38 Prayers to Election Day: Mother Hen

Posted on my new blog: Growl for Justice

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Matthew 23:37

mother-hen

Mother Hen,

I’m tired! Gather me under your wing, give me rest.  I promise I’ll settle down and listen to your voice.

I want to snuggle. I want your love. I want the safety and protection of your wing.

I don’t know why I’m restless. Soothe my fears. I want to hear the call of your prophets.

Why do we act like an angry mob instead of a fluffy flock? Why do we kill the messenger? What makes us so violent?

I want to peep not growl.

Gather your children. We need your wisdom. We need your rest.

Your prophets want to live another day.  Help us put down our stones and hear what they have to say.

Amen

Please follow me on my new blog: Growl for Justice

Advertisements
Racism Below the Surface

Racism Below the Surface

I wept for the vulnerable citizens of Baltimore as I read articles detailing the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released report.

I love my city. I was born in Baltimore at Church Home Hospital where Edgar Allan Poe died. It was a hospital for the poor and a home for elderly women that served the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.

I pray for Baltimore to wake up to embrace her people of color and poverty as fellow citizens contributing to the beauty of Baltimore and in need of protection.

It takes effort and energy to stay awake. It rattled me. I’m angry and frustrated; looking for someone to blame.

I’m tired of the racial disparities in our justice system.  My first instinct was to write a post about how angry I was at everyone who allowed this to happen and send out a rally cry for an advocate with authority to hold everyone accountable.

The tension between black and blue lives has become a bruise that refuses to heal – another civil war.

I have loving, caring responsible friends in blue that would be hurt and alienated with such a broad brush response. It would fuel the war and increase the divide. I’d be hurting people I respect to show my allegiance to other members of the family. It would be juvenile, immature, and irresponsible and counterproductive.

I hate conflict. It makes me tired and exhausted. I yearn to return to my peaceful slumber.

Resting in the deep embrace of helplessness to change the system and lack of responsibility for sins inflicted upon others.

By sleeping just below the surface, I could enjoy the warmth of its covers, knowing I need to get up but repeatedly slipping back under its spell, while hopefully appearing a strong advocate for my siblings of color without betraying my friends in blue.

I comfort myself with assurances that I would never do the cruel and degrading things described in the report. I’m a good person. I’m not racist. I have black friends. I had a black roommate. Diversity is important to me. I’m an advocate.

Black lives matter.

It’s not my sin. I’m not responsible. I’m not a police officer. How am I  part of the justice system?

Ignorance is a sin I’ve taken far too many words to confess without confessing as I wrestle to pretend I ‘woke’ a long time ago when I barely got out of bed. I judge my neighbors slumbering next to me feeling superior to their ignorance (Matthew 7:3-5). I struggle. Should I wake up my neighbors or let them sleep? Do I confess or defend my ignorance when I look in the eyes of everyone who witnessed my slumber? Because once again I found myself resting just below the surface.

I knew what I needed to do.

On July 19, 2013, around 1:38 p.m., I woke up.  I didn’t know I was asleep. Like Peter in Acts 12:7, an angel shook me and suddenly I was awake. I wasn’t fully awake but I was much more aware of my part in racism and social injustice; and couldn’t claim to be an innocent bystander.

It began when I heard my President of the United States say,

‘when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.’President Barack Obama Remarks on Trayvon Martin

And I pulled my head back, eyes wide open, I noticed President Obama and Trayvon looked very similar. And then President Obama continued,

‘There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.’ 

Guilt washed over me. I’ve done that. I worked retail.  I didn’t physically follow them but I watched them.  I notice African-Americans in stores, which means I am still watching them.

Do I watch or notice all people with my flesh tone?

When I waited tables, I heard the stereotype that African American’s wouldn’t tip well, would try to get their food for free or run out on the check.  This means consciously or unconsciously, I was less likely to believe them when they had a problem, slower to serve them or served white customers first; and watched them.

I don’t recall any of the stereotypes to be true.

They tipped well but why would anyone give a good tip to a waitress who was giving better service to everyone around them?

I want to make excuses and explain myself but the cycle has to stop.  My behavior was wrong. I confess. I sinned.

President Obama continued,

‘There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.’

Oops!  I do that.  No excuses. I would be hurt if everyone locked their doors when I walked by. My behavior was wrong. I confess. I sinned.

President Obama continued,

‘There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often.’

I knew I did this. I tried to reassure myself that I didn’t hold my breath or was eager to get off but even a few floors is a long way to go if you’re trying to avoid eye contact.

I was trained to protect my purse. But it wasn’t a safety issue. The President wasn’t talking about safety. He wasn’t suggesting to be unsafe or unprotected or foolish. He was talking about racial bias. Assuming danger solely on the basis of a person’s skin color.

Was I clutching my purse every time I saw an unknown African-American man and did I do the same with white men?  This would take time to realize how programmed I was to grab my purse or avoid talking to African-American men.

I warmly greeted most women and white men but rarely African-American men. I looked at white men’s faces, how they dressed, how they carried themselves and lots of other assessments to decide if they were safe. But the only African-American men I looked at were co-workers, children and family of friends.

I wouldn’t even know I was on an elevator with President Obama unless he was with his wife and children.

Racism isn’t about how kind I am to the people I know.  It isn’t even about whether I’m courteous to strangers.

It is altering those subconscious evil thoughts that cause me to act or think differently about someone based solely on their appearance.

It means applying the same thoughts,  memories, conclusions and actions to all groups of youth. And treating everyone with the same respect I have for the President,  my family and friends. 

The first time I “woke” for a moment to become aware of racism and social justice in my community was my senior year of high school when my family moved to a diverse community.  I wish my siblings of color could say the same.

I confess after hearing and acting on President Obama’s remarks I realized my efforts to become more racially aware were about me.  I was creating a better resume, developing tools to learn how to connect with people of color, so I was successful and likable, so I could declare – “I’m not racist” – “I’m not prejudice” – “I’m a good person”

But had I changed?

I mock the mob that brought their lunch to the crucifixion, while I stand there shaking my head and eating my own.

While I greatly appreciate the many accomplishments of the Obama Administration, especially guaranteed healthcare for my medically fragile daughter, the next part of his remarks will always have a profound and lasting impact on me and my future. And it was also the key to my current conflict.

‘And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching.  … a conversation on race… [can] end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.  On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?  Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?  That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.’

And this is also true for blogs and Facebook. I realize this post won’t change anyone but me. It is simply a letter of appreciation to my President for giving me the greatest tool to chip away at the biases, preconceived foolish notions, attitudes and prejudices that hold me back from loving my neighbors of color.

It took time and effort to purposefully reprogram myself to stop grabbing my purse, relax and trust.

The challenge to answering, Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?” was paying attention to my thoughts and how I acted with friends, family and strangers with my same flesh tone, and learning to share those same behaviors with everyone.

Such as back to the elevator, I was shocked and ashamed to realize I was more likely to hold the door or allow people with my same skin tone out first.

My awareness of African-American men young and old changed.  I greet them on the elevator the way I greet everyone else.  Deliberate behaviors become natural. 

Awareness shatters stereotypes. I noticed men interacting with their children, their success, their wedding rings and their smiles.

Exploring my own biases and sins awakens empathy to embrace others in hope.

am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?’ 

This is a powerful and difficult question. It is a prayer I ask God to help me to answer as I spend my entire life wringing as much bias out of myself as I can especially in elevators, on the streets, in church, at home, at work, in my community and for the city I love – Baltimore.

God help us to be a better place.  Amen.

Violence Awareness

In his arrogance
the wicked hunts down the weak…
Victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under the strength of the wicked.  Psalm 10

womanDVhandprints

 

Gracious Deliverer,
Who hears the cries of the vulnerable, the murdered, the abused, the bullied, the crushed members of our family?  Are we deaf? Are we blind? Are we heartless? Why are your children so cruel to one another? What is accomplished by blaming victims?

Collect our tears. Tame the wicked. Heal our wounds. Give us peace. Amen

Resources:

Domesticshelters.org
Free, online, searchable database of domestic violence shelter programs nationally
www.domesticshelters.org

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
www.ndvh.org

Men Can Stop Rape
1-202-265-6530
www.mencanstoprape.org

Men Stopping Violence
1-866-717-9317
www.menstoppingviolence.org

Survival Skills

rock hill

Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle

Warning:  Bad Things Happen to Good People

Week 2: Survival Steps

 

Let’s talk about stress.

The most difficult problems to accept are the ones we can’t change. We struggle, wrestle and beat ourselves up with stuff beyond our strength and out of our control.

We expect the impossible when we treat every hardship as a challenge to overcome.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Such as applying self-help one liners to every situation expecting a quick fix and being shocked when they don’t work. Only to keep giving the same advice to others that never works for us.

“You can do it”, “do it yourself” and “never give up” attitudes don’t work when we lack control over the situation or need help.

“No pain, no gain” applies to a good workout but is cruel to say to rape, murder or other abuse victims.

Not every problem is solved with a box of kittens, a tissue and a pep talk. In reality, every fight can’t be won. And most importantly, it may actually be impossible because not every issue is ours to solve.

We may not have the skills, the resources or even the control to stop bad things from happening or make things better.

  1. List and discuss bad things out of your control.

 

 

Cancer, mental illness, abuse, addictions, death, poverty and natural disasters are all major tragedies out of our control.

 

Telling ourselves or someone else they are strong enough to handle adversity is not biblical. God knows we can’t handle it alone. God didn’t create us to handle it alone and God doesn’t want us to handle it alone.
People who can do everything themselves don’t need help.  They don’t need a savior.

God wants to be part of our lives.  God wants us to give up, call out for help and embrace our savior.

PrayerRead Matthew 11:28-30 

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  1. Discuss Matthew 11:28-30. Why is it hard to ask for help?

Babies cry out for help.  Children cry out for help.  “OUCH” or “HELP!” is a normal natural quick way to tell people who care about us that we need help.

Is there an age when we are too old or a time when we are too able to ask for help?

So why is one of the very first lies we teach children “you’re OK, you’re not hurt, shake it off, and don’t let anyone know you’re hurt, don’t show weakness…”? Why do we put so much emphasis on self-sufficiency?

Also not biblical.

God hears our cries.

Read Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and God hears my voice.

God wants us to cry out.

When we are weary and burdened we appreciate rest.  We appreciate help.  We notice when we are relieved of our burdens.

God created us to be social.  We are yoked, tethered and joined together with Christ in his baptism, life, death and resurrection (Romans 6). We need each other.  We need Christ.

Accepting things we can’t change is an important recovery step.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

The path to acceptance isn’t easy. It is a journey of its own. Some people are determined to figure out how to solve all their problems on their own. Some have too many secrets, hurts, habits and faulty beliefs to get help. They are afraid and don’t have the support system to recover.

The path to recovery should never be ventured alone. Seek God, a good counselor and healthy support group.

The hardest problems to accept are other people’s problems. When we love someone, we want to protect them.  We want to end their pain. We feel responsible for them and their problems. We struggle for them.

But we have very limited control over other people and their problems, even when those problems hurt us.

Trying to change other people is futile.

The only path to acceptance is through grief.  We have to let go of our old tired beliefs that don’t work (Romans 6:6), reveal our secrets, accept humility and admit weakness.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

  1. Discuss 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Why are church people afraid to share their weaknesses, sins and hardships?

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD identified five emotional stages of grief from personal loss or change from death, illness, incarceration, divorce or addictions. These five emotional stages apply to any stress or change in our life, including traffic.

It is important to remember these stages aren’t sequential.  They don’t work like a check list.  We go back and forth between them as we attempt to cope.

And when crisis hits a family or group everyone covers different stages making communication and progress difficult.

  1. Discuss each emotional stage. Request a volunteer to represent each stage.

Denial: Our first reaction to stress is denial.  It is a retreat when we feel overwhelmed. While in denial we refuse or are unable to believe the truth. Denial is a mask. It provides a false reality to the truth.  Denial is the furthest point away from recovery.

Denial says “I’m not sick”, “My brother isn’t dead”, and “I don’t have a problem with alcohol”.

Dysfunctional behavior flourishes in denial and denial leaves victims open to further abuse.

Read Proverbs 23:29-35

“They hit me but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up…”

Anger:  Anger is our strongest emotion.  It can range from mild irritation to rage. Anger emerges when we feel pushed to acknowledge our loss.

Anger is an important emotion and an important step in recovery. Anger acknowledges and protects us from the raw truth. It is a crossroad, to truth or denial.

Anger shouts, “Why me?”, “It’s not fair!”, “How can this happen to me?”, ‘”Who did this to me?”, “Why did God let this happen?”

Unfortunately, anger may stall recovery for people who are uncomfortable with conflict, afraid of anger and unable to face the reality of their loss.

And anger is destructive when turned inwards or out to others. Angry people are motivated to do something but rarely is anger productive.

Anger blames God, the addict, their family and everyone else. Anger shames the victim and is unproductive.

Read Ephesians 4:26-27

“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Bargaining: Everyone learns how to bargain or negotiate to avoid punishment. Bargaining demonstrates hope in a higher power’s ability to change the situation and restore their life before adversity. While bargaining offers hope, it is still far from acceptance. Bargaining is another strategy to avoid adversity. It is an effort to gain control over the situation.

Bargaining says, “I promise I’ll never have sex again if I’m not pregnant” or “I promise to stop drinking if the judge lets me go.”

Read Psalm 66:13-14

I will fulfill my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.

Depression: Depression hits when we feel the full weight of the situation, and know we are powerless but not ready to accept help. Shame, guilt, past memories and clinical depression may stand in the way of healing. Depression is silent, tearful and mourns the loss. Depressed people may feel ashamed or lack the energy to be with other people. They are afraid and hopeless. Depression says “I’m so sad”, “what’s the point?” and “why go on?”

Read Psalm 22:2

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Acceptance:  Acceptance doesn’t mean we celebrate the bad things that happen to us or declare them good.  It simply means we accept the truth, whatever that truth may be. Acceptance acknowledges we are powerless over things beyond our control and ready to shed our secrets.

We are only as sick as our darkest secrets.

Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all part of the journey to acceptance.

Acceptance is the first step of recovery. Acceptance leads to peace.

Acceptance says, “I know I have a problem.  I need help. Will you help me?”

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Remember: These emotional stages aren’t sequential.  We go back and forth between them as we struggle to cope with loss. We can fall asleep in acceptance and wake up in denial.

It is important to be patient in love and recovery.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

~  Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

 

  1. Group activity: Volunteers role play how each emotional stage interacts within a family for the following issues:
  • Death
  • Addictions
  • Domestic Violence
  • Mental Illness

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Homework: Make a list of your hurts.  Identify everyone who may be hurt by these issues and identify where you are in the healing process.

Luke 12:2-3

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, or secret that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

Talk to God about your hurts, the people hurt with you and the person(s) causing the hurt.  Keep praying every time they enter your mind.

 Matthew 7:7 [Effective Prayer] “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. 

Not sure what to say:

“God restore us.  Help me accept my past, present and future.  Help me accept that I am powerless over _(my hurts)_.  Restore and heal those I love.  Help us walk in truth.  Pour out your grace upon us. Help us.  Give us the courage to accept help. Amen”

Remember: You may not know what wall is preventing you or them from restoring peace.

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

Healthy Relationships: All About Loving ME

Luke 10_27Does God really want me to focus on me?

1. How many times have you heard or said to someone “It’s not all about you.” Never focus on yourself. It is selfish to focus on yourself. Discuss whether you agree or disagree. Who should we focus on?

 

The right bible study answer is always God or Jesus; we must first focus on God. Right!?

Jesus said in John 13:34

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’”

Jesus wouldn’t command us to love if we were programmed to automatically, unconditionally love God, our neighbor and ourselves. We just would.

We are free to love or hate whoever we want. It would be easier if we were programmed to obey all the commandments. It would be easier if we were programmed to love. But we’re not.

We have a choice. We get into trouble when we focus all our attention or blindly cast our will to other people. There is no auto pilot for love. We can’t friend God on Facebook and be covered for life. Nor can we marry someone and expect them to know we love them forever with no further action on our part. And the same is true for loving ourselves. There is only one bath that keeps us clean forever – baptism.

Love is not as simple or as natural as it’s portrayed in Hallmark commercials. Love is learned, it must be experienced, otherwise why would the Bible have so many instructions, chapters, books and verses about love.

God is relational. Love begins with God. It doesn’t begin with us loving God. It begins with Jesus loving us. Jesus tells us to love ourselves as God loves us. In turn, love God as Jesus first loved you with His whole heart, soul, strength and mind on the cross.

The most basic step to a healthy relationship is self-care. Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves. Therefore, we must learn how to fully love ourselves. It’s not a sin, it’s a command.

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

God wrote us a love letter to learn how to love. Our love letter tells us to cry out to God when we are hurt; no problem is too small for God. God loves us for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from before time to this day forward until death when nothing will keep us apart.

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

2. What have we learned so far about healthy relationships?

Love is the key ingredient to a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved.

3. Do you feel loved and supported? Do you know you are loved? It is easier to love someone you understand. How well do you know yourself? What makes you unique? How are you different?

God created us to be different with many different types of personalities. God uses different personalities to complement one another. Our strengths and weaknesses fit together into a unique community puzzle.

Unfortunately many don’t value differences. Society labels some traits as good and others bad.

When well-meaning parents, teachers, friends or spouses buy into these lies and try to “improve” their children, students, friends or spouse by telling them to be more outgoing, slow down, take control or be less sensitive they disrupt the unique balance of the different personalities. And they are rarely successful in making a positive change. Instead their criticism damages the self-esteem of the person they think they are trying to help.

We are born with our personality traits and have little control over changing them.

Therefore, it is important to shake off well-meaning criticisms of our quirks and differences. It is healthy to celebrate our individualities. All traits have value and shine in certain situations. Learning about the different personality types helps understand our own personality and the people around us. We learn how to nurture ourselves and find ways to improve communication with others.

Personalities are made up of many characteristics or traits which define how we relate to others, our pace or speed, attitudes, interests and actions. These traits are on a continuum with some stronger than others. Because they are on a continuum some change depending on our environment and the personalities around us. But our character remains the same. For example, you may be extremely organized at work but more relaxed at home but you’re still organized.

As we come together, our personalities interact and influence one another. For example, several friends may all be introverts but when they get together one may seem like an extrovert compared to the others. An accurate personality assessment requires a well-crafted evaluation. However most of us have a basic understanding of where we fall in the range.
4. Personality Characteristics: Note on the line where you fall for each personality trait.

Introvert_________________________I__________________________Extrovert

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.

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.

The spectrum is related to how long your battery lasts. An extreme extrovert’s battery runs down quickly in the absence of people so they needs 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 equally 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 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.

5. Name extroverted and introverted biblical characters.

 

Fast__________________________I________________________________Slow

The rabbit and the turtle compete with one another at work, home or in the community. It is no secret that we all work at different paces. Couples, parents, teachers and employers quickly notice when someone has a different pace but rarely agree on which is better because it 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 to try to change someone’s pace.

6. Name fast and slow paced biblical characters.
Passive____________________________I____________________________Assertive

Being assertive is important in communication. Some people are naturally assertive and are generally given credit for being more healthy and honest because of their directness. But this is an unfair assumption.

Passive individuals are peacemakers. They seek ways to interact positively. They are polite. They hate and therefore avoid conflict. They are sensitive to criticism. They don’t necessarily agree but will avoid conversations that may lead to disagreement. They are rarely competitive. Extremely passive individuals may be difficult to get to know because they don’t share all their thoughts or feelings. They may run away from an argument or find themselves frozen like a deer in headlights.

Assertive people are direct. They are able to express themselves and stand up for themselves. They are competitive. They love debating issues. They may create conflict for entertainment. They can be demanding and forceful. It is important for them to feel in control. They are often accused of being controlling but they are simply trying to control themselves and their environment. They rarely shy away from a fight unless unequally matched. They can be the protector or the bully.

7. Name passive and assertive biblical characters.
Task__________________________I______________________________People

Task oriented people want to get things done. They like lists and have great pleasure in checking things off their list. They can become overly focused or worried about planning projects and activities. They value others for their accomplishments rather than as people. They have trouble understanding why they need other people as well as understanding the needs of others. It may be difficult to get their attention unless it relates to the task and they may have to be asked to look at the person speaking to them.

People-oriented people build relationships and develop community. People-oriented personalities focus on the needs of the people around them. They are genuinely concerned with building relationships and keeping people happy. They place more importance on the feelings and happiness of people than on their to-do list.
They are team and family oriented. They are more concerned for the group than the task. They may have unrealistic assumptions of other people’s motives or opinions. They may have trouble staying on task or difficulty understanding the importance of some tasks. They may need repeated instructions to complete tasks. They can become too focused on what other people think or what they want. They become stressed when trying to meet the needs of opposing relationships.

8. Name people and task-oriented biblical characters.
These are just a few personality characteristics that may bring people together or cause friction in a household. There are many other characteristics such as whether we make decisions with our heart (feelings) or head (thinkers). The important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong personality. They all have value in God’s kingdom.

It may be easier to get along with similar personalities but we restrict God’s grace and love when we restrict ourselves to people who look, act, think and believe just like us.

Our strengths help us to serve others while our weaknesses offer opportunities for others to serve us.

It is healthy to celebrate our individualities. Learning about our traits helps us understand why we do certain things different than others and see them as gifts and not weaknesses. Remember this week is all about learning how to love yourself.

ME_205_LoveYourself
How well do you take care of yourself? Take the assessment below to find out how well you love yourself. After completing the assessment, choose one item from each area that you will actively work to improve.

9. Check the ways you love yourself:

Communication

_____Prayer

_____Listens

______Honesty
_____Words of affirmation

______Apologize

______Doesn’t boast
______Voice Concerns

_____Admit weaknesses

_______Doesn’t criticize
______Don’t embarrass or dishonor

______Freely express feelings and thoughts

______Pleasant inner voice

______Sings
______Share ideas

______Able to cry

______Able to express anger

Kindness

______Acceptance

______Celebrate accomplishments

______Respect

______Healthy sleep and rest habits

______Exercise

______Eat healthy
______Generous

______Play

______Identify strengths
______Never too busy

_______Value yourself

_______Can list positive qualities
______Patient

______Seek counseling when needed

_____Goals
______Supportive

______Like– body, personality etc…

______Time – alone, fun, healing…
______Eat regularly

_____Take time off when needed

_____Seek medical care when needed
_____Try new things

______Find things to make you laugh

_____Spend time with others
______Balanced work, home & self

Healthy Conflict

_____Boundaries

______Compromise

______Don’t misuse name
_____Trustworthy

_____Never physically abusive

_____Forgive
______Truthful

______Humble

_____Not proud
_____Controls anger

______No mood swings

_____Never emotionally abusive
______No grudges

_____Don’t nag

_____No records of wrong
_____Don’t stress eat

10. In what ways are you good at loving yourself?
11. In what ways do you need to improve?

Remember, Jesus commanded us to love ourselves. 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. Forgive me for the way I’ve treated myself. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Homework: This week pray to build a healthy, not hurtful relationship with yourself. Choose one item from each area of your self-love assessment that you will actively work to improve. Take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Carl Jung). Nurture an aspect of your personality.  Keep track of your progress. Add a new item from each area each week. Talk with God.