Recently a young woman was sharing about marital problems she and her husband were having when she stopped short and said, “Oh, never mind. You have the perfect marriage and wouldn’t even understand what I’m talking about.” I have had similar conversations over countless years which always leaves me shaking my head.
What people see is the forty year redemptive work of Christ on display in our lives, not our doing but His doing. Hopefully a covenant-keeping display of Christ’s love for His Church.
Often Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms give us a “snapshot”, at best, of the lives who post them. Lives framed in perfect portrayals of marriage, child rearing and life. Actually even those “Keeping it real” posts often give you a cleaner version of the one who posts them’s “reality”. After all, even though we claim to be keeping it real, we still don’t want the dirt in our corners, dust on the furniture and the kid screaming and pitching his dirty diaper across the room out there for the whole world to see!
At times I almost felt like I needed to apologize for having a godly marriage. However, isn’t a godly marriage the picture that we are supposed to present to all who are watching, rather than marriages that seem to be fodder to the writers of some sit com? (Ephesians 5:22-32)
In our marriages we are to be putting God‘s covenant-keeping grace on display!
The truth is, I didn’t marry my Prince Charming and he didn’t marry a princess. It took a lot of work and God’s hand, to mold and conform us into who we are and the marriage we have today. That is why I wanted to share this story with you. It is my prayer that someone reads this and sees the hope that can be theirs too.
When they met, he thought it was going to be a blind date, she thought she was going to the mall with friends.
She had joined the Air Force and for the first time in several years she felt safe and now this stranger was chasing after her.
In order to understand their story fully we need to look at a little context.
At 17 years old she had stars in her eyes, a song on her lips and the world on a string! She was in love with her high school sweetheart and they were going to the chapel and they were going to get married!
Unfortunately while on her honeymoon those stars in her eyes went dark and like a balloon with a broken string, her world with all hopes and dreams drifted away. That string around her finger was replaced with the shackles of abuse of the emotional, physical and sexual kind.
After a few short years she was battered, broken and alone, convinced she was fat and ugly and that no one would ever love her. (A mantra she heard daily from her husband) Even after they no longer lived together she lived in fear that he would break in once again and the abuse would continue.
With the realization that her “Once upon a time” was never going to have a fairy tale ending, she reached deep down to that place of strength buried deep beneath the rubble of her dreams, and cut the cords which held her captive.
No longer tied to her circumstances she took flight, literally.
She had chosen her escape route and a whole new chapter was about to be written. She had joined the Air Force and was headed to San Antonio for Basic Training.
Shortly after the plane took off the pilot came on and said “ We have reached our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet…” She immediately felt her body relax as a loud sigh escaped from her lips.
For the first time in several years she felt safe.
A new chapter was being written, one that offered an opportunity to rise up out of the pile of broken dreams, clear her head, reclaim her confidence and gain new strength!
She came to basic training, broken and battered.
For the next six weeks she didn’t have to worry about what she would eat, what she would wear or where she would live. All she had to do was follow orders and allow this time of training to give her a firm foundation on which to build her future on.
As the weeks marched on she began to feel her strength returning. Not just the physical strength from the PT but emotional strength as well. She marched with her head held a little higher than when she arrived and on graduation day she went to her next assignment with a cautious optimism.
As she boarded the plane for the next leg of her journey she wondered if her story was going to have a happy ending after all.
For the next six weeks she would be in school studying to be a med tech in order to prepare for her permanent duty assignment as an aeromedical evacuation technician. Having escaped from an abusive relationship she was not interested in jumping into another. So, she was focused on becoming the best med tech she could be and she studied hard, perhaps a little too hard according to her roommate.
It was Saturday and her roommate convinced her to go to a mall with her and a friend. At the appointed time her ride came and she hopped into the backseat. That’s when she realized that there were 3 people in the car, not 2! In the back was a guy who looked at her with anticipation. He thought it was a blind date, she thought she was going with friends to the mall.
Feeling the sting of betrayal she sat silently in the back seat hugging the door, the unsuspecting “date” drank in the perfume of rejection.
But, not one to take rejection sitting down, the next day he set a trap for the allusive young lady. Let’s suffice it to say that his trap was unconventional, to say the least. For six hours they were confined in the same place, she was extremely unhappy and unable to leave. As the hours wore on she eventually became still. When she did he moved in with honey dripping off of his lips, and she was drawn in by his sweetness.
His sweet words and attentiveness broke down the walls built to protect the wounded and broken one, and he walked right into her heart before she even knew he was there. Could it be possible that someone would love her? Could he be the Prince Charming she had always hoped for? The song of the past played in the background of her newfound love, but she ignored it in hopes that it would fade away.
He began life in a very small town tucked away in the panhandle of Oklahoma as the first child of an extremely young couple. Grandparents, family members as well as members of the community helped to raise him because of the youth of his parents. He was the apple of his grandfather’s eye and the mascot of the senior class.
However, while in elementary school his life circumstances changed and he moved away from that small town and his grandfather, aunt and uncle whom he adored. It was to be the first of many moves.
As the years went by school pictures began to portray something in the young boy’s eyes. His eyes, once twinkling and bright, depicted a fading brightness turned into sadness and eventually the darkness of anger. By the time he graduated high school he had moved fifteen times, was an alcoholic and a womanizer.
Just out of high school the young man joined the military as security police and eventually became a dog handler. His womanizing continued until his blind date became “the one”, unfortunately alcohol was the “other woman” for a number of years.
Their “Happily Ever After”
It looked as though she had finally found her Prince Charming!
As the days turned into weeks, then months, and overlooking a few potholes in the road they were on, they both agreed it was time to get married. So, without all the pomp and circumstance, on April 1, 1977 they tied the knot in the presence of a few friends, long gone.
At first the road was smooth except for those potholes, once overlooked, but they were considered a minor detour as they stepped around them. After not so many months those potholes seemed to grow, until one day they took on the appearance of huge bottomless chasms on which they found themselves on opposite sides.
Unable to communicate they took up rock throwing to get the attention of the other. At first the rocks stung a little and left small marks. But after a while the barrage of rock throwing began to take its toll and the baggage, which was thought to be tucked ever so neatly in the past, was split wide open like Pandora’s box.
Prince Charming was no longer charming. The damsel was more distressed than ever!
Unleashed were the fears, insecurities, brokenness and coping mechanisms of past lives now reborn. Alcohol, anger, inferiority, fears and lies believed, fueled the fires of destruction.
From the midst of the flames a cry was heard. It was the cry of one longed for, yet born amidst the destructive fires, a girl child, one loved nonetheless. She melted hard hearts and served as the glue that held the two together as the fires seemed to subside.
Their tours of duty ended, bringing to an end this leg of the journey.
With a new leg about to begin, came hope renewed. Excitement of new beginnings began to build and the future began to look brighter as they moved across country with a helping hand of promise on the other side. They were hoping for a do over.
However, not many months into the help they had been offered, life became strained. The environment quickly became toxic and once again they found themselves walking on eggshells, not with each other but with those who had offered help. It became clear it was time to leave.
The little family moved out on their own and for a short time they were able to breathe.
Soon the stresses of being alone in a big city, waiting on the new job to begin along with their past history began to take a toll.
Unfortunately, although the flames of destruction in their history had died, their pain was still smoldering beneath the surface. They were desperately trying to keep their pasts from erupting once again into flames of fury.
He entered the police academy and threw himself full force into becoming the best officer he could be. At home he spent most of his time working out, studying, practicing techniques, losing himself in the pursuit of perfection. She became more and more anxious, trying not to push buttons and constantly second-guessing herself until she felt as though she had fallen into a deep hole.
It was then that she decided to take the girl child and go for an extended visit with her family. He didn’t argue, in some ways he was relieved that now he could fully concentrate without all the distractions. Yes, he would miss the girl child, but he would spend more time with her once he was out of the academy
It would also be a good time to clear his head and begin to think about what the future might hold because the present wasn’t looking too promising.
To be continued
I don’t know about you, but when I read devotions there are some that I simply read and say “Yeah I see that.” While others grab me by the heart and don’t let me go quite so easily. March 5 was one of those days. (more…)
A New Year’s Resolution
is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior.
Did you make a New Year Resolution? The statistics say about 45% of us made a New Year Resolution.
What did we resolve?
The top 5 are:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Save more and spend less
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
And the good news is that 75% of us keep the resolutions we make! Well, at least we will for the first week, and mostly for the second week, but we do start to fail rapidly after that. By the end of the year only about 8% will still be resolute in our resolutions.
That begs the question, if so few of us are successful why do we make them to start with?
Where did New Year Resolutions get their start?
Let’s take a look back in history to answer that question. Most of the historians believe the idea of New Year Resolutions started with the ancient Babylonians. It seems that their resolutions tended to revolve around paying off their debts and then returning what they had “borrowed”. Actually these would not be bad resolutions even today. Then later the Romans picked up the idea of new resolutions each year and began counting the beginning of the year as January 1. Since their New Year’s party was a celebration honoring the god Janus and involved a lot of heavy drinking, the early Christians shied away from those celebrations. So, for a while in history the Christians didn’t make New Year resolutions and associated the practice with paganism.
During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon their wrongdoings over the past year and both seek and offer forgiveness.
By the 18th century here in the US the Puritans also thought the New Year partying was too much and they encouraged instead taking time to reflect on the previous year and contemplate what would make the next year better. This of course led to making new resolutions to do things better or differently in the new year.
Later, at Watch-night services, many Christians prepared for the year ahead by praying and making resolutions.
Why do we make resolutions?
Well, if you are a Christian and take a little time to reflect on your walk with the Lord and your relationship with people around you, it is likely you see a few things you wish were different. We all do. Life is busy and we get distracted by all of the craziness of the every day. In the struggle to live we can easily fall into routines that may help us survive the day, but they don’t help us grow spiritually strong month by month. Making resolutions is a great way to keep things on track and to re-direct areas where we have drifted. Unfortunately simply making resolutions and having good intentions doesn’t insure these things will happen.
5 Steps to Making Resolutions More Effective
Putting action points in place is a great place to begin. A pretty good exercise for all of us would be to rest, reflect, re-evaluate, review and resolve to make a change when necessary. All of this should be done prayerfully, always asking God to show you what He wants you see.
Stop. Set aside a time to cease striving, relax, and breathe deep. Find a place, not just once a year but maybe once a month, turn off the noise of this world and listen to the silence.
Ask yourself the following questions.
What happened last year, or last month, or even last week?
What happened in your relationship with God?
What happened in your relationship with the people God has placed in your life?
What could you do to improve those relationships?
Every week review your resolutions. It is easier to make small frequent directional changes than it is to make large annual u-turns.
Determine ahead of time to make a change when necessary. Make up your mind to make a difference in your daily life that will make a difference in the way you love God and love people.
Wrapping it up
Personally I believe there are two key resolutions that everyone needs to make. These two shape all of the rest and shape our entire lives.
Study the Bible.
Do what it says.
For many people Bible study can be intimidating. Questions like “Where do I start?”, or “How often do I read it?” often come to mind. For years David and I were on staff with Precept Ministries, they exist to establish people in the Word of God. I would highly recommend their studies to help take the struggle out of Bible study. Precept Bible studies are designed to guide your Bible study step by step. Click here to check out their website.
This year make just two resolutions
Study the Bible & Do what it says!
Fear unleashes a host of doubts. It chips away at our confidence in God’s goodness. If Jesus can sleep in the storms of the Sea of Galilee, is He asleep in our storms? Does He care? Our minds continue, “If God doesn’t care, then we must take control.” We become control freaks because we perceive a loss of control and somebody has to do something!
The disciples had every reason to trust Jesus. They had heard Him teach the Word and had even seen Him perform miracles, and yet they still had little faith in a crisis, when their lives were at risk. Fear is a powerful emotion and it takes over when we allow it. But faith is ever present and more powerful: it keeps fear in check. The Disciples’ unbelief encouraged their fear, and their fear made them question whether Jesus really cared. (Mark 4:35-40) It is a vicious cycle. Unbelief lead to fear, fear leads to unbelief and on it goes.
Simply telling people to “get saved and read your Bible” and then their fears and anxieties will disappear is not the answer. There is a growth process that involves the renewing of our minds through the study of the Word and learning to trust in God and not in ourselves. Faith casts out fear, but that faith comes as we learn to walk in obedience to the Word.
Help for Breaking Free from Fear
David wrote Psalm 56 when his enemies were seeking to destroy him. This Psalm provides a pattern to follow that will help us break free from the fear of man. Read the Psalm and then answer the questions below.
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me.
2 My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me.
3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
5 All day long they distort my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They attack, they lurk, they watch my steps, as they have waited to take my life.
7 Because of wickedness, cast them forth, in anger put down the peoples, O God!
8 You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise, In the LORD, whose word I praise,
11 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
12 Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You.
13 For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.
Answer these questions from the text above (You may want to write the answers out)
What do you learn about David?
In the face of his enemies David is afraid but he responds to the situation rather than reacting to it. How does he respond in verses 1-2?
In verse 3 we see it is not if we feel fear, rather it is a question of when. When fear comes we don’t need to fall victim to it and let it control us. Where was David’s focus?
What did David do that helped him refocus, thus keeping him from becoming enslaved by the fear of man according to verses 3-4?
What you learn about the men that were opposing David in verses 5-7?
Does David have reason to be afraid?
In the face of his enemies David calls out to God, what does he ask Him to do?
Immediately after telling God about his enemies David puts his focus back on God. What happens when we focus on the circumstances and not God?
What did David rehearse about God that helped in the face of his enemies?
David started off the Psalm afraid but ended by resting as He trusted in God.
It is not a sin to be afraid but if the fear of man is controlling you and God is not, then you won’t be refreshed.
5 Principles for Overcoming Fear
God does not want us to live in fear. But in order to overcome fear we must learn and apply some very simple principles as David did when he was afraid.
- Respond by going to God in prayer (Psalm 56:1-2)
- Refocus by focusing on God not the circumstance (Psalm 56:3-4)
- Rehearse what we know about God and His Word, in our mind (or verbally if necessary) (Psalm 56:4,11)
- Rest by trusting God in the circumstance. (Psalm 56:4,11)
- Respond, Refocus, Rehearse, Rest. (Psalm 3:1-6)
When we put our focus on Christ we are reminded He is ever present and all powerful. Then our struggles and fears are put into their proper perspective and our faith becomes stronger. The result of that is that we are able to be courageous and not be afraid. (Joshua 1:7)
Jesus Himself wages war against fear. In the New Testament He often commands us to not be afraid, or not to fear, or have courage. Of these, the statement He made more than any other was do not be afraid. Jesus doesn’t want us to live in fear; He calls us to courage. (Matthew 14:27)
Something to think about
Are you more afraid of the voice of man than the voice of God?
Do you have faith to stand confidently and say that the God we can’t see is far greater than the people we can?
I have been thinking about lies a lot lately and wondering how in the world they take root and spread so quickly.
It is especially puzzling to me how and why the spreading of lies is so rampant among believers. I receive more emails, Facebook posts, tweets etc. from believers about the latest identify theft scam, security issues, warnings about the last days etc. many of which seem to be validated by a reliable source.
I also hear rumors about people, pastors, and teachers, politicians both inside and outside the church. When I ask if they have firsthand knowledge of these rumors, or if they had called and asked the person if they are true or not, it simply amazes me that almost all of the time the answer is, no.
I believe the spreading of lies is of epic proportion among the body of Christ. Some of the lies are intentional but some are propagated by people who really aren’t intending to cause harm, they just never thought to investigate the truth.
I remember standing in line at the grocery store while David entertained not only me but the others who were in line as well, by reading the headlines of some of the tabloids on display. Headlines such as:
BABY BORN – Half goat/Half human
SANTA’S ELVES ARE REALLY SLAVES FROM THE PLANET MARS
ST VALENTINE & CUPID WERE SECRET LOVERS!
ELEPHANT SHUNNED BY HERD … after making love to a rhino!
My all time favorite: ANGRY NUN STOMPS EVIL DWARF TO DEATH!
These lies are easily spotted, laughed at, discounted and dismissed. They are obviously lies. Unfortunately most lies aren’t so blatant.
Recently I heard several lies, which seemed rather blatant to me. But as I continued to listen to the conversation I realized what was obviously a lie to me was not quite so obvious to the listening audience. So I had to ask myself how something so blatantly not true becomes reality to those who are listening.
Most lies are truth with a twist of lie. The most damaging lies are not the blatant lies; they are the ones that are so intertwined with truth that they are nearly impossible to unravel. These lies are couched in just enough reality that they sound like truth and add that to a preconceived notion, perception, hurt; emotion etc. and you have the makings of a reality disaster.
Early in my life I was convinced that I was a terrible wife, and that I was fat and ugly and no one would ever love me. It has taken many years of being in the Word and applying it to my life to begin to unravel the lies, which were planted in my mind, and to begin to see the mounting evidence that exposes that lie.
At the age of 17 I was married for the first time. My husband, who was also young, would say things like: you don’t cook like my mother, you don’t keep house as clean as my mother. There were other accusations like: you aren’t meeting my physical needs. Abuse and infidelity became the agents used to set these half-truths deep into my thinking and emotions and therefore shading my perspective.
The thing is, some of it was half true. I didn’t cook like his mother; I was only 17 and spent the last several years enjoying high school not learning how to cook. I didn’t keep house like his mother, I worked all day and was tired when I finally came home at night. By the time I cooked dinner I didn’t feel like cleaning, let alone have sex.
Because these lies were founded on half-truths it was easy to believe the “You are fat, ugly and no one will ever love you” lies, which were totally unfounded, but became reality to me. Unfortunately because we were so young and lost with no one coming alongside to help us deal with life, that marriage ended in divorce within a few short years. However, the lies remained for many years.
So how do you begin to unravel those lies? You go to the Word of God.
Wrong thoughts lead to wrong feelings and eventually wrong actions.
These actions can be ones that keep you from obeying God, or ones that can ruin your testimony as well as His. We must bring every thought into obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).
The Holy Spirit controls our minds through truth, but Satan tries to control them with lies.
Filling your mind with God’s Word, will give you a built-in radar which will enable you to detect wrong thoughts.
Thoughts come and of themselves are not wrong – it is what we do with those thoughts that matters. Philippians 4:8 is a great passage to help you sort through them.
Below is a defense to help do just that.
- Evaluate the thought. Frisk it at the door of your mind.
Philippians 4:8 it! Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it right? …
You have a choice to make at this point – to accept it or reject it.
2. Immediately reject the thought and replace it if it doesn’t meet the qualifications (2 Corinthians 10:5).
You must take it captive! If you don’t it becomes a stronghold of wrong thinking, a fortress which will hold you prisoner.
Practically what does that look like?
Below are some thoughts that might come to mind and the truth to combat them.
Doubt – You can’t trust God or trust that He will work in this situation for your good.
Truth – God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called
according to His purpose (Rom 8:28)
Feel Unloved – Nobody loves me.
Truth – Jesus loves me and will never leave or abandon me (Jn 3:16, Rom 8:38-39)
Rejection – You are worthless and no one will ever want you.
Truth – Jesus paid a very high price for you, His blood. You are valuable (Gal1:4, Eph 1:1-14)
Unforgiveness – But you don’t know what they did to me!
Truth – We are to forgive as Christ forgave us (Eph 4:31-5:2)
I would challenge you this week to get before God and ask Him if there is any area in which you are believing a lie. If He shows that you are, determine to take those thoughts captive and replace it with truth. But, don’t just quote a verse, you must embrace that truth and intentionally walk it out even when you don’t feel like it.
The more you walk in the truth, the sooner your emotions will catch up to what your head knows is true.
photo credit: skstube.com
I would like to present today’s guest blogger, my husband David Lawson. In light of recent headlines I asked him to address the issue from a perspective that most people are not familiar with.
The Thin Blue Line
There is a thin line between anarchy and civilization, between peace and terror. It is a thin line that allows me to play with my grandkids in the park during the day and then sleep well that night with only a flimsy wooden door between me and the world. And today it is a very thin blue line.
In the last week it seems that all out war has been declared against the police. This is not a war simply against the men and women that form that thin blue line, but against society, against civilization, and ultimately against God Himself. Every assault, every killing, strikes at the heart of our society and at the heart of God.
With every murder of a police officer the people they protect become more and more fearful. More citizens arm themselves, which is their right, and more, not less, racial tension is created. With every murder of an officer people take sides and look suspiciously at people they think might not be on their side. With every assault the police become more fearful and there is a greater chance of a mistake happening in the heat of the moment.
The attack on the thin blue line cannot be justified or excused. This is not a “they killed one of ours so we killed two of theirs” situation. It cannot be tolerated. Instead it must be met with overwhelming support from the society. The civilians must rush to that one place where the line is assaulted and back up the officers on the front line.
In 1977, when trying the murder of Dallas Police officer Robert Wood, District Attorney Doug Mulder borrowed a line from Rudyard Kipling, and referred to the police as a thin blue line that separated the public from anarchy. Ronald Reagan later referred to police officers as “manning the thin blue line that holds back a jungle which threatens to reclaim this clearing we call civilization.”
Police officers are the only thing that stands between civilization and total anarchy. They are ordained of God for that very purpose.
They are, whether they are Christian or not, ministers of God The apostle Paul, in Romans 13:1-7, said that all authority is from God and we as Christians are obligated to obey those authorities. We do not have the right to take matters into our own hands. The police, described in these verses as the one who “does not bear the sword in vain” are ministers of God. The sword, by the way, was not a tool for punishment, but a weapon of deadly force. To assault them is to challenge civilization, challenge the government, and challenge the authority of God Himself.
God ordained the thin blue line to preserve society, to protect us when we cannot protect ourselves. In the ancient days cities had walls surrounding them. At night the walls were manned with watchmen and the gates were locked. The city slept in peace because the walls kept the evil away from their homes and families. Today, we have no physical walls, but we do have a blue line that patrols our world and keeps the evil away from our homes and families. At night I lock my door knowing that the locks will not really keep the bad guys out. But, it will slow them down while the blue line responds to protect its citizen.
The thin blue line. You can mock them, scream at them, hate them, and curse them to their face. But, at night when you go to bed they are the ones that keep your world safe from anarchy. If you doubt that total anarchy is only one very thin blue line away, remember New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Civilization lost that day and the world was in anarchy.
I am not arguing that the police are perfect. They are no more perfect than you or I. I am saying that there are many ways to address a grievance, but killing a minister of God is NOT one of them.
God will hold accountable those who assault the thin blue line. If this is war, it is a war with your Creator.
David Lawson – Author, Pastor/Teacher, Former Atlanta Police Officer