Sunday, February 28, 2016

On this blog . . .

            This blog is written for (and written by) the brokenhearted, discouraged Christian who is struggling to hang onto the Lord and to grow in faith despite life's messy trials.  (Along with a lot of other goodies, like a Bible Study and a One-Year "Chicken Challenge.")  You are not alone in your struggles.  We are all human here, just trying to make it through this messy life.  And I hope that by listening in to what's going on in my head while I struggle with myself, my God, and my faith, you might find hope, too.  And truth and love and healing.  God bless!     

            Also, unless otherwise noted:  Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.®  Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Random Facts About Me. Just for Fun!

            I think this will be the last post I write.  (I’ve said that before, so we’ll see.)  But I’m ready to be done, except for posting and responding to any comments and occasionally adding things to this list and my “random thoughts” list. 
            This blog was a way for me to work through a lot of depression and faith-struggles I was going through (still am, to a degree), to share important lessons with my kids when they get old enough to finally read it, and to vent so many things that I have wanted to say but couldn’t.  It has served its purpose and I am thankful.  But I need to get back to life now.  I realize that if I keep writing, I will just be repeating much of what I’ve already written because this “depression funk” just keeps cycling.  So it’s time to be done.
            So I figured for my last post, I would share a whole bunch of random things about me.  Just for fun!  And mostly because it amuses me!  Some of these are found throughout my blogs and some are not.  Some are serious and some are funny.  And some are embarrassing because . . .well, that’s the kind of mood I’m in.  Besides, it's time to lighten up after all the serious, deep-thinking posts.  (Friends or family members or fellow church-goers who respect me and hold me in high regard might not want to read this.  And this post is the most "improper" post on my blog.  The rest is perfectly safe and proper, I assure you.)  Anyway, here goes . . .

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts (some new, some from my blog posts):

I wish we all came with signs on our backs that said “Construction Zone:  Work in progress.  Please be patient and pardon my dust.”  If we did, I think the world would be a nicer place because we’d all be a little more kind, gentle, gracious, and forgiving with others and with ourselves.


God is much more concerned with where you’re going than with where you’ve been.  Accept His forgiveness, let it make you free, forgive yourself, and “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Broken

            It hurts to be broken. 
            It’s being vulnerable, taking a risk with our hearts . . . sometimes winning, sometimes losing. 
            It’s leaning on others and opening ourselves up to them, to trust, to hope.  Sometimes finding support and acceptance and help, being caught before we hit the ground.  And sometimes being let down and battered, falling flat on our faces when others pull back and fail to catch us. 
            Sometimes, it’s just a minor annoyance, a pain that we absorb with relative ease, realizing that we are better for it.  And sometimes, it’s more pain than we can bear, feeling like we’ll never be whole again, wanting to curl up in a ball in a dark, lonely corner and fall asleep forever. 
            Being broken hurts!   

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Panic Attack

            I wrote this in the post called “Random Facts about Me.  Just for Fun!”  It is #64 on the list.  But I think it deserves its own post.  So I reposted it here, a bit before the “Random Facts” list.  If you’ve ever had a panic attack, maybe you can relate.  I hope not, though.  Because panic attacks suck!
64.  I had a small panic attack three days ago (May 30, 2016.  But it’s posted in February because I wanted the blog to end there.).  It’s the first one I’ve ever had and I don’t plan on ever having another one.  [I also once had a minor nervous breakdown during my parents’ very messy divorce.  It was so bad that the only way I could start breathing and stop crying was to flee from everything, to jump in the car with my husband and two kids and run away to the middle of nowhere for a little while.] 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Satan's Foolproof Plan for Bitterness and Discouragement

          We all want to be bitter and discouraged, don’t we?  But how do we get there? 

            Well, don’t worry, I can help you with that!  Because I have put together a simple guide to help us succeed in becoming better bitter people.  It's for those of us who seem to enjoy wallowing in misery but don't know how to get there.  (For those who don't like wallowing in misery and who are seriously struggling with depression and discouragement, check out "Is Depression a Sin?" instead, the post before this one.)  And I can just about guarantee that if you carefully follow each of these steps, you too will be bitter in no time. 
            So if you want to discover the delicious power, delightful self-abuse, and ultra-fun finger-pointing that come with bitterness, this is what you have been looking for:

“Satan’s Foolproof Plan for Bitterness and discouragement:
Thirty Simple Steps to Finding the Miserable Life that You are Searching For.”

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Is Depression a Sin?

            This issue came up recently when I was talking with some other women.  Someone had read off a list of sins and it included depression.  And one of the women asked the rest of us what we thought about that.  As someone who struggles with depressed feelings a lot, it got me really wondering if it’s right to call it “sin.”
            Of course, the word depression doesn’t appear in the Bible, so this issue requires some conjecture, some outside-the-box thinking.  But my first reaction to this question was:  “Calling it a sin isn’t going to help anyone who is struggling with it.  You can’t just say, ‘You are sinning and you need to stop it,’ and expect that someone is going to be able to go, “Oh, you’re right.  I’ll stop being depressed and start feeling joyful.’” 
            It doesn’t happen that way.  And it may actually be more harmful to talk like that.  In some ways, I think calling depression a sin is irresponsible.  It will only add to the pain and self-loathing someone feels instead of helping at all.  And it will make them want to pull back and suffer in silence.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

It Takes Courage To . . .

It Takes Courage To . . .

            - Get up every day and do your job when you’d rather do your own thing.
            - Get up every day and do your job when you’d rather throw in the towel, curl up in a corner and cry.
            - Find something to be thankful for when so many things are going wrong and you’d rather have a “pity party.”
            - Focus on and enjoy your own blessings when others seem to have it “way better.”
            - Make do with what you have - to be content with it and find joy in it - instead of always thinking you need more in order to be happy.
            - Do the right thing, especially when it’s hard and unpopular and you have so many reasons to not do it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

10 Signs You Might be a "Desert Israelite"

            I have probably learned more about my own humanness through the Israelites in Exodus and Numbers than through anything else.  I used to think that they were somehow “more fallen” than I was.  That I could never be that faithless and disobedient and grumbley.  But as I have grown in my relationship with the Lord, I have come to realize that I am not that much different from them.  I struggle with the same things they do.  I am weak.  I falter in my faith easily.  And I complain way more than I wish I did.  Many times, I am just like an Israelite in the desert.
            Are you, too, like the Israelites in the desert?  If you aren’t sure, here are 10 signs that you might be one.  See if any fit.  And then read Exodus and Numbers (from chapter 10 and on) to see how God responds to them.  It is scary, humbling, and faith-changing.  (These are some of my favorite books in the whole Bible, along with Genesis, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges.)  So here we go . . .  

Repost: Get Comfortable

            In our country, we are told over and over again things like:
            “Follow your heart.”
            “Make your own way.”
            “Never take ‘no’ for an answer.”
            “You can be anything you want or do anything you want.”
            “Apply yourself and all your dreams will come true.”
            (How else could we have so many reality shows where people want to be singers?)

            We are told that anything is possible.  We can make it happen by dreaming big and reaching high and wanting it badly enough.  In fact, look at all the commercials and advertisements that tell us that “We deserve it.”  It doesn’t matter what it is – a luxury car, a vacation, a break, a new phone . . . “We deserve it.”  And it doesn’t matter how little effort or hard work we put in . . . “We deserve it.” 
            But while these statements can be encouraging and can get young people to dream big and try hard and aim high (and become greedy), I think they can be misleading and give false hope.  For many of us, no matter how high we aim, we can’t seem to reach the moon.  Our great efforts fizzle and we end up crashing back down to earth, landing in the mud. 
            What about all those wonderful promises that we can get whatever we want and that “we deserve it”?     

Heart's True Desire

            “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Psalm 37:4) 
            I used to think - hope - that this meant that God would bring us the things that our hearts desired.  If we desired stability, we would get stability.  If we desired marriage, we would find a spouse.  If we desired success, we would be successful.  If we wanted happiness, we’d be happy. 
            But this is simply not the way it is.  We don’t always get the “desires” of our heart.  People don’t always get the much hoped-for child, the healing, the stable home-life, the job, the house.  So how am I to understand that verse?  I mean, if I didn’t get what I desired then I would have to wonder if there was something wrong with my faith or the way I asked or if I was displeasing to Him.  If I wasn’t getting what I desired, was it Him or was it me?       
            Our search for the things that delight us can become more than just desires and wants.  They can become idols, something that consumes us, that we focus all of our energy on.  And this will negatively affect our emotions and our spiritual lives. 

Self-Righteous, Self-Sufficient Scatterers

            “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”  Matthew 12:30

            “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”  Matthew 9:36-38

            “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:17

            I am afraid for America!  I am really afraid of the direction we are going.  We have so much truth here – so much knowledge of God’s Truth, so many Bibles and sermons and Christian books – and yet we are falling away from that truth in great numbers.  Not only is America growing apathetic toward God, but we are growing proud in our own “reasoning” and are growing hostile to Christians, persecuting those who live out their faith.  Whereas we once sang, “God shed His grace on thee,” now Christians are being punished for saying, “God bless America.”  I am afraid for us.  How much longer will God tolerate this kind of disrespect, self-worship, and rebellion?
            In America’s beginning, we were helpless and needy for God.  And we knew it!  We were a fledgling country that needed God’s providence and care and blessing.  And He has blessed us.  And now, we have grown so big and powerful and fat that we don’t need Him anymore. 

Innocent By-Standers?

            “Therefore, this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them . . . every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.”  (Jeremiah 36:30-31)

            As I was reading this passage, one word stood out to me above all others: attendants.
            What could his attendants be so guilty of to get that kind of punishment?  Aren’t attendants just like slaves to the king, unable to really do anything other than what the king tells them to do?  Can they really be held accountable for their choices when they were forced to obey the king?  And just what horrible thing were they guilty of doing?

Put That Burden Down!

            “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

            What kinds of burdens weigh you down?  How can these verses be applied to your life?
            I think there are many different kinds of burdens that we carry around that we were never meant to carry.  And we need to put those burdens down and take Jesus’ yoke upon us instead.   

The Successful Path

            “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”  (Proverbs 16:3)

            “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

            I have had many plans over the years, great things I was going to do or accomplish.  But things haven’t worked out the way I planned.  For instance, I got my Master’s degree in psychology and planned on working.  Instead, I had four sons and chose to stay home and raise them, even homeschooling them.  (And I wouldn't change it for the world!)  And I wrote a book about my life and wanted to get it published.  Instead, I discovered that no one wanted to publish it and no one I shared it with wanted to read it.  So I gave it away on-line for free.  My plans didn’t succeed.  My path didn’t go in the direction I thought it would. 

Denial

            “‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them . . .
            Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’
            ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’
            But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’  And all the others said the same.’  (Mark 14:27-31)
           
            Peter was so sure that he would stand by Jesus’ side through thick and thin.  He spent 24 hours a day with Jesus for several years.  He knew Him to be a supernatural being, capable of miracles and healings and casting out demons.  He knew Jesus was the Truth in a sea of lies.  There was no way Peter would deny the Lord.  Knowing Him that well and having a deep faith and personal, intimate relationship with Him, who could possibly deny Jesus?

            Each and every one of the disciples. 
            And each and every one of us, too - that’s who!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sovereignty and Free-Will Working Together

            There is a fascinating story in the Bible which I think helps shed light on how God works out His Will in conjunction with mankind’s free-will, not overriding it (like would be the case with predestination).  I guess you could say that it’s a story of predestination (not in the eternal “heaven and hell” sense) working with free-will.  Read 1 Kings 22, and then we’ll talk about it.  Go ahead and do it now . . .  I’ll wait.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Does Ephesians Teach Predestination?

            I looked at Romans in the last post.  This time, I want to specifically consider Ephesians, the other book that is most used to support predestination.  Once again, while there is a lot in this book that can sound like predestination, I do not think it actually teaches that God decides who to send to heaven and who to send to hell. 

Does Romans Teach Predestination?


            The book of Romans is often used to show that God pre-decides our eternal destinies, that He determines if we go to heaven or hell because it talks about God “hardening” hearts, predestining people.  So this could sound like we are predestined to go to heaven or hell.  However, I happen to believe that Romans actually teaches free-will and human responsibility.  And the more I read it, the more I believe this.  And the more it falls in line with the rest of the Bible.
            So in this post, I want to specifically look at how the book of Romans supports the idea that God lets us decide to choose or reject His offer of salvation, choose or reject eternal life.  The responsibility lies with us.  God does not pre-decide it for us.
            But why should this issue matter to us?  To Christians who have already decided to put our faith in the Lord? 
            It might not matter much for those of us who already believe, but you can bet-your-bottom-dollar that it matters to unbelievers and to seekers, to those who are wondering what kind of God we believe in.  Is He really as loving and willing to forgive as we say He is, if He has pre-decided that certain people will go to hell?  Is forgiveness really available to all?  Did Jesus’ death cover everyone’s sins?  Is there really a need to evangelize and to make a decision about Him if we don’t even really have the right to decide or make a choice?
            This is why this issue has been so important to me to figure out.  What we believe about this places God, His love, His forgiveness, His grace, Jesus’ sacrificial death, our personal responsibility, etc. in a very different light.  And we cannot have real answers for the doubters and the seeker’s questions if we aren’t even sure what we believe about it.

Repost: Controversial "Predestination" Verse

(Reposted from August 2014)

            “. . . God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  (Romans 8:28-30) 

            Of all the verses that are part of the “predestination debate,” this has got to be one of the most confusing, controversial ones.  At first reading, it seems like it could be saying that God “calls certain people to heaven according to His purpose,” that He predestines people to go to heaven or hell and we don’t really have a choice in the matter because it has been decided for us from the very beginning.   
            But after reading through it over and over again and cross-referencing it with other verses, I have come to read it differently.  Of course, I don’t claim to have this all figured out.  This issue has been debated for many years by great theologians, and I do not think I am the one to have sorted it all out.  These are just my thoughts on the matter.  And I really do think there is a lot of biblical support that salvation is a choice – a matter of free-will - as opposed to the idea that God pre-decides everyone’s eternal home or that He only offers some people salvation and not others. 

Repost: Predestination Does Not Mean "No Choice"

(Reposted from August 2014)
            Imagine that I walk into your church and say, “I am taking a group of people on a mission trip with me.  We are leaving sometime soon, and you have to decide which group you’ll be part of: the one that goes or the rest that stay behind.  I have a destination picked out, a way to get there, I’ve already paid the price to take a group with me, and I’m now asking for those who want to go.  It’s up to you if you want to come or be left behind.  And if you do not deliberately choose to come with me, you will be left behind.”  This, in essence, is the way I view the whole “predestination or free-will” debate.    
            This debate has to do with the idea of whether we have the ability to choose salvation or if God has already made this decision for us in the very beginning.  Are we simply puppets acting out pre-determined roles?  Or do we have a real choice in the matter?
            I think it falls somewhere in the middle, that we have free-will and that God has a predetermined plan already set up.