one-two weeks later, the rains start. I think these little critters are better at predicting the summer rains that trained weathermen (people)!

Why do we Suffer?

Today's blog post is a bit of a ramble. I don't have much to say, but mostly that is because I have a lot on my mind right now. I am stressing over my finances, and I am struggling with worries that are wearing me out. This combination is taking its toll on me physically and mentally, and even though I trust the Lord, I believe in the plans He has for my life, I feel so alone right now, so awfully alone.

A good friend of mine is suffering likewise, well, even more so, and we have been discussing the reasons why God is allowing this unending suffering to continue. I mean, at what point will it stop? How long must we suffer?

I read the words of Job today where he said, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" So in all this, Job said nothing wrong" (Job 2:10 NLT). It is a challenge to accept the fact that God allows good AND bad in our life. We take comfort in knowing that God always desires our good so that means that whatever comes to pass does so for a reason. While there are many reasons why God allows suffering in our lives, none of them seem to bring comfort in the midst of the sorrow.

Here are ten reasons why suffering may occur in a person's life:
  • Suffering is a result of sin (Genesis 2:15-17)
  • Suffering can point us to hidden problems (Ecclesiastes 1-12; Psalms 78:34-35; Romans 3:10-18).
  • Suffering can show us "heart issues" (Job 42:1-17; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-8).
  • Suffering reminds us of eternity (Matthew 5:1-12; Romans 8:18-19).
  • Suffering puts life into focus (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14).
  • Suffering helps us trust God (Job 1-42).
  • Suffering draws us closer to God (1 Peter 2:21;  3:18;  4:1 ).
  • Suffering shows us God's power (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
  • Suffering increases our fellowship with others ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
  • Suffering can be used by God to help others (Matthew 27:46).
When we are in the midst of the sorrow, the trial, or the pain, remembering why God allows us to suffer doesn't do much to comfort us, but still it can be a point of connection for us when we think that God knows our weaknesses, knows our limits, and is aware of our needs. God is not absent even though it may appear that He does not care about our sorrow. The Word reminds us that the Lord acts on our behalf, by protecting us, comforting us, and helping us deal with the trials we face. He is not silent; He is not forgetful. He does not allow us to linger longer than necessary. No, we can take comfort in knowing that the Lord is present, active, and ready to help us to endure, to overcome, and to remain strong through the trial or circumstance. 

When God Waits

Often, I think the details of life swamp us like a raging flood. They overwhelm us, sweep over us, and pull us loose from the things we cling to most tightly. God asks us to cling to Him alone, to let go of every other thing we are holding on to so tightly so that He can move in our life. In moments of panic, our natural inclination is to grab the nearest sturdy thing -- be it a person, a job, a house, or place. We hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. In time, if the storm doesn't pass, we begin to panic and think that we are doomed. Sometimes these long-term events are in our life to help us get moving forward, to keep us from settling down, and to remind us that God's plan for our life might be someplace else. 

I think of it this way. When a major disaster strikes, often we have to make a decision in a split second. We may need to head underground or leave and go to higher ground. Our choice in the moment could save or end our life. Likewise, there are times when we have stayed too long in one place, relied too much on one provision or person, or even refused to move because we were comfortable, safe, and content. Yet, God may be using the circumstances in a person's life to get them to see that He needs them to let go, to get moving, and the only way to get them to go is to strip away everything from them, everything that holds them back.

The same is true for striving. Striving simply means to exert oneself vigorously. The Cambridge dictionary says striving means "to try very hard to do something or to make something happen, especially for a long time or against difficulties." Thus, when we strive, we are using our own strength, all our power, be it reasoning (understanding) or physical strength to accomplish some task or goal. What's more interesting is the fact that as humans, we strive all the time. Daily, we strive to do good work, to be a good provider, to be faithful, etc. We strive to do our best, and while in and of itself, striving is not a bad thing, it is a human endeavor. Striving uses our strength to accomplish goals, tasks, or objectives.

Conversely, to rest means several things based on the intention, attitude, and action.
  1. to stop being active for a period of time in order to relax and get back your strength, or to cause someone or something to stop doing an activity in order to get back strength
  2. to be or stay under the control of a particular person or organization
  3. to lie or lean on something, or to put something on something else so that its weight is supported
If we consider these three components of the word, rest, we can see that God calls us to rest because we need to relax and regain strength, we need to remember that He is in control, and we need to rely upon Him because He is more able to handle everything that concerns us. Therefore, when we rest, we relax and regain our strength. We renew our reliance upon God as our head and our authority, and we receive from Him what we need to remain faithful, to remain committed, and to remain resilient until the trial, temptation or circumstance has passed.

The Bible calls us to "be still" and to "rest in the Lord" (Psalm 46:10). Yet, so frequently, we do not rest. We choose instead to strive, to attempt to do everything under our own power, our own control, and through our own efforts.

In ministry and areas of calling, it is vital to understand that God will not allow us to do ministry in our own strength. Often, the calling we have received is impossible for us to achieve on our own. We lack the knowledge, the understanding, the experience, the education, and the wisdom to do what God is asking us to do. Therefore, we must allow Him as our head, our leader, and our guide, to do this work through us. We must cease striving in order for God to act on our behalf.

When God Acts

The Word gives us stories of God's actions on behalf of men. As we read these stories, we see His power and His glory. And yet we feel still that we are good enough, qualified enough, and able enough to handle everything on our own. Sometimes when we are in prolonged periods of suffering, we are placed specifically in the trial to teach us the lesson of rest. I know that this is true in my case. I asked the Lord to help me learn how to rest. Of course, I never thought He would provide opportunity to practice it! Yes, I naively thought the Lord would 'gift me' with the ability to rest. He choose to teach me how to rest through the burden of suffering, of sorrowing, and of sitting still. I have had to sit still, to remain where I am, and to face the difficulty day in and day out in order to convince me that resting is what must occur. I must cease striving, and I must rest.

I am praying today for God to act on my behalf, to move, to make a way, to open a door. Yet, I believe He will wait until I rest. Once I rest, really, really rest, then He will move and my way will be made smooth. The timing is up to me. I prolong the suffering because I refuse to rest, even after I promised Him that I would do it. 

Dear Lord, 

Help me this day to take back my words to you, and to repent of my foolish behavior, my arrogance, and my futile ways -- thinking that I could somehow in my own strength accomplish your will for my life. I cannot do it, Lord. I cannot do it. I confess this now in the Name of Jesus, and I turn my efforts, my abilities, and all my strength over to you. I rest, Lord. I give up. I give in. I rest and I trust you to accomplish your work in whatever way you desire and think is best.

June 23, 2015

"Cashin' in" My Do-Over Today

It is curious how things work out -- I mean -- just yesterday I blogged about "do overs," and here I am today feeling the need to do the day over! Yes, I blew it big time, and I made a complete fool of myself, and I feel so ashamed. You know, the whole bucket of self-condemning feelings that shout at you "You really did it this time!" I know, I know...

Romans 8:1 says, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus," which is comforting to remember. Still, my mind wants to say that there is no reprieve for me, at the least, not today.

Yet, I believe the Word of God, and I know that as a flawed and imperfect human being, I will make mistakes, I will do stupid things, and I will, at times, say things that are plain-old inappropriate. It happens to all of us, and it happens to me often. I think the reason I feel so condemned by my actions and words is simply that I hold myself to a high standard of perfection. I want to be perfect, to walk in perfection, to never make a mistake. This is flawed thinking right from the get-go because God's Word tells us that there is no one who is perfect, there is no one who is righteous (Romans 3:10). When I think about this idea of "perfection," I wonder why it is that some of us, me in particularly, think this way, feel this way, desire to be this way.

Where does this line of thinking originate?

According to Brene Brown, a sociologist who studies vulnerability and shame, we desire perfection because "We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame" (Brown, 2010, para. 2). Brown has spent the past 10 years researching the reasons why people feel the need to be perfect. She writes, "We all need to feel worthy of love and belonging, and our worthiness is on the line when we feel like we are never [good] enough" (para. 4). She discusses the difference between striving for perfection in being and striving to do our best in doing. She says that the two are vastly different things. Wanting to do a good job, to do our best, is one thing. Feeling as though we are never good enough is another. 
Living in a society that floods us with unattainable expectations around every topic imaginable, from how much we should weigh to how many times a week we should be having sex, putting down the perfection shield is scary. Finding the courage, compassion and connection to move from "What will people think?" to "I am enough," is not easy. But however afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this: What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think -- or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?
Letting go of what people think is key. When we place the emphasis on what other people think of us, we say in short, that their opinion of me is worth more than my opinion of myself. Yes, we value what others think and feel about us, and we measure ourselves against an imaginary and impossible stick. Brown describes perfectionism as carrying a 20-ton shield around with us because we believe it will protect us (para. 4). In truth, it is simply a way for us to hide and be safe rather than something that emboldens us and causes us, as she says, to take flight (para. 4).

Brown says that after conducting interviews with people over the course of her research, she has determined that the only way to stop the cycle of perfectionism is to understand the underlying need of all human beings -- the need to be loved and to feel valued. The problem is not whether or not we are loved and valued by others, but rather whether we believe we are worthy of being loved and valued. She says it this way, "If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging" (para. 8).

Her response to this problem is courage. She says, "Letting go of our prerequisites for worthiness means making the long walk from 'What will people think?' to 'I am enough.' But, like all great journeys, this walk starts with one step, and the first step in the Wholehearted journey is practicing courage." She continues to state that courage is not about being heroic, which is a modern definition of the word. Rather, she stresses the original definition which meant "to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart" (para. 10).

Courage, therefore, is the ability to tell the truth, from the heart. In this sense, courage is saying to yourself (myself) that I am good enough in my size 10 jeans or I am good enough right where I am today (not where I will be in 10 years). Brown says that it takes courage to own our stories, to tell the truth about who we are, and to stop projecting perfectionism as a cover-up for what we think is "less than" or not "good enough."

Aligning with the Word of God

I am writing about perfectionism because I suffer from it. Not only do I desire and strive to do my best (always), but I live with impossible standards that I keep for myself, standards that say to me I am either "good enough" or not "good enough." I am tired of keeping these standards, of living the lie that says I will be OK when I achieve X, Y, or Z. I am tired of the game of mouse hunt, always feeling like I am being preyed on by my need to achieve, to be perfect, to be the best.

Getting right with God means several things. First, it means that we understand who He is and who we are. In short, we recognize that He is God (perfect, righteous, holy), and we are not. We are fallen creatures, created in perfection, but marred by sin, and doomed to live a life separated from Him. However, we are not lost because we have a Savior who has offered Himself as a ransom for our sin, our penalty, and as a result, we can accept His free gift and be restored to relationship and fellowship with God. Our worth, our value is encapsulated in this verse,
"For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life" (John 3:16 AMP).
God so highly valued His creation (the world) that He made a way for it to be redeemed or ransomed. In this way, we can believe that God considers each of us valued and of great worth. Our value individually was worth more than the love He had for His son, Jesus.

Therefore, our perspective on who He is and who we are must be changed and adjusted so that we begin to see things rightly or correctly. We must change the way we think, and adopt the way God thinks.

Secondly, our identity (our understanding of who we are internally or our self-hood) must also be reshaped so that it conforms with God's valuation of His creation. To do that, we must know that as children of God, we are valued and held in high-esteem because of the value and esteem God places on us. The Word calls us His children, Joint-Heirs with Jesus Christ, sons and daughters of the King. Our identity has been replaced. We were once disobedient and unlawful children, but now we are counted as righteous, holy, and redeemed.

How we view ourselves, then must align with the Word. We must stop seeking perfection and approval from the World, and instead look to the Word of God for our affirmation. We must believe what God says about us, and then we must stop repeating negative and condemning words that the enemy feeds to us. We must reply to the enemies accusation with the affirming words of our Heavenly Father, who loves us so much that He did not spare His only Son!

Moving On From This Point

I know the truth of the Word, but lately, I have struggled with condemning thoughts. I know that despite what I believe and what I know to be true, I still fall victim to the old negative thoughts that tell me "I am not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough." So many of these negative condemnations came from my childhood. I was told as a child that I was not as smart as my All-State Scholar brother, talented enough as my two musician brothers, or pretty enough as my cousin the model. I was condemned because I wasn't a good student, I wasn't talented in any way, and I was homely, gangly, and very klutzy. In truth, I wasn't acceptable because I didn't possess, brains, beauty or brawn (or bravado!) Thus, I was labeled by parents, teachers, friends, extended family as being "less than," and those comments stung me, struck me, and still stick with me. They hurt me when they were pronounced at 6, 8, and 10 years of age, and still today some 40 years later, they echo in my head, and inflict upon me twinges of pain. I am still "not good enough" -- not good enough as pronounced by other people's standards, by other people's measuring sticks.

Overcoming the negative comments is difficult. You would think it would take one achievement to overcome a negative condemnation. Rather, studies have shown that on average it takes 5 positive moments to counteract one negative moment (Gottman, 1999). Gottman dubbed this ratio as "the magic ratio." Researchers today still find that Gottman's original research, which studied successful marriage encounters, can be applied to much wider implications such as interpersonal and intergroup communication. Losada and Fredrickson (2005) studied positive to negative ratios and determined the "tipping point" to be at 3, which simply means that 3 is the critical point of the scale. Other researchers such as Losada and Heaphy (2004) studied team performance to understand how positive to negative ratio of feedback and comments influenced performance levels. Their research suggested that high performing teams function at a ratio of 5.6, with medium performance teams at 1.9, and low performance teams at .36 (more negative rather than positive comments).

Positive to negative ratio research has come under scrutiny of late, and some of these studies are now being questioned as to whether mathematically the statistical data represented results correctly. Regardless, I believe we can all agree that positive feedback is critical to the well-being and health and vitality of each individual. Fredrickson (2013), in defense of her earlier research says, "positive emotions have also been found to promote the development and maintenance of flourishing." Flourishing is defined as "feel good do good" suggesting that people who feel good about themselves tend to do good things for other people. She says "To flourish means to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience" (p. 3).

Interestingly, while scholars debate the mathematical preciseness of empirical evidence, one fact remains, and that is that positive comments generally promote higher valuation and esteem than negative ones. I think we can all agree that positive affirmations are far more critical than negative condemnations, at the least, where mental health is concerned (Fredrickson, 2013, p. 6).

So What Does All This Mean

Good question! I think the long-and-the-short of it is this: how we view ourselves and the world around us is important, not only to our own well-being, but to the well-being of others. Our words of affirmation, encouragement, and support can be life-giving. Likewise, our words that degrade or condemn others can strip life away, can demean and cause others to feel less valued and less worthy. Fredrickson (2013) says it this way, "Negativity can either promote healthy functioning or kill it, depending on its contextual appropriateness and dosage relative to positive emotions" (p. 7). The Bible offers a similar result,

"Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose" (Proverbs 18:21 MSG)

And again, in James 3:5b-8, we read,

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”

As Christians, we have the power to bring life to those around us. Our words can build people up or they can tear people down. We have the power within us, and we must choose our words carefully, wisely, and always use them with respect and regard to other people's feelings and their life situations.

A suggested approach to building people up is to reverse the Golden Rule, which says, "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you." Instead, the wording is reversed to read,

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

The idea being that instead of thinking about your actions and how they cause people to behave toward you (self-centered), turn your approach so that your words and actions are 100% seeking the better of others.

It is all about putting others needs before your own, seeking the welfare of others first, and then saying and doing things that lift up, build up, and esteem those around you.

Biblically, it is the servant-leader model, and it affirms the Word of God where it says,

Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them (Eph. 4:29 NLT)

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing (1 Thess. 5:11 NLT)


Today, as I think about my need for a "do over," I realize that much of what I think and do is the result of old patterns and habit, old thoughts that seek to condemn me rather than edify me. I look to the Word of God and I embrace the truth of the Word. I realize that I am not bound by any standard other than the Word, the Bible. My measuring rod is the one by which my Lord measures me, and thanks be to God, it is not a standard based on my own merit. Rather, it is the holy, righteous, and pure standard of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can do nothing in my own strength, I can never be "good enough" to measure up. But I can rest in the knowledge that my account is been made right, been accorded correctly, and as far as my Lord is concerned, I am good because He has said so. I am good enough today because my Lord loves me, and He died to save me -- just as I am, just as I am.

Just As I Am
Charlotte Elliott, 1841

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd'st me come to thee, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt;
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive;
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
has broken every barrier down;
now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
the breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
here for a season, then above:
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

References

Brown, B. (2010, November 1). Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect - CNN.com. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/11/01/give.up.perfection/

Fredrickson, B. L. (2013, July 15). Updated Thinking on Positivity Ratios. American Psychologist. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0033584

Gottman, J. (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co

June 22, 2015

Beginning Again

Have you ever wanted a do-over? I mean, like a real "do over" after you failed miserably at something important. I am thinking of a "grand do over," the kind where you could perhaps repeat an entire day or say that speech again, you know, the one where you stood there looking helpless as the person you were speaking to either didn't understand or didn't appreciate your words of advice? I can think of a hundred other similar scenarios where it I came face to face with failure, with falling short, with missing the mark. Yes, over the course of my life, I have found myself smack-dab up against that horrible feeling of not meeting expectations and standards of my work, my school, my home, my family, or my life.

How do we handle failure? How do we face tomorrow after we have messed things up so miserably today?

Today's blog post is titled "Beginning Again" because starting over is something we do every single day of our lives. We live in a constant "do over" way. Every morning is new, every day is a gift from God to start over, to do better, to live more completely as He has called us to live. Lamentations 3:23 says it this way,

"Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."

What great and wonderful news! Our Father in Heaven grants us new mercies every single day. He is faithful to give us the length of our days to learn this lesson. We are not stuck in the past. We can know that tomorrow will bring new mercy thus allowing us to begin again.

As I consider my day today, I am thinking about this truth from God's Word. New mercy. What does that mean? It means that God gives to me a fresh application of His mercy each new day. Every day that the sun breaks through the darkness, I can see the Lord's faithful application of mercy upon my life. I am alive. I am well. I am free. I am saved. I am loved. His mercy is new every single day, and for that, I am thankful.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever" (Psalm 136:1 NLT).

Today is a good day, it is a very good day. Yet, I know that there is sorrow all around me. There are people who I know who are suffering through emotional hurt, painful experiences, and who are trying to "keep it all together." They may be facing financial uncertainty or even disaster. They may be dealing with a loss of a loved one (a human or a pet). They may be coping with cancer or some other life-ending disease. They may be struggling to overcome an addiction, a disability, or some "hurt, habit or hang up" that is seeking control over their lives. If we open our eyes to those near us, we will see the hurt, the anguish, the sorrow, and the suffering -- and we will know that there are individuals who are suffering all around us.

How can you encourage and build up someone who is wounded? Someone who is suffering through loss or struggling with addiction?

I think the best way to console someone is to be there for them. I am suggesting being physically available to listen, to hold, to hug, to be still -- not to give advice, not to say anything -- but rather just be with them in their silent place. Grief and hurt take time to heal, and for some people, the process is long-term, it is not something that can easily be "gotten over." Yet, in our rush-rush world, we want everyone to be happy, to be okay, to be smiling, cheerful, and passive. We do not want to see the explosive emotions that can come out of people who are hurting, who are trying to make sense of some injustice or some unfairness. Emotional pain wells up, and when it reaches the "point of no return," it comes out in powerful ways. 

"Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15 NLT).

Dealing with pent-up emotions can be a challenge because we are conditioned in this life to hide our feelings, to bury them down deep, and to repress our emotions so that we "appear" sane, safe, and sound. But for many who are dealing with difficult and painful experiences, the emotional backlog builds, and at some point, it needs to come out. 

I have always heard that it is better to air the wound out, you know, let the hurt come to the surface so that it can be set free. I get where this comes from, but studies have shown that physical wounds do not respond to "airing out" as much as we think. Just consider the recent social phenomenon that is taking place in our cities across this nation in reaction to police violence or other violence. We are seeing emotions well-up, and instead of providing healing alternatives for them, the media and society in general, encourages individuals to act out, to let these pent-up emotions "air out." The result has been violent chaos instead of personal healing. Thus, rather than airing wound (letting the air get to a wound), medical studies have shown that bandaging the wound, keeping it sterile, clean, and free from bacteria is the best way to encourage healing. Keeping a wound covered is a protective measure, and it can have significant impact on the overall well-being of the individual. 

But does this physical approach to healing work in the spiritual realm as well? Great question! I think the answer is yes, so long as we understand the general principle and use the proper tools given to us by God for our well-being.

Consider the words of Isaiah 61. In this famous passage, we read about the Spiritual Year of the Lord (or the coming of the Lord). Isaiah prophesies the Lord's anointing and His coming in this way,

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

The Lord is coming as healer, and He is coming to "bind up the brokenhearted." David says the same thing in Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds." 

We understand that the correct method for caring for a physical wound is to bind it up, to bandage it, to protect it until it heals.  Clearly, the word picture given to us in Scripture is that Jesus is our healer, the caregiver for our wounds. The bandage is the Word of God, and the Healer applies the salve of the Holy Spirit to help heal the wound so that we can be set free from the pain, the suffering, and the sorrow accompanied by it. I think the picture of a Physician, skillful in surgery, as the perfect example of this concept. Jesus is the Great Physician. He is able to excise a wound, to cut, to clean, and to clear it up so that our bodies (spiritually and physically) can heal properly. The bandage must be applied, and that is the sterile dressing of the Word of God, which covers our hurt, and helps us to understand the nature of the affliction. Through the blessed application of Scripture, and the gentle care of the Healer, we are able to find freedom and complete health and vitality.

Why Is This Necessary?

In my own life, I can say that I have been healed from many spiritual and physical afflictions. I have experienced the merciful and skillful excision of the Great Physician as He removed years and years of scar tissue from some of the wounds I suffered as a child. I experienced complete healing after the Lord began this work, but it took time for me to understand the social and psychological ramifications of my childhood wounds. For example, because of the abuse I suffered as a young child, I struggled to control my emotions for many, many years. In fact, I often exploded when I was pushed too hard, pressed too tightly, or punished too severely. I lost control of my anger, and my emotions fueled by pain, exploded in violence. I tried to hide my emotions, to bury them, and I created a system of coping mechanisms that I used to deal with the hurt. Unfortunately, my coping mechanisms were not healthy ones so I replaced emotional pain with unhealthy practices in order to diminish and control the outbursts. This process of coping only provided temporary relief because in the end, something would come along to set me off, and I would explode.

Thankfully, the Lord helped me identify the source of the hurt. Then He helped me understand where that hurt came from by seeing the person who hurt me through His eyes. It was through the eyes of compassion that I realized that "hurting people hurt people" (Hawkins, 2010). Dr. David Hawkins says most people "are wounded people who unwittingly continue to hurt each other" (para. 10). In my case, this realization helped me see that the abuse I suffered was at the hands of someone who had been abused. The abused became an abuser who abused other people. It was a sad truth, but looking at the abuser from this perspective helped me give them grace, to realize that they didn't ask to become an abuser, and because they had not experienced the life-giving healing that comes through a personal relationship in Jesus Christ, they were unable to stop the cycle of abusive behavior. They continued to inflict pain as a coping mechanism to bury their own pain. 

Please know that I am not justifying abuse in any way, shape or form. I am simply saying that for me to be healed, I had to look at my abuser and then give them grace and mercy. I had to forgive them for what they had done to me. In doing so, I stopped the cycle of abuse in my own life, and I was set free from the pain that had been buried so deeply for so many years. As the Lord healed me from the trauma, I came to see the hurt and sorrow in other people around me. I came to see people as wounded individuals, people who needed to be healed from the damage inflicted upon them by other people. This process helped me understand the nature of the pain I was suffering as well as see the nature of the pain that other people were suffering. I believe this is what it means when we are called to mourn and to weep with those who are suffering -- we share in their burdens, their heartaches, and their sorrows.

As I think about all of this today, I realize that because of God's grace and mercy, we are able to experience a blessed "do over" every single day. We are able to experience His healing, His grace, and His mercy to begin a fresh, to consider a new, and to walk in a way that allows us to see others through His eyes of compassion. We all need love. We all need mercy. We all need grace. As Christian brothers and sisters we must put on love (John 13:35). We must take the difficult road and walk beside those who are suffering, and like Jesus, we must bind up their wounds. If they do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, their Healer, we must introduce them to Him. We carry with us special medicine, and that is the power of the Lord to save them from their sins. We must offer to them the way of life so that they can experience forgiveness and freedom from the penalty, the power, and the  future presence of sin. However, if they know the Lord, then we must encourage them with the Word of God, standing beside them to help them carry their burdens (whenever possible) so that they can grow strong in the Lord, become healthy in the Lord, and finally, live freely in the Lord. We are called as witnesses to share the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we must do it with all diligence, perseverance, and commitment until the day of Christ's return. Selah!

Dear Lord,

I celebrate your mercy this day. I thank you for the grace to know that I have been born again, and that as a child of God, I am granted new mercy every day. May your blessing fall afresh on me, and may I walk in a manner worthy of your calling, committed to doing your work, and seeing the fruit of your Holy Spirit as He moves in me and through me for your Name, your praise, your honor and your glory. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done! Selah!

June 20, 2015

What Women Want

According to the producers of the 2000 hit film, "What Women Want," starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, women by and large want a man who will listen to them. I think many women would agree with the overall tenor of this film -- they want a man who will connect with them emotionally -- and men do that by listening when a woman speaks.

Lately, I have been engaged in conversation that has explored both sides of this issue -- what do men AND women really want from each other. The past couple nights, I have had great discussion with my friend about what a man wants and needs from his wife (or girlfriend -- sans sex). Tonight, we are discussing the flip side of the coin, what women want from their husbands or boyfriends (again, sans sex).

There have been many studies that say that women need emotional commitment from a man to feel satisfied in a relationship. In short, they need a man to provide more than sexual interest. They need him to care deeply, to display affection, and to be emotionally available in order to form a deep bond. For many men, emotional availability is a challenge. They can handle the caring and affection (so long as there is a sexual component), but they don't quite "get" what it means to be emotionally available to a woman. I mean, what does a woman want from a man?

For many men, being caring equates to providing a good home (financial and physical security). Sex is a pleasure that is expected, wanted, needed -- and for men -- it is something that is vital to their health and well-being. Yet, many men feel that they are doing a good job when they "bring home the bacon," so to speak. They may also be good at caring for their homes, their cars, and other things around the house so they feel that they are doing what they should to show their wives they love them. Men show caring and affection through their actions and not necessarily their words. For example, my Dad was an excellent provider for our family. He worked very hard to provide for his family of six. He worked long hours at a job, and then came home and took care of our house. He repaired things by hand, built things, and generally made sure the house was always in good running order (he still does this at 82 years of age). He wasn't emotionally available to his children -- he was physically present for them -- but he didn't engage in "heart to heart" talks. No, he spent time with his children, building things, playing games outside, fishing, or just hanging out. He didn't do a lot of talking -- to my Mother or to his children. Despite his lack of emotional communication, I would classify my father as a loving Dad. He hugged us, but he never really said "I love you." Partly, this was due to his generation, having grown up in the 30's and on a farm. Love wasn't spoken, it was demonstrated. I think this is very true for most men today. Some men are more emotionally connected to their verbal sides, but many use their actions over their words.

For women, being caring equates to doing AND saying, actions PLUS words. Since women are more verbal, and they respond more to verbal stimuli, they tend to prefer this combination when demonstrating care and love. This is why a woman will hug a man AND say "I love you." We naturally speak the words while we show what we mean. I think this is because women have an innate ability to nurture emotional well-being. Women are caring, giving, loving, and demonstrative. We find it very easy to express our emotion, and we enjoy telling people how we feel. We give gifts, we shower attention, and we clue-in on any type of emotional distress. So because women are emotionally connected, and operate in their emotional centers the majority of their days, we tend to expect emotional components to every conversation, every form of communication (including nonverbal). The crux of the gender communication gap is that men do and women say.


Women are not difficult to understand, but I think for many men, they simply do not feel safe enough to try to figure them out. They have been told for so long that they are not able to connect, willing to connect, or smart enough to connect. They have tried, many have tried, to be emotionally connected husbands, fathers, and lovers, but because so many women do not understand the differences between the genders, they have squelched any and all attempts to bond. Women have done a lot of damage to the well-being of their mates. They have turned them off, treated them like children, and berated them for not doing things the right way (or their way).

I do place a lot of blame on women. I feel that while men are not free from responsibility completely, the lion's share of blame does fall to the woman because she is naturally emotionally connected.  Thus, women should know better, they should see the emotional damage they inflict.

A case in point - take two women, put them together, and let them spend time together. In a very short amount of time, they will have uncovered each others secret hurts. If they are friends, they will be emotionally supportive once those hurts are expressed. They will pour out love and affection for their friend, hugging, holding, and affirming them with words of encouragement, comfort, and consolation -- all in order to provide emotional support. This behavior is natural to women and it comes easy to them.

So why can't a woman be caring, nurturing, and supportive to her husband?

I think the reason is quite simple. Women expect men to behave like women. News Flash, Ladies! Men are men, and God made them that way. It is not to say that men cannot learn how to be emotionally connected, and I do think this is why God gave mothers the job of raising their little boys (get this, little boys).  You see, little boys are very loving, sweet, and emotional. It is somewhere between that little boy age and that big boy age, that they shut their emotions off. I think this is why it is vital for Mom's of little boys to do a really good job of nurturing that emotional connection. However, after a certain point in time, Dads are needed to take over in order to finish the job of raising Godly young men.

I believe that we need men who are emotional connected, who will raise their sons to become healthy and well-adjusted young men. Dads, therefore, are a vital component to the healthy adjustment of their sons emotional availability.

So What Do Women Really Want?

I read a number of articles recently on this topic, and they all seem to hit at the same thing. Women want to feel emotionally connected to their husband. If you ask a woman if this is correct, she will say "Yea! and Amen!" But ask her what this means so that her husband understands it, and well, it gets a bit difficult. Yes, there is no "one size fits all" answer. Women have different needs, and based on the way a woman is raised, she may desire certain things more than other things.

For example, a woman who was raised as a "princess" where she got whatever she wanted, may believe that emotional connection comes through expensive gifts. Likewise, a woman who was raised in a home where her father was always doing things for her mother or the family, may see serving her as a way to connect. Furthermore, a woman who was raised without much affection, without a lot of physical touch from her parents, may feel that emotional connection comes through her husband physically spending time with her, touching her (not always in a sexual way). A woman who is highly verbal, expressive, and talks a lot, will often want a mate who will communicate with her in the same way. All of these things: giving gifts, spending time, serving through doing, physical touch, and verbal communication will help a woman feel emotionally connected to her husband.

Does this mean that a woman needs all of these things? 

Nope. Husbands need to find out what triggers are key to opening up that connection. Usually, it is one of these primary areas. The important thing is this: women know what they want, and they are best able to communicate those wants to their husbands. Really, women communicate well so the fact that they choose not to tell their husbands what they want and need is unfortunate. I am sure there are some psychological issues in play too. The woman may not want to hurt her husband or risk losing his affection if she is too bold in this area. But in my view, most men (intentional men) would welcome such information. Think of it this way: you go to a new job and you are given two choices. Choice A is to be trained by your employer so that you can learn how to do the job correctly. Choice B is to learn on your own through observation only, with no instruction manual or no questions allowed. Which would be easier? Choice A, of course! It makes sense. No matter how difficult the issue, if you spell it out, it makes it pretty easy to understand it.

My list of what women want from their husbands is short and sweet. It begins and ends with emotional connection. Women want a husband who will demonstrate his care through words and actions. The amount of each is dependent on the husband and his wife. If the woman is highly verbal, she will expect more conversation from her mate. If she is physical, she will welcome physical touch. If she likes gifts, she is going to want gifts. The same goes with service or quality time. But remember, that all of these approaches will not succeed without some measure of talk. Men need to talk to their wives, and they need to listen when their wives speak to them.

Biblically-speaking, I want a man who is a man. I know that sounds weird, but what I really am saying is that I want a man who understands his manhood well. I don't want a man who acts like a woman. If I wanted another woman friend, I know where to find them. I prefer men who think, act, and speak like men. I appreciate the gender differences, and I love men who aren't afraid to be themselves (warts and all). I love the way men do things, think things, and approach life, in general. I just appreciate their uniqueness and genuineness. Lastly, I want a man who wants a woman, a real woman, you know. Many men want fake women, women who look good on the outside, but have very little of substance on the inside. A man who recognizes the wonderful gifts and abilities of a woman is a special man in my book.

So for me personally, what I want from a husband is as follows:

  1. Emotional availability, which means being available emotionally. Men can show their emotions with me and I love it! I love to see a man get emotional. It can be passion for a sports team or the sincere heartfelt emotion expressed over a loss (job, person, thing, etc.). This shows me that the man is well-connected to his emotional center. I don't need a guy weeping or gushing tears at every little thing, but a little emotion goes a long way with me.
  2. Physical touch is important to me. This is a wide range of touch, everything from the hug to the sensual expression of desire, want, and intention. Physical touch says to me "I love you, and I want you" in nonverbal ways. 
  3. Quality time is also important to me. I love spending time with a man. I love men, in general, just because they are so darn cute, but spending time with a man is something I enjoy. I like man things, doing man stuff, and while I am not 100% a tomboy anymore, I still enjoy a lot of man-like adventures. I also like to spend quiet time with a man, so men who read, study, or just like to hang out, are a go-to for me.
In a husband, the key triggers for successfully communicating love to me would be to be open and honest about what is going on inside of him. He doesn't have to share everything with me, but I would love a man who was able to say "I've been thinking about this" or "I have been wondering about..."

Marriage to me is the sharing of life -- the doing part of living together. Men and women marry for many reasons, but the primary reason should be to "do life" together. This means that they are choosing to spend time with one another -- like a lot of time -- and that they want to know one another (in the biblical sense as well as in other ways). It is not just so that they can have sex whenever they want or as much as they want. No, it means that they want to be with each other, they prefer each other, they desire each other -- sexually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, intellectually, etc. They want to KNOW the other person so well, that they want to spend the rest of their lives learning, knowing, and enjoying life together!

Thus any man who would share his life with me, choose to share his life with me, is essentially saying to me that he wants to be with me. This presumes desire, attraction, and want. This then becomes a given, so that means that what must come next is genuine interest. If a man and a woman cannot share interests outside the bedroom and children (creating and raising them), then the relationship functions like a two-legged stool (three, but one leg is missing). You see, mutual interest is vital to a good relationship. Consider it this way, out of a normal 24 hour day, how much time will you be spending with your mate (alone)? Eight hours is devoted to sleeping next to him or her, while eight hours is lost at work (unless you work together), so that leaves eight hours remaining of the day. If there are children at home, now the time that remains is divided by the number of children you have because you need to spend quality time with each child.  Dinner, chores, and evening time may only end up being 3-4 hours before you have to turn in each night. Before you know it, you are spending 1-2 hours, maybe if you are lucky, each night with your mate. You are spending less than 15 hours out of a 168 hours each week in quality time with your spouse. Factor that over the course of a year, 8760 hours available, and only 780 hours are spent with the person with whom you have committed your life. So much time is spent away from the home and the family -- so what remains must be intentionally spent, intentionally communicated to demonstrate love.

I think this is why so many marriages are in trouble today. If the little time that exists each night is given to isolation, the husband and the wife, end up living together, but not "doing life" as a team. They are divided by the hustle and bustle of the busyness of life. In a proper Biblical model, the family should function with Mom and Dad as one individual. The children are under the parents, and the Lord is placed over the parents. This means that Mom and Dad time need to be placed as a priority over family time. Husbands and wives need to spend time together, to recharge, to refresh, and to reconnect spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually. A well-connected couple will demonstrate proper relationships to their children, and the children will come to learn that this setup is normal. The children are not centered in the relationship but they are under their parents. 

In closing, what most women want is a husband who loves them, listens to them, and spends quality time with them. Loving them is demonstrated through various means, listening to them engages their verbal communication need, and spending quality time simply sends nonverbal messages that says "I am choosing you over all the rest." A good man is one who recognizes that his wife has needs that are different than his own, and he seeks intentionally to do whatever is necessary to meet those needs. If a man applies himself to understanding his wife in this way, I can say for certain, that a man will find his needs are met in full.