Limitations; Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Acts 9:1-22 – The Conversion of Saul

One of my favorite stories is the conversion of Saul.  I have great respect for Saul/Paul who turned from his evil ways to follow Christ.  In fact, in many ways I relate to Saul more than any other disciple.  Whenever I seek forgiveness from the Lord for things I don’t even want to dare speak out loud, I remember Saul/Paul.  God forgave Saul for so many murderous acts and used him for His mighty and good deeds.  None of us are beyond redemption.

Yet today as I read through this scripture my thoughts came to Ananias.  When the Lord goes to Ananias with a request, Ananias freezes.  What?  You want me to go to that Saul guy and pray over him for healing.  Are you kidding?  He is one scary dude.  No way.

God continues to offer support for Ananias.  Ananias is quite aware of his limitations.  He knows personally that he cannot heal Saul.  He also knows that he can only do this with God’s strength, but even that is doubtful to him for a brief minute.  Can God really turn Saul into a disciple for Christ?

I am sure with his tail between his legs, Ananias goes to Saul and prays over him these words, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The scales fell off of Saul’s eyes and his sight was restored.  Of course we all know how the story ends; Saul becomes Paul who becomes a great disciple for Christ.  He goes on to recruit and convert many hearts for God’s Glory.  So what happened to Ananias?  I am sure he was excited to see the great deed he was able to perform for God’s Glory.  Wouldn’t he want to stick around to see how he could help more?

What I found extraordinary about Ananias is he knew his limitations.  He did exactly what God instructed him to do and nothing more.  He didn’t continue to help Saul find his way.  He prayed over him and was the strength for Saul to recover.  That was God’s Will.  That was Ananias’ task.  Check. Done. Complete.

Today, I find that sometimes I push God’s Will.  When I do something powerful for God, I want to do more!  I want to take it one step further because my pride gets the best of me.  I surpass the limitations God gives me because that is who I am (a little competitive spirit that God gave me).  Isn’t that what God wants me to do?  Doesn’t he want me to take it a step further?  I mean I can, so why wouldn’t I continue the work?

The answer is within this scripture.  No God doesn’t.  He wants me to carry out His Will, and if I take that a step further then I have pushed my boundaries.  God might have someone else in mind for that.  In the case of Saul, Barnabas would soon take over and make the introduction of Paul to the disciples, then the disciples would take Paul from there.  Ananias was step one, the rest was to be left up to God.

Limitations are hard to decipher because we think just because we can, then we should.  Yet God is only requesting us to do His Will, not ours.  When we push the boundaries and surpass our limitations, we put dysfunction into God’s plan.

So how do we discern God’s Will?  Through prayer, constant communication with God, in scripture and by keeping ourselves in check.  Discover what it means to be prideful.  Remember your selfish desires need to be placed to the side.  Pray for God to give you wisdom.

Remember – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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You Just Blocked Jesus!

It was the best day ever.  At least that is what my 7 year old (at the time) would have said.  She was so excited to be at Disney World.  We had even stayed late that night just for her and her little brother to watch the Main Street Parade.  We made our way through the crowd to find the perfect spot.  Pete ran over and waited in a long line for warm chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate.  As the parade began, my kids’ excitement was bubbling over.  Megan had planted herself right in the front on the curb and TJ scooted himself next to her.  They were all smiles.  Perfect, right?

What happened next crushed this beautiful moment to pieces.  By now Pete had shown up with cookies and hot chocolate.  As I twisted around to help Pete through the crowd, the people next to us took this opportunity to plow in front of us and block my kids’ view.  Uh oh.  Instead of causing a raucous Pete and I placed the kids on our shoulders like a giraffe so they could see.  We were careful not to block those around us which meant we moved from the curb onto the sidewalk.  Of course we were spilling hot chocolate and shoving cookies in our mouth the entire way.

This memory made me think today of how many times I have blocked someone’s view of Jesus (unknowingly of course).  Although it doesn’t cause crying kids, spilling hot chocolate and shoving cookies in your mouth to bypass the blockage; it does cause a commotion.  When I help someone or say yes to something without asking Jesus if that is His will, then I become the blockage.  Jesus uses all of us in great ways, but he doesn’t need us to step in all the time.

One of my favorite sayings this Advent season is “just because I can doesn’t mean I should.”  Jesus knows that we can do anything because when it is His Will, He gives us the strength to accomplish the impossible.  The question is does He want you to do it?

Even when it seems obvious that we should step in and help, Jesus needs us to ask.  He may be right in the middle of a “main street parade” for that person, and when we step in and take over, we block the best view.  The other person’s focus may become the warm chocolate chip cookie and the hot chocolate not spilling instead of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:11    “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

Pray for God’s guidance in all things.  Certainly we don’t want to block anyone’s view from the most powerful event that is about to happen.  Remember to pray for God to reveal to you His Will.  Open your eyes and stay away from blocking the birth of Jesus Christ into the world.  It’s better than any Main Street Parade you can imagine.

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Battling Demons

Sharing this is hard.  I guess because you will know some deep dark secrets into my family.  Yet, the pull to share has been intense lately, and I truly believe I need to share it with all those out there that have struggles like me.

My daughter suffers deeply.  Sometimes as we try to fall asleep, she says to me…

“Mommy.  I think I am going to die in the middle of the night.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t drink enough water.” OR “Because I ate too much and I am going to throw up.” OR “Because my brain is telling me that I am going to get sick and die.” OR “Because I am afraid to go to sleep because my brain is telling me not to.”

As tears stream down her face, I can see she is hurting.  She is scared.  She doesn’t understand what is happening and how to stop it.

She has gone days without eating because she feels her body doesn’t want her to eat because she might throw up.  She will drink gallons of water each day so she doesn’t dehydrate and die.

Someone will say something about death at school or in a conversation, and her mind goes right to – what if that happens to me?

I have to be careful about what she watches on tv, at the movies or reads because it might trigger anxiety.

She has real panic attacks.  Her heart races and feels like it is pounding out of her body.  Her throat feels as though it is closing up, and her stomach feels upset.

These are serious and real situations that I have with my 10 year old almost everyday.  She suffers from anxiety and depression.

We have tried neuro-feedback therapy (which has made definite strides in the anxiety).  We have seen naturopath doctors and psychologists.  We have used pharmaceuticals, vitamins and just about everything you can imagine.  We have changed her diet.  There have been years of trials.  At times I have felt like a mad scientist experimenting with my own daughter.  It is exhausting, confusing and humiliating.

It is not uncommon for my daughter to lash out at me because her anxiety ramps up.  Her outbursts are uncomfortable for me especially in public.  I sometimes feel as though others are looking at both of us and judging what a bad mom I am, and what a brat my daughter is.  It is awkward.

I seldom help out at her school because it just ramps up her anxiety.  School work already makes her anxious, so me being there worsens the situation.  I am that mom who is never at school.  I am the mom that everyone asks, “why doesn’t she volunteer for field trips, classroom help, etc.”  Trust me I find other ways to help that don’t require my presence, but may go unnoticed by others.

My true friends have stuck by me, while others have left.  The suffering that my daughter endures is tremendous and very real to her.  It is difficult for me to understand her struggles because I am not privy to what goes on in her mind.  Sometimes I want to scream out in frustration, “These thoughts are CRAZY!”  Yet, I know to her they are very real.

My daughter is almost 11 years old and I can count on ONE HAND how many times she has been invited to a birthday party.  Because of her anxiety friendships are few and far between.  In third grade, she met her best pal, M.  M is amazing with my daughter.  She is kind, considerate and even-tempered.  She puts up with my daughter’s anxiety, and even comforts her as needed.  She is a Godsend to our family, and we love M dearly for what she has offered my daughter.

So today when I read the Ephesians verses below (which were given to us by our naturopath doctor), I thought immediately of my sweet daughter…

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Each day my sweet daughter puts on her shield of faith.  I pray over her each morning that the evil that resides in her mind will leave and allow her to enjoy her day.  We take it a day at a time because that is all we can handle.  We ask for the Lord’s hedge of protection over her.  We ask God to help her see the Truth, and weed out the lies.

Her struggles involve the real deal – evil.  Her struggles are not just about “flesh and blood” but against the evil in her mind that is trying desperately to take authority over her body.

As we spend each morning in prayer, I am reminded that we are not alone.  This battle is fought by many of our families.  There are thousands out there battling demons in life.  The struggles we endure are very real.  We must fight and pray for all people.

Somehow just knowing my family is not alone in this battle makes it a little easier to persevere.

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Smile

Recently I started to think about all those smiling people in my life that just perk me up.  When things go awry and life gets complicated, those people in my life that smile and warm my heart are few and far between, yet so important to my survival.  Of course this made me think, do I offer that support to my own friendships?  Do I give that smile to others when they need it? When my friends are struggling with the truth do I help bring them back to joy?

James 5:19-20 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

The book of James is so jam-packed full of advice on friendship and relationships that I just want to encourage everyone to dive into it.  It has an amazing way of describing what characteristics we should bring to the table to help encourage others to be better people and maybe more important to encourage ourselves to be the best we can for the sake of all.

Throughout my life I have encountered struggles and trials that seemed daunting.  These storms in my life never failed to teach me lessons.  In fact, I truly believe when no lesson was learned from a trial, then I missed out on an opportunity.  It was usually my own fault if I couldn’t find the “take-away” from the struggle.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So am I bringing joy to others with my smile?  Sad to say, but recently I have not been the “uplifter” in my relationships.  In fact, I have been the “Debby-downer.”  Living my life in the midst of chaos and struggle has brought me an attitude of selfish desire.  It is the “poor me” time in my life.  All I can see is my own issues, and I lose focus on the needs of those around me.  I need a jump start.  I need a smile.  I need joy.

So often in life we all find that accepting struggles with humility and strength is difficult.  Actually, it is demanding.  Within the book of James he encourages us to tame our tongue.  Choose our words wisely.  Use our speech to praise Him not slander others.  Yet when we choose this route sometimes we are seen as the enemy.  This is where humility kicks in.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t see the virtue in holding our tongue.  Society calls for us to defend our actions, to fight the good fight, and to speak out for our beliefs to be heard.  Society wants us to defend our good name, to ensure honor, and to protect ourself from blame. That is the exact opposite of what James tells us.

James 4:11-12 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Drinking my cup of humility today takes on a new meaning.  Do I feel encouraged and joyful? Not really.  Yet I know there is a bigger meaning for my suffering.  I know there is a deep desire to learn my lesson that God is teaching me.  Most importantly, I believe that with a lot of perseverance, I will once again be able to offer someone that smile that they need to see.

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A Lesson in Human Dignity

It has been an interesting 3 weeks to say the least.  As I continue my journey as a teacher at the Montessori school, I have surprisingly found my own identity.  Who knew?  Back in May this journey began with my own self-doubt that I was right for the job.  I wasn’t really sure that moving to middle school was the right path for me.  I pondered it, prayed about it and tried to come up with excuses why this wasn’t right for myself and my family.  Yet, in the back of my mind, somewhere deep down in my heart, I knew this was the right path.  And so the journey began.

My first week in class, I felt overwhelmed.  Here sat just over 40 of us on this same journey.  We all had the same goal, yet we were so different.  The first week was filled with late night readings and early morning coffee.  It felt good, but it was exhausting.  To my surprise that first week, I found that each of us carried such different baggage with us on this journey.  When we combined all of our baggage together, it made a beautiful collage.  Interesting because isn’t this what we want to have happen in our classrooms?

We have all these beautiful children who walk into our classrooms, all carrying their own baggage.  Yet when we accept that baggage for what it is and combine them all together, they make a beautiful team of adolescents.  As educators we need to see this beauty for what it is: possibilities.

Who knew that when I started this journey just 3 weeks ago that I would form such beautiful friendships with these 40 plus people?  Who knew that I would find myself calling them family? Who knew that I would learn to love and accept people where they are and not try to mold them into where I want them to be?

It is an amazing lesson to learn.  We are all on a journey together.  It is the cosmic education of life.   It is a lesson in human dignity.  As I begin my classes next fall with 17 adolescents, I hope to keep that in mind.  Not only will I be teaching them, but I hope to learn from them.  They deserve my acceptance and respect because teens are people too.  When we treat them that way, the results are powerful.

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Toxic Relationships

I wrote this a year and a half ago, but today I needed to be reminded again…

Making Room For God

Making Room For GodWe can avoid it as long as we want. We can take the elephant in the room and try to hide it, but let’s face it – it’s an elephant. We can try to deceive our mind into believing that everything is okay when it clearly is not. Everyone else gives us their opinion and they all seem to lack an understanding of the situation. We rationalize the situation so that it seems at least manageable, but deep down we know it isn’t.

Many of us have been in this sort of relationship whether it is with a friend, a co-worker, our office, our spouse or a family member. Many time we will hear of these toxic relationships from others. We never think of our own relationships a toxic – usually because we are so busy rationalizing why we need to stay in the relationship.

I have been there. I…

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It’s Not All About You

Yesterday I wrote about the courage, strength, and humility of Stephen.  I might have left you thinking, “Why would God allow a good man to struggle like that – especially one that is doing God’s Will?”

This morning I will continue on with Stephen’s martyrdom.  Stephen’s martyrdom was an instance that God could have stepped in and saved Stephen from a horrible death, yet He didn’t. In Acts 7:54-60 we hear the details of Stephen’s death.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

After the stoning, people spread throughout the countryside to hide from the severe persecution of the church. Saul (also known as Paul) was working to uncover all those who had fled and send them to jail for following Christ. This is where God’s will is revealed. God allowed Stephen to be stoned to death under the watch of Saul. Later, Saul would have a change of heart on his journey to Damascus, and during this trip, Paul is blinded by a very bright light. In Acts 9:4-19 we read:

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”

Wow! Not only did God use Saul/Paul, but several witnessed the event and Ananias proved his great faith of God during this. Do you think Stephen ever would have realized the great things God did with his death? Paul was one of Jesus’ most faithful supporters after this incident. He would go on to lead the church just after Peter. Amazing.  Ananias was used by God to lead this new disciple into the life of faith.  Two beautiful stories that unfolded only because of Stephen’s great courage and ultimate death.

Stephen’s courage to speak the truth brought us one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time.  This is how God uses a bad situation and turns it into something good.

Back to our initial question… Why would God allow a good man to struggle like that – especially one that is doing God’s Will?

Because the struggle will cause a domino effect and lead to great things for Christians.  The struggle will touch the heart of someone who God knows will be a game changer.  The struggle will turn someone who is facing away from God toward God.

God isn’t placing a struggle in your life for punishment.  It’s not all about you.  He is placing a struggle in your life for the good of another.  This is why we should praise God for struggles in our lives.  We should life up the struggle for someone who may be searching for God, but doesn’t know where to look.  We can pray that God will allow someone to witness our struggle and turn their face back to God.

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The Truth of Stephen

Reflection on Acts 6:8-15

Stephen was a strong supporter of God.  His faith was amazing.  Yet others saw him as a threat.  So instead of listening to Stephen’s words of faith and love, they tore down his words to make him look like evil.  They twisted Stephen’s words.  They taunted his belief.  Stephen stood strong.

Can you imagine how Stephen felt?  His goal was to touch every life he could with the words of Christ.  Yet every time he spoke the words of faith – some people would take his words and twist them for their own good. Stephen never really received the recognition while on earth that his work was good.  I am sure a few of his good friends recognized the value of his work, but my guess is even those who witnessed his murder may never realize the potential of the man they killed.

I cannot help but equate this situation with politics.  Each time elections come around, I start to think of my dad.  My dad was a kind, sweet man who wanted to do good for a city.  He spent decades giving his time to a city that he loved dearly.  He loved God and felt a calling to serve.  Yet, some people chose to twist his words and his deeds to make him look like evil.  These people still spend countless hours now doing the very same thing.  It is hurtful, yet somewhere God has a plan in it all.  People may never know the true value of my dad, but I do.  I know and miss him greatly.  I also know that he received his accolades that he was due when he rose up to heaven.

So many of us are blinded by what looks good, but truly isn’t.  So how can we weed through the bad to find the good?

First, we must make ourselves close to God.  We have to find God in our hearts.  We have to make time for him everyday.  We must find a way to converse with him on a daily basis.  If we are not right with God, then we certainly cannot find the truth in others.

Second, we need to sift through the words that others say.  Is it something that Jesus would say?  What would Jesus think of this scenario?  Why are we putting down a person’s deeds or words?  What would Jesus think of these words or deeds?  What has this person done in the past to show us his/her love of Jesus? Do they practice what they preach?  How do they treat others?

Stephen was a good, faithful man.  Yet some people chose to tear him down.  Stephen stood strong.  He didn’t defend himself, he just kept preaching the truth.  He didn’t waste time trying to make people believe who he was – he knew humility was and is a virtue.  Why waste time talking about himself when he could talk about the truth?  Stephen was a good example to all of us – he stands for those who are persecuted wrongly.  He speaks the truth still today.

Stephen shows us that standing up for the truth is not easy.  In fact, you may not receive any accolades for it here on earth.  You may feel persecuted.  You may feel stepped on.  You may feel betrayed.  God is worth it.  God knows the truth.  So let’s all make a promise to find a way to come closer to God.  Let’s find a way to sift through the worldly responses before we take a step away from God. Let’s find a way to truth without crushing the spirit of good people.

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The Destruction of Self Esteem in our Teenagers

After spending a week on the beach in Florida, I realized the danger that faces my teenage daughter.  Girls around the age of my Megan surrounded us on the beach.  They were just as cute as they could be.  They enjoyed their time on the beach with their friends, but to an extent that I was not comfortable with.  You see they used their smart phones to take pictures of themselves.  Not just “heh look I am on the beach having fun” but more like “heh, don’t I look good in this bikini.”  It was sad to watch.  They took shots of their bottoms, fake actions like running into the waves while another videoed them, and supermodel poses that were inappropriate for small children to watch.  It even went further, they asked strangers to snap pictures of them posed in these provocative positions.  To top it off several wore thong bikini’s that made me blush.

I was sick to my stomach.  Was my teenage daughter doing these very same things and I just didn’t realize it?  Was I naïve?

Body image is intense in our teenage world.  Heck, it is intense in our adult world.

Yet, we are responsible for promoting this by modeling this bad behavior, by allowing our teenagers to be connected with social media accounts, and by handing our babies smart phones.  I know this sounds crazy, but think about what we are giving to these kids; we are initiating a direct hit of destruction on their self esteem.  We allow them to post pictures like this in the hopes that someone, somewhere will “like” her photo.  Maybe even someone will comment on her snapshot.  What is going on?  How can we stop it?

Instead of destroying our children’s self esteem, we have to lift it up.  We have to give them the tools to improve their self image.  It all starts with first modeling the behavior we want them to acquire.

So, as I sat on the beach, I realized that I had to make some changes at home.

Now, whenever I do this it seems that God always has a little plan in mind.  He always seems to like to test the waters when “I make the plan” and forget to ask Him what His plan is…

So, as I arrived home I found my own 16 year old daughter hanging close by me.  Now this is not normal.  Whenever she wants to talk to me about a personal situation, she tends to hang around me – ALL THE TIME.  After having her on my coat tails for a few days, I said, “What’s up?”

“Mom, I would like to know if I can get my own smartphone.”

(God, what are you doing to me?)

She had (on her own) interviewed for a job this summer and had an orientation for this job.  During the orientation the manager explained that they would use their smart phones to clock in.  My daughter, like a lost puppy, went up after orientation to explain she didn’t own a smart phone.  Her manager had never been faced with that issue before and assured her that he would find a way for her to clock in.  It was the last straw for my girl.  She had received her first cell phone (a dumb one) when she became a freshman in high school.  This was well after all her friends.  It was a joke among her group of friends.  Even then the dumb phone she received she took tremendous pride in.  She was a trooper.  Next, she had to deal with the fact she couldn’t receive group texts from her friends, her coaches or even some of her family.  Yet she suffered through it.  ( I am using that term “suffering” very loosely).

Now my girl was fed up.  “Mom, PLEASE can I get my own smart phone” she pleaded again.  Oh man.

(God, we are going to have to talk about this later).

I couldn’t help but make the connection of the body image issues I saw on the beach to the usage of smartphones.  I was terrified to allow her to have one.

As we sat down to talk, I explained to her the dangers.  I talked to her about what I witnessed on the beach.  Smart phones entice us into behaviors that we wouldn’t normally do.  It seems fun and exciting, but it leads to dangerous situations.  As we talked, I realized how much my little girl had done to earn my trust.  She had dutifully done as I asked.  She never had a facebook account, an Instagram account or a vine account.  She had stuck with her twitter feed and even followed her Christian writer mom.  She was about to enter her junior year as an honor student, a top athlete and a Christian advocate.  She had proven over and over to us that she held God on her shoulders.

She understood the dangers of smart phones and even saw the correlation between smartphones and body image.  She recognized her body was a temple of God.  Something I sure didn’t understand at her age.  To top it off, she sat with me for hours going through our bill, how much it would cost per month, deciding the best way to upgrade before we have an upgrade, and even offered to pay for the phone.

Yet, God kept tugging at me with this body image thing.  Body image and smartphones – who would have thought the two would be connected???

Our children are faced with the sad idea that body image is the most important thing in the world.  Actually, I know adults who feel the same way.  You need to look good so people think you are all that.  You need to be pretty so people look up to you.  You need to be polished to prove your worth.  You won’t get a job if you don’t pretty yourself up.  Lose weight to make yourself feel better.  We are taunted with body image everyday on advertising billboards, on television, on social media, and I guess now we know – on vacation!

How sad that we promote this image to our children.  How sad that we brush off these chances to talk with our kids about these dangers because “everyone does it” or because “it is just easier to ignore it.”

Here is a great link to an article in LiveStrong about creating self esteem in our teens….

http://www.livestrong.com/article/171450-ways-to-build-self-esteem-for-teenagers/

I am sure you are thinking, well did she get the smartphone?

Yes, she did.  Of course she has to share 1 GB of data with her dad (good luck dad on that one)!

Yes, she is now going to face the world of selfies and she probably will make mistakes.

Yes, I do think by making her realize the privilege of the phone (making her wait for it), she knows it has great responsibility.

Yes, I pray that I prepared her for what she is about to face.  Welcome to the world of big decisions, social media, body image, and destruction of self esteem.

At some point she has to face the realities of the world.  I think for her, it is time.  I just pray that God stays with her.  I pray that she truly sticks to her guns, uses her leadership skills to lead others to make good decisions, and always remembers that her body is God’s temple and He needs us to take care of it here on earth.

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Awkward…

I am greeted every day at work with giant hugs.  Hugs that would squeeze all the sadness out of anyone.  Hugs from innocent, loving young children.  Hugs that while sometimes I take for granted, are still meaningful to the ones giving them.   Sometimes as many as 6 or 7 hugs at a time will happen.  It is crazy!

This morning I started to think about those hugs.  I have to give you a little background about me – hugs make me uncomfortable.  You see, hugs to me are given by those most close to you.  My husband, my kids, my mom, my dad and sometimes my siblings; certainly not acquaintances.  So, when I go to anything that involves hugging (church retreats and school settings are always the hardest), I tend to freeze up.  I am like a stiff board when people hug me.  It is awkward and uncomfortable.  So, when I am greeted each morning by hugs it has forced me into confronting this awkward side of myself.  I am starting to get used to it – after 7 months of it.  I hate to say it, but I kind of like it now – in a weird, awkward sort of way.

God does this to me all the time.  He puts me in these awkward positions where I have to confront things that I really don’t enjoy.  Somehow He changes things all around for me: He shows me the joyfulness that can come out of uncomfortable situations.  After all the hugs aren’t just for me; they are for the hugger too!

God does this to you too.  If you haven’t noticed it, then turn on your awareness sensors!  It is the coolest thing you will ever experience.  God will put you in the same situation over and over until you learn it.  You can deny it, or you can turn your face right to it.  Awkward, uncomfortable things happen all the time – it is God’s way of saying – “You haven’t found the joy yet.  You need to change.”

God wants us to stretch ourselves.  He wants us to become more and more like Christ.  In order to do this, we have to face those uncomfortable things in life.  We have to face the things that we need to change.  God doesn’t give up either.  He will put us in the same situation over and over again until we come to the realization that we need to face our awkwardness head on.

Now my hugging example is a simplistic one for sure.  God puts me in a lot of situations that create intensive amounts of anxiety within me.  A lot more than just facing the fact I don’t like hugs.  Yet, this is God’s gift to me and you.  We spend most of our lives picking and choosing the gifts that we receive from God.  Don’t turn away this gift.  It is one that you won’t want to open, but open it anyway.  It will change you in ways that you can never imagine – and isn’t that the goal?  You wouldn’t want to turn something away that will make you a better person, someone more Christ-like, right?

Posted in Faith, Family, God, Jesus, Religion, Social Justice, Women and Christianity | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments