Friday, January 28, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 1

How quickly we forget!

As a young person, I never kept a diary – I’m not sure why, because I did enjoy writing. And now I wish I had because there were so many stories I wrote as a teenager and I’ve forgotten them all. There were also so many good things the Lord did for me back then, in spite of the bad things which happened to me as a child. Though I remember many of those good things, there are details I wish I could remember accurately.

But about 18 years ago when a respected counselor insisted I keep a journal as part of my healing process, I decided to try it. Now, looking back, I realize just how much it has meant to me over the years, as a healing tool, a worship tool and a memory aid.

Journaling as a healing tool

There were no “rules” for journaling except that I had to be honest, writing down everything I was thinking and feeling. At first I wrote tentatively, thinking about events rather than the feelings connected with those events.

But over time I noticed that I began to preface my journaling time with prayer that the Lord would unlock the secret places of my heart – those places I tried to hide from myself and especially from Him. I needed to know the roots of my depression, anger and pain so He could heal those damaged festering places of my heart.

Psalm 139 became a favorite of mine. There was no place I could hide from the light and knowledge of God. He taught me how to become vulnerable to Him and that vulnerability brought trust as I realized He handled those hurting places in my heart with care and love.

The writings showed that trend – though each entry started with pain and shame pouring onto the page, it ended with praise and jubilation. He saw the darkest parts of my heart and still cared! He saw my naked heart and still loved me!

Later, during some counseling training through Dr. Richard Dobbins at Emerge Ministries in Akron OH, I learned why this kind of journaling was so effective as a healing tool. .

Dr. Dobbins suggested to pour out our hearts to God – to basically pray until there are no tears left. Then as we felt the emptiness, he suggested to begin to listen to the voice of God and ask Him to help us reinterpret the painful parts of our lives. He called his model, “praying through.”

Journaling was a form of “praying through” the difficulties of life which helped me identify the feelings I hid inside for so long – a way to empty my heart onto paper.

The act of writing down those thoughts and feelings in a journal involved the additional sense of touch. I often found myself speaking the words as I wrote them with tears flowing down my face as I poured out my hurts, shame and fears.

Writing was slower than praying – which meant I had more time to feel what wrote. Since I had learned to bottle up my hurts and fears from an early age, I needed the extra time to really feel what was in my heart.

When my heart was empty, when all the words were out on the paper, there would be a lull – a silent empty time to regroup emotionally. During that time, I was able to listen to the Spirit of God.

Once again, journaling helped. As God spoke slowly and deliberately to my heart, I wrote down the impressions I felt from Him and the alternative ways to view my past. The message was loud and clear – what man meant for evil and to harm me, God had used to mold me into the unique, special person I was, a person with a message of life I could share with others.

As I reread the entries later, the powerful, overwhelming love and intimacy of those moments spent with God struck me. Being humble, empty and quiet before God allowed room for His Spirit to fill my heart with His healing love and by journaling them I had a permanent reminder of those moments to reinforce His truths when the doubts came!

Journaling has truly been a healing tool!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stone Soup's On

One of my favorite stories from childhood is the folk tale of Stone Soup. A poor man becomes hungry on a long journey and stops to fix himself a meal. He has no money to purchase the ingredients for a pot of soup and no one will share their food with him. soup spoon

So he gets creative. He places a large stone in his pot with some water over the fire. As the water starts to boil, he sniffs at the steam, pretending it is the most delicious pot of soup ever.

At first those passing by scoff at the man. But finally one person stops to stare at the man and his pot of rocks. The man makes a show of tasting his soup and smacking his lips. “Ah such wonderful soup, but it would be even better with an onion.”

The passerby roots through his pockets and finds an onion which he contributes to the soup in exchange for a bowl when it is done. And so the story goes as another person stops, watches the traveller taste his soup and contributes another vegetable. Soon the soup fills the pot to overflowing and the wonderful aroma thrills the  travellers and the locals alike. It has become a feast they all can share.

Today, I thought about this story as I put a BIG pot of soup on the stove. It reminded me of the work Jesus does in our lives. He takes our hearts of stone and simmers them together with all of heaven’s good ingredients like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Soon He creates lives overflowing with His love – fragrant offerings which draw the spiritually starving people of the world to Himself. One thing about the Lord – He never does things in a small way. He wants to fill our lives so full of His goodness, that there’s plenty of His love to go around.

Truly, the best part of being a Christian, like making a big pot of soup, is sharing with friends and family. So come on over, there’s plenty to go around. But you might want to bring a loaf of bread or some dessert to make it taste even better LOL!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Good day/Bad day Scenario

“”Your worst days are never so bad
that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.
And your best days are never so good
that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

~ by Jerry Bridges ~

Four-year-old Sam followed his mom as she led the way to the kindergarten Children’s Church class. She turned a corner into his classroom and began talking to his teacher, when something on the wall caught his eye – a small red box.

He looked carefully at the box and read the words, “Fire Alarm Pull Down.” Of course he had no clue what the words "Fire Alarm" meant, but he recognized “Down” because of the arrow. So Sam found a chair, climbed up and pulled the handle down.

As soon as the fire alarm began to blare, Sam put his hands over his ears and sank to the floor. Mortified, his mom found him there just a moment later. She groaned, realizing exactly what had happened. It was going to be a bad day….

Fortunately, one of the associate pastors who knew Sammy, arrived on the scene and learned what happened. He ran back to reassure the pastor it was a false alarm and quickly alerted the fire company.

Because the congregation rented the public school building for their Sunday services, the associate pastor couldn’t turn off the alarm. He had to call the school principal to come and take care of it.

So for the next half hour, the senior pastor valiantly carried on the service, ignoring the intermittent, loud blare of the alarm while the congregation politely endured it all.

As mother and son walked back down the hall to exit the building with the alarm blaring, Sam looked up at his mom in consternation and said, "Too many Pull Downs."

Because of Sam’s age and because he didn’t pull down the alarm purposely as a prank, Sam received grace that morning. Except for the extreme embarrassment that it was their son who caused the ruckus, the school principal, the pastor and the congregation extended grace to Sam’s parents as well.

But every day, Sammy’s mother thanks God for His grace to raise her bright, high energy son. She knows it’s only a matter of time before the little guy strikes again. Like the time he tried to make popcorn by himself, almost starting a fire in the microwave because he pushed the automatic start button twice…. Or the time he didn’t want to go to sleep so he figured out how to open his window and climb out to watch the alligators in the canal behind his house….

The point is that we are a lot like Sam, getting into all sorts of scrapes in our lives.There are too many pull downs - too many opportunities for life to drag us down because of our own sins or the sins of others. Yet, even on our worst days, God is there waiting to be gracious to us. No, He won’t prevent us from facing the consequences of our actions. But He will be there to help us through them, making sure we learn from our failures. He brings beauty out of our ash-heap experiences. That’s God’s grace.

He walks with us and even carries us during the worst days so we will want to walk with Him during the good ones.

Father, please help us to remember your love and grace on those good days when we think we can make it all by ourselves! Amen.

Today's In Other Words is being hosted by Jennifer at Scraps and Snippets. Why not drop over and check out all the great posts on this quote. If you'd like to participate, blog about the quote on your blog, then leave a link at Jennifer's site so everyone can share your post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Walking With The God Who Sees

A Short Story Based on Genesis 16:1-15

“You worthless slave! You have caused me so much trouble; I almost wish you had died out there in the wilderness. If you weren’t carrying Abram’s child… Humph! I would beat you senseless for your insolence.”

Hagar clamped her lips together in a thin line and stood tall in the face of Sarai’s rage.She wanted to blurt out every detail of her experience in the wilderness – how Abram’s God had seen her lying there on the ground with her face covered in muddy tears because of the older woman’s harsh words and abuse. How He comforted her and told her the baby she carried was a son. Yes, she…Hagar… a worthless slave, would bear Abram a fine son when her mistress couldn’t even conceive!

A hint of a smirk played on the young slave’s lips. The old familiar arrogance bubbled up from the pit of her stomach. When my son is born, we’ll see who’s worthless, she thought

Submit to your mistress.” The force of the whispered words in her heart left her emotions off-balance just as Sarai raised her hand, striking the young slave’s cheek.

Hagar staggered backwards. Her cheeks paled and black spots danced before her eyes. She grasped her bulging abdomen and breathed deeply to keep herself from fainting.

The eyes of her mistress narrowed. “If anything happens to that child because of your foolishness, you will pay! Now, go to your own tent and get out of my sight!”

Submit to Sarai.” The Voice spoke again as Hagar stumbled back to her own tent.

Shadows crept over her soul, like the darkness swallows the desert at twilight. She feared this inner darkness more than anything her mistress could do t her. Would Abram’s God kill her unborn son because of her foolish pride?

“Forgive me Lord. I know you told me I must come back and submit to Sarai, but you see how she goads me. I don’t know how I can bear her abuse until this child is born. “

Tears pooled in her eyes as she sank wearily into the pile of goatskins in one corner. Though she was able to maneuver her body into a comfortable position, her heartache increased. Sleep refused to come. “I guess I thought it would be different. I hoped you would change her heart and things would be better. But she hasn’t changed at all! Why did you make me come back here?” She sobbed, unable to stem the flow of her tears.

Things will be better Hagar. You’ll see.”

El Roi, the God who sees, was still watching her, hearing the cries of her heart! An overwhelming shame blanketed her soul and she wept bitterly. “I am unworthy of Your care, my Lord. After all You did for me in the wilderness, my only thought was to flaunt it in the face of my mistress. Help me to lay aside my foolish pride and arrogance. Help me to please you with my attitude.”

Once again, the Voice spoke to her heart. “You cannot come face to face with the God who sees you and remain the same. Your mistress has not changed, but you have.”

Hagar struggled to sit up, dashing the tears from her cheeks as a cocoon of love enveloped her. A sense of wonder swelled inside for His words to her heart rang true. El Roi was not just the God of Abram; He was her God too! He saw the ugly condition of her heart and cleansed it, made it new again. He forgave her!

The young slave knew what she had to do. She bowed her head and surrendered her will wholly to her God. “No matter what my mistress does; no matter how she treats me; even if she never changes toward me or the son I carry, I will serve Sarai as an offering of love to You.”

by Bonnie Winters – January 21, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ice Storm

“God loves you.

He loves you so much that He’s allowed this trial to push you to the point where you have no choice but to look to Him.”

~ When Life is Hard by James MacDonald~

ice stormI’m not sure what woke me. Perhaps it was the cracking of a tree limb outside the window, an eerie sound in an otherwise silent night.  I lay there wondering what was happening when I heard a loud sizzle-pop and all went dark.

Power’s out again, I thought, rolling over and hoping it would be restored by morning so I could get to the office on time.

Not so. Several hours later with the power still out, I knew it was bad. The battery powered weather radio droned out the news of a catastrophic ice storm blanketing the northeast.

Outside, the yard wore a layer of bubble wrap with each blade of grass cocooned in its own ice bubble. Even the dog hesitated to venture off the porch. No traffic dared navigate the streets because of downed tree limbs and power lines.

As the town’s news reporter, I was one of the first cleared to be out and about. Throughout the week I watched in awe, writing story after story, as people banded together in the face of catastrophe to care for each other.

It forced us as a community to accept the helping hands of others to get through the trial. Electrical linemen came from as far away as Hawaii to replace the downed poles snapped like match sticks by the weight of the ice.

Truckloads of food and clothing arrived to help feed and house those who were forced from their homes because they had no heat against winter’s deep freeze. Local churches, schools and even the local prison became shelters.

The trial of the ice storm caused people to work together, to pool their resources to care for one another. What seemed to be a catastrophe, turned into a blessing as neighbors forged new bonds, uniting their community as never before.

It’s true in the spiritual realm too. When things are going well, we wander through life on our own, not trusting the Lord. It’s during the trials of life when we realize how much we need him to carry us through those devastating times. It’s during the dark times when our faith grows and our hearts forge an intimate bond with him.

Life’s trials change us. Either we admit our frailty and reach out trembling hands to embrace God’s help, or we curse him and die a little more inside our dark and lonely hearts. The choice is ours.

Father help us to choose life during those trying times – to embrace your power, love and help, rather than pushing you away, isolating our hurting hearts. Amen.


clip_image003Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Debbie on her blog, Heart Choices. Take time to think and ponder on  the quote below and share about it on your blog. Then, visit Debbie’s blog  and share a  link to your blog. Be sure to visit the others who have also written on it. You’ll be blessed!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Drowning in complacency


" . . . to refuse to bend our shoulders to carry a load is to miss a new opportunity for growth."
J.R. Miller from
Streams in the Desert

Several years ago, we visited a water park with our children. The water slides were great, but my favorite thing was the “Lazy River.” Even though I knew it was foolish to stay in one position for too long under the summer sun, the refreshing of the cool water and the warmth of the sun against my body lulled me into complacency. I bobbed along the course several times that afternoon, basking in contented bliss.

I ignored the prickles of heat on the tops of my thighs. I overlooked the slight pink tinge – warning signs that I’d had enough sun. The sunscreen would protect me, I reasoned. As you can imagine, I looked and felt like a boiled lobster later. Ouch!

No one I know wants to suffer pain. And yet crisis and pain seem to be a tried and true tool for producing growth in our lives.  Without it, we bob along with the current of life in a stupor. We get comfortable and don’t want to change or grow. Even  when we recognize the danger signs, we would rather overlook them than leave the place of complacency.

But then the crisis comes. We are jolted from our reverie by the turbulent emotions of confusion, pain, shock. We have to do something or die. Suddenly we feel like we’re drowning so we thrash around trying to save ourselves while sinking once, twice….

These are the times God offers us a chance to shoulder our responsibility for personal growth and change. He knows that until we hurt bad enough, we won’t choose to change – it’s human nature. But He is wise enough to know we can’t make those life changes alone even though we may want to.  So He comes alongside us and offers to tow us to the shore, provided we stop thrashing around, trying to save ourselves.

Drifting and complacency are not the same as resting in Jesus. To rest is to trust. It’s difficult for many of us to stop thrashing around and allow Someone else to be in control.  It requires a conscious choice on our part.

As we make the choice to trust, we are really taking on a load of responsibility to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We learn true contentment as opposed to complacency. We learn intimacy with God and others rather than wearing masks to protect ourselves. And we are buoyed up by the truth about ourselves in relationship with Christ rather than drowning in the lies we were taught to believe from childhood.

Jesus loves His creation too much to let us bob through life singing, “Whatever will be, will be.”  He gives us a purposeful life filled with opportunities to shoulder the load and grow on a daily basis.

The question is, are we done thrashing around on our own?


Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by Tami Boesiger over at her blog, The Next Step.

What thoughts does this quote inspire in you? Feel free to participate in today’s In Other Words by blogging about the quote on your blog site  - then leave a link at Tammy’s site to share with the other participants. Take time to be inspired today by  this great quote.