Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

I want to write, but I'm feeling a little blah today. I've had many good days, today is a hard day.

This isn't meant to be a 'downer' blog, but one to encourage those who are hurting this time of year. GRIEF IS A PROCESS. Even Jesus healed others through process. Sometimes He healed and it was instant, most often there was a process to it...there were steps to be accomplished before the next step, and the next step....leading to the healing!

I think for me personally, it is several things weighing on my heart, and not one thing I can put my finger completely on. The main event; different forms of grief.

Honestly, I'm very much liking where we live. The city is so great...lots of places to go...people are very nice here. God is doing some amazing things!!! I will share those soon! We are beginning to make a few new friends. God is opening up doors of opportunity. Our family is pulling in together and enjoying each other. Husband LOVES his new job! He is really happy in his new job! The kids and I are liking it here very much. I'm having more joyful and happy days, than sad/hard days. Thank you Lord!

There is this part of me that is rejoicing very much! Overall, very GRATEFUL beyond words!

Then, there is this sad part....a blah part I'm dealing with from time to time. It sort of crops up unexpectedly.

Husband and I were talking early this morning...why is this time of years so difficult for the grieving?

We are grieving over different things right now. Not only loss of loved ones, but loss of sharing time with family and friends in western and eastern NC, FL...the recent moves (4 moves in 4 a LOT...don't care who ya are!), dealing with each of our personal issues and working through them, starting over again. New job for David. Finding a new church (which we still haven't decided on). We do have a few stressors.

Starting over again can be good in many ways, but stressful, even sorrowful in some ways too.

There are many positives. Also losses that cannot be ignored. Must move through the process, even though it is not always comfortable.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandparents, father, uncles and aunts on both sides of our family, father-in-law, dear friends and family we have lost...those who have died. Missing them.

There will be hard days once in awhile with missing them. Especially during the holiday season; certain dates, remembering events; things, dates, smells, situations, or people...all things that asssociate or remind us of them. It happens out from nowhere sometimes.

Since my husband deals with death on a daily basis as a Hospice Chaplain, he is a great encouragement to our family. We learn together and from him. Our family doesn't always get it right, but it helps to share together, and learn from the word of God, and from each other too. To continually walk the healing journey with God, and with family and friends. We all need each other.

My husband has served with GriefShare classes, and I went to their website today. These were some comforting words/ideas to acknowledge and honor loved ones we have lost.

Holidays and Other Special Times
Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays and Other Special Days

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special days can be extremely difficult and are often dreaded by those in grief. Here are some practical suggestions from GriefShare* group leaders and participants on how to make it through these emotionally challenging days.

*Ask yourself questions to help you identify and face the specific feelings and concerns you have about the coming holiday. Questions could include “Which traditions will be different this year?” “Which traditions are important to maintain?” “What plans do I have on that day?” “What do I dread the most about the coming holiday?” “What will I miss the most about not having my loved one here on that day?” “Whom can I ask to pray for me and be my spiritual support on that day?” “How do I plan to take care of myself on that day?”

*Consider having an “escape plan” in place. If you plan to attend a family or group gathering, you could make arrangements with the host/hostess ahead of time to be excused if needed. This plan involves an acknowledgment of the grief process, while also avoiding potentially awkward situations with others.

*Volunteer to help others in need on that special day. For instance, working in a soup kitchen or at the Salvation Army. Your church pastor may have suggestions of other places to volunteer.

*Have a candle-lighting ceremony with your family or close friends to remember lost loved ones. As each person lights a candle, he or she may share something meaningful about the loved one. People could also share a picture, song, poem or a tangible item that was special to the loved one. End with a time of prayer.

*Plan a night of remembrance not only in honor of your lost loved one, but including other friends who have lost a loved one. Provide ornaments or have people bring a special ornament to hang on the tree in remembrance of their lost loved one. Invite people to share a special Christmas memory about their loved one. Include food, music, Scripture and prayer.

*Read a book such as The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions by Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries.

* We encourage you to attend a GriefShare grief recovery support group at a church near you. You will have the opportunity to spend time with others who know the deep pain of grief and who can better understand what you are going through this holiday season. You will also learn how to take steps forward and grieve in a way that is healthy. Make a commitment to visit a group for at least three sessions.

© MMVI by Church Initiative. All rights reserve

Here is the GriefShare link. Click Here for GreifShare
You can go on that site and they will let you know where the next class will be in your area.

Another great article by the Hospice Foundation. I found this encouraging....and found it here: Click Here

Coping with Grief During the Holidays
Hospice Foundation of America's New Campaign Offers Advice

Washington, DC - A question commonly asked by bereaved people at this time of year is, "How can I get through the holidays?" There is really no single answer of what one should or shouldn't do. Hospice Foundation of America stresses one guiding principle: do what is comfortable.

"When we are already experiencing the great stress of bereavement, the additional strains of the holidays can create unbearable pressure," commented Jack Gordon, President of HFA. "The key to coping with grief during the holidays is to find the way that is right for you."

Some people find it helpful to be with family and friends, emphasizing the familiar. Others may wish to avoid old sights and sounds, perhaps even taking a trip. Others will find new ways to acknowledge the season.

Here are some key points from HFA's Holiday Grief Campaign:

Plan for the approaching holidays. Be aware that this might be a difficult time for you. The additional stress may affect you emotionally, cognitively, and physically; this is a normal reaction. It is important to be prepared for these feelings.

Recognize that holidays won't be the same. If you try to keep everything as it was, you'll be disappointed. Doing things a bit differently can acknowledge the change while preserving continuity with the past.

Be careful not to isolate yourself. It's alright to take time for yourself but don't cut yourself off from the support of family and friends.

The holidays may affect other family members. Talk over your plans. Respect their choices and needs, and compromise if necessary.

Avoid additional stress. Decide what you really want to do, and what can be avoided.

Web site at:

The College Conspiracy?

I continue to find this video quite thought provoking......

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mind over Matter? If You Don't Mind... You Don't Matter!

Sometimes I wonder if some forms of the 'EXTREME positive thinking' we christians push onto one another, is nothing more than mind over matter...which is more of 'self power' instead of 'Holy Spirit' power. Even a form of spiritual pride in some cases... (I'm guilty of it!).

You know like: Be happy and all spiritual, and be 'positive', never say ANYTHING otherwise, or else you can't associate with might bring us down.

Yet, God says in the word, things like: associate with the lowly-Romans 12:15-17, better to be lowly-Proverbs 16:19. There is a time for everything-Ecclesiastes 3. I know....the Bibles says a LOT about a LOT!

Any extreme is disfunctional (the Bible didn't say that, but so true!). I'm just continually evaluating my own heart, and things I need to work on. I found myself doing this to a friend...being all "Ms. Positive", and I believe I did more crushing of the friend's spirit than I did encourage for Christ. :-/

Yes, we are given free will to make choices, christians should think on 'good and lovely' things...things of good report-Phil 4:8...encourage others with God's word.

Not too sure if 'our will' should be 'taking full control' to accomplish this by never saying anything negative or questioning...never expressing or allowing others to express sadness, anger or hurt/pain, or anything other than happy all the time mentality.

David in the book of Psalm sure expressed his feelings!

I realize there is a respectful way to express some of these emotions, and personally I've not 'always' been respectful about expressing my feelings.

Doesn't the whole mind over matter sort of cheapen what Jesus did on the cross when we 'WILL' things into being by our own strength? Where's the full surrender in this? It's like willing to diet, but not really having the 'life change'. Which has never worked for me either.

The beauty and power of the cross, by God's word, and FULLY surrendering and trusting JESUS for HIM to transform us, there is Holy Spirit power in the cross! In the RESURRECTION! Thank you JESUS!

Point others to the cross, not in a way that puts pressure on them to be positive ALL the time. Receive grace...and extend this grace to others? Encourage with God's word, not force them to be happy when they are not.

Love others...which Jesus says is above ALL the greatest of God, love others.

Remind each other that yes....the Bible says, "In this world WE WILL have trouble, but take heart, JESUS has overcome it!" JESUS, not anything in OUR own power or strength.

Sometimes, it can really hurt the body of Christ to dismiss others when they struggle, and treat them with ZERO compassion or treat them with less value....or as if they have not 'arrived' at some spiritual plateau. The Bible says to treat others as better than ourselves-Rom. 12:10. One version actually says to OUTDO one another in showing HONOR to others. It didn't say, only honor those who get it all right. I think we change the world when we live it out more than anything.

I'm thinking outloud here...that's all...and I SURE DO have a LOT to work on myself!! There is NOTHING GOOD in me, accept Jesus Christ. I'm guilty of doing the same of these things to others in their struggles and pain.

If we are to love as in 1 Corin. 13...maybe instead, point each other to Jesus, share scripture, but patiently bear with them in their pain and struggles...take time to listen and HEAR their HEART. I think sometimes when we don't hear someone's heart, we are really saying..."If you don't mind, you are wasting my time and you really don't matter enough for it. How does that fit into putting others before ourselves?

Only wondering... I know...sort of heavy thinking for a Monday. I need coffee. ;)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friendship from the Christian Perspective

This is a wonderful article that I found HERE

Friendship from the Christian Perspective

by Dér Stépanos Dingilian, Ph. D. © 2001

One of the most important areas where the maturity in spirituality becomes apparent for these faithful is in the area of friendship. Here is what Addison states about the value of friendship: “Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joy, and dividing our grief.”

The Exalted Vision of Friendship - Perhaps one of the most needed persons in life, while also one of the most difficult to find is a good friend! Sometimes we forget that when Christ wanted to raise the standard of spiritual living for his Disciples, he told them something very interesting: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (St. John 15:12-15) So from the perspective of Christ, being a ‘friend’ is no simple matter; it is a true commitment and responsibility! Henry Home adds this insight: “The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.”

Helping at Time of Need – Human beings have a natural tendency to help others at time of need. So it is of no surprise that most friendships begin when one or both persons need help. Perhaps the best illustration of the way friends are expected to help at time of need is the story of the Good Samaritan, which you can find in the Gospel according to St. Luke verses 10:30-37. In this story, a traveling Jewish person is attacked by bandits, robed, and beaten, and left to die along the road. Christ points out that other travelers such as another Jewish person and even a Jewish spiritual leader, passed by but did not help this wounded person. Yet, a traveler who was a Samaritan, from a people who were generally considered to be enemies of the Jews, helped this Jewish person and even paid for his lodging so he can get rest and recover. The point that Christ makes is that ‘neighbors’ are truly those who help, rather than those who are simply tied through kinship or call themselves ‘servants of God.’ So the desire to help others at a time of need must surpass the kinship, title, and position. “Life has no blessing like a prudent friend,” observed Euripidies. In fact, the more unexpected is the source of help, the stronger is generally the friendship bond between two persons. Although, most meaningful friendships begin in this manner, yet unless two people demonstrate a sense of reciprocity towards each other, where they help one another at time of need, even what may have been considered a ‘friendship’ at the beginning fades away into being an ‘acquaintance.’ Emerson said “The only way to make a friend is to be one.” Still though, in order for a friendship to grow, the relationship must progress from two people needing each other’s help at time of need, to wanting to share their accomplishments together. This takes us to the next stage of friendship.

Sharing the Successes – Helping each other at times of need is certainly important for two people. However, if it remains so, it simply becomes a utilitarian relationship, meaning that people stay together in order to use each other’s abilities, and not because they care or have respect for each other. Though the friendship remains, but there is hardly any spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes when two friends share their successes, and actually rejoice for the other’s success. “He is our friend who loves us more than admires us, and would aid us in our great work,” wrote William Ellery Channing.

One may think that two people ought to be happy for each other’s success, and that this is a very commonplace experience in friendships. Surprisingly though, this is not very common. As one parishioner told me once: “When you are in need, everyone pitches in to help you survive. But the minute you begin recovering and moving forward, then everyone pulls back, begins gossiping about you, and saying ‘look at his dumb luck!’” Although this was the observation of an Armenian farmer, yet it is an age-old reality that is described in the Bible, St. Luke 14:16-24. In this parable, a rich man gives a banquet and invites his neighbors. Do his neighbors come and rejoice with him? No! They all make excuses and do not come to the banquet. One of the points of this parable is that people generally do not want to see someone become better or more successful than they are. It is interesting in that many of these people neither want to work hard and excel themselves, nor do they want to give credit to someone else who works hard and excels! Not only do they have that sick attitude of striving for mediocrity, but worse, they stand in the way of those who want to reveal God’s goodness to humanity, and make life a more meaningful and fulfilling experience. For this reason Christ ends this parable by saying: “I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” In other words, none of those people who oppress or stand in the way of others who want to serve God will ever get a taste of fulfillment or joy in life. Instead, they will remain miserable and pitiful, and die bored from suffocating in the stench of cowardice, mediocrity, and hypocrisy!

Therefore, in order for the relationship between two friends to grow, it must move beyond helping each other, and to creating an environment where both persons freely and with respect share their views, aspirations, and joys. Unless this joyous sharing takes place, the friendship remains a utilitarian one. Of course, one would think that there should be friendship and trust among the clergy. After all, they are called to be followers of Christ, and in so doing they must love each other and be friends. Recently I met one of my students and as we were talking, he said something that really struck me. He said, “Dér Hayr, do you remember all those things you taught us about loving each other, being friends, and cooperating together?” I said “Yes, I am glad you remembered all those principles that I taught, and I am pleased that you remembered that I emphasized those beliefs.” Then he continued, “While we were classmates we were friends and served together until we were ordained. The minute we were ordained, suddenly, our group of friends stopped trusting each other! We were the same people, yet we stopped trusting each other. Can you tell me why that happened?” The reason is jealousy! Although not all clergy have this experience, but “Jealousy is the sister of love, as the devil is the brother of angels,” wrote Boufflers, and clergy as much as laity are vulnerable to this temptation. Most friendships stop growing at the stage of Helping, and do not attain the stage of Sharing because of jealousy. Oh yes, some people do share – but what they share is the gossip about others! That is not true joyous sharing, but rather sharing in each other’s misery. As the saying goes: “Misery loves company!” The Spiritually Mature persons respect such friendships, but they neither trust them, nor invest a great deal of spiritual energy in them. They know that the person who will be gossiping to you about another person today, will be gossiping about you to that person tomorrow! The Spiritually Mature know that very few friendships ever get to the level of trustful sharing of joyous successes and visions! When they find such a relationship, they nurture it and cherish it!

Lasting nature of friendship Developing a friendship where joyous visions are shared as described above is difficult enough. However, maintaining such a relationship over the years is even more difficult. Socrates wrote “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when you are in it, continue firm and constant.” Usually complacency takes over a friendship, or excuses become the norm of conversation. Eventually, the “out of sight, out of mind” principle darkens the beaming light that guided the friendship. For this reason, the Spiritually Mature know that a friendship is not just for a short time, but rather over a lifetime. They also know that such friendships are very few in a lifetime. True friendships take decades to build, but few unwise and jealous words destroy a friendship in minutes. The Spiritually Mature know that true friendships are so rare, that they must be God sent, because they require all the attributes required of a Christian - true love, commitment, trust, and praying for one another’s well being and success! Robert South, a British minister wrote, “A true friend is the gift of God, and He only who made hearts can unite them!”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Part of the Plan and Weekend Snaps

This past weekend, DD and I decided to do a few fun snaps with the iPhone camera. Guess I'm getting a little bit of a creative camera fix with the phone.

People want to know why I am not doing 'official photography' anymore. Well, it may not make sense to others, but the Lord actually spoke to me to put it down for awhile. Part of it is that God has been working out a lot of PRIDE in my life! STILL IS!

Also, during the time of my husband's unemployment, I needed to sell the camera bodies to help pay the bills. Photography was not a 'steady' income. It was mainly a ministry for me and then I made a little money. BUT, I allowed myself to get so sidetracked and consumed with it to the point where it became a vanity thing that I 'lived for'. It was expensive to be able to get the update equipment that I really needed, consumed a LOT of time away from my family, and I did not see this as a 'full time job' venture to begin with.

I found myself so obsessing over I do over so many things and people in my life. God is leading me to OBSESS in HIM alone! Why is it so easy to get sidetracked? I need those blinders like you put on the sides of horses to keep them on the straight path! Lord, keep me on your path, in this moment.

For now, I'm living in 'the moment'. Not thinking too much ahead, not letting go of the God Dreams, holding to hope of the vision, but learning to TRUST His ways. Allowing God to 'fill the holes in my heart'. Which reminds me of these songs I used to love back in the 80's. So here is a christian music throwback. ;)

So, I laid the photography down for awhile, and other things too. It means something between GOD and ME, and that is all that matters! Focusing on what I NEED, my relationship with the Lord, and what MY FAMILY NEEDS. Worrying less what other people think of me, and less of what THEY expect of me. Being used where GOD leads me, not where I allow people into GUILT-ING me into. Trying also not to put those kinds of pressures on people around me either. When we expect a lot from ourselves, we tend to expect just as much, if not MORE from those around us too!

God may have me pick the photography back up again, or invest in the better equipment so I can be ready if God wants to use me. I have done some small shoots here and there using other's equipment, ONLY as the Holy Spirit has led me to do. There are a few 'portrait' promises that I had made for two close friends in ministry that I will hold to if at all possible when those times come, and they are each ready to do their shoots (and those two ladies each know who they are). ONLY portrait shoots! Nothing major, and I can rent the equipment needed for those.

There are times I do miss it...mainly the 'people' that God brought into my path through it. I had the most wonderful conversation with a friend of mine from eastern NC yesterday via Skype. She and her family were one of the first families I photographed, and she shared with me how much it was a blessing from God to have those photos we took together. She is so sweet and encouraging of me. I'm loving that she is pursuing photography, and she is going to be GREAT! She has an amazing creative eye, and such a sweet and humble spirit of the Lord. I'm praying for you girl and that God will direct your path in this new venture!

I do believe we are to use our gifts and talents, all of them, for the glory of God. There is a fine line in the 'balance...being sure it is something GOD wants. For me personally.... so many years I've lived my life from such a place of feeling guilty about everything I do, so it is difficult sometimes for me to KNOW if it is something I am supposed to be doing.

There is this place in my heart for music and worship through song, that God is using, and will continue to use... all of this creativity and music in my heart is from God, and will be used for God's glory. Only pray that God do it HIS way. Sometimes it means being willing to lay it down.

I'm sure it is all 'part' of whatever God's plan is for me to do.

Right now, our family has been through so many transitions, it was such a God thing that I had surrendered the photography for a season. God blessed us in ways that He would not have been able to do if I hadn't. Romans 8:28

When I need a little creative fix, I snap some shots with my instagram. ;)

So here are a few of my favorite things. :) Some fun snaps I did, and share them here so family and friends who don't have facebook can keep up with us and see our faces.

Beautiful DD:


Our boy got a haircut.......


AFTER - He loves it and so do we!!!!......

AND I still want to share with you all about SUNDAY! My bum is tired from sitting at this desk, and I'll write more later....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Comfortably Numb

Today I am thankful for two awesome children. We are learning so much together as we home school. I'm learning from them, as much as they are learning from me. Together we are learning from God's word, and I'm even re-learning Algebra. Fun Fun! They are both such a blessing to me, and I'm thankful for them.

It is turning a little colder as we draw nearer to the close of this week. I think we are going to have a few days of high 40's, low 32ish. Burr! Clear skies, so probably no snow in our area.

Tonight DH is taking DS out for some father/son time. DS is really looking forward to this. They are going to have some bonding time that is long overdue with all that we've had going on. It will be a good time for them.

DD is making a list of ideas for she and I to do. I'm looking forward to time with her too! She and I have fun together, and I'm sure we'll find plenty to do around here. Or we may venture out to the larger city.

I'm doing better as far as the move. I do 'like' it here. Good days and hard days still.

Past few days, I've sort of been flat about it. One night of tears. Anyway, I've accepted it, but it still occasionally stings...missing people. The holidays are just a little tough in general with missing many loved ones, especially those of ours who have died. There is this funk I get into, and don't even realize I'm in it sometimes. It rolls around on birthdays of the loved one, or holidays, or anniversary of their death.

I'm doing pretty good overall. Considering it took me 3 yrs to get over our move to eastern NC from western NC...I'm in a MUCH better place in comparison. It is hard that after the 4th yr, we were moving again. It causes me to hesitate to really open up my life and connect with people, because we may move again.

I'm learning to accept God's plan most often upsets ours, even though it HURTS sometimes!!! It isn't about ME ME ME. I just get the privilege to GO THROUGH it. Like many other painful losses. Can't get around it....can't go backwards, can't side step it, or hurdle over it (run ahead of the process). Must GO THROUGH. Like pressing against a raging vortex at times.

Today, I'm 'comfortably numb'. You know me, I'm honest........not going to pretend like I'm joyful Jennifer, when I'm not. I'm not saying I don't have 'joyful' moments (many more lately than not), but not saying it is easy and without sad moments either.

Yeah, This is where I am at today.....comfortably numb. When I'm like is like the lyrics of the song I've posted here..."Hello, is there anybody IN THERE???? Just nod if you can hear me!!" Some days DH has to knock on my head (so to speak) to see if anyone is home. Grief does that too.

Most days are GOOD for the most part.

That balance will come, and the joy is coming. For now......

The words of this song describe me in this moment. My 'drug' of choice is the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who gives me what I need to make it through the days...some days harder than others. God's word always has what we need.

Some days more joyful than others. Some days... neutral. I'll call neutral...'comfortable numb'.

This song reminds me of my late father. My father died in Sept of 1997. He died of a heart attack suddenly when I was pregnant with DS. and DD was so little. A dear friend brought us a bag of snacks to take on the ride to FL (Thanks Ging). We were living in NC at the time. Our Aunt allowed us to drive her beautiful luxurious car to have all the room we needed for traveling. I remember the drive to FL. It was bittersweet...I was BIG and pregnant too!! The drive back to NC was worse, was it tough. Mainly because I had no time to spend with my family, no time to be with them and grieve with them. It was hard...which made it a little more difficult to get through it.

Anyway, my father loved Pink Floyd...and would play 'The Wall' tape on our drive to stay with him at Ft. Pierce Beach. My parents divorced when I was young, and we would stay weekends with my father, and weeks in the summer with him too. My father once owned two corvettes at one time....and he liked to drive them extremely over 90-100 mph once when he took us to the beach. He liked 'speed'. He was a free spirit......and we were along for 'the ride'. He liked to play Pink Floyd, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band....and Rod Stewart. Songs really do spark memories.

My wonderful grandparents were usually there too. They would take us on the beach, while my father and grandfather worked. Or sometimes I would go to work with my grandfather, and he'd let me drive around in the groves while he checked on crews that were harvesting oranges. The beach was a place of peace and solace for me. Which is another reason why I very much miss living near the ocean now. It was nice while it lasted.

AnyWHO. This too shall pass. Going to enjoy time with our family in western NC during Thanksgiving. That will be a fun time! And tonight I'll have fun too.

Here is another song that makes me think of my father.....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Consider the Ant and Finding My Sabbath

I'm constantly reminding myself, and in teaching our is the 'steady plodding' that gets us to our end result. You know...the whole 'short term goals get us to our long term goals'. The small things we do today, open up the larger things God has for us to do. I need this reminder even more so as I remind our children.

Today I've been thinking about the little things I do, that sometimes think to be insignificant. Yet, if I look at the long term result.......there is something being produced in all of these 'little things' we think are not so important.

The verse comes to me about doing EVERYTHING as unto the Lord...and that means "EVERY" thing! Why is this so difficult?

Every day we are sowing into something or someone. Every little thing holds value (even laundry).....a kind word, a smile, an encouraging word, a word of correction in love....can mean life or death for a person's spirit, or their life course. Wow, that is a LOT to consider!

So today I'm considering the ant.......the ways of the ant. For me....working, building toward the kingdom of God. My life, my husband's life, the two little lives that God has entrusted me with, every person God places in my path....moments or interruptions that could be irritating. God may have something quite profound in those moments, even the irritating ones. It could be a 'divine appointment'.

Then balancing and keeping in mind healthy boundaries, and remember to take time for my personal Sabbath/REST with God each week. There is such a fine line with keeping balance. Only the guiding of the Holy Spirit can keep that all in order. The weekly Sabbath is so important...a FULL DAY. If it was good enough for God to do, it is good for we His children too. Even good things done when it should be a day of rest, can take away the healing and filling up of God that a true Sabbath can bring to us. We need to be filled up with the Lord AND rest in Him, so we have something to give back out again. Or...we may burn out.

Proverbs 6:6-8
Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.

Proverbs 30:24-28
Four things on earth are small,
but they are exceedingly wise:
the ants are a people not strong,
yet they provide their food in the summer;
the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
the locusts have no king,
yet all of them march in rank;
the lizard you can take in your hands,
yet it is in kings’ palaces.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Hebrews 4:9-13
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

God I need you in every moment of the day. To keep my path straight and steady, for what You want me to do...moment by moment. Some things can wait, if you have something special in mind. As long as I am moving with You. Lord, help me find my personal sabbath each week...a full day to rest and reflect in YOU! To Be Still, and KNOW that you are Be Still, and allow my mind to stop spinning with 'busy-ness', so I can truly think on You and honestly work through my thoughts with YOU. Also, to hear You speak in the quiet of the day.

Here is a beautiful photo from my walk........

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Stroll

Today was such a BEAUTIFUL day!!! The sky was soooooooo blue, without a single cloud in the sky!

We slept in a bit, and then drove to DH's office. We hung a picture, most of his plaques of being his B.A. in Sports Medicine...and put books in his bookcase. We need to have his ordination certificate framed, and Master's of Divinity.

We decided to hang this one on the main wall of his office......

It works nicely in there, and it is a print of a drawing we purchased while visiting The Biltmore House. The artist of the Biltmore House drew this when he was 15-16 yrs old. It took him a 1 and 1/2 to complete. On one of our visits to Biltmore, the artist happened to be there signing his drawings. So we purchased this one, and DH's uncle framed it for us. We've had it for years, and we love it!

Here is more of God's beauty while driving to DH's office:

After we finished at his office, we took a drive to Roanoke. It was such a lovely drive, and here is what we saw on the drive.....

An amazing view from the highway.........

Then we stopped for a late lunch at a famous Hot Dog Stand.......

Yes, Barbara Bush has even eaten here.......(and this same man, the owner, served our Hot Dog's today......)


(Almost as good as Tankard's chili dogs....not quite, but what can we do when we are 6 hrs away from Tankards??? Boohoo missing you!)

Tomorrow we are going to the early church service at the church we have been visiting here. Then we have a memorial service to be a part of......given for families who have lost loved ones this past yr., whose loved ones were taken care of by the Hospice clinic DH works for. They have asked DH, DD and I to sing with the small choir they have put together. DS did not want to sing, but he will be attending with us. We are singing one of my favorites..."I'll Fly Away"; A few other selections, including this song.......

Going to bed early....tomorrow will be a busy, and most likely emotional day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Week in View

Today I am thankful that my husband has a job, when so many are out of a job and not been able to find employment. We are very blessed that he was able to find a position, doing what he loves and feels 'called' by God to do, after four months of being unemployed. God has blessed us with a nice place to live, and the main thing......we have each other!

Tuesday we met DH for lunch at the hospital he will serve in at times. It is an amazing hospital...not large, but NICE. The inside of it had a waterfountain that resembles a waterfall. There was a black grande piano across from the fountain, that was up on a platform. Dr's and Nurses play it at random times...during breaks/ lunch hour.

The stairway down to the cafeteria was wide, gradually curved around, and it was made with smooth stones. So beautiful! The walls and part of the ceiling were all glass in the cafeteria area, and it was so sunny and bright!

Being in a hospital usually does not cheer me up, but being in this one was quite cheery.

After we had lunch with DH, the children and I we went to his office and met his supervisors and co-workers. Most of them are pastor's wives...very interesting.

DH has a nice office...first time he has ever had his 'own' office. Usually he would have to share a space, or he worked out of his home.

On Sat., I'm going help him decorate his office, hang books in his beautiful bookcase. There are some certificates we still need to frame to hang in his office. His recent ordination, his certifications he received with hospice. I'm going to look into this. There is a Michael's nearby, and I'm pretty sure they do framing there. I'd like them to match what he already has framed (as much as possible).

I've had a good week, and gotten a lot accomplished. Not as many sad moments (although had one good crying spell early this morning).

Yesterday I hung paintings and portraits...'eye-balled' them....cleaned and organized the first floor of our 3 floors. Cleaned out and found homes for things. Still need to finish the armoire. Somewhere along the way, I've lost some pegs for the top shelving. Need to find those before I can finish organizing it. Anyway, made a lot of progress there in the living room and kitchen. I had unpacked, but not really gotten stuff organized or 'homes' for some of it. Main thing, there were paintings and portraits stacked down there, and glad to have most of those hung now!

I'm starting at the bottom and working my way up. The second floor is 'another story'. I still have a floor full of books, artwork, and music in the upstairs den. The floor is covered..........these piles I want to conquer, and will be able to find homes for a good bit of these items. Will need more shelving for the books and artwork. I'm going to get one more tall walnut bookcase. Then one tall white one for the sunroom/art studio. It will take some time as we are still playing catch up.

Last night when DH drove DD and DS to youth group, I while sitting in the passenger seat, admired how beautiful the sky was....took some photos of that. God is the master artist:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Treats, no Tricks!

Well, we got through another 'Halloween'. I don't mind it so much. Our children have always loved the dressing up part. When they were younger, we'd take them around mainly to friends and family...maybe some church festival events, and they would have fun getting candy and showing off their costumes.

As they are getting older, they enjoy more handing out the candy. Both DD and DS had a good time rushing to the door, with bowl of candy, to see the children and their fun costumes. Lots of sweet little girls with princess costumes, a few Harry Potters, a Sponge Bob. A few creepy ones too.

I try to take an approach to see the good and fun parts of it, and not focus on the other. That is just me, and I try to respect other's opinion about it too. I've never played it up much at all. Only had a very few decorations that were pumpkin related, and actually got rid of most and gave to my friend Lindsay before we moved.

I've given away a LOT more items before we moved. I still have a box to take to Goodwill or Salvation Army, that the movers accidentally packed...was too tired during the move to even notice they had packed it up. I gave tons of empty plastic containers away that I did not intend to fill again. Kept a few...but seriously, there were like probably at least 40 empty plastic containers! It is a good feeling to simplify. DH and I are going through the garage one more time, to see if there is anything we can give away or throw away.

God keeps calling me to go through again and again...keep simplifying. Not sure what this is about, but we have other friends in AL who have been going through this same feeling. Also another friend in Washington. Maybe God is getting us all ready for something, or calling His people to learn to live 'simply'.

Last week was a good week for me (as far as feeling sad about the move and this transition), and I've had my mind in a good place; My attitude in a good place. Well, last night I took a turn for the worse, I had a drop down that went south fast! Not sure what it was because I'm staying in the word, had a good day overall with the children, and have been allowing God to shift my thinking. Yet, out from nowhere, I could not stop crying.

I suppose grief can be like that....grief of all sorts. This move is a grieving. DH and I were also faced Sat. with dealing with grief of friends losing their father. Also, another illness they are dealing with. Which brought us around to losing our Gaga, and the children and us walking through more grieving moments too.

As much as we'd like to never feel sad again or shed a tear, the sad moments still come unexpectedly. We've got to allow ourselves to FEEL that pain, work through it....allow God to touch those places, and move through it. We are doing this with God walking us through. We get through the sad spots, with or without support of others. However, it sure would be much sweeter getting through the struggles and pain of life, with understanding others. Not someone to 'fix', or tell how us how we need to be acting, or what to do to 'get over it'. We all know that, We know the word. We love Jesus and HE is our Savior! Yet there are times we need to feel and cry...need a brother or sister in the Lord to 'be' beside us. A presence of a friend can be comforting; a word of encouragement and love...and uplifting word in season can bring a person from a very low place, to a much higher place. A sharp, harsh word, can take one lower into despair.

God help me be as Jesus to those who are hurting. Help me speak words that build up someone who is hurting, and lovingly remind them of their hope in Christ. No matter how long it takes, show me how to walk through it, and love others through, and allow YOU to do the work in us all. Not place burdensome or encumbering expectations on others or myself. Help me sharpen lives by your love and your word. Help me live out the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 6:1-10) in my own life, and to be this to others. Help me bear burdens with others, and help them carry their box of burdens too. Help me not be like the Pharisees, who were more interested in shoving the word down peoples throat, for the sake of being 'religious'. Help me to truly LOVE with your love as you teach us in 1 John 3. There is so much I am lacking in, but yet you have grace and mercy enough to cover and BE love through me.

1 John 3
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Help me to live the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Friday, October 28, 2011

God Never Disappoints

We have been through some difficult seasons in the past 7-8 yrs, and especially the past 9 mons. A lot of hard things, and some things that came back on us again.

I'm so very thankful for people God brought into our path (they know who they are), to love us and guide us through, and sharpen us. All of them know who they are from Williamston, to Winterville to Greenville, to Washington. Who worked with God and us, either by prayer or directly, to complete the work God was doing, which began before we ever moved to eastern NC. So many hard lessons I have personally learned...the hard way, and still learning some lessons too. Guess that is what it means to be transformed!

Here in the new location we are living in, I can't explain it, but there is such a sense of kindness, receiving, and giving. The overall atmosphere of the town is so inviting, AND the church we are visiting is too. That is, when I got through the difficulty of moving away, and opened my spiritual eyes and ears, to see and hear what was going on around me.

The FIRST time we visited this church was last Sunday. We felt like they truly and sincerely RECEIVED us right away. So KIND, encouraging, considerate, attentive....they remember when we tell them something. From Sunday to today, one of the leaders was thoughtful in asking us about those things we shared. They are making sure we have what we need here in the city. It is the most unusual feeling except to say, God is definitely doing something HERE. He definitely led us by his grace and love, to this place.

The children went to this church today to serve dinner to the local high school football team. They had such a great time with the youth leaders and young people. I mean, they only met these people Wed., and when we picked DD and DS up, they were full of joy and smiles. Excited to tell us all about it. It is good to see the joy coming forth.

People so received them/us overwhelmingly! It is neat to be in such a new place and experience this so SOON. I mean not just very friendly, Like OVERLY niceness......I've never seen anything like it really! This is how outrageous it is! It isn't just ONE or a few, but it is the atmosphere of the church as a whole, and like I said...the city as well.

Our church in eastern NC is so amazing and warm and loving. We know we can't look for a place to compare to what we had there, but this church is very....well....NICE. I mean, with any church it usually takes a little time to get to know people. With these people, it seems like we have known them already. Like a sister church.

Even with all of this showering of love on us, we are going to PRAY and take it slow. Yet, it is wonderful how we are 'fitting' there as if we went from one family, right to the next part of the same family...already knowing each other. It is 'familiar', and much like our eastern NC church in many ways. Isn't that the way it should be in the family of God?

I love how time means absolutely nothing to God! In a blink, He can heal, redeem, restore, bring QUICK recompense. I'm very thankful. Not sure all God has in store for us here, or for how long, but I've seen enough this week to get my attention; things are going effortlessly upward! It is like a pouring out on our family that cannot be stopped. It isn't only of 'things' or 'financial' gain, it is blessings, kindness, favor from God and favor from man. Like I said, something like we have never experienced before. So I want to encourage people with the same encouragement OTHERS have comforted me with....

Hold on to Jesus, HE never disappoints. People disappoint, but God never does. Jesus is the same, Yesterday, Today and Forever. Good things come to those who WAIT PATIENTLY on HIM. The old me would be saying, "Ok, when is the bottom going to drop out?" The new me is remaining expectant, and DRINKING IT ALL IN! So thankful for His mercy and grace.

DH is doing great with his new job...he LOVES it! He has been training with a chaplain from a nearby city who has been PRECIOUS! I got to meet him today, and he is the kind of person you just like immediately. He and DH get along SO WELL! They have had the BEST TIME while he has been in orientation with this chaplain. He has been like a father to my husband, and has taken him places everywhere, and 'showing him the ropes' and all of the BEST spots around here. He has been so uplifting and encouraging...they sing together, and laugh together. Everyday I hear new stories of his awesome day. YEAH!

When I first arrived, my attitude was not good at all. It was so hard to leave and move again for me. Then, God got a hold of me, and I pressed into Him. Through His word He began to show me a different view. I'm keeping my eyes focused on HIS view!

I've had the creative juices flowing this week! Creatively, I've been inspired to draw and paint. I pulled out my keyboard today and hooked it up.

Here is a song that I sang yrs ago with a friend back in Western NC. I would love to learn it on piano, but cannot find the original chord sheet for this range. If anyone can hear the key here, and let me know the chord progression of it, please email me at: or FB message me if you are in my contacts there. I'd like to learn it to worship with here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Drifting by Plumb (featuring Dan Haseltine)

Just when you've lost the will to live, you see the Son.

Oh....I want her purple hair....... love it! :)

Jordan and I just found this via K Love. If you pull the video up in youtube, there is a link where you can download the songs from itunes for free.

Or Click Here to Download it from iTunes via K Love!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Handling Discouragement - Part 2

This is continued from part one that I posted before........

Taken from Banner of Truth website...

Continued from Part I of this article.

So ask yourself, What are the critics saying that might help me improve myself and my ministry? Is there a kernel of truth in this particular criticism that, if changes are made, will make me a better minister?

If critics say something constructive, absorb it, confess your fault, take the lead in self-criticism, ask for forgiveness where appropriate, make changes for the better, and move on. If they offer nothing constructive, be kind and polite, and move on.

Don’t ever get self-defensive or angry, but turn the other cheek, as Jesus advised. If your conscience is clear, a simple, straightforward explanation may be helpful in certain cases, though respectful silence is often more appropriate and effective (Mk. 14:61). At all costs, don’t strive to justify yourself; refuse to descend to the level of the negative critic.

Don’t take every whisper seriously, get sidetracked into fruitless controversy, or spend your energy trying to appease or persuade implacable critics who foster animosity. But do ask: Why am I being misunderstood? Do my sermons, attitudes, “hobby horses,” and personal traits somehow combine to send a mixed message? Am I only implying what I should make explicit, or am I ignoring certain problems that should be addressed? Often your critics will be at least partially right in one or more of these areas; at the very least, they will teach you patience, make you more like Christ, and keep you from pride. They can save you from yourself and lead you to greater dependency on God.

Whatever results the criticism yields, once you’ve dealt with it and implemented the necessary changes, do not let it fester inside of you. Develop the attitude of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Criticism makes very little dent upon me, unless I think there is some real justification and something should be done.” Either way, deal with the criticism quickly and efficiently, and put it behind you. Remember, pessimism develops when we harbor the memory and hurt of criticism, allowing it to fester inside.

7. Consider Scripture. Some ministers are so delicate that they cannot endure criticism without crumbling. They need to develop better emotional muscle. Other ministers are so battle-hardened by the ministry that their hearts are, as someone said, like “the hide of a rhinoceros.” They need to develop the tender heart of a child. Actually, we need both; we need to cultivate the heart of a child for biblical criticism and the hide of a rhinoceros for satanic criticism. That combination is possible, not in our strength, but only through God’s grace molding our hearts by His Word.

We need to memorize and meditate upon texts such as Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” as well as Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.” We ought to read and plead upon such texts every day, and let them permeate our minds and souls. Only as Scripture conforms us to the image of Christ will we find the right balance of strong tenderness and tender strength in the face of criticism.

8. Consider Christ. Hebrews 12:3 says, “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.” Peter is more detailed: “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:21-23). If Christ, who was perfect and altogether innocent, was spat upon, mocked, rejected, and crucified, what can we imperfect pastors expect? If one of Jesus’ handpicked apostles betrayed him for a paltry sum, and another swore that he did not know Him out of fear for a servant maid, why should we expect to carry on our ministries without ever being betrayed or deserted?

What’s more, if our critics happen to be in error and we are suffering unjustly, shouldn’t we thank God that they don’t know how bad we truly are? No matter how much we are criticized, we are never criticized as much as our sin merits, even if we are innocent of the accusation levelled against us.

If we have Christ, who, being innocent, suffered infinitely more for our sake than we shall ever suffer for His sake, we have more than enough to cope with any trial (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 4:7-12). Drink deeply of the love of Christ, and you will conquer pessimism and be able to love your critic.

9. Consider biblical saints. Allow me to illustrate this point only from the example of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians. There he defends himself from the charges of the Corinthians who were challenging his leadership and criticizing him for not being a super-apostle, being physically weak, and having contemptible speech. How does Paul respond to these criticisms in chapter 10? He takes refuge in Christ. “We are Christ’s,” he says in verse 7. He shores up his identity in Christ’s person and His work, according to the Scriptures and his own experience. Then, he strives to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Finally, he submits his every weakness into God’s hands, accepts those weaknesses, and trusts that God will use him even as a broken clay pot to let the gospel light shine through him. Let us go and do likewise.

10. Consider love. Love the one who criticizes you in these ways: For Christ’s sake, become better acquainted with those who criticize you; you cannot love those you don’t know. Seek to understand them. Assure them that you want to learn from them and that you want iron to sharpen iron. Thank them for coming directly to you with their criticism.

Be willing to forgive any injury done to you. Failure to forgive will keep the pain alive. It will sour your preaching, cripple your ministry, and hinder your prayer life. As Spurgeon says, “Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive and forget. When you bury a dead dog, don’t leave its tail sticking up above the ground.”

Pray with your critic. If he visits you, always begin with prayer, and ask him to close in prayer, unless he is still bitter at the end of the visit. (In the case of a woman or child, you should probably offer the closing prayer.) Be very careful to pray to God and not against your critic in your prayer. Go the extra mile to ask the Lord to forgive you and to help you change in any area that needs forgiveness and change. Be as specific as possible. Pray with integrity and humility.

And then pray for your critic in private. It’s difficult to stay bitter against a person for whom you pray. The Lord delivered Job from his hard feelings toward his judgmental friends when he prayed for them. Praying for those who defame you produces peace of mind and freedom from most of the pain of criticism.

Feel pity for your negative critic. How unhappy such a person is! What damage habitually critical adults do to their children! How seldom do the children of critics become stalwart sons and daughters of the church! How tragic to be a parent who causes “these little ones to stumble”! Critical parents will have so much to answer for on the Judgment Day. Thank God that you are on the receiving end, not the criticizing end. That, too, is only by grace, for our natural hearts are no better or different.

Finally, put away anything that inhibits love. As Peter writes, “Lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1). Show kindness and attention. I feel so strongly about this that someone said, “The best way to get attention from our minister is to become his enemy!”

There’s another side-benefit to this for yourself as well. You will discover that when you lovingly serve your critic rather than resentfully retaliate against him, your own wounds will heal more rapidly. If your critic rebuffs your attempt to serve him, reach out to serve others-comfort the needy, lift up the fallen, support the weak. That will be excellent therapy for you.

11. Consider the long haul. No president in American history was so respected and yet so reviled as Abraham Lincoln. Thousands opposed his views on war and slavery as well as his attempts to keep the nation united. One day a friend pulled Lincoln aside and told him that the criticism had reached such a crescendo that it was as if Lincoln were surrounded by scores of barking dogs. Lincoln responded, “You know that during the time of the full moon, dogs bark and bark at the moon as long as it is clearly visible in the sky.” Puzzled by Lincoln’s response, the friend asked, “What are you driving at? What’s the rest of the story?” Lincoln answered, “There is nothing more to tell. The moon keeps right on shining.”

You see, Lincoln believed he was right and that his policies would in the long run win over critics and unify the country. As pastors, we can waffle too easily under the pressure of “barking parishioners” when we know we are in the right. To obtain temporary peace with a few disgruntled members, we are prone to abandon long-term biblical vision that shines on our churches and ministries like a full moon. Don’t do that, brothers. Don’t be intimidated by criticism. Don’t allow a few critics to force you into their molds, so that you live timid and hesitant lives, doing nothing, saying nothing, and worst of all, being nothing.

Remember, the fear of criticism is usually a greater threat than criticism itself. Even as you feel the fear of man, let the fear of God propel you forward and upward. Retain long-term vision by fearing God more than man. In the long haul, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again.”

12. Consider eternity. On the other side of Jordan, our faithful Savior will be waiting for us who will never let us down. He loves us even though He knows everything about us, and He will take us to be with Him where He is forever. He will wipe away every tear from our eye and will prove to be the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. All wrongs will be made right. All injustices will be judged. All criticism will be past. All evil will be walled out of heaven and all good walled in.

Because of Jesus Christ, we will enjoy perfect fellowship and friendship with the Triune God, forever knowing, loving, and communing with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. As a woman seeing her newborn forgets the pain of delivery, you will forget all the trials of your ministry when you embrace Immanuel.

In heaven, there will be perfect unity. We will commune with the unfallen angels and the saints of all ages in absolute perfection. There will be no denominations, no divisions, no disagreements, no misunderstandings, no theological arguments, no ignorance. There will not be a hair’s breadth of difference among the saints. We shall all be one even as Christ is in the Father and the Father in Him. There will be a complete, perfect, visible, intimate oneness.

Three great truths shall become perfect reality for us: first, we will understand that all the criticism we received here below was used in the hands of our Potter to prepare us for Immanuel’s land. Second, we will see fully that all the criticisms we were called to bear on earth were but a light affliction compared to the weight of glory that awaited us. Third, in heaven we will be “more than repaid” for every affliction we endured on earth for the sake of our best and perfect Friend, Jesus Christ.

Oh, happy day when this mortality shall put on immortality and this corruption, incorruption, and we shall ever be with the Lord! Let all the criticism our Sovereign God calls us to endure in this life in His infinite wisdom make us more homesick for the criticism-free land of Beulah where the Lamb is all the glory. There,

The bride eyes not her garment
But her dear Bridegroom’s face.
I will not gaze at glory,
But at my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth,
But at His pierced hand.
The Lamb is all the glory
In Immanuel’s land.

Developing a Positive Attitude

Brothers, do we have a positive view of the ministry? We have the most important and significant vocation in the world. My father often said to me, “Your calling is more important than living in the White House!” We never have to wake up in the morning and ask if our ministry is a worthwhile pursuit. As Richard Baxter says, “I would not change my life for any of the greatest dignities on earth. I am contented to consume my body, to sacrifice to God’s service, and to spend all that I have, and to be spent myself, for the souls of men.”

We are ambassadors of the King of kings, and we have His promise that His Word shall not return to Him void (Is. 55:10-11). Christ is our intercessor at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the advocate in our heart. God will not allow criticism beyond what He provides grace for us to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Every criticism, like any other hardship or difficulty, will eventually work for our good (Rom. 8:28).

Stop your worldly complaining. Count your blessings. Persevere in the good fight of faith. You have the best of assurances in that fight-the promises of God; the best of advocates-the Holy Spirit; the best of generals-Jesus Christ; the best of results-everlasting glory. Follow Fred Malone’s advice, “We must quit expecting people to respond properly, making them our tin gods of life and death. This is idolatry, to live and die upon our people’s behavior. Paul said, ‘Having received mercy, we faint not.’ The comfort of God’s mercy received is the only lasting motivation I have ever found to labor on in trial.”

“Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet” (Heb. 12:12-13). For every look you take at yourself and your circumstances, look ten times at Christ, as Richard Baxter advised. You can start complaining when you have given as much for Christ as He has given for you. Gird up the loins of your mind, and stand fast, for your Savior is greater than both Apollyon and the times. Your Sender will not desert you. Hold fast your profession-even when friends desert you-by clinging to your High Priest who is holding fast to you. Trust Him. He’s a Friend that sticks closer than a brother; He will never desert you. Don’t put your trust in princes or in a dying, fallen world, but in the Prince of peace. Look Christward; lean Christward; pray Christward; preach Christward.

Put your hands again to the plow, despite your weakness and hurts. “Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you,” Spurgeon advised. Pray more and look at circumstances less. “Bury not the church before she be dead,” John Flavel quipped, and I would add: “Bury not yourself nor the church before you and she be dead.” Believe Christ’s promise to His servants in Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”

Don’t resign; re-sign. Renew your commitment to Christ and His cause. You do that the same way the backsliding Ephesians had to “re-sign” when they left their first love. You:

Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen,
Repent of your worldliness and backsliding,
Return to your first love, ministry, and do the first works (Rev. 2:5).

Don’t give up on the Lord. He is not done with you or your ministry. Serve this great God with faithfulness and zeal. The world may not be worthy of you, but God is. Serve your Master with all your heart and every gift that you have.

By Joel Beeke

Monday, October 24, 2011

Handling Discouragement - Part 1

Dear God, forgive me for my foolish pride that creeps in so easily. Teach me what it means to truly live. This really spoke to my heart today.......

Handling Discouragement - Part I

Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:18-35) is warmly affectionate, yet full of solemn warning. Acts 20:28 is the heart of that message, and shows how we ministers must overcome wrong attitudes toward ministry with regard to ourselves and to our work. Acts 20:28 says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Paul gives three directives to consider as we face opposition in the ministry: take heed to yourselves, take heed to your flock, and take heed to feed the church of God. He enforces each mandate with persuasions to persevere in our work. “Take heed,” Paul says. Stop whatever you are doing. Pay close attention. Deny yourself, and consider what I say, for it is most important.

In this address, I want to focus on one aspect of Paul’s first directive, namely, that we should take heed to ourselves regarding our attitude toward ministry. Within this theme, I want to focus with you on our need as ministers (1) to fight pride, (2) to cope well with criticism, and (3) to develop a positive attitude toward ministry itself.

Fighting Pride

Ministers can develop two paralyzing attitudes to the ministry: pride and pessimism. Both are worldly at heart, for both show that the world is not crucified in us.

God hates pride (Prov. 6:16-17). He hates the proud with His heart, curses them with His mouth, and punishes them with His hand (Ps. 119:21; Is. 2:12, 23:9). Pride was God’s first enemy. It was the first sin in paradise and the last we will shed in death. “Pride is the shirt of the soul, put on first and put off last,” wrote George Swinnock.

As a sin, pride is unique. All sins turn us away from God, but pride is a direct attack upon God. It lifts our hearts above Him and against Him. Pride seeks to dethrone God and enthrone itself.

Pride is complex. “It takes many forms and shapes and encompasses the heart like the layers of an onion-when you pull off one layer, there is another underneath,” wrote Jonathan Edwards.

We ministers, who are always in the public eye, are particularly prone to the sin of pride. As Richard Greenham wrote, “The more godly a man is, and the more graces and blessings of God are upon him, the more need he hath to pray because Satan is busiest against him, and because he is readiest to be puffed up with a conceited holiness.”

Pride feeds off nearly anything: a fair measure of ability and wisdom, a single compliment, a season of remarkable prosperity, a call to serve God in a position of prestige-even the honor of suffering for the truth. “It is hard starving this sin, as there is nothing almost but it can live upon,” wrote Richard Mayo.

If we think we are immune to the sin of pride, we should ask ourselves: How dependent are we on the praise of others? Are we more concerned about a reputation for godliness than about godliness itself? What do gifts and rewards from others say to us about our ministry? How do we respond to criticism from people in our congregation?

Our forefathers did not consider themselves immune to this sin. “I know I am proud; and yet I do not know the half of that pride,” wrote Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Twenty years after his conversion, Jonathan Edwards groaned about the “bottomless, infinite depths of pride” left in his heart. And Luther said, “I am more afraid of Pope ‘Self’ than of the Pope in Rome and all his cardinals.”

Pride spoils our work. “When pride has written the sermon, it goes with us to the pulpit,” Richard Baxter said. “It forms our tone, it animates our delivery, it takes us off from that which may be displeasing to the people. It sets us in pursuit of vain applause from our hearers. It makes men seek themselves and their own glory.”

A godly minister fights against pride, whereas a worldly one feeds pride. “Men frequently admire me, and I am pleased,” said Henry Martyn, but adds, “but I abhor the pleasure I feel.” Cotton Mather confessed that when pride filled him with bitterness and confusion before the Lord, “I endeavoured to take a view of my pride as the very image of the Devil, contrary to the image and grace of Christ; as an offense against God, and grieving of His Spirit; as the most unreasonable folly and madness for one who had nothing singularly excellent and who had a nature so corrupt.” Thomas Shepard also fought pride. In his diary entry for November 10, 1642, Shepard wrote, “I kept a private fast for light to see the full glory of the Gospel… and for the conquest of all my remaining pride of heart.”

Can you identify with these pastors in their struggle against pride? Do you care enough about your brothers in ministry to admonish them about this sin? When John Eliot, the Puritan missionary, noticed that a colleague thought of himself too highly, he would say to him, “Study mortification, brother; study mortification.”

How do we fight against pride? Do we understand how deeply rooted it is in us, and how dangerous it is to our ministry? Do we ever remonstrate with ourselves as did the Puritan Richard Mayo: “Should that man be proud that has sinned as thou hast sinned, and lived as thou hast lived, and wasted so much time, and abused so much mercy, and omitted so many duties, and neglected so great means?-that hath so grieved the Spirit of God, so violated the law of God, so dishonoured the name of God? Should that man be proud, who hath such a heart as thou hast?”

If we would kill worldly pride and live in godly humility, let us look at our Savior, whose life, Calvin said, “was naught but a series of sufferings.” Nowhere is humility better cultivated than at Gethsemane and Calvary. When pride threatens you, consider the contrast between a proud minister and our humble Savior. Confess with Joseph Hall:

Thy garden is the place
Where pride cannot intrude;
For should it dare to enter there,
T’would soon be drowned in blood.

And sing with Isaac Watts:

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Here are some other ways to help you subdue pride:

Stay in the Word. Read, search, know, memorize, love, pray over, and meditate upon such passages as Psalm 39:4-6, Psalm 51:17, Galatians 6:14, Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 12:1-4, and 1 Peter 4:1, all in dependency upon the Spirit. The Spirit alone can break the back of our pride and cultivate humility within us by taking the things of Christ and showing them to us.

Seek a deeper knowledge of God, His attributes, and His glory. Job and Isaiah teach us that nothing is so humbling as knowing God (Job 42; Is. 6). Spend time meditating on God’s greatness and holiness in comparison to your smallness and sinfulness.

Practice humility (Phil. 2:3-4). Remember how Augustine answered the question, “What three graces does a minister need most?” by saying, “Humility. Humility. Humility.” To that end, seek greater awareness of your depravity and the heinousness and irrationality of sin.

Remember daily that “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). View your afflictions as God’s gifts to keep you humble. View your talents as gifts of God that never accrue any honor to you (1 Cor. 4:7). Everything you have or have ever accomplished has come from God’s hand.

View overcoming pride as a lifelong process that calls you to grow in servanthood. Be determined to fight the battle against pride by considering each day as an opportunity to forget yourself and serve others. As Abraham Booth writes, “Forget not, that the whole of your work is ministerial; not legislative-that you are not a lord in the church, but a servant.” The act of service is intrinsically humbling.

Read the biographies of great saints, such as Whitefield’s Journals, The Life of David Brainerd, and Spurgeon’s Early Years. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, “If that does not bring you to earth, then I pronounce that you are just a professional and beyond hope.” Associate, too, with living saints who exemplify humility, rather than arrogant or flattering people. Association promotes assimilation.

Meditate much on the solemnity of death, the certainty of Judgment Day, the vastness of eternity, and the fixed states of heaven and hell. Consider what you deserve on account of sin and what your future will be on account of grace; let the contrast humble you (1 Pet. 5:5-7).

Coping With Criticism

A pessimistic attitude in a minister is no better than a proud one, for pride is usually the root of pessimism. Ministers become pessimistic when they think they deserve better treatment than they’re getting. At times they may be right, but they may also be failing to exercise self-denial as their Master did, who suffered far worse at the hands of men than they will ever suffer, yet did not retaliate (1 Pet. 2:23).

Resentment and criticism are the maidservants of pessimism. A complaining spirit produces negativism, depression, bitterness, and disillusionment in the ministry. It also promotes smugness and blindness to one’s own condition. Bitter ministers often don’t see their unforgiving spirit, their habit of backbiting, or their tendency to judge others and magnify their deficiencies (Matt. 7:3-5).

If any minister had reason to be pessimistic, it was the imprisoned Paul. Yet Paul wrote his most joyous epistle, Philippians, from prison. Paul knew times of inner gloom and depression (2 Cor. 1:8-9), but his epistles show little evidence of it. He could say, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). People have enough troubles and burdens without having to endure the ministrations of a pessimistic, discontented pastor.

Part of the problem of pessimism is that few ministers know how to respond to those who criticize them. Being on the receiving end of criticism for many years often results in pessimism, cynicism, exasperation, insomnia, and even resignations. Here are some helps to cope with criticism without letting it lead to pessimism:

1. Consider it inevitable. In a recent study, 81 percent of American clergymen said they have experienced hostile criticism. Twenty-five percent felt that coping with criticism was the most difficult problem of ministry. It is futile to think that you can avoid criticism in the ministry. If you proclaim the whole counsel of God, as you should, you are bound to become a target of criticism. As Jesus says in Luke 6:26, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.” Expect criticism; don’t be devastated by it.

2. Consider the motive. It is critical, first of all, to listen well. Don’t only get the facts straight, but also ask: Have I heard and understood the criticism rightly and accurately? Have I heard the real problem or just a symptom of something deeper? Unresolved anger, depression, changes in life situations, frustration in relationships, jealousy, shattered expectations, and dissatisfaction with church work can lead to criticism. So ask yourself, “Does the person who is criticizing me have a proper motive, or is it indicative of something else? For example, does the critic enjoy finding fault because it somehow makes him feel superior?” Understanding the person’s motive will help you respond and cope better with the criticism.

3. Consider the source. Who is criticizing you-an office-bearer, a mature believer, a babe in grace, an unbeliever, a highly critical individual, or a fringe member of the church? James Taylor writes, “Those who criticize are usually those on the fringe, who stand back and are deaf to every appeal for service.” Criticisms from such persons seldom merit change or any other investment of energy on your part.

On the other hand, if the critic is a mature believer or an office-bearer who is usually supportive, you should seriously consider the criticism and will often find some truth in it that calls for change. What’s more, you should encourage constructive evaluation from such people. Generally speaking, the more you can sincerely welcome constructive criticism, the more your ministry and relationships with others will benefit from it.

4. Consider the context. The physical setting, timing, and situation out of which criticism comes may help us determine whether the criticism is helpful. As a general rule, don’t respond to criticism for at least twenty-four hours to allow yourself time for prayer, sifting through your feelings, getting past some of the hurt, and consulting others whose wisdom you respect.

Forcing solutions to issues too hastily may make a bad situation worse. Some situations will yield only to the healing touch of time. Truth has a way of eventually vindicating itself. Luke 21:19 says, “In your patience possess ye your souls.”

5. Consider yourself. Critics are often God’s gifts to guard us from self-satisfied and self-destructive tendencies. The Holy Spirit uses our critics to keep us from justifying, protecting, and exalting ourselves. Although critics often exaggerate their case and are seldom entirely right, they are often partially right.

Ask yourself, “Am I responding appropriately to criticism?” Remember, those who have an ear for Christ learn to have an ear for others also. If you find yourself habitually feeling slighted, neglected, and mistreated, view your feelings with suspicion. Let yourself be more vulnerable. Complain less by considering how little criticism you receive, though you are unworthy, compared with Christ, who is perfectly worthy.

Find some accountability partners to monitor your reactions. Seek the wisdom and courage needed to penetrate the insulation around your ego. Don’t be afraid to say, “I was wrong; will you forgive me?”

6. Consider the content. You can learn valuable truths about yourself from critics. Be grateful for that. Some of our best friends are those who disagree with us lovingly, openly, and intelligently. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). Helpful criticism is like good medicine.

David Pawlison writes, “Critics, like governing authorities, are servants of God to you for good (Rom. 13:4). He who sees into hearts uses critics to help us see things in ourselves: outright failings of faith and practice, distorted emphases, blind spots, areas of neglect, attitudes and actions contradictory to stated commitments, and, yes, strengths and significant contributions.”