Friend of Comfort

The one that you trusted so much, was untrustworthy with your heart, and now they are your lost one.  It feels safer to climb up onto a shelf and watch life, rather than allowing someone else into your heart again.  So many tell you to move on, or get over it, or their words communicate their thoughts of “why are you still hurting”?  Whether platonic or romantic, your lost one, possesses a piece of your heart, and you have a piece of theirs.  That aching that you feel from time to time, is the void that was left in your heart, when they left your life.

 

Hopefully as you learn to trust again, a friend of comfort will come into your life.  They won’t be able to fill the void that the other one left, but that’s alright, because they will make their own special home in your heart.

 

How will you recognize a Friend of Comfort?  They won’t tell you to get over it, because they might have a void in their heart from a lost one, and they might still be hurting.  They will understand and be patient with you, when you grieve.  They will tell you kind things, like when you feel a tugging on your heart, it is your lost one tugging from wherever they are, and that they must be remembering and missing you, because you played such a special part in their life.  They will remind you that rebuilding after an emotional storm, is a process.  They will encourage you when you’ve seen your lost one, or heard from them, and feel as though all of the rebuilding that you’ve done, has been for nothing.  They will see that you are strong and compassionate, and they will tell you so.  They will see that you are special and beautiful, and they will make sure that you believe it.  They will see that you have a heart that can comfort, because it knows pain.

 

I have been blessed with friends of comfort entering my life, and this post is dedicated to them.  Each one has played a very special part in rebuilding me, after the storms that have hit in my life.  They each are a piece to my puzzle, and this has become a beautiful puzzle.  Some are sensitive.  Some are quirky.  Some are hilarious.  All are smart, honest, loyal and fun to have in my life.  They persist in telling me that I’m special.  They have proven to me that I am worthy and deserving of having true and loyal friends, that also have the capacity to give back to me.  I’m just so thankful for each one of them.

 

Come on down from that shelf.  You’ve learned a lot about who to trust, and how to trust.  There is a friend of comfort waiting, because they need a friend of comfort too, and that might be you.

 

2  Corinthians 1:3-4 All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source of every mercy, and He comforts us.  He comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us.

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That First Step

It’s so natural for us to get bogged down in the negatives of life, or even the trivial details of living life.  Perhaps you’re dealing with many challenges right now.  It can be overwhelming.  This is not a think positive post, because I know that these difficulties are real, and they cannot be positive mental attituded away.  Instead, I’m asking you to hit them head on.  Take the actions that are within your ability or resources, and don’t forget to search for, and focus on, the blessings that already exist in your life.

 

I’m writing with my knee propped on a pillow.  I really have no idea what I did to injure my knee.  It might have been when I stumbled off of some unfamiliar steps a few months ago while moving boxes, or perhaps, it is as simple as turning 54.  This bum knee has been the source of a lot of angst lately.  I love to dance in the privacy of my own home, and that’s not as easy, or enjoyable as before.  Also, I must work out, or I gain weight – rapidly in fact.  Right now, I’m 5 pounds up and my clothes don’t fit correctly.  My modified workouts don’t feel effective.  I know that I should go to see a doctor, but we are within a month of moving into our new home.  I’m in a conundrum.  I’m not comfortable sitting and watching others put my house together, or letting others take care of me.  I’m a worker bee by nature, but I’m concerned that if I attempt to do this move, in my current condition, I’ll do more damage.  I’m not exactly hitting this head on, am I?  The pain and indecision nags at me. That’s it – I’m going to put some action behind my words.  I just got up, grabbed my insurance card, performed a few Google searches, made a few phone calls, and presto! – I have an appointment with a doctor.  I’m now unstuck and moving forward.  It was that simple – I took the first step, and then I’ll take the next and the next and the next.  I’m no longer focusing on the uncertainty of how it’s all going to work out, but I’m focused on doing what I have to do, to feel better.

 

Once I took the first step, things moved rapidly.  Suddenly, the appointment that I had made for the following week, was being rescheduled for the next day.  When I went to see the doctor, he examined me and sent me for x-rays.  Once I returned to his office that afternoon, we reviewed the x-rays together.  He remarked that I had a gorgeous set of generally healthy knees, and he determined that I have a meniscus tear in one knee.  We began working on scheduling the surgery, which has now been set for next Thursday.  My doctor thinks that I’ll heal quickly.  I should be good as new, and busting my moves a couple weeks after surgery.

 

Was that so hard?  I was completely psyching myself out.  The current complicated nature of my life, didn’t make things easy, but I just needed to take a step, and get moving forward.  What do you have going on in your life that’s nagging you, or bogging you down?  What’s the very first thing that you need to do?  Take that first step today, and start moving forward.

For Exactly This Moment

I hear other people talking about God’s call on their life.  Starting a ministry, going to Bible college, training and going into a remote mission field.  I’m excited for them and happy that they are following God’s leading, but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel like I’m inadequate.  Every ministry that I’m involved in, is a behind-the-scenes venture.  There isn’t acknowledgement or “stage-time”.  I’m fine with this – even comfortable and at peace with it, but sometimes I feel like I don’t get to handle the big guns – kind of inadequate.

 

I was just crawling into bed, getting ready to settle down for some much overdue writing and then some television watching.  It was going to be a nice quiet evening with my husband in bed next to me, doing his evening scroll through Facebook.  Then the call came.  It was a distress call.  I was to throw a few items into a bag, get out the door to someone who needed me.  I handed the telephone to my husband, who began to sooth the distraught soul on the other end of the line.  I stood there completely frozen – stunned at this thing that was happening.  So much was at stake here.  I’m so inadequate.  How would I be able to be wise enough and strong enough?

 

I flew down the highway.  Praying constantly.  I prayed for His protection over the hurting one.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed for God to keep my car on the curvy road and to keep the animals off of the road.  I prayed that He would empower me to keep my mouth shut when I needed to, and to give me the words to say that were right for the moment.  I felt inadequate.

 

What should have been a forty-five minute drive, became thirty minutes and when I drove up, my fears abound.  My mind played tricks on me, replaying a time of a hurting loved one from my past – the one that I couldn’t help, because I was inadequate.  I knocked.  We embraced.  We prayed.  I prepared a meal.  I did the dishes and I listened.  I realized that my entire life was preparation for exactly this moment, and this was His call.  It was the appointment that He had made for me.  I then knew, merely listening with only a pinch of input, being in the room while they slept, and praying for them as I kept watch, was completely adequate.

 

His strength is made known in my inadequacy. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Pet Pain

None of us are immune from experiencing mistreatment, but have you ever wondered why two people can experience this and the effects are so different?  One person eventually moves on, accepting the realities and they become stronger, but the other becomes enslaved – blaming every weakness, shortcoming or failure, on the things that have happened to them?

 

The process of emotional healing looks very different for each of us and I would never suggest that there is an appropriate ending time for your pain.  We are unique creations and so our grieving is individual.  Have you ever been devalued and written off as insignificant?  Have you been forsaken by someone that you love?  Have you been the recipient of rude confusing behavior?  Have you been slandered or blamed for something that wasn’t your fault?  Did they seem to get away with it?  Did you choose to not tell what they did?  That old high road is a hard one to walk.  If for some reason, you are still experiencing extreme pain after a significant period of time, beware – your pain may have become your pet pain.

 

Do you believe that keeping quiet about the details of the mistreatment, betrayal or slander is the right thing to do?  Maybe you are protecting someone that would be hurt if the entire truth came out.  Maybe you are protecting a marriage.  Maybe you are protecting another’s reputation.  Whatever the reason, I commend you for your integrity.  You have made a commitment to not run your mouth around – even if they do kind of deserve it.  What’s the downside of handling it this way?  When you watch your offender get away with their crime, or even be rewarded in some way, it will be natural for you to replay what has happened and then your hurts become a familiar and comfortable pet pain.  You can take your pet pain out of the cage any time you like and it’s comforting to cuddle with.  Beware – this type of pet grows into a monster called bitterness and bitterness requires a heavy price to us and those that love us.

 

Why would we want to keep a pet named pain?  When things are done to us, we feel victimized, and victims often feel like losers with no control over the situation.  We are in control when we decide to take our pet out for some quality time.  Even if you’ve forgiven, you might still have difficulty accepting the realities and crave a sense of control.  You do not have to live as a victim.  Realize that when other people treat us badly, there is not necessarily something wrong with us.  Actually, when another human being treats you badly, it says more about them, than it says about you.  Seek out relationships with people who value you.  You’ll feel like a winner with them.

 

If you are not moving forward and still in pain after a significant amount of time, get some help.  First, I always encourage you to spend significant amounts of time, praying and reading God’s word.  Ask Him to help you understand your part and to take responsibility and ask Him for the healing and guidance that you need.  Secondly, get input from a wise trustworthy friend and/or counselor that is not personally involved.  Be aware that they can’t fix you and be willing to hear hard things and do hard work.  Work to get to the point that you despise the pain, instead of seeking alone time to go cuddle up with it.  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  At times of my life, when I experienced heartache from another human being, I would go out to the garden, on a drive or hike with the intention of praying, but often found myself cuddling up with my pet pain instead.  It’s a process – do the work and when you get distracted by your puppy, just tell him “no, not now”.  If needed, give yourself 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night to cuddle.  Soon you may not feel the need to cuddle at all.

 

 

Get ready to move on.  Stop paying the price of reliving what someone else did to you and don’t view every new relationship as though the same things will happen.  Realize that what they did to you, doesn’t say anything about you and good things happen because of you.  God says that you have a future full of hope and He is truth and justice.  If there is anything that God needs to deal with, He will do so, when and how He chooses.  Sorry pet pain, we’re finding you a new home.

 

 

The Memory and Legacy of Your Father

This post is dedicated to those that grieve on Father’s Day.  Your Dad is no longer here to celebrate this day with you.  You would love to pick up the telephone and catch up with him, or sit beside him as he relaxes in his favorite chair, but you can’t.  He is gone, and it is not by your choice, that you can no longer spend Father’s Day with your earthly father.

 

I understand the void that you feel.   36 years ago, my father took his own life.  It was just 3 months to the day before my 18th birthday.  He was only 42 years old and there was so much life to be lived.  There was so much good to come, but he couldn’t see that – his pain overwhelmed him.  I miss him but there is something else that I miss too.

 

Since his death, I miss what he has missed out on.  He never met his son-in-law.  He has missed watching his grandchildren grow up – every milestone and accomplishment, and he never got to see the woman that I’ve become.  I could be sad, and sometimes I still grieve, but mostly I now choose to remember that he loved me and that he called me endearing names like “smiley”.  He looked at me as though I was the best thing that he had ever done with his life.  Now, I realize that even though my Dad was with me for only a short time, he gave me so much.  He taught me to feel deeply when I love and to think thoughtfully and God has not wasted any of my grief.  The pain that so easily could have become bitterness has become compassion, which has evolved into a deep longing to have others see the light of Christ in me – in order to glorify Him.

 

If you are missing your father today, and wishing that he was here with you, try to remember that there is an abundance of the fatherless.  If you have been blessed to have a father invest into your life, even if it was for a shorter time than you would have chosen, take that and use it to bless another life.  You can continue your Dad’s legacy by pouring into someone else.  Giving of ourselves takes our focus off of our own pain and is deeply therapeutic.

 

You can probably imagine that this was an extremely difficult post to write and share.  I have bared my heart to you and my deepest hope is that someone will be helped.  I want this to be a Happy Father’s Day for you.  May you have many pleasant memories of your Dad this weekend, and every single day, and may your joy spill out onto others!

He Chose These Moments

I’m a speck – just one person.  He’s too busy to care about my problems, hurts or loneliness.  We all have these thoughts.  We don’t immediately go to Him in prayer or we feel that we’ve gone too much, maybe with the same request, over and over.  We secretly think that God could never understand or relate to our pain or that He becomes impatient with us.  When we feel this way, it is rooted in our misunderstanding of the character of God.

 

Pour over God’s word and you’ll see endless evidence that He cares for each of us with an everlasting love.  Why then do we seem to perceive God as limited?  It’s because we have a tendency to measure God by human capabilities.  Read about Him and let the wonder of His greatness amaze you.  Recently, God opened my eyes about something and I want to share it with you.  It is one of the clearest examples of His ability to be outside of human limitations – the words spoken by Jesus during His crucifixion, the most horrific form of punishment ever invented.

 

Jesus was fully man and fully God and since He endured as a man, He demonstrated that He is acquainted with human pain and suffering.  He suffered physical, mental and emotional pain but He also suffered the great loneliness of separation from God the Father.  Here is the wonder of all of this.  Jesus didn’t retreat within himself during His time of suffering.  He reached out.    He spoke the following from the cross:

 

>He extended great mercy to those that were killing Him.  Luke 23:34 “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”  When we’ve been hurt badly, it is hard to forgive but refusing to forgive steals our peace.  Christ shows us that it is possible to immediately forgive, even the most heinous offense.

>He forgave the criminal in his lowliest condition.  Luke 23:43 “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise!”  Christ does not require that we clean ourselves up in order to come to Him.

>He displayed His tender care for our needs.  John 19:26-27 “Woman, behold your son.  Son, behold your mother!”  He cared and gave them to each other.  Jesus knows that we need to take care of each other.

>He demonstrated his anguish and abandonment.  Mark 15:34 “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me!”  This statement, during what is possibly His worst moments on the cross, evidences that Christ really understands our great loneliness and despair.

>He suffered from the basic need of water.  John 19:28 “I thirst!”  He proves that He understands our human needs.

>He exclaimed victory over sin.  John 19:30 “It is finished!”  He declares victory so that we know that through Him, we will have victory.

>Finally, He declared His contentment and reunion with His Father.  Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!”  Jesus understands relationship and He knows the hurt of separation as well as the joy of reunion with those that we love.

 

His brain was exploding with physical and emotional pain.  Loneliness.  Nerves on fire from the ripped and fatigued muscles, open wounds and the penetration of thorns and nails.  The crushing of his heart and lungs as fluid pushed in and the misery of extreme thirst.  For Him to speak, must have been nearly impossible in human terms but He chose these moments to tell us that He knows and relates to our sorrows.  He also chose a moment to tell us that He completed the payment for our sins.  Nothing but our faith and trust is necessary.  Salvation is Christ plus absolutely nothing.

 

When you are tempted to think that you’re too small or that He’s too busy or that He doesn’t understand or relate to your despair, remember that He chose these moments during His great suffering, to show us the magnitude of His ability to always care for us.  Yes, Jesus died for our salvation but He also died for every little thing too.

The Road to Reconciliation and Peace

What does reconciliation look like?  Has it occurred between two parties, simply because they are able to be courteous to each other?  Is it possible to forgive without reconciliation occurring?

 

Forgiveness is the responsibility of the offended and it is required by God.  It is not contingent on the offender apologizing or asking for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is possible, even if the offender never realizes what they’ve done, or even if they refuse to take responsibility for their actions or words.  Forgiveness does not release the offender from their guilt but it releases the offended from the burden.   When we’ve been hurt by another person, it is a challenge to forgive but it is a choice that must be made and refusing to forgive, puts a wedge between us and God.  You see, for the most part, forgiving is vertical – it is between you and God.  He requires you to forgive, enables you to forgive and He restores peace between you and Him, when you forgive.  Forgiveness is usually not a one-time occurrence but instead, many singular moments of obedience.

 

Biblical reconciliation, which brings lasting peace in a relationship, goes deep.  In order for it to begin, both parties need to be ready.  The offender will need to be ready to hear the entire truth of how they have hurt, without resorting to excuses or anger and ready to take responsibility.  The offended must be free of bitterness and if they haven’t already done so, they must be ready to forgive.  Reconciling is a process of deconstructing the relationship and then building it back up.  It goes something like this:  realization of wrongdoing, grief and remorse, confession or admittance, forgiveness desired and restitution, if necessary.  Restoration of the relationship can now begin and trust can be rebuilt.  In true reconciliation, there is no room for defensiveness or excuse making and if the offender is in this mode, it is not yet possible.  If the hurt party is bitter, unforgiving and punishing, then it is not yet possible.  Notice that in both cases, I have said “not yet”.  Give it time and let God deal with the hearts of those that are involved.  Pray for yourself and the other party.  In time, there may be softened hearts and then the process can begin.

 

God’s word is our source of truth – so I would like to share my favorite story of offense, remorse, forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s the story of Joseph, which starts in Genesis 37.  Joseph was a golden boy.  He was gifted and favored by God and preferred by his earthly father.  He attracted blessing but he was also the subject of jealousy and evil plotting.  His own brothers concocted a plan to get rid of Joseph and he was sold into slavery.  Once in a new land, Joseph was again favored but through a twisting of events, he was lied about and went to prison because of it.  In prison, Joseph aided others and the person that he helped to get out of prison, forgot about him for years.  Finally, through amazing circumstances Joseph was released from prison and became very powerful.  If anyone had reason to be embittered, it was Joseph and he could have used his power to punish those who had hurt him but Joseph had a soft and forgiving heart, and most of all, he knew that his sovereign God would bring good out of all his hardships.  Looking for help from the wealthy land of Egypt, his brothers came to this land where Joseph was now a powerful man.   They never imagined that they would run into Joseph again.  Joseph recognized them but they didn’t realize that the man in charge was their brother.  In Genesis 42, we over-hear the brothers expressing remorse over what they had done to their brother and we see that Joseph was secretly listening to their discussion.  In Genesis 44, the brothers lament that their current hardships must be a punishment for their previous sins.  These are key moments in the story and I believe crucial to the reconciliation that is about to happen.  Joseph reveals himself to them and there is a tender reunion and healing words.  Without the brothers becoming remorseful and taking responsibility for their motives and actions, do you think that this family reunion would have played out this way?  In order for reconciliation to occur, the offending party must be able to see how they have hurt the other party and then take the next courageous steps.

 

If you’ve hurt someone, the greatest gift that you can give to them, is to confess and apologize, naming the specific wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness.  The magnificence of healing then begins to occur for both parties.  If you have been accused of offending and are having trouble getting to the acceptance and confession stage, try remembering a time when someone hurt you.  How did you feel?  What would have helped you?  Did they take responsibility or did they merely give you the “I’m sorry if” – the un-apology?  The un-apology adds insult to injury.  Remembering a time when we were the casualty, softens our heart and prepares us to take responsibility for our own actions and words.

 

Unfortunately, reconciliation doesn’t always occur.  Sometimes the offender cannot be trusted.  Sometimes the parties would rather avoid the unpleasantness of confrontation by playing nicey-nice or simply just avoiding the other party.  Sometimes the involved hearts are hardened.

 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be continually forgiving each other and also praying for and being open to the possibility of reconciliation but it must be genuine biblical reconciliation.  If you have hurt someone, check your heart for readiness and then it’s up to you to make the next move.  If you’ve been hurt, prepare your heart for future reconciliation, by doing the work of forgiving, ridding yourself of bitterness and punishing attitudes.  I hope that you’ll begin to travel the road of reconciliation and that you’ll be blessed with the final result of peace within your own heart and mind as well as peace between you and others.

Backwards, In-Place or Straight Ahead?

It’s a period of change, or the process of changing from one circumstance or condition to another.  We’ve all gone through it and most of us are going through some form of it right now.  It is transition.

Transition comes in many forms and for many reasons.  It is one of the most common aspects of living the human experience.   A wedding, childbirth, returning to school, a job change, retirement, death of a loved one, relocation, divorce, empty nesting, down-sizing, health crisis, losing a friendship, geographical separation from a spouse and countless other changes.

Traveling through transition can be forbidding.  The emotional pain of letting go and the fear of the unknown, can grip us and sometimes we get stuck or even begin to take steps backwards.  Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life”.  Since we know this to be true, why not stop fighting it and instead, embrace it?  Yes, the key to success during transition is to accept the realities of it – but how?

It starts with our perspective and I’m not going to sugar coat this – it won’t always be easy. If we find ourselves mentally curled up in the fetal position or perpetually with a heavy-heart, we must change the way that we are perceiving the process of change. View the transition as an experience that you are marching forward into.  Look straight ahead and focus on the good things to come.  If you are unable to imagine the good things in your future, go to someone who knows you well and ask for help with seeing the possibilities.  Reach outward to others who are trustworthy and have the ability to help you analyze your circumstances and separate each problem.  Once each problem stands alone, you can more easily deal with it and it will be merely one stepping stone on your journey.  Share your struggles and allow others to shoulder some of your burdens.  Accept practical helps along the way.  Check your outlook and attitude regularly – is your heart heavy or light?  All of this minimizes the internalization of your struggles and will help you to prevent overwhelm within your mind.

Experiencing difficulties is usually not something that we seek out or enjoy but I do encourage you to remember.  As you experience your next transition, you’ll remember and know that you’ll survive.  Think back.  Did you grow stronger and wiser?  Are you more kind, compassionate and giving?  Don’t forget to share this with others as they are experiencing overwhelming stress during periods of transition.

If you have been attempting to march forward through life by the power of your own strength, separated from the One that created you, knows everything about you and yet still loves you with an everlasting love, I would like to tell you just a little of my story.  When I was seventeen, I faced a huge transition – my father’s first suicide attempt.  At that time, I placed my trust in Christ’s payment for my sins and He became Lord of my life.  I cannot imagine experiencing life’s difficulties without my Lord at the helm.  He doesn’t remove the challenges but He supports me while I walk through them and He uses them to mature me.  He is the Living Water that sustains me during the droughts of my life.  If you don’t know Him, I encourage you meet Him.  He never expects you to get cleaned up enough to meet Him.  He says come as you are.  Meet the One that made you, gives you breath, died for you, resurrected Himself and intercedes for you – Jesus Christ.  Meet Him, trust Him and watch Him bring a beautiful metamorphosis out of the challenge of change.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Get Messy

It’s free but it is expensive and it can be messy.  I’m referring to putting your time, effort and heart into the lives of other people.   Whether a big investment or a small gesture, never disbelieve the power of your sincere care, encouragement and kindness toward another human being.

 

We live in a rushed society where most of us are striving to build a life.  Providing for the needs of our family is godly but we can easily get caught in the trap of wanting more stuff or being involved in every activity under the sun.  Are we too pressured trying to get to the next activity to even smile at the stranger that comes across our path? How about the elderly person that might need our time, ear and patience?  Have we taken notice of that person sitting alone that might be in desperate need of some companionship or encouragement?  Are we so over-committed that we can’t invest in a young person’s life?  How about that friend who has been through a difficult period and would benefit from some empathy and support?

 

To demonstrate the impact of one life investing in another, I would like to tell you a short but true story.  There was a woman who for various reasons, endured many years of persecution.  She was treated hatefully, wrongly judged, falsely accused and alienated.  Due to circumstances that were outside of her control, she could not leave this environment.  The many years of this treatment shattered her self-image.  She began to believe that she was worthless.  By the time that she was removed from this environment, she was a wounded, broken shell of who she had been.  She kept to herself, rarely letting anyone get close, because deep down inside, she believed that no one wanted to be her friend.  One human being, who was gifted and sensitive in the area of noticing hurting people, began to talk to her.  This person began pointing out her strengths and gifts and they became faithful and supportive friends.  She began to believe the good things that she was hearing about herself.  This one person took a step toward another person and made the investment of their time and friendship and a hurting soul received healing.  Without the investment made by this person, this woman might have continued on in her hurt and probably retreated further into the protective cocoon that she had knitted for herself.  Instead, she is now encouraging others.  So many people are benefiting because one person reached out to bind her wounds and now the cycle of blessing continues.

 

If you lighten up your load and look around, you will see hurting humans – unfortunately, they are in abundant supply.  They might even be in your own household.  Be available for these God appointments.  What appointment does He have for you today?  God says that pure and undefiled religion is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.  Ministering to the lonely, broken and needy is pure and undefiled too.  Let Him send you into someone’s life, so that you can get a little messy.