Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All Creation Sings

Today's personal bible study took me to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 19, where the later verses in the chapter talk about Jesus' triumphant ride down the Mount of Olives and into the temple of Jerusalem. The whole crowd of disciples had begun joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. This upset the Pharisees of the law and they demanded that Jesus rebuke His disciples. Jesus' reply to the attempt to silence the praises of His followers is one well worth re-visiting.  We could very well apply this scripture to our hearts in view of the attempts from people in the world today who want to silence Christ followers. In verse 40 Jesus said, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

The works, deeds and person of Jesus will be praised by those who have seen Him and know Him. When we experience His Presence in our lives, we must share the pure love, joy and beauty of how spectacular that is. Hopefully, our lives demonstrate the outward presentation of an inward miracle. Though many may be able to see, others are still blinded. Hence the need to tell others our story of the miracles Jesus has done in our own lives.

Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. He knew that many had been presented with the opportunity of knowing and following Him, yet their eyes were blinded. They did not see. They missed the opportunity. He knew what was coming for Him, what He must do for those who would come to believe in Him and follow Him. And He knew what was coming for these people who had not believed. Jesus' heart breaks when we don't recognize who He is, when we don't follow Him.

Even today, Jesus' heart must be breaking as this world continues to fall into moral, spiritual and complete decline. It's as if we are on a train and we will soon reach our destination. Many of us are shouting praises because we know who the King will be when we reach our final destination. Many are oblivious with their earphones in or their noses into their respective digital devices. Yet others are demanding that the people of God be silenced. Yes, Jesus is sad to watch a world where many still don't recognize Him. He knows many never will, yet He still prompts us to tell our stories of His miracles for those who still may hear and believe. I think He is still saying, "I tell you, if they don't cry out, the stones will cry out."

I won't be surprised some day when all of creation starts to cry out the praises of our King Jesus. I've already heard whispers and, if I look and listen intently enough, I can witness the shouts. I will continue to praise Him aloud and chime in. I will not be guilty of causing the stones and God's creation to cry out by themselves. All creation sings. I will forever sing along!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spotlight on Co-dependency

I was grateful to see a spotlight on the issue of "co-dependency" this weekend at church. There were other things, like hope, that were really the highlights, but it is always good to expose the truth about our tendencies to have co-dependent behaviors that threaten to derail our lives on a constant basis. Honestly, some of us have derailed long ago and we are still in denial, or even ignorance, that co-dependency may be at the root of our collision with life that leaves us a perpetual walking, or limping,  wreck.

What, you may ask, is co-dependency? Isn't it a thing that only people involved in relationships with people who have drug or alcohol issues deal with? Well, not really. It's complicated. It's that thing that makes us want to fix others; that thing that makes us want to be in control of everyone and everything; that thing that makes our happiness hinge upon what another person thinks of us or what they do or say in relation to us; that thing that keeps us in cycles of insanity because we cannot imagine ourselves outside of our relationships with people we either try to fix or have come to enable; that thing that gives us worth because we want to help others; that thing that ultimately keeps us stuck in an unhealthy place and tends to affect our decisions, our relationships and everything in our lives; that….and so much more.

No wonder people don't understand it. It tends to take us by surprise. It tends to take on a personality of it's own. It tends to morph into character defects that we try to justify. I mean, we are doing all of these things for the right reasons, aren't we? Yeah, right! How's that working for you? It has never worked very well for me. I doubt it does for you either. And, if you think it does, then I suggest that you may still be in denial or you haven't noticed the havoc this silent relationship killer tries to play in all of our lives. Chances are, you are no exception. Co-dependency is not a respecter of persons, just a common issue of most all people - whether they know it or not!

Please allow me to explain my own struggles with the co-dependency demons. Maybe it will help you see where I'm coming from. Maybe you will relate. Maybe your experience with the demons falls in another corner of the vast co-dependency universe. At any rate, let's take a closer look at what my insanity looked like and even a look at what I can still struggle with today when I let co-dependency traits guide my life, instead of giving my will and control over to God. He is so much better than me at handling me, my problems, and everyone else's problems. I'm just slow at getting that memo sometimes, or maybe I just try to ignore it. So, here goes…

My control issues present themselves in my assertiveness with my ideas to and for those I love. After all, I feel that I know what's best for them and I'm only doing it to protect them. Sound familiar? Yeah, it can ruin a relationship really quickly or it can hang around like a chihuahua nipping at the heels of a relationship. It really bites, though! My perfectionism issues come into play when I compare myself to others and feel like I'm not going to measure up or I'm not going to be good enough. What will people think about me if I'm not the very best; if I don't do a great job? Many times, I don't even try out of fear of failure. I cannot risk disappointing people or having them think I'm not good enough at something. Sound familiar? My classic co-dependency is more veiled, or it was for many years early in my marriage. I was conscious that something was lacking in my relationship with my husband. However, I couldn't put my finger on it. We would argue because I was disappointed in the expectations I had put on him. He couldn't live up to them, of course, but he also had no desire to be at my beck and call as I tried to fix us and control a marriage I felt was slipping out of my control. Why wasn't he present for his family? Why did it seem that he always had something to do for his own interests? Why was I so unhappy? My questions did not translate very well as I argued with him and tried to get a handle on why things just weren't right. He would tell me what I wanted to hear, that he loved me, that he was sorry and would do better. He would give me a sob story about his disappointments in life and how he was entitled to a little fun with the guys here and there. I rationalized that his views were reasonable. We would have calm waters in our relationship for a few weeks and then the storm would hit again, as we both soaked in our own disappointments and crashed again after riding the waves of unmet expectations. We crashed about on those waves for years and had the bruises to prove it. Looking back on it, it was an obvious train wreck, a clear cut cycle of insanity. Yet we had no idea when we were living in the spin cycle. It took God getting hold of us many years, and many tears, later to recognize and own our own follies, and to see how co-dependency played such a huge part in it.

I'm so thankful for the healing God has brought to our marriage, our relationship, and to both of us individually. We are blessed to have served in a Celebrate Recovery ministry for several years and gained many truths and tools to identify our pitfalls and learn how to let go and let God. It surprises people that our largest groups are for co-dependency. But, I've learned that codependency and the breakdown of relationships that often occur when we operate in our co-dependent tendencies are often a root cause for the habits or hang-ups that we may have developed over the years. We often get angry, even drink too much or medicate our pain with some drug because we just cannot stand to feel the pain of our feelings. Oh, what a tangled web the demons have woven into the framework of our relationships…and sometimes with our permission. All along we thought we were in control, when all along we were falling into a trap, a pit of epic proportions.

I still wrestle with my human nature, with my feelings that want to take me down a rabbit hole. I wrestle with wanting to control my husband - for his own good - lol. I try to do God's job all the time, but I've gotten better at stopping and recognizing the signs of co-dependency. I've learned how to take my thoughts captive and look for God's truth and weigh it against my real, but fleeting feelings. I always get into trouble when I lead with emotion, but if I can lean into God and ask Him to comfort me and show me His ways and give me His thoughts, I can have peace and let God do His job all by Himself. I've realized He doesn't need my help. I sort of mess things up when I assert my way and my will. I ask Him to help me not to fall prey to perfectionism and fear of what other people think of me. When I look for His affirmation, alone, I'm far less likely to look for that affirmation in people who weren't meant to do that job for me. It's a continual process, but I'm so glad I've learned everything I have learned about giving God the reigns of control in my life.

So, what about you? Does any of this ring familiar? Does it make you feel a little too good to rescue or help others, to be needed by them? Can you go from zero to one hundred emotionally, based solely on what another person in your life thinks or says to you? Do another person's actions dictate your happiness? Do you have relational arguments repeatedly and feel like you are never going to get off the roller coaster of insanity? Or have you even realized that the ride you are on will soon derail or already has? Do you need to start picking up the pieces of your reality?

It's okay. The first step to healing is realizing that we are not God and that our life has become unmanageable. Does it take work to get healthy? Of course! Anything worthwhile takes work. But we must first get off the ride long enough to start walking in freedom. We must realize our own denial and take a good and honest look at how we've been living and who we've been living for. Only one person can ever truly make us happy and He should be the One we look to for our source of joy. That person is Jesus Christ. It's the one relationship that will bring true joy. It's also the one relationship that can help our other relationships. Psychology is great, and there are many things that can explain the mess we may have made of and in our lives, but spiritual healing and a relationship with Jesus will take us the distance when all other answers fall short. Jesus is simply the best answer to our woes. If you want to be dependent upon another person, let it be Him. His faithfulness endures forever and He will never leave nor forsake us. We can find worth, acceptance and significance in a relationship with our Savior.

I hope you allow God to help you search yourself and look at any co-dependent tendencies and relationships in your life. Whatever He reveals, allow Him to heal both you and your relationships. Being dependent upon someone who is really capable of bringing you happiness will be the best choice you could ever make. Giving up your own control to His control will affect everyone and everything in your life. I hope you give it a try and I hope you truly learn to walk in the freedom He offers.  Trade co-dependency upon others for dependency upon God. I promise you, it has made all the difference in my life and I think it will do wonders for yours!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What am I Ingesting?

As I read various articles, books and news reports, I'm aware that they all influence me. Most are opinions and some even have an element of truth. Just saying that makes me STOP in my tracks. I am reading and being influenced by the opinions of others and some of what I am influenced by may even lack complete truthfulness. I read everything from leadership principles to political views and religious and cultural trends. I think it's time to do a reality check and look to a more consistent source of truth. There is only one place for that, in my "opinion", but also from my personal experience. My source of truth has always been through God's Word; in scripture. It has what this world and its opinions cannot offer.

In scripture God encourages me; He convicts me; He examines me; He excites me; He humbles me; He teaches me; He loves me. In scripture God comes alive to me. He opens my eyes up to the full context of His truth, His love for me, and His amazing grace and relentless pursuit of me.

Oh, I know it is okay to still ingest a healthy amount of information in and from this world because one needs to keep abreast of the times we are in. Being ignorant is not an option in these days and times. However, today's revelation has re-enforced what I already knew. I must ingest far more of God's Word and truth than the world's information. That is a healthy diet and equation. That is a formula for peace. My inner scale must tip in the favor of knowing God and His truth and allowing Him to help my wade through all the muddy waters of anything else that I may ingest.

If my intake of God's Word is consistent, my knowledge of God will grow and my walk with Him will become consistent. My life and my actions will reflect what I read upon the pages of scripture; my Christian walk will be a testimony of grace, truth and redemption. My outward life will reflect my inward content. I have always known this, but it seems as if I go on unplanned diets every now and then. I don't feed my hunger to know God and His Word in a more intimate way. I don't fully activate God's Spirit within me. My bad! I know where my help comes from. My responsibility is to ingest the meal my Savior has prepared, to partake in the full banquet.

So, today, my observations are simple. Why in the world would I waste my time, energy and efforts reading and ingesting such a large volume of things that bring no eternal benefit? And, why, on the other hand, would I not spend so much more of my time, energy and efforts ingesting the treasure and truth of scripture in God's Word? The answer seems like a no-brainer, but I need help remaining consistent. We all do. Left to our own devices, we tend to drift and become complacent. We start to look more to the world for our answers and inspiration than to God's Word, the source of the best answers and inspiration in the entire Universe. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit of God continually prompts me to eat from His table and feast upon His Word. It will keep me satiated and in perfect peace.

So, today I find myself grateful for the way God reminds me to listen to His small still voice. I'm thankful that His Holy Spirit, who lives within me, draws me to a place of introspection and truth, a place where He can teach me to look to Him and draw my views and my truth only from Him. I'm thankful that He will always help me to sort out the rest. First thing's first….maintain a healthy diet with an over-abundance of God's Word and truth. It always secures His Presence; His best plan for me and my life.