What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year

So it’s the time of year where people try to make New Year’s resolutions. I never have managed to keep one resolution I ever made, so I gave up on making them several year’s ago. The grander the resolution was the more likely I was to blow it in the first week. That’s just another reason to not make resolutions.
However, there are things I’d like to change in my life. In order for me to change I need to start somewhere. I will start small and think about the changes as things I will do just for the day (one day at a time). I have to admit, I’m afraid of failing, so I’ll make the changes small and add to them if I have success.
One change I want to make in my life is to eat more healthily. That thought is overwhelming. So I’ve picked just one thing to do, something my therapist asked me to do. I’m going to journal what I eat to hold myself accountable. I’m afraid I will make the choice to not record when I eat something that is not healthy – let me pause right here and record the piece of baklava I just ate. Being honest is the beginning of making changes.
Another thing I want to do is exercise more. That seems like something a lot of people want to do. I’ve tried this before but I usually failed when my feet began to hurt (problem feet) after walking ¼ of a mile. So, I asked for an exercise bike for Christmas and got it. My plan is to pedal for a short time and build up to more. My goal is to start by exercise for two minutes to start with. That seems doable to me. Now to get the exercise bike assembled; something my husband is going to help me with on New Year’s Day in the morning (at least that is what he said).
I also want to spend more time recognizing the good things God is doing in my life. Seeing the struggles and troubles in my life comes easily to me. I often forget to recognize and give thanks for the little miracles that happen on a daily basis in my life. I read the Word almost daily, but forget to give thanks for the little gems He shows me. I pray, but forget to record answers to prayer (and there are some if I’m paying attention). So I’m going to make a prayer journal section in my journal and begin looking for the answers to my prayers. Seeing God work will encourage me as I face struggles.
So, no resolutions will be made this year. Just three small steps in the right direction. Here’s to change. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmases Past and Present

This article will be a little like the Christmas Carol story, only I can’t tell what the future will hold for us so there’s no Christmas future. The past and the present will fill up this page pretty well.
Christmases past. When I was a child, there was anticipation and disappointments all mingled together in the memories. I don’t really remember the Christmases where I got what I asked for from Santa. The Christmases that stand out are the ones where I anticipated certain gifts and did not get them (or someone else in my family got them instead). A couple of those gifts were things only a tomboy would love (or an actual boy). As a result, my parents, in their attempts to make me into a girly girl, did not get those toys for me. I remember wanting a Johnny West action figure. They gave me the cowgirl instead (and my brother the Johnny West figure I wanted). I also remember asking for a baseball glove and not getting it. I guess they didn’t feel that was an appropriate gift for a girl.
One thing I always looked forward to was going to my aunt’s and uncle’s house on Christmas day. It was a big party with lots of kids and lots of extended family (and a few more gifts usually clothes which I didn’t want because they were dresses and skirts). But I do remember looking forward to the get together for some reason. Maybe it had to do with the love I felt from all those people.
Now it’s the present and I’ve learned from my past experiences that expectations lead to resentments. So I don’t anticipate getting anything I ask for and have learned to be truly grateful for whatever I get. I will be satisfied if others appreciate the gifts I gave them. Making other people happy makes me happy. I can avoid feeling unloved or uncared for by not expecting any particular gift(s). I think I learned that from my childhood experiences.
I also look forward to getting together with family and friends during the holiday season. However, these days the gatherings are smaller in nature and are not all day events. What I enjoy most is going to church to worship the King on Christmas Eve with my children and husband. I also enjoy the traditions we’ve maintained in our family of watching Scrooge, the Musical on Christmas Eve. I think these are things I can look forward to, while remaining flexible if things don’t work out perfectly, and not end up with resentments.
What Christmas traditions past and present do you practice. Remember especially to keep Christ the center of your Christmas celebrations. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Birth of a King

I like the Christmas story. A virgin birth from a simple teenager. A baby in a manger. Angels singing. Shepherds visiting. Wise men traveling from afar. We know the story, but it’s easy to forget what was really happening.
God was becoming a human being in the form of an infant. Yes. The God of all heaven and earth was born as a fragile, bone and flesh human being. I am amazed when I put the stories of Scripture together. This baby grows into a boy who wants to worship at His Father’s house when He is twelve. Then He’s a grown man setting about a ministry. But let’s not forget that even as He took on the limitations of a baby, a boy, and a grown man, He is God, the Almighty.
As a man in His thirties, He had a powerful ministry, although localized in a relatively small area. He gathered men to follow Him. He did miracles (see, He is the Almighty God) from healing the sick to creating food where there was none, to raising people from the dead. He preached and interpreted the Holy Scriptures in new ways. He challenged the status quo and the leaders of the religious groups in the area. He challenged the civil authorities by His actions and words. He embraced children, the brokenhearted, the outcasts of society.
And, because He was a man, He ate, slept, walked about, and prayed. He was fully God yet He needed His heavenly Father’s support and strength to carry out His purposes on the earth. And, what was that purpose? Good news. He was to become people’s guide into eternity, into a relationship with the heavenly Father.
He became the ceremonial sacrifice for all of us. Don’t forget . . . He started as that baby in a manger. Fully God. Fully man. Able to do exceedingly beyond our wildest imaginations. In order to do that He submitted to be the lamb slain as a sin offering according to the traditions and dictates of the Old Testament. And throughout His life He knew what He was expected to suffer, and He kept on the path to that destruction. For our sake. Because He wanted to develop a relationship with the people. The Jewish people. The Romans. The Samaritans. The non-Jewish gentiles. The outcast. The sick. The rich. The poor. Religious leaders. The spiritually bankrupt. All of them and all of us.
How did He do it? This baby in a manger? He was crucified on a tree, publically humiliated. Condemned by the people He came to save. He died upon that tree and was buried in a tomb meant for another man. But that’s not the end of this baby’s story. As He had said He would, He rose from the dead and left an empty tomb for inspection by all. He met with His followers in His resurrected body. In fact, He was seen by many people. Eventually, He rose through the air into the heavens and joined the Father God in all His glory. All so that we also might conquer death and be in a relationship with God.
That’s also not the end of the story. This baby, as a man, said He would come again. This time He will not come quietly as a baby. He will come in glory and power. He will terrify those who doubt His existence and love those who are His. He will be recognized by all people from every place around the globe. Every, I said every, creature will bow before Him. We will all give an account for our lives in His court. Some will be made happy by  His pronouncement and some will endure eternal torment based upon whether or not a person loves Him. All of Him, from the baby in a manger to the man on the cross to the glorious King who will return. Are you ready to celebrate this baby in a manger with all the glory He deserves. Don’t forget the bigger picture this Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

It's time for our annual letter updating everyone on the happenings in our world. As I reread last year's letter, I realized not much has changed and there's been some big changes at the same time.

My husband is putting in his 32nd year of teaching; most of that time in Fowlerville. We are beginning to plan for his retirement, but it's still 3-4 years away. He spent much of the summer weeding and mulching the flowerbeds in preparation for having an open house for our youngest daughter on June 25, 2016.

I've given up on substitute teaching and spend my time writing emails to friends, working on a second book (very early stages), and writing a weekly blog article. I also spend time investigating the Bible and discussing the Bible with my friends, Kris, who lives in Idaho, and Jean, who lives in Minnesota.

My son is in his 3rd year at IBM in Chicago and is doing very well. Most importantly, he's enjoying his work and the people he works with. He's been able to visit us several times this year including Thanksgiving and during the Christmas holiday. Having him around is a pleasure. It's been especially interesting to listen to him when he's working from "home" while he's visiting us. He's matured into a thoughtful, caring, business-minded, honest young man. We are proud of him.

Our older daughter is in her last year at Oakland University. She will graduate in April 2016 with a double major in Anthropology and Communications. She continues to work at the university's library and at our local grocery store as she is able. She also volunteered for the 3rd year in a row at the archaeological dig at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, MI for a week in July. She's not sure what she will do when she graduates but is looking for internships or jobs that will help her decide what to study in graduate school.

Our younger daughter is working hard in school taking three Advanced Placement classes. She's applied to and been accepted by Western Michigan University and is planning to go there next year. She's waiting to hear about a possible scholarship she's eligible for. She should hear in January.

A highlight of this past summer was taking a trip to Boston, MA and Buffalo, NY. We went to the Canadian Niagara Falls, took tours of historic sites in Boston, went to Cape Cod to a beach, visited Cooperstown to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and toured two Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes in the greater Buffalo area.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


I have trouble with my sleep patterns. This is partially due to a variety of medical issues ranging from my bipolar disorder to low blood sugars in the middle of the night. The problem is that when I have interrupted sleep or can’t fall asleep, the quality of my sleep is greatly lessened. Unfortunately for me that means that my bipolar disorder will probably cause a swing in my mood to a more manic stage. This often happens during the late fall, early winter parts of the year.
It’s been happening this year, again. So, with the advice of my psychiatrist’s office, I’ve been adjusting some of my medicines to try and counteract the trend and return me to getting good, quality sleep instead of interrupted or shortened sleep each night. However, there is a side effect of increasing the sleeping med. I feel groggy in the mornings and don’t get moving toward accomplishing my goals for each day.
In this struggle, I was reminded of Proverbs 3:24 which says, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Quite frankly, as bedtime approaches each day, I am afraid. I’m afraid I won’t sleep. I’m afraid I won’t feel awake and rested in the morning. I’m afraid I will have nightmares. I’m afraid I won’t wake up in the middle of the night if I need to in order to eat something to raise low blood sugars. I’m afraid I won’t hear the smoke detector if there was a fire.
How do I get past those fears? I pray. It’s the only possible solution to this problem which seems so out of my control. And it’s the only thing I can do to get my mind off all the things that make me afraid about going to sleep. When I pray, I recognize who God is and how He’s looking over me to protect me from all the things I fear. I don’t think my fears are unfounded or fantastical. But they are things I do not worry about once I place them in God’s hands. And as a result, my sleep is sweeter than it would be without the prayer.
Now if there was such an easy solution to feeling awake when the morning comes, many of my daytime problems would also go away.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Professionals in my Life

Last week I said I was going to talk about thankfulness this week. As I contemplate the holiday and my life, I grateful for many things in my life. However, one category of thankfulness stood out to me: The Professionals in my life.
The facts are that I have many mental and physical aspects of my life that require some professional help. I think that most of the time I take these people for granted. However, after a recent AA meeting, I was talking to some people about the mental health and medical care available to us in the United States. There are some areas that lack expertise (like child and adolescent psychiatrists), but there are many options available also. In that vein, I want to express my thankfulness for the health insurance my husband is able to have through his job. It’s not perfect for all my needs but without it my out-of-pocket costs would really hinder the amount and type of care available to me.
The first professional that comes to mind when I am being thankful is my therapist. She is knowledgeable about my types of mental illness and is able to devise strategies for dealing with them in productive ways. She’s also patient with me when I struggle to apply these strategies or refuse to apply them to my life on a daily basis. I try not to let that happen regularly, but it does happen. I think part of her patience comes from the fact that she really cares about me, and my recovery. I think she cares beyond what she has to to be an effective therapist. I think that comes from the influence God and her Christian beliefs has on her counseling and her life. I’m so thankful that God provided someone whose belief system mirrors my own. She is able to bring Christian principles and Scriptural advice into our counseling sessions and she usually does. There aren’t words to describe how thankful I am for this professional in my life.
As I wait for a call from my psychiatrist’s office (to hopefully help me with the lack of sleep issues I’m experiencing right now), I’m thankful for that service, also. There are many psychiatrists, but I believe God led me to the right one for me. She really cares about me and has made herself interested in my wellbeing. She has been willing to work with me to properly treat my mental illness even when things are not going well. I think I’m much better off with her as part of my healthcare team than without her. She has really got to know me, and the courses of my illness and is sensitive to my beliefs. She is also sensitive to the self-knowledge I have and often asks me what I think and feel about various courses of treatment for the symptoms of my illness.
There are other professionals I’m thankful for: my internist, the diabetes specialists, the eye doctor(s), and my dentist. All of them have played major roles in my healthcare. They have been responsive to my various needs without copping any attitudes or being condescending.
So this Thanksgiving I’m being thankful for the people in my life and today I’m focusing on the professionals. Underlying all my thankfulness is the knowledge that God loves me and has provided for all these people to be a part of my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


My prayer for my children today was that they would have joy. The card I have stated the prayer this way: “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” The verse given is 1 Thessalonians 1:6, but I also found some good advice in verse 7:
“You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”
I had two questions in reading this passage. First, how to we gain “the joy of the Holy Spirit?” I think part of the answer is found in the passage: “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord.” As we imitate the people in our lives that have a strong relationship with Christ (as Paul and the other missionaries did), we will gain a sense of joy that comes from knowing God and His plan of salvation for us. This passage also talks about having received the word in much tribulation. Does that mean that unless we experience the hardships we face in this world, we won’t truly know what joy is? I think there’s some truth to that. In my experience, if I feel depressed, sad, angry, dejected, alone, persecuted, etc., it means I’m feeling something. And that means that I’m able to feel and experience things. That leaves the door open to experiencing the “good” or “positive” emotions also. Without the hard times, how would I recognize the good times?
Second, why do we need to experience the joy of the Holy Spirit? This passage also answers that: “so that you became an example to all the believers . . .” Our joy is an example to others of the good God has for us. This is a challenge to me in that I am more often an example of despair than of joy. I need to learn, as my children do, to feel and express joy in my daily life. I am working on that, especially right now as we approach the holiday season. I want to have good memories to share with my children and I want to have joy in my Lord and Savior in such a way that they can see the joy of the Holy Spirit. I hope that will encourage them and cause them to seek after the Savior.
Even as I write this, I’m struggling to be joyful. But then I remember all the things I have to be thankful for and I begin to see my spirit changing. However, thankfulness is a good topic for next week, so I will wait on that for now.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Biblical Self-Esteem

Almost every day I pray for the children in my life. I have a bookmark that is entitled “Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Kids” and has a different virtue for each day of the month. Today’s virtue was that the kids would have Biblical self-esteem. Specifically, the suggested prayer said,
“Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.”
The bookmark also gives a Scripture verse for each virtue. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” There are other passages of Scripture that talk about us being made by God (and in His image). One of those is Psalm 139. I especially like verses 13-14: “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.” God also said, “. . . Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . “ [Genesis 1:26]
With all that Scripture says about God making mankind, I would think we would have a proper perspective on our value and worth. Yet we don’t. I prayed for my kids this morning and for myself, that we would have the proper perspective, not thinking too highly of ourselves and not thinking too lowly. I’ve heard it said that we need to be “right-sized” according to God’s perspective of us. Some of us struggle with being self-critical and self-deprecating. That’s not having the proper perspective. God made us and, as the saying goes, God doesn’t make junk. Going back to Ephesians 2:10, we were made for a specific purpose for specific good works that God has planned out for us. We all have purpose and it is God-ordained. That means we have value and worth in this world and in the world to come. Thinking we are worthless or purposeless is going against God’s plan for our lives.
However, there are some of us who think more highly of ourselves than we should. These same verses should give that kind of thinking pause also, for we cannot claim we have done anything from our own power and might. It all comes from the God who created us. So, thinking we have accomplished much on our own strength, power, knowledge, or talents is going too far. God gives us all that we have, our personality, our intellect, our physical being, and our mental capacities. We are of great worth, but we did not get there on our own. A sense of true humility needs to go along with our sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
So as I prayed for my children today, I also prayed for myself. I can find myself out of balance, either thinking too highly of myself or too lowly of myself. Neither place allows for God to rule our lives and give us a healthy, Biblically based, self-esteem.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thoughts on Psalm 36

In my personal devotion time the promise a couple of days ago was, “My love stretches to the heavens and My faithfulness extends above the clouds.” The verse that went along with the promise was Psalm 36:5. I read the verse and recognized it as part of a Third Day song. However the song uses several verses in Psalm 36 so I read the entire passage.
The part that stood out to me (and that most of the song is taken from) is verses 5-9:
Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Thy judgments are like a great deep.
O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.
How precious is Thy lovingkindness, God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings.
Thy drink their fill of the abundance of Thy house;
And Thou dost give them to drink of the river of Thy delights.
For with Thee is the fountain of life;
In Thy light we see light.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit down. However when I read passages like this in Scripture, I am encouraged for a time. Meditating on God’s love and faithfulness brings hope to my thoughts and feelings. It tells us right in this passage that He preserves man and beast. There have been many occasions in my life where God has preserved me. When I’ve felt like I was at the end of my rope and had no place to go (and was contemplating suicide as a viable option) He has prevented me from following through. He has preserved me when my diabetes has gotten out of control and I was in physical danger. Again, I survived. There have been times when I didn’t know what the next right thing to do was, and somehow, I did the right things.
It’s all because of His faithfulness and lovingkindness that He shows to His people. Some people might say that I did those things and that it had nothing to do with God’s intervention. I know that’s not the case. If it was based on my own strength and wisdom, I’d still be drunk, for one thing. My best thinking and willpower only got me into trouble. That’s true in all areas of my life.
So today, I meditate on His love and faithfulness to preserve me, in spite of myself. It’s only because of Him that I have life and am able to get to a point where I see light (and not the darkness in my own thoughts). How has God been loving and faithful to you?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Prayer and Peace

I need some peace in my life. I bet we all can say that since we live in a fallen world where there is suffering and anxiety all around us. I’m struggling right now with thoughts and memories of past traumas and it’s keeping me awake at night and depressed during the day. I know there’s supposed to be peace in our lives as Christians, so how do I find that peace?
As I’m still looking at a promise a day for my daily devotions from the Bible, I came across two in a row that remind me from where I can obtain peace. It has to come from God and His promises in my life. Specifically, I need to pray and give thanks. This comes from a very familiar passage, but it’s one I seem to forget in the midst of my struggles.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [New American Standard Bible] So the answer is prayer. Prayer can take many forms but in this passage two things are specifically mentioned: supplication and thanksgiving. I guess I’m not doing enough of either of those things because I’m not experiencing the peace that surpasses all comprehension.
Why don’t I pray more, especially when I’m anxious? I think it’s because I don’t believe fervently that God’s promises for life eternal will come to pass in due time. Another passage that came up in my list of promises this week addresses this. I Peter 3:12 quotes Psalm 34:15 and following. The verse in 1 Peter says, “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Some other key parts of Psalm 34 include phrases like “The righteous cry and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles” and “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Also verse 22 in Psalm 34 says, “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants; And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”
Do I really believe and look for the ways God is delivering me from evil and helping me out in my troubles? Do I let Him heal me when I’m brokenhearted? I confess, I don’t turn to Him enough to do these things. And I have to know that ultimately, He will rescue me from this present life and redeem my soul. I forget to look to the end result and get caught up in my daily struggles. Today, I’m going to try to turn everything over to Him with prayer and thanksgiving, keeping my eyes on the future redemption which is available for the righteous.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


The sermon last Sunday was on chapters 8 – 11 of Revelation. The pastor summarized that chapters 1 – 7 were about individual Christians and churches getting ready for what is coming. Chapters 8 – 11 is about getting others ready for what is coming. There’s a lot of description in Revelation about what is coming from persecution to destruction of this world as we know it. And, ultimately, judgment.
So, I’m doing what I can to prepare myself for what is coming. I try to get to know Christ and walk in His ways according to the Bible. I pray to be changed by God’s Spirit on a day-by-day basis. I spend time praising God as a way of practicing what we will be doing once we are in His presence for eternity. I repent from my sins as I become aware of them and try to live differently from then on.
However, I’m not doing a very good job of warning others of what is to come. The trumpets in Revelation are like warning sirens we hear for when tornados are coming. They are warning that the chaos described in Revelation is meant to prompt people to prepare their souls for eternity. Anyone can read Scripture and know what is coming, but many will not read the Bible for themselves. It’s up to us who know what’s coming to get the message out to those who need to know.
That brings me to the convicting part of the sermon. I need to be a witness to people of what I know is coming. I don’t do a very good job of that. The pastor shared four ways we can witness to the spiritually lost. I spent some time this week considering how I do in each of those areas. I’ve been praying this week for the wisdom and opportunities to witness in one or more of the following ways.
Relational approach: develop relationships with people who do not know Christ as their personal Savior. These relationships can be as casual as the cashier in the grocery store or as complex as regular conversations with neighbors. I realized that the first part about this is having contact with people and seeing those contacts as an opportunity to witness.
Invitational approach: actually inviting those friends who don’t go to church or a Bible study to go with you to church. We may not do this because we are afraid of how the friends may respond. I know I worry about what other people will think of me. However, if I’m convinced that judgment is coming, I will be taking every opportunity to identify with Christ and invite people to the place where they can hear about the hope I want to display.
Testimonial approach: telling others your story of how Jesus has made a difference in your life. I know how to do this. When I was in college I learned how to talk about what my life was like (a mess), how I came to see Jesus as the One who could change my life, and how my life is different now that He’s a part of my life. In AA, we say it this way: what my life was like, what happened, and what is it like now. It’s my story and no one can say I’m wrong. I can do this with the people I’m developing relationships with or with perfect strangers, as God gives me opportunities. And He does give me opportunities.
Tangible approach: doing acts of kindness. I can reach out with love in service to others as an example of Christ’s love for all of us. There are many ways we can serve those who don’t know of the salvation that awaits them in Christ. This can include everything from giving money to donating material items. It can also include using my time, energy, and skills to meet other people’s needs. Doing tangible things for other people causes them to ask “Why are you different?” That opens the door to witness for Christ.
I am trying to consciously think about and pray about opportunities to be a witness to people. The first step is getting myself in positions where I will come into contact with people. That’s sometimes hard for me as I struggle with depression. But the thing is, when I do reach out to others, I stop thinking about myself and I feel better. Maybe it’s because I’m doing what God wants me to be doing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Emotions, Logic and the Wise Mind

Lately, I feel like I lack purpose in my life. I used to have purpose or a sense that there was something to get out of the bed for in the morning. I’m not feeling it today. I’m feeling like the things that used to matter to me just don’t matter anymore.
However, feelings aren’t always accurate. I don’t get to that conclusion on my own. It takes someone else pointing it out to me. Feelings seem accurate, but they can be misleading. I feel a lot of things that are not necessarily true when the whole picture is looked at. Of course, feelings are indicators of a thought that might be going through my head at any given moment. So they are valid in the sense that they give me information, but I have to take them in context.
For instance, I can feel angry but not know what I’m angry about until I attach some thoughts to the feeling. And, sometimes those thoughts are not accurate either. I have a lot of distorted thinking if I stop with how my emotions are making things seem. I’ve learned that there are other ways of approaching a situation or event or a feeling. One aspect of that is to evaluate the situation from a rational, reasoning point of view. I can say that but doing it is another thing altogether. My emotions often cloud my reasoning and I need to get help from outside of myself to see things from a reasoning position. And, reasoning is not necessarily the whole picture either. Logic only takes us so far as humans. God made us to be emotional and logical – even at the same time.
That leads me to what is called, in some psychological philosophies, the wise mind. The wise mind makes decisions and evaluates situations taking into account the emotions and the logic. There’s something deeper to that kind of thinking. It comes from an inner state of being that can be seen in the psalms of David. He often started out with how he felt and moved into the logical point of view and then combined them to come to one conclusion: God.
I know that when I allow myself to look at things from a wise mind perspective I usually end up thinking about God. God is not emotion or logic. He is bigger, deeper, more profound than either of those things. Yet God made man in His image so there are elements of emotion and logic in God as well.
I don’t know where I’m going with this thought exactly. However, I do know that I can’t rely on my feelings or my reasoning to navigate successfully, purposefully in this world. I need an inner knowledge. That only comes from the Holy Spirit and gets me to see things from God’s point of view.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Other Changes

I’m still thinking about changes in my life in the last sixteen years. I said last week that before I wasn’t of much help to those around me. I was too busy trying to live and look good to other people. I thought I had to do and be all the right things in order to be accepted and loved. However, I had forgotten that, because of Jesus in my life, I am already accepted and loved by our heavenly Father. It’s His personality to love and have mercy on people. I had forgotten that. As a result, I was trying to please people, running myself ragged trying to be all things to all people. I appeared successful but inside I was crying and doubting and planning the next thing I needed to do in order to look good.
I still find myself falling into the thinking that says, “I have to do more” in order to look good to other people. That thinking leads me to believing that it’s me doing the good things, while in reality, it should be God working through me to do the good things. I am not saying we should stop striving to good things. I am saying that we need to be doing the good things because we are being obedient to God.
So, with the dawn of a new school year, I find myself thinking about what I could or should be doing with my time. In the past I taught school or substitute taught school. Those things filled up my days (but not necessarily my heart). I was doing them because I thought they looked good to other people. I do feel like something is missing in my life every fall without the teaching, but there are other ways to fill my time and still be useful to society.
So two weeks ago, I started volunteering at a Christian organization in my hometown. It’s called Christian Resources International (http://cribooks.org/) and they collect printed Christian materials from individuals, churches and publisher overruns and sort them. The purpose is to send these materials to people around the world that do not have access to these materials otherwise. What we take for granted – various study materials, Bibles, Christian novels, etc. – and throw out when we are no longer interested in using them, are highly valued in some countries around the world. (It’s amazing how many countries use English as one of their primary languages and can use our “discarded” materials.) I’m not doing any great theological or intellectual activity, but I’m contributing to getting God’s Word sent around the world. That’s a useful activity in my book. Where I can’t go, the materials I help sort can go and be used to bring other’s to Christ.
So, that’s a change in my life. I am being useful and helping to further God’s Word around the world. I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to do this type of volunteering while working as a teacher. I feel like I’m contributing to a bigger cause and it’s one of things I’ve scheduled into my week to provide structure and purpose.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Drunk off and on. Unable to cope without alcohol on a daily basis. Confused. Afraid. Frustrated. Unable to help others. Unable to help myself. Lonely. Depressed. Barely doing my job. Lots of conflict with other people.
That’s the way things were before recovery. Every once in a while it’s good to look back and remember how things were. It’s the “what I was like” or the “before recovery” me. There’s of course a lot more to my story than those few words above, but remembering even those feelings and some of the situations surrounding those feelings is therapeutic for me now. Especially when I feel those feelings in the here and now. And, yes. I still have those feelings from time to time.
Why remember those feelings? Mostly because they remind me that I didn’t know how to cope with those feelings. Things are different now. As I said, I still have many of those feelings (not all; I no longer think a drink will solve any problem). However, there are new ways – ways that actually work – to cope with the problems in my life. I’ve learned some things along this road to recovery. And looking back reminds me that I am no longer the same person in many ways than I was before 1999.
In the last month or so, I’ve been working on trying to put some structure into my days. I’ve learned in recovery that I’m a person who needs structure to live a good life. Without structure, I am left to thinking about things I shouldn’t think about or not thinking about the things I should be thinking about. For me, that usually leads to deepening depression. When I was first in recovery I needed someone to impose structure on my life. I needed other people to tell me what and when I should be doing something. When I would be discharged from the mental hospital, they would recommend some kind of “partial hospitalization” program for me so I would have structure in my life. Or I would have to call my AA sponsor everyday by a certain time to get my day started. I had checklists of things to get done in day, usually developed by someone else.
Now, however, I realize I’ve changed to a certain extent. I still need structure in my life, but I am capable of developing that structure without the structure having been determined for me. Don’t get me wrong. I still want help developing my weekly and daily schedules, but now I know how to get that help. And the people I go to for help usually ask me what I want to do when and then they just hold me accountable for doing it. That’s another change. In the past, schedules would be recommended for me and I’d rebel against keeping them. Now, I ask for help developing my own schedules and accept the accountability for keeping it.
That’s just one way I’ve changed. I have learned to cope with life on life’s terms as we say in AA. If I’m confused, afraid, lonely, depressed, frustrated, in conflict with other people, or struggling to do my responsibilities there’s people I can (and do) call for some help. And sometimes I just know what the next right thing to do is and I do it – without asking for help from someone else.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Galatians Summary

I began a new Bible study today. It’s a new beginning. I learned a lot studying Galatians, but it’s time to move on to something new. So I’m going to the origin of everything: Genesis.
Before I start writing about Genesis, I want to write a note about what I’m taking away from my study of Galatians. The study led me to look back at the time or era in which Paul wrote to the Galatians and to whom he was writing to. The Galatians probably understood Paul’s sermon differently than we expect as we try to look at it from a modern-day perspective.
The audience for Paul’s letter is telling. He was writing to the church of Galatia. This was a church made up of three kinds of believers. 1. Jewish born who had become Christians. 2. Gentile born who had converted to Judaism then became Christians (proselytes). 3. Gentile born who became Christians and did not have to convert to Judaism in order to gain salvation.
He was not writing to or about “the world” or unsaved Gentiles. So his messages about following the law or not following the law deal with not making the gentile believers convert to Judaism. The church was made up of all three of these groups and Paul expected them to worship, study, and eat together. He chastised the proselytes who were trying to “influence” the gentile believers to convert to Judaism in order to really be a part of the church. It was, and is, not necessary to follow the parts of the Bible that tell the Jews how to behave so they are easily recognized as God’s chosen people.
Paul used “the law” to signify the traditional and ritual actions that God had assigned to the people of Israel. He’s not referring to the entire Old Testament.  And his “gospel” said that a person doesn’t have to perform the traditional and ritual laws in order to be saved by Jesus Christ. Whether one is Jewish or Gentile (circumcised or uncircumcised) is not what gains us access to God in heaven. It’s faith in Jesus Christ (the Messiah) that determines salvation.
Paul didn’t say that Jewish people (those born Jewish and the proselytes) should not follow the Torah with it’s traditions and rituals. He, being a believer, followed the law his entire life. So it’s okay to follow the Torah, especially if one is Jewish born, but doing those things is not what saves people from eternal death and separation from God. Paul even went so far as to say that Jewish people should continue to follow the Torah to set themselves apart as God’s chosen people, but doing so is not what will save them. Faith in the Messiah is the necessary ingredient.
Paul used the example of Abraham who lived before the law was given to Moses. Abraham’s salvation was reckoned to him because he believed in the coming Messiah and in the promise that God had made with him. (Romans 4, Galatians 3) Just as Abraham was saved by faith, all people are saved by believing in and following the Messiah. Paul gave the Messiah a name: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
As an application, I am trying to be more aware of when I’m just following the rules, traditions and guidelines of the church instead of devoting myself to believing in and following Christ’s rule. His basic rule is two fold: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The whole of Scripture can be summed up in those two principles, as told to us by Jesus in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” So my application is to continue to learn about and put these principles into practice on a daily basis by studying His Word and serving others.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just Some Thoughts

I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour hoping an idea will just pop into my head. No such luck. Sometimes the well is just dry. Usually I can go to the Word and find some inspiration, something I have enough to say about so that I can write 400-700 words about for my blog article. Today that didn’t happen, even after some time praying about it and writing an email to a friend.
I did read from my list of promises (one for every day of the year) and the corresponding Scripture passage. The promise said, “I will be the voice behind you, guiding you in the way you should go.” This promise is based on Isaiah 30:21 which says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” This was a promise to the Israelites, but I think Jesus made us similar promises. For instance, He promised that the Holy Spirit will dwell within us prompting us to make good choices. So possibly this promise is a good principle which does apply to us New Testament believers.
I wish my ears heard an audible word from God or the Holy Spirit, telling me exactly what I should do in each situation that comes up in my life. I have to accept the reality of that not happening (although God could communicate with me that way if He wanted to). So that’s why I try to keep myself reading portions of Scripture, having daily devotions, and working on Bible study on a regular basis. Usually God speaks to me through the messages in His written Word.
However, lately I’ve had trouble hearing God communicate with me. The primary reason is that I’m not devoting myself to the study of the Scriptures. I know I should make a concerted effort to get back into the routine, but emotionally and mentally I’m just not motivated to do so. Maybe by telling on myself, I will be motivated to be a little more consistent in doing those things. Maybe not. As I write this article, I pray for all my readers that they will be motivated and diligent in “meeting with God” on a daily basis. I know that when I’m not hearing God’s message, it’s because I haven’t been reading His Word. If you are not hearing God, maybe it’s because you are not reading His Word, either.
Okay, so there were some thoughts from me today. I hope they encourage you. Maybe by next week I will have a more developed topic in mind to write about. That will probably happen if I keep faithful to the various ways I read and study the Scriptures.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Forgive and Forget

In AA we have a saying: “We have built in forgetters.” I find that’s true in my own journey. For instance, I forget about all the chaos my drinking caused, and I forget the emotions (mostly guilt) that came when I would start to sober up a little. I forget how alcohol had power over me and I forget how powerless I was to choose the productive over the unproductive in my life. Every once in a while it’s good to remember what I have forgotten, so I remember why taking a drink is never the answer to life’s problems.
There are other things I tend to forget. Those things are usually wrongs done to me by someone I love. Forgiveness plays an important role in helping me to forget my own transgressions or the transgressions of others. When I forgive I am able to forget and have compassion. This kind of forgetfulness is a positive attribute (as long as I don’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over again).
In the Word of God this afternoon, I read a passage that talks about God forgiving and forgetting. It was amazing to me. Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” It sounds to me like God has a built in forgetter, too. However, He forgets our sins (the things that are not done according to Christ’s laws). Like a loving, caring parent, God forgets our sins after forgiving us for any wickedness that is part of our personalities or behaviors. So forgiving sets God up to forget all our wrongdoings. This is only possible because of His great love and mercy for us.
It’s amazing to me what God chooses to forget. He knows all: past, present and future. In all that knowing, He chooses to forget our sins. He just doesn’t remember them anymore. I would say that His is an example we should follow, but no matter what transgressions we choose to remember no more, it will never be as much as God has chosen to forget. Again, all I can say is that His forgiving and forgetting is amazing to me. It’s too big for me to truly grasp. And it’s a goal for us to follow: forgive and forget.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Looking Ahead to the Future

My daughter inspires today’s article. When she was going off to college three years ago she took along a homemade poster with a specific verse as the focal point. I saw that poster again on Tuesday when I helped her move into her apartment for this school year.
The poster’s central focus is on the reference of Deuteronomy 31:8. I like it best in the Amplified Version of the Bible:
“It is the Lord Who goes before you; He will [march] with you; He will not fail you or let you go or forsake you; [let there be no cowardice or flinching, but] fear not, neither become broken [in spirit—depressed, dismayed, and unnerved with alarm].”
As the school year begins, I’ve been thinking about what I will do while everyone is at school or other activities. Several suggestions have been given to me, but when I think of them, I am afraid to pursue any of them. I’m afraid I will “mess up” somehow. However, in general, I’ve demonstrated the ability to do many tasks and to do them well. I’ve not really failed at anything to which I’ve set my mind. However in my low mood it took several people reminding me of that. And, one of those persons was my therapist. We talked about how, with God’s help, I’ve managed to raise successful children, stay married for over 29 years, complete college (twice), maintain long term relationships with several friends, and a few other things.
The verse in Deuteronomy 31 reminds me that I am not going to pursue something new on my own strength. There is One who goes before me. He’s marching, actually going before me to set things up for me as I press on to the future. He will not fail me or forsake (some versions say “leave”) me. He instructs us to not be cowards or flinching, and to have no fear as we move into new territory. Finally, He instructs us to not become broken. This part of the Amplified Bible’s version is what I like most about this verse – we are not to be depressed, dismayed, or unnerved with alarm. I’m not sure I can choose not to be depressed, but I can choose to not let that become the defining element in my life. I can rely on God’s strength and help and focus on the good things in my life. I can stand strong with God and not be afraid of what the future might hold. By trusting in God, I can avoid becoming unnerved by alarming situations.
So, I’ve decided to make a poster of my own with Deuteronomy 31:8 at the center. I will stick it up on my office wall and begin trusting God, one day at a time, to go before me and pave the way for whatever new venture I may try to take on.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Be Kind and Compassionate

I’ve done some thinking about what the Bible has to say about being kind and compassionate and was drawn to Ephesians 4:32 and the surrounding verses. They say:
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. NASB
Verse 32 in the NIV is put this way: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” For some reason that is the version that came to my mind, not the NASB in which I’ve done most of my memorizing. So my thoughts today are focusing on what it means to be kind and compassionate (or tender-hearted) towards those we come into contact with every day.
It’s something that comes “naturally” to some. However, I think that starting at a young age we should be taught to have compassion on our fellows. Some miss this in their childhoods and act in unkind ways. But we should still respond to them with kindness and compassion. As a matter of fact, we don’t know the family histories, background, or what happened to that surly person we came in contact with today. Maybe they haven’t been taught the principles of kindness or compassion. Sometimes we do know but still need a reminder to treat others in a kind and compassionate manner.
In my household, it has been the “rule” since before we had offspring. It’s what I expect from those living in my home. However, circumstances have come together in such a way that I find myself having to work hard at being kind and compassionate even in the midst of others who may not have those things as a guiding force or principle for their lives.
Most of the time it is easy to be kind and compassionate to those who are also working within that framework. However, when push comes to shove (figuratively, of course) we need to return mistreatment from another with the kindness and compassion that the Spirit of Christ has given us. I don’t think it can be done on our own power. That’s just too hard and we would probably fail (more than we do already). It has to come from the power of God working in our lives for us to be kind and compassionate amidst turmoil and mayhem (or just dealing with a surly person).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Struggling Right Now

I try to make my blog articles encouraging but sometimes I’m in a space where that is difficult to do. However, it forces me to look in God’s Word for some encouragement. That’s where I went today when everything seemed to be caving in around me. Some days, like today, I struggle to believe the kind words of others, the encouraging books I read each day, and even the truths of Scripture. But every time I look to the Scriptures I find a thread to hang onto.
Today’s thread was found in a promise based on Proverbs 19:21. The promise (God speaking to us) says, “Though you have many plans, My purpose will be fulfilled.” The verse says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” What I thought about regarding this verse is that God’s purposes will be the ultimate outcomes of the events of our lives. That brought to mind Jeremiah 29:11 (‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’) God has plans for us.
It is, however, important to keep in mind, as we make our own plans, that the plans we make may not be the same as the plans God has for us. He already knows where we’re headed, the path we will take to get there, and is directing events to work out according to His plan. I’ve heard around the AA tables that God’s in control and we have to “Let go and let God” handle the big picture and the day to day details.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan at all. It just means we need to keep flexible and ready to roll when God’s plan intersects our plans and changes need to be made. And, to me it means that as each situation comes up, I need to pray about it, ask for guidance, make the best decision I can at the moment, and leave it up to God for the outcomes. Of course, the hardest part of that sequence is leaving it to God in such a way that I can still function in my responsibilities.
So, after writing to you, I’m struggling a little less. And I’ve laid some things at the feet of Christ before God. With that action there comes a sense of hope. It’s not very big and it may not last very long, but there’s a little.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Having a Passion

In a recent sermon at my church, the pastor started a new series with a message from Nehemiah 1 – 2. He entitled it: How to Change Your World in 52 Days. The key part of the message was looking at Nehemiah and seeing how he responded to the news that Jerusalem was a disgrace to the nation of Israel. The walls were in rubble and the gates had all been burned to nothing. Nehemiah could’ve respo nded like everyone else had for the last 200 years. They had the attitude that it’s a shame but someone else will have to do something about it because they did not have the knowledge, the strength, the whatever excuse they could make. But in reality they just didn’t have the passion for the mission to rebuild the wall.
However, when Nehemiah heard the news, he responded with weeping. He was distraught over the condition of Jerusalem, his “homeland’s” major city. Even though it was over a thousand miles away from where Nehemiah was in the Persian Empire, he had a deep response to the condition of God’s holy city. This passionate mourning about an issue (in this case, the state of Jerusalem’s walls) will be so burdensome that we will drop to the floor and weep. Everyone needs something to be passionate about, but we all need to be passionate about the things of God.
The second step Nehemiah took to changing his world was to go to his knees in prayer. He started praying while he was weeping and continued praying for several days. This may be where Nehemiah’s plan was formed and confirmed by God. I know I don’t give as much attention to prayer as I should. I rarely spend a day praying about a specific task, person, mission, or something else I might be passionate about. But Nehemiah spent several days kneeling in prayer. Is there something I should be that passionate about? I’m not sure at this point, but I’m praying about it.
The last point the pastor made was that Nehemiah did not just keep praying about the situation and hope someone else would step up to do something about it. He stood up and acted. So the third step to changing your world is to stand up and act. But we need a plan. For instance, Nehemiah’s plan was revealed in several places in these two chapters. He had a mission and he had some steps that needed to take place in order. First, he did his research and found out the name of the man in charge of the king’s forests. He also had to find out the names of the various rulers whose lands he would be traveling through. Remember, Nehemiah was a lowly cupbearer/butler. He would not have known these people in the course of normal living. He had to do research to get that kind of information.
The next action Nehemiah took was to present his plan to the Persian king as soon as he had opportunity. That came when the king asked him why he was so downcast and not his usual joyful self. God’s hand was definitely in this situation because normally anybody who appeared in the king’s presence who was not happy looking would be taken out of the king’s court and killed. But Nehemiah had earned the reputation for being exceptionally joyful, so much so that the king noticed when he was distraught. That’s something we have to remember as we make plans . . . God is controlling the ultimate outcomes. That’s sometimes hard for me to remember or believe as I don’t see answers to my prayers.
However, Nehemiah knew God’s hand and power was in the situation so he responded to the king’s question with a succinct explanation of what was on his heart. He started with complimenting the king and continued with a description of the situation: “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruin and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” [Nehemiah 2:3] The king, miraculously, responded by asking what did Nehemiah want from him. And Nehemiah laid out a well-thought out plan that included the king giving him support in numerous ways.
Later, after arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah continued to prayerfully make plans, step by step. First, he rested, then he went out at night and inspected the walls. He did this so he would know what the next steps would be and exactly how big this task was. After that, realizing he could not rebuild the wall by himself, he motivated and rallied the Israelites living in Jerusalem to join his cause. The rest of the book of Nehemiah lays out the obstacles and solutions Nehemiah faced in building the walls. But God’s hand was on the situation and, in accordance with Nehemiah’s passion, prayer, and planning, the wall was rebuilt.
So my first question and prayer today has been, “What is my passion?” I’m praying God would show me what should be my passion and help me take action on accomplishing something to address an issue I’m aware of that needs to have attention. What’s your passion and what action are you taking to address that issue?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thoughts on Gratitude

In a recent Quiet Time (morning devotion) I read in Micah 7:18 that God delights in showing mercy. I was able to thank God for that truth, but it also made me question myself about the things that bring me delight. So I started to assemble a gratitude list. It was easy at first but then got harder once I was past the obvious things. Some of what I came up with are listed below (along with a few new thoughts as I wrote this article).
God’s gift of salvation for me
God’s gift of salvation for my husband
God’s gift of one daughter’s recent prayer to accept Christ as her Savior
God’s gift that our other daughter has accepted Christ as her Savior
God’s gift of His Word
God’s Holy Spirit’s workings in my life
The peace we can have through Christ
The hope we have because of Christ
God’s forgiveness of my transgressions
God’s mercy toward me
Having the husband that I do
Having the children that I do
Having a specific friend for over 35 years
Having a God-believing church in my own neighborhood to attend
Having income to support us
Having children who are or will be college graduates
For my AA friends
For my AA sponsor
For my therapist who happens to be a Christian
For the adventures that come from trusting God
God’s sustenance when I’m feeling low
For the promise given to Abraham that also applies to us
For answered prayer
For the talents and skills He’s given me
That my God is an all-powerful God
That my God is an all-knowing God
That my God is an ever-present God
For the vehicles we have to drive
For the house we live in
For the computers I use to write this blog (and other things)
For Christian friends near and far
For the woman who originally shared the gospel with me
For my college degrees and education
For my illnesses that keep me humble
For wise doctors that aid in my care
For successful surgeries (hands, back, C-section, eyes)
There are many more but right now I’m done writing them down. Maybe some of the things I’m grateful for sparked some gratitude of your own. Remember to thank God each day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

No Spiritual Vacations

Going on vacation doesn’t mean we can take a vacation from our spiritual lives. We must, in order to stay sober, sane, and have right thinking, continue to observe the routines that encourage our spiritual growth. That takes some planning. It won’t happen if we don’t plan for it. I was reminded recently of a few things that will help me stay on course in my spiritual life while on vacation.
I was reminded that there are AA meetings everywhere I could possibly plan a vacation destination. I was encouraged to look up meetings in advance for the locations I will be visiting and take that information with me. Sometimes meetings are exactly what I need to get my mindset back on the things that are most important in my life. I need to be prepared to go to a meeting if it seems things are getting out of control. It will be a one-hour reprieve and probably (it usually does) get my thinking back to what God wants and desires for my life. So, I looked up meetings and I’m prepared, if I need or want them.
I was also reminded that I can’t afford to take a break from my spiritual disciplines of literature reading, Bible reading, praising God, praying for my kids, and journaling. Those items in my daily routine keep me on a spiritually level path. They can prevent me from having an unhealthy view of myself, of God, of other people. They also help me keep out of my own head – a neighborhood that I shouldn’t go into alone. I must, at the very least, take God with me when I start to think. The only way I know to do that is by doing my reading in the morning. I can’t forget my materials at home and expect to have a spiritually level and emotionally regulated vacation.
I was reminded that in this day and age of technology, I never have to be alone on my vacation. Cell phones generally operate with free long distance calling so I can call someone if I need to talk and clear my head. I can call my therapist, my sponsor, my husband, a friend in the program, or another friend. I was also reminded that there’s a feature on the cell phone called texting. I can pretty much do that anytime and in anyplace to anyone who has a cell phone.
With all these plans in place, I can go on vacation and be reasonably assured that I will not need or want a drink, have a mental meltdown, or spiral into an emotional blow up. I can and must take all my spiritual disciplines with me wherever and whenever I go. This summer is not any different. A happy vacation, with good memories, starts with planning to maintain my spiritual fitness.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Identifying Emotions

Who understands their feelings all the time? I can’t even identify my emotions more than half the time. However, I’m told that being able to do so is a good thing. So I’m trying every day to “check in” with my emotions and get a sense of how I’m feeling. I’m not sure this activity is doing me any good, but my therapist, my sponsor, and other friends tell me otherwise.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking “What’s so hard about identifying and feeling emotions?” Maybe it’s something you’ve been able to do, even encouraged to do throughout your life starting when you were a child. Some may have been taught that it’s okay to have and feel and even express your emotions. I don’t understand that. I wasn’t raised in such a home. In my childhood I was told to keep my feelings to myself. As I was growing up, I learned to avoid feeling because they usually got me in trouble. And learning ways to avoid the feelings, meant not identifying them. It also meant developing techniques for avoiding the emotions that I did have.
That led me to sneaking liquor from my parents’ cabinet. I learned that when I drank alcohol, I could escape the emotions for a time – and avoiding them for even an hour was a relief to me. That led to other “coping” mechanisms such as keeping people at arm’s length and being stoic and just sticking to the facts. Those coping mechanisms, I’ve come to learn, are not healthy. They also don’t work very well because the feelings always come back and I have to come up with another way to avoid them.
So now, as a middle-aged adult, I have to learn to accept and recognize my feelings. I’ve been told this for at least 15 years and I’ve had varying success at recognizing the emotions and being able to label them. I’ve also learned that it’s quite possible to have several emotions at the same time.
This spring I’ve been putting in extra effort (but still not consistent effort) into allowing myself to acknowledge the emotions I am experiencing. I’m trying not to ignore the many aspects of emotions I might be feeling at given points throughout each day. I use a format for doing so that I learned at the hospital during my visit there in February and March this year. It’s really basic but very hard for me to do. If my therapist wasn’t holding me accountable, I might choose to not record the emotions and even revert to avoiding the emotions.
The basic format involves finishing three statements.
I feel ___________________________
I need __________________________
I want __________________________
The hard part is coming up with the name of an actual emotion. For instance, I’m not allowed to say “I feel tired,” because “tired” is a state of being, not an emotion. The therapists in the hospital would respond with “How does being tired make you feel?” Identifying the underlying emotions is a real struggle that sometimes has me trying to identify the emotions using some general words: sad, mad, glad, or afraid. Sometimes that’s the closest I can come to identifying how I’m actually feeling.
How well do you do at identifying your emotions? Maybe this technique would help you, too. I will keep trying to use it and hopefully come to peaceful terms with my emotions.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

God's Will

I’ve been looking at various promises of God listed on something I found on the internet. There’s a promise for each day of the year and a Scripture reference that goes with it. One day this week the promise read, “The world and its passions will disappear, but those who do My will shall live forever.” This promise is based on 1 John 2:17 which says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
So God’s promised eternal life to those who do His will. That made me question what does Scripture say His will is, so I looked up the phrase “will of God” on the internet to find as many references to the will of God as I could. Mostly I was questioning whether or not I was doing the will of God as that could directly effect my eternal status according to this passage. That’s something I worry about from time to time and right now in my life is one of those times.
I was surprised to find only four passages that directly say, “the will of God.” I figured that was a good thing for me, for surely I can do four things right and be doing the will of God. These four verses demonstrate three doable things for me to be doing and one marvelous thing that God has already done as part of His will. See if you can tell which is which.
John 6:40 recaps something Jesus said about the will of His Father (i.e. God): “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” In this verse and the preceding passage, Jesus tells us that God’s will is for Jesus to do God’s will and that He should lose none of all that He has given to Jesus and raise up those He’s been given on the last day. The will of God is that everyone be saved through Jesus. That has nothing to do with me other than I need to “look to the Son and believe in Him,” and thus earn eternal life. That’s pretty easy. It’s something I did once a long time ago (37 years ago) and that I renew on a daily basis just to remind myself of this truth.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality;” For those who have done the first step (John 6:40), the sanctification issue is already settled. We have been set apart by God to follow Him. The second part is one of only two direct “commands” I can follow to make sure I am doing the will of God. I can avoid sexual immorality. Granted this is easier now that I am married, but it still means paying attention to what I allow into my mind through television, dirty jokes, conversation and so forth. I can do that bit of the will of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 gives another example of something I can directly do: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So if I want to do the will of God, I will practice giving thanks in every situation I am in. I can do that, although I need a lot of practice to become regular at doing this. I also need reminders from other people in my life.
1 Peter 2:15 gives another way we can do God’s will: “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” Do good. That seems like a reasonable request on God’s part, a request we should stringently adhere to because it silences those who speak against us and who are foolish in general. I try to do good. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times, but my intent is to always be doing good for God’s sake (and because it’s His will for me).
To summarize, God’s will is that everyone have eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we be sanctified and avoid sexual immorality, that we give thanks in every circumstance, and that we do good. All these things are things I can do, because the Holy Spirit is within me and gives me God’s power to do them.