Ash Jumping

Ash Jumping


Forgive me Lord,  I sinned against you, my neighbors and myself.  I have not loved my sisters or myself as you love me.  I’ve sinned.

I am ashamed, have shamed and been shamed.

I’ve been proud and boastful.

Thank you for pulling me out of the ashes.  You never hesitate or deny your love. Thank you for gently dusting me off. Thank you for kissing my ash-filled head and wiping my tears. Thank you for loving me despite my sins.screenshot_20170301-105529

We journey to your cross. Cast our burdens upon your alter. Our sins a pile of ashes.

Praying for a new day, weeping as you sacrifice yourself. We failed your commandments. We failed you. Looking forward to your empty tomb and the promise it holds for everyone you love.

I feel wrapped in your love and forgiveness. Thank you. Amen.

I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:6

Recharge Yourself – Finding your energy source and plugging in

rechargeHow Do You Recharge?

Are you tired, worn out, lack energy or feel depressed? What is your energy source? When is the last time you plugged yourself in?

God invented wireless charging long before Nikola Tesla demonstrated it in 1891 or Meredith Perry made it a reality for our technology.

In 1921 Carl Gustav Jung gave us a greater understanding of how we were created to charge without wires. Some of us need an outside energy source while others have inner source.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m referring to the way we are wired with a wireless extrovert, introvert or ambivert energy source. Being an extrovert or an introvert has little to do with whether we like people. This trait is more about energy than relationship. Extroverts seek an outside energy source and introverts have an inward energy source.

We don’t choose our energy source.  We are born wired as an extrovert, introvert or ambivert.  It is futile and draining to try to change someone’s energy source, even our own.

Extroverts draw their energy from interactions with the people around them. The more time they spend with other people, the more energized they become. Extroverts can be shy. They are not always loud or talkative but extroverts gravitate toward social interaction. Extroverts lose energy while alone and can become depressed in the absence of others. Therefore it is important to encourage extroverts to socialize.

Introverts reenergize in the absence of other people. Introverts find interactions with other people draining regardless of how they feel about the other person. Time with a loved one is just as draining as the person sitting next to them on the bus. So it is really important for introverts to have a space of their own to reenergize especially if they spend most of their day with other people.

If an extrovert and an introvert are invited to a party, the extrovert may feel too exhausted to go to the party while the introvert may be full of energy and eager to go. At the party the extrovert gains energy while the introvert becomes drained with each social interaction.

Sleep is a necessary energy source but it isn’t the same type of energy we get from our personality source.  An introvert exhausted from exposure to too many people will not be ready for more interaction the moment they wake up. Nor will a people deprived extrovert wake up more energized and in less need of interaction.

How long does your battery last? An extreme extrovert’s battery runs down quickly in the absence of people so they need lots of daily contact with people. An extreme introvert can go days without human contact and is easily exhausted by human interaction.

Extroverts and introverts can become overwhelmed, overstimulated and exhausted. Introverts and extroverts can be people-oriented or task-driven. They are equally intelligent. Extroverts and introverts may put others needs before their own and be overly concerned about what others think. Both may be sensitive.

Recently, there has been much talk about ambiverts or people who draw their energy from people and time alone. Ambiverts are rare.

Jesus and God are ambiverts. Jesus spent lots of time alone in the wilderness to pray and lots of time with people. If Jesus was an introvert He probably wouldn’t have had twelve disciples. If Jesus was an extrovert He would have been exhausted after 1 much less 40 days in the wilderness.

Also we know that Jesus is with each one of us all the time and in all places. That is a lot of social interaction even when we don’t acknowledge His presence.

Name extroverted and introverted biblical characters. Who are you most like?

Our energy is also related to our pace, how quickly we reenergize. The rabbit and the turtle compete with one another at work, home or in the community. It is no secret that we work at different paces. Couples, parents, teachers and employers quickly notice someone’s pace but disagree on which pace is best.  Have you been told you are too slow or too fast?

The best pace depends on the project.

Each pace has a place in our unique puzzle. There are tasks that require speed and quick turns while others require accuracy and precision. And some require both. Fast paced individuals talk fast, move quickly and get a lot done in a short amount of time. Others have a much slower pace with life in general. They are more cautious and deliberate. Slower paced individuals may not get as much done but they may be more accurate and thorough. Both may have short attention spans and be impatient. It is futile and exhausting to try to change someone’s pace.

How long we hold a charge and how long we need to charge is also related to our pace?

What is your pace? Are you still tired and exhausted? Go recharge.

It’s not a sin, it’s a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

Lord of Grace, you love me. You understand me. You have given me your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength and your body. Please Lord help me to be kinder and gentler with myself. Help me love myself the way you love me. Forgive me for the way I’ve treated someone you love dearly – me.  Help me recharge. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Beyond MY Strength

Life has guarantees but happiness, food, clothing, shelter, health or care are not among them.  At least not for everyone and not in this world. This is not a perfect world.

Bad stuff happens to everyone. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone falls down, bumps their head or knee and has to wear a Band-Aid at some point in their life.

We all experience stress. And until Christ returns, everyone dies.

Read Romans 5:12

[Death through Adam] Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

  1.  Discuss normal stressful events that happen to everyone.

Pulling Hair outChange is stressful.  It doesn’t matter if it is good or bad. All change is stressful. Growing up, getting sick and changing schools are all normal and stressful. Choosing or changing careers is stressful. Meeting new people is stressful. Moving, getting married, having or not having children, and even adopting a cat are stressful.

Just talking to other people can be stressful.

And not everyone deals well with change, stress and challenges.  Some crave change and are instruments of change while others hate, avoid or don’t adapt well to change.  Some are tough, others sensitive. A heavy burden to one is light to another.

2. Not everyone adjusts well or quickly to change. How well do you adjust? Who taught you how to cope with change?

People who don’t adjust well make poor teachers. They teach and model the same ineffective techniques they were taught. And they are ill equipped to cope with bigger bumps in the road.

  1. Discuss some common life events or conditions that are challenging.

Unfortunately, not everyone is considered by others as equally attractive, intelligent or able.  We don’t all have the same social skills. Not everyone is strong, fit and able to compete. Some are weak, awkward and disabled. Some are bullied.  Not every family is healthy and every relationship doesn’t lead to a happily ever after.  Almost everyone will experience a major loss of someone or something they love.

And once again, we don’t all react the same.

  1. List and discuss major tragedies and suffering.

Chronic illness, mental illness, abuse, addictions, loss of a child, domestic violence, rape, assault, poverty, natural disasters and murder are all major tragedies with extreme suffering.

Sadly, everyone isn’t equipped to comfort others. Some of the cruelest things are said in hospitals, funerals and churches in the name of “love” or “comfort”.

  1. Discuss thoughtless, unhelpful and painful advice you’ve heard or given.

We’ve all given bad advice and said thoughtless things when our friends or loved ones are hurting, especially if we’re the ones causing the hurt.

Often well-meaning individuals minimize our experiences if in their opinion they aren’t major tragedies  or they think their experiences are worse than ours. Not everyone is a good helper.

Even pastors say things that don’t help like:

“God NEVER gives us more than we can handle?”

Aside from telling a grieving parent that “God needed another angel in heaven” or “At least you have another child”, “God NEVER gives us more than we can handle?” is one of the most misquoted biblical verses.

While it is empowering for normal milestones, life events, temptations or when the victim has the resources to help themselves, it is a stumbling block for anyone suffering a tragedy beyond their control. It is harmful out of context.

“Bootstrap” theology implies everyone who suffers has the “bootstraps” or power to save themselves. “Bootstrap” theology tells the victims of domestic violence, rape or natural disaster to pick themselves up and move on.  It implies God caused it and knew they could handle it.  It provides no consequence to the perpetrator, making the perpetrator an innocent agent of God’s will. “Bootstrap” theology blames rather than empowers or helps victims.

The Bootstrap advice suggests that starving children just need to eat, the poor just need to work and the homeless just need to build a house.  It implies they must have the resources but are too lazy to cook themselves a meal, find a job or build a house.

I’ve heard this misquoted at hospitals, funerals and in churches. “Bootstrap” theology drives people away from God.

If everyone had the resources to tackle their own problems, why would anyone go to God? We wouldn’t need a savior.

Therefore, it is best to check to see if they have bootstraps or the resources before recommending someone pull themselves up by them. Otherwise, you may need to lend them yours.

The verse is in the bible but as previously noted it is taken out of context when applied to tragedy. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10 is about temptation. It has nothing to do with situations out of our control.  It only applies to situations within our control.

Take note that the Jewish people were in slavery for over 400 years before God sent Moses.  Generations of Jewish people were tested well beyond their strength and lifetime. They didn’t have the resources to free themselves.  They needed a savior.

Women aren’t raped because God knows they can handle it. Teenagers don’t commit suicide because God knows their parents and friends can handle it. God doesn’t allow murder because God knows the victim can handle it. People don’t get cancer because God knows they are strong enough to survive it.

How is this misguided theology a comfort to mothers who’ve lost children or families of murder victims?

Just like happiness, adversity is not guaranteed. While bad stuff happens to everyone, misfortune is not equally distributed.  Everyone doesn’t get their fair share of adversity.  Some people are born rich, loved, healthy and happy. Others are born poor, sick, abandoned and depressed.

  1. Why do bad things happen? Does being healthy and wealthy make someone a good person? Are some people cursed? Have you ever wonder if you’re cursed in love, health, or wealth? 

Most children understand cause and effect. Children in homes that give ice cream for good behavior believe good children get ice cream and bad children go to bed without ice cream. Therefore, they begin to assume that all children who go to bed without ice cream must be bad without realizing all parents can’t afford ice cream. And they transfer these assumptions onto God assuming that their health, wealth and full tummy is a reflection of how good they are, along with the assumption that God makes bad things happen to bad people.

This assumption is carried into adulthood and passed onto new generations.

Just like telling someone they can handle adversity, this assumption is also used as an excuse to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for our neighbor for fear of interfering with God’s plan.

But the bible doesn’t support this theory.  God tells us over and over again that the children who go to bed crying without food, clothes, shelter, a friend, parent or even a bed are blessed. (The Beatitudes Matthew 5:1-12) Blessed?

How is adversity a blessing? We’ll get to that in moment because it is important to dwell on the truth that adversity isn’t a punishment from God.

Our faith is a very strange insurance policy that almost guarantees things get worse because we have the policy.

God provides a whole book in the Old Testament about hardship to good people – Job.

Job and his wife lose everything in just a few moments. Their children die. They lose all their wealth and status in the community.

Read Job 1:1, 8

Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 

The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

  1. Was Job a bad guy? How did God describe Job?

 

Read Job 1:9-12

Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

  1. Why did bad things happen to Job? Who caused the adversity?

  

Read Job 1:13-19 (Summary)

One day a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen and the donkeys were stolen. Your servants killed, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up your sheep and servants, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your camels were killed and servants killed, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were at your oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind collapsed the house on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”

Talk about a bad day but Job’s troubles weren’t over. Read Job 2:1, 7-8

On another day …Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

  1. What happened to Job?

Read Job 2:3-6

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

  1. How did God describe Job? Was Job a bad guy? Why was he hurt? Who caused his pain?

Job is blameless and upright. He fears God and shuns evil.  Job didn’t do anything to deserve what Satan did to him.

The Bible makes it clear that God was not punishing Job for anything he did. God wasn’t teaching Job a lesson nor did God claim Job would be able to handle everything but death. In fact, what happens to Job really has nothing to do with him personally.

Job is a difficult book to read because God points Job out to Satan.  God gives Satan permission to take everything away from Job and his wife. God even allows Satan to harm Job physically. The only thing Satan wasn’t allowed to do was kill Job.  However, like most grieving parents, Job doesn’t find that a blessing. He wonders why his life was spared to endure the agony of grief and pain.

Surprisingly, Job remains blameless throughout his torture. Even when his wife and friends tell him to curse God, Job continues to bless and praise God.

Job asks God why this happened to him; and God tells Job it is beyond his understanding (Chapters 38-40).  And in the end, God restores Job his wealth and family.

The ultimate message is God never gives us more than God can handle. Bad stuff happens to good people and God’s grace is poured out during our darkest moments when we are in most need of a savior.

Read Romans 5:18

Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Remember: You’re not alone.

Homework:  Read Psalm 86. Pray for trust in God’s mercy during times of trial. Remind yourself daily that suffering isn’t your fault.  Bad things happen to good people.

Pray:  Compassionate Lord, have mercy on me.  Let me know you are near. Give me a sign of your grace. Help me hear your voice and feel your embrace.  Give me the courage to lean not on my own understanding but in your infinite wisdom. Thank you Lord for your steadfast love. Amen.

Week 1: Beyond MY Strength

Week 2: Survival Steps

Week 3: Biblical Grit

Overcoming Challenges

chalengesWarning:  Bad things happen to good people. Do you feel tired? Overwhelmed? Wonder if you’re cursed in love, health, wealth…? What does God say about adversity? You’re not alone. If you’re struggling, join me starting Monday, June 1 for this 3 week bible study Mondays, June 1 – June 15, 2015  for biblical strength and coping skills. Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle.

Healthy Relationships 101: God’s Perfect LOVE

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love (Name or Relationship) as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

What do you give a God who has everything?

Since we’re learning about healthy relationships, it is important to point out that God doesn’t play games, we don’t have to guess what to get God for Christmas, Easter or just because.  We don’t have to worry about getting the wrong size or whether it’s returnable because we have a list of what our Lord wants:

The First Commandments

Read Exodus 20:1-11 (NIV)

And God spoke:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.

1. What does God want?

Jesus came to earth to show us how to keep the commandments. In summary:

Read Matthew 22:37-38

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

In one word, God wants LOVE (Romans 13:10). Love never wears out, it always fits and God appreciates it.  Love is priceless so we can afford it.

2. Describe someone or something you love with all your heart, soul and mind.

I love my husband. I have one husband. I have no other husbands. I look forward to seeing him.  Saying his name brings me joy. I love spending time with him and set aside time to spend with him.  I am in love with my husband and can safely say I love him all the time but…

I also misuse his name.

I want to love him with all my heart, soul and mind all the time.  He deserves to be loved that way and I’m thankful he is loved that way …by our dogs. I can’t compete with our dogs.

Our dogs love us with all their heart, soul and mind.  It is obvious.  No matter how many times anyone in the family leaves and comes back; the dogs are sad when they leave and thrilled when they return.  It doesn’t matter if it is ten minutes, ten seconds or ten days, the dogs greet us full of joy.  It doesn’t matter if they are sick or old, they still lift their head and wag their tail.  They love with all their heart, soul, mind and body.  They put love in action.

praise_1740c3_web 3. Imagined if we arrived for church excited to see God, wagging our tails and lifting our voices. Have you ever showed that kind of love for God?

Describe what church would be like.

We want the same love and support God asks for in the first commandments. We want to hear our name said in kindness.  We want someone who sets aside time for us. We love people who are nice to us.

And we are hurt when someone misuses our name, we get jealous and we want anyone who hates us to be punished.

4. Has anyone misused your name? If so, describe what it felt like.

In a healthy relationship both people feel they are loved and supported all the time.

Read Exodus 34:6-7

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

We have half of a healthy relationship.

Read Together:

God loves me.  God never misuses my name and is with me at all times and in all places. God is NEVER too busy; my problems are never too small.

 God treats me with respect.  God supports the things I like, listens to me, celebrates my accomplishments, doesn’t criticize me and respects my decisions.

God has healthy boundaries. I have the freedom to voice my concerns and I can walk away. I am not forced to love God. God respects my choice.

 God loves me so much that Jesus came to die for me on the cross.

And read John 3:16

God so loved the world that HE gave HIS one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

5. Do you believe God loves you and that Jesus died on that cross just for you?

6. Why is it hard to believe?

Many don’t believe Jesus died on the cross for them.  They see God through the distorted mirrors of their childhood. If they grew up in a dysfunctional environment and the people around them were angry, mean, cold, distant and unloving than God must be angry, mean, cold, distant and unloving. They use a faulty reflection of God, themselves and others to evaluate their worth. They feel cursed, abandoned, unattractive, unimportant and unloved.

They see the commandments as a list of failures.

They see Jesus with the “chosen” people; blessing them with beauty, health, wealth, popularity, love and everything else they feel denied. And when the “chosen” bully them, it further confirms that they are and will always be the last, least, lost and left out.

Satan is a master at separating us from God. He tells his victims that God made them infertile; God took their children, parents, spouse, siblings or friends away.  God made them poor, hungry, broken and hurt. Satan wants us to be angry at God.  He wants us to believe that our anger separates us from God and we are alone.

Because Satan knows grief is a very difficult and painful journey to walk alone. And when loss seeps in, it chases joy and hope away so Satan can surround us in his cold, dark hopeless hands. And there Satan leaves us.

But we’re not alone.

Anger does not separate us from God.  Anger can be healthy. It is not always a sign of weakness or immaturity. God gets angry. God gave us anger to express our disappointment and vulnerability. Anger is our most passionate acknowledgement of God and our helplessness.  Our anger and disappointment is a confession of the power God to save us. Anger shows we care enough to want something different. Anger is scary because it is raw and lacks control.  Anger can be dysfunctional if it is harmful, abusive or repressed into resentment. Anger can become a scary mask to hide our tears and pain.

But we are never alone. God hides in our weakness.  God meets us during our darkest moments. God finds us when we are most vulnerable and in need of a savior. God stays with us as we wrestle together through the stages of loss. God embraces us and wipes our tears. (Beatitudes, Matthew 5)

Jesus is our Savior. Jesus was born poor, out-of-wedlock in a barn. He hung out with the wrong crowd. He wasn’t attractive, popular or wealthy. He suffered.

Wooden-Cross-weatheredJesus was bullied, beaten and crucified. He lost friends and loved ones to death.  Jesus understands our pain. Jesus weeps for us. Jesus says we are blessed when we suffer, mourn, thirst or any other way we meet him at the cross.

He feeds people, heals people, and raises people from the dead. He conquered death on the cross.

When Christ was crucified, God forgave our sins, rescued us from death and gave us eternal salvation.

And His tomb is empty.

Jesus showed us how to love God by first loving us.  Jesus prayed, spent time with and communicated with God.  He never misused God’s name.  Jesus taught us how to call upon our Lord.

Healthy relationships aren’t about how accomplished, popular, wealthy or beautiful we are.  They are about how well we love or more importantly who loves us – God’s perfect love.

In the waters of baptism grace is poured out upon us (Mark 16:16, Romans 6:3, 5). And God says to each of us

“(Name)_ you are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Homework: This week pray to build healthy, not hurtful relationships. Talk with God. Tell God about your hurts and listen for God. Read the statement we read together. Matthew 7:7 [Effective Prayer ] “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. Not sure what to say: “God be with me, hold me, love me and give me your grace. Help me to hear you call my name.  Let me know you are with me. Amen”

“‘“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’  Amen
                                     Numbers 6:24-26

Our relationship with God is the cornerstone to a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. Brothers and sisters struggling with abuse, anger or their relationship with God are strongly encouraged to seek counseling for hope and healing. Christ peace.

God’s Angel to Prepare the Way

AngelExodus 23:20

God’s Angel to Prepare the Way ] “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.

Lord I’m so lost.  I wander. I wonder and I ponder.  Where am I going?  The demons are always picking away at me and getting me all turned around.  Demons are no fun.  I’m so thankful you sent your angel ahead of me to guard me and keep me from going too far astray.  I’m looking forward to coming to the place you prepared for me.  I am looking forward to a moment of peace. Thank you Lord for your feast and love. Amen.

Prayer for Malaysia 370

Praise to the God of All Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)malaysia-airlines

Father of compassion wrap your loving arms of comfort around the families and friends of the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Help us find the plane, help us find answers and in your mercy bring our loved ones home safely. Amen