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People who are mad at God aren’t always truly mad at God – they’re angry at a person or system linked to God.

That system or person failed them in some way, and because it somehow represented God to them, they transfer ownership for the wrongdoing to God. Even though God didn’t deal the blow, He’s been made responsible for it.

Disillusioned, the wounded leave the faith and walk away from God, carrying deep pain and anger with them for years. What’s sad about this misrepresentation is they miss the true nature of God.

Religious systems and religious people are imperfect. They fail. They sin. The sin harms. The harm hurts. The hurt runs deep.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been hurt in this way, I want to say sorry on behalf of the people who caused you harm. But I also want to encourage you that they are not God. God is love and His love never fails (1 John 4:8; Psalm 136). Although you may feel you want no part of God if this is how He looks, don’t mistakenly bundle God’s infallible character with the flawed character or behaviour of human beings.

What they said or did, or failed to say or do, is no reflection of the true nature of God. I hazard a guess that God is deeply saddened when people leave Him on account of people. He understands this kind of pain and is likewise pained when His relationship with those who have been wounded is fragmented. He offers healing, counsel, direction, and the gifts of deep love, joy, and peace; being severed from Him doesn’t afford these pleasures.

Sometimes the anger toward God isn’t misplaced. Instead, the wounded one isn’t mistakenly blaming God but rather asking why God let it happen. As difficult as this is to absorb, we’re not often privy to these kinds of answers. Sometimes, we merely need to trust. That’s where faith comes in.

Can you believe in a God who doesn’t always tell you why? Who allows hurts this side of heaven? Who isn’t a divine Genie? Bad stuff happens to good and “bad” people alike. We aren’t living in heaven…yet. We just have to trust, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10 (Message)

Let’s not make it about people, but about God. He’s trustworthy, perfect, and loves us unconditionally. Let Him heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

May you have the courage to trust God despite the wounding.

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  1. Make a list of those who have wounded you.
  2. Can you forgive them one-by-one? Can you forgive God for allowing it? Return to God and ask for forgiveness for your anger, knowing He is quick to forgive, then rest in Him believing it’s done.

 

 

 

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My mom always taught us that if we were visiting somewhere, it was polite to leave the place better than we found it. That meant pretty much spotless. It’s a decent principle to live by, and, surprisingly enough, it transfers to many areas in life.

I’ve even thought about it this way: we’re visitors to this world that God has entrusted to us. He’s given us family, friends, co-workers – a whole circle of influence – whom we impact (whether we realize it or not) on a daily basis. We have free time to expend on whatever we choose from hobbies to holidays. And though there are many activities we can spend our time and resources on, when our life comes to a close, what will really matter?

It’s easy to get it wrong and think what can I get out of life, or, how can I show others how accomplished I am? But, in the end, it isn’t what you get out of life, or what you take from it, but what you deposit.

We have a choice to leave here better than we found it.

While we can easily leave a place better than we found it, we can also leave a person better than we found them by treating them with love and respect, offering help, or giving a simple compliment. We can contribute to our workplace or colleagues by doing our best work with a positive attitude. We can put aside what we’re doing to play with a child, listen to a teen, or sit with the elderly. We can expend time to help build a better future for a underpriviledged community or a better day for one single human being. We can speak kindnesses instead of insults or criticism.

There are countless ways we can improve the lives of others through selfless acts of kindness. You can probably think of many I haven’t listed. These are things of great beauty and be assured, they matter in eternity. Don’t be fooled; not one of these actions is wasted. And if no one ever notices – if you gather no accolades or awards for doing them – consider yourself blessed. God sees and is pleased.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

Matthew 6:2-4 (Message)

In these ways our actions not only leave this place better than we found it, but we please our Father in heaven while growing in Christ-likeness.

At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler takes inventory of his actions. Take a moment to watch the clip below. What deposits will you leave impressed on the lives of others? In what ways could you make a difference?

Watch the ending of Schindler’s List

With God’s help and wisdom, we can wisely choose how we will spend our time and resources so we can leave deposits of beauty that may touch a life, a generation to come, or eternity.

May you leave this place, even this very day, better than you found it. 

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  1. Choose one activity today and use it to make a difference. It can be as simple as a smile to a stranger, buying a coffee for the next person in line, or providing a listening ear. Pick some way to begin to make a difference to someone and leave this place better than you found it.

This past June, my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. To be honest, it feels like we packed everything that is supposed to occur in a lifetime of marriage into these first 25 years! Even my husband said the next twenty-five could stand to be a bit less exciting.

For this post, I decided to share a few things I have learned so far. Maybe you can relate to a few of them…

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  1. The little things matter. Ralph makes me coffee every morning. First thing each day, we sit together in our sun room for an hour and chat, mugs in hand. The occasional day he may leave early, I wake to the aroma of coffee in place of him. When he is away, I miss those morning coffees and joke that it’s a rough day because I had to make my own. Little things strung together make big things. Little things show love and create closer bonds and shared memories. Look for little ways to serve and love your spouse.
  2. The little things don’t matter. Sometimes he leaves the toilet seat up, sometimes I don’t screw the toothpaste cap back on, most times he doesn’t wipe the counter, often I leave clothes on the floor. But these don’t really matter. Instead of nit-picking, most of the time, we choose to bear with one another. It’s easy to get too caught up with insignificant things. Instead, try to focus on the positive aspects of your partner and marriage, choosing to celebrate those instead.
  3. Celebrate each other. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Encourage them and support them as they stretch for their dreams. Appreciate your differences and realize that they make you a stronger, more well-rounded couple.
  4.  This too shall pass. Whatever you two are facing right now isn’t permanent. The situation, the problem, whatever the challenge is, won’t look the same in a few weeks, months, or years to come. Be patient. There is no quick fix. If you’re both committed to listening, learning, repenting, forgiving, and growing, there’s a greater chance you’ll be okay. It will get better if you both work at it. Which brings me to my next point…
  5. Nothing stays the same. The years march on…quickly. The kids grow up, we grow older. Appreciate each other now. Put each other first – even before your kids and especially before your parents, friends, hobbies, and work. You’re in it for a lifetime, so take time for each other. Laugh together. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll grow old together.
  6. You aren’t perfect. So why expect your partner to be? Sometimes our expectations are too high. We look at their weaknesses and completely overlook our own. We’re impatient and expect that they should be further along by now. Often, our grace barometer needs adjusting, and so does our attitude. You’re their partner for a reason. Together you take steps toward Christ-likeness and encourage each other along your shared journey.
  7. They aren’t God. Obviously. So don’t put your partner in this place in your life. When Ralph and I were newlyweds I recall being frustrated and disappointed that he wasn’t meeting my every need. I soon realized that I’d made the mistake of expecting Ralph to fill God’s shoes. Of course, the shoes were much too big! Don’t expect your partner to meet all your needs. They won’t and they can’t. It’s an unfair position to be in, and you’ll end up sorely disappointed. They can never be your all. They will never complete you. Only God can meet all your needs and provide all your joy and peace. You’ve been gifted with this person to share your life with, but keep God in top priority, not your spouse.
  8. Fight for each other, not with each other. You each came into this marriage with baggage. Help each other carry it and by and by, it will get lighter. You don’t fix each other – that’s God’s job – but you persevere. You courageously face the struggles head-on, dealing with them until they lose and your marriage wins.
  9. Pray with each other. Try to find a time each day to pray together. It keeps you humble and connected. Plus, together you are a powerhouse against the enemy – a formidable force to be reckoned with!
  10. Love. I mean, really love. There is nothing like marriage to make you learn to truly love. It’s hard work. It takes a disciplined effort. Sometimes we prefer not to try. For the most part, we aren’t good at it. Sometimes we want to give up. The popular culture has distorted love. This is what it should look like:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

1 Corinthians 13

Try putting your name in place of love in the above verse. How did you do?

I’d love to hear some things you’ve learned during your years of marriage so far!

May you love deeply and grow even stronger in your marriage! 

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  1. When you looked at the “love list” above, which ones did you feel needed improvement on your end?
  2. Write them on a piece of paper and purposely choose to work on one area each week.
  3. Ask God to help you on a daily basis. He’s the only One who can give you a generous supply of love.

illumelation-nyinabulitwa-crater-lakes-uganda-kibale-top-of-the-world-brosisYou shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. ~ Exodus 20:3-4

Not far into our marriage, I noticed my husband wasn’t making me happy. This was disconcerting because, after all, wasn’t that the reason I married him in the first place? During my teens, I had crafted a list of attributes that my life’s mate needed to have, and my husband met all the criteria – except hair and eye colour! So what happened? Had I made a mistake?

As I thought over the disappointment I felt, it hit me. My expectations were faulty. My husband wasn’t meant to be my “everything”. He wasn’t meant to be my primary source of joy, meet all my needs, and be there for me every waking moment. I was asking him to be something he was never designed to be. I had set him up as God, and he wasn’t equipped for the position. He had become an idol in my life.

Husbands and wives are meant to love, honour and serve one another. The Bible even talks about a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…(Ephesians 5:25), but this was different. This wasn’t pointing to a lack in my husband, it was pointing to a lack within me. Instead of going to God as the primary source of my joy, peace, security, affirmation, and love, all my hopes were wrapped up in my husband lavishing these on me, and when he didn’t, or more accurately, couldn’t meet my insatiable need for these things, I felt cheated.

It’s not just husbands who are flung into this precipitous position. It may be friends, other family members, or even our children whom we place in these lofty locations.  But they, too, are unable to meet our idealistic thinking of the role they are supposed to play in our lives. I wonder if that’s one reason why there are so many broken relationships in this world. People were never meant to fill the hollow places. The space is too large to fill, the emptiness too vast, the amount of attention required too great.

There is only One who can fill the void: the One who created you with an innate need for Him. And yet, instead of intimacy with God, we look to all sorts of things to fill the emptiness: people, toys, clothes, food, drink, and fleeting fun. But all of these, when put before – or in place of God – are idols. They are temporary, counterfeit imposters attempting to take the place of the real deal. And we wonder why we’re unhappy. Why we’re dissatisfied. Why we feel empty.

Not all things we esteem are bad, but God wants first place in your life. What idols are blocking your view of God? Look at what you spend the majority of your spare time doing, or thinking about, and you might find an idol or two. Do they matter more to you than your relationship with God? If so, confess them, remove them from their pedestal, and put them in their rightful place in your life.

May you put God in first place in your life with no idols before Him.

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  1. Make a list of what matters most to you.
  2. Look over the list and see if anything on it trumps God in your life. If so, make the necessary adjustments to put God first.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

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By eighteen years of age, I had a parenting file. In it I kept all the Dr. Dobson tips inserted into our church bulletins, along with any other scraps of wisdom I stumbled across. I even read parenting books with all sorts of helpful advice. I was going to be an amazing mom – practically perfect, I thought.

But the books didn’t account for a few things.

There was never a mention of those days when you’re beyond tired and patience prematurely packs its bags. When circumstances shift so fast and hard that life takes a disorienting sharp turn for the worse. When you’re sick so long it starts to look like you’ll never get better. When all your “yes’s'” catch up with you and you’re running ragged, or just barely hanging on emotionally, physically or financially. No, there were no chapters dedicated to how to be an outstanding parent when the bottom drops right out from under you.

No book noted how to respond when a little voice calling mommy interrupts mid-sob, and you make tidy work of wiping tears gushing from a soul rubbed raw by the events you protected them from and some you couldn’t. When everything you did was motivated by love and most of the time that love was far too much or not nearly enough. Mostly, parenting felt like you were feeling in the dark with the occasional scrap of light.

But somewhere between the tickle fights and hair tangles, missing socks and math problems, untold bedtime stories and late night pacing, you managed to be a mom who, despite all her flaws, flips outs and failings was real and kind and good. And all you ever wanted was to raise kids that were too. And that had to be enough because though you didn’t feel nearly enough, you were the one God assigned for the task. And you look at these human beings God gave you to raise and think: they are kind and good and miraculously more than enough. More than you could have dared to dream.

Fast forward twenty years. The parenting books are now untouched. I still lament that I wasn’t a good enough mom, think of the ways I could have, should have, done it differently. I drag my failed self-wisdom and aching heart to the One who is good enough. And in those quiet moments – the moments in between the dinner making and the driving – I thank Him for trusting me with a job that was far too big for my credentials and self-education. Far too big for me alone.

And I realize, it was all because of GRACE.

Heaps and heaps of it. It filled in the cracks I missed, saturated the gaping wounds life inflicted that I couldn’t have hoped to patch, it spilled over the top in healing brimming over beyond measuring.

Grace. The free gift the books missed mentioning. The part where peace takes over and you rest knowing God knew all this and it’s still okay, because He loved so completely He died and made a way to eternity for the likes of those who feel undeserving and not nearly enough. And in His arms you understand that He never asked for perfection anyway – just like you never asked for it from your kids. And you, like they, feel loved…and that covers a multitude.

And this amazing Grace, like a love-blanket, wraps itself around us, pulls us close and declares:

You are enough. You are loved. 

And you realize, it was enough, because He is enough.

He is the One who saw all the not-quite-enoughs, the beautiful sacrifices made when you were on empty, the way you looked into your child’s eyes when you could barely keep your own open, the way you laughed when you could have cried. He knew the mountains you were scaling. And with Him, it is all more than enough. Because somehow, together you were making beauty far beyond anything you could have learned from a book.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

May you receive God’s grace and love freely today. 

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  1. How do you feel unworthy? Tell God about it and let Him heal those areas.
  2. In what ways have you controlled the parenting process? Chose to let go and let God do the heavy lifting.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3

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How difficult it is not to judge! I was reminded of this recently when two of my children pointed out this propensity in me. Though not nice to hear, I’m glad they did or I, once again, may not have even noticed that particular plank.

Speck finding is easy. Locating planks…not so much.

In thinking about it, when playing judge, we take on a role we were never offered. Worse, whatever measure we use to judge, the same is piled back on us. This self-proclaimed loftiness reeks of self-righteous pride and turns the gospel upside down. Sitting in the judgment seat leaves little room for the miracle of mercy and the gift of grace. It’s like lowering a partition to make grace unreachable for those who are in desperate need. I hazard a guess that many more people would desire kingdom living if its citizens reeked more of love.

Jesus loved the ones the Pharisees judged to have missed the mark. He had a beautiful way of loving people in spite of their ‘junk’ and in the midst of their sin. He didn’t embrace the sin, but instead the person. With Jesus there was no shaming or making people feel they were unfit to be in His company. Amid His loving actions, a gently deposited word – or no words at all – there remained no condemnation. Instead there were changed lives.

Matthew gives this account: “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)

When we spend time with Jesus, being renewed and reminded of who we are, our inclination to judge others recedes. After all, we are among those He reached out a mercy-filled touch to heal while we were still sinning. Just being with Jesus softens our critical, hard hearts. We don’t have to agree with the choices or behaviour of others in order to love them. A person is not the sin; the sin is not the person. We can love the person in the midst of their junk. Jesus did – and does – on a daily basis for us.

Won’t you join me in using those extracted planks for bridge building?

P.S. I love the story recorded in John about the adulterous woman. If you want a smile or need words of forgiveness, take a moment to read it now. (John 8:3-12)

I bless you that you would find your strength to love others unconditionally in the One who loves you that very same way!

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Take a moment to think of a person(s) you may have judged. Ask God for forgiveness and instead pray for that person.

 

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” ~ Philippians 4:11-12

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It’s tremendously easy to get caught up in comparison. So simple to look at those around us and compare our physique, our intelligence, our skills or talents, our standard of living, the decor in our homes, our children’s behaviour, or our perceived level of success. You name it, we’ve probably compared it.

Once the comparison is complete, we rank ourselves on whether we’re better off. If we decide we’re higher up the totem pole, we feel rather good about ourselves; if not, we feel quite the opposite. Both are equally dangerous: the former leaves us open to pride, the latter to feeling insecure and insignificant.

Comparison is insidious because – left untreated – it can lead to discontentment, anger, bitterness, competitiveness, covetousness, condemnation, jealousy, lack of self-worth, and the breakdown of relationships. If I think you’re better than I, and allow that to make me feel less, I’m open to the assaults of the ever-ready accuser of my soul. He’s ready to whisper lies and insults at every turn, or drag up past words of criticism to fuel the fire of discontentment and low self-esteem.

Is there an antidote for comparison? The Bible says that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim 6:6) A healthy dose of thankfulness can help reverse our comparison illness; a healthy dose of God redirects our eyes. Keeping our eyes fixed on God, and continuing to be thankful, can help heal us to the point of contentment in any and every situation so that we will “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Each one of us undergoes different challenges and circumstances. If we can discipline ourselves to abide and be thankful in every circumstance – both the good, the bad and the ugly – we’ll be more likely to live in contentment. In doing so, we’re better positioned to authentically celebrate both our own and others’ achievements, as well as encourage and comfort others in their distresses and failures. By adjusting our attitude to be one of thankfulness, and staying the course with Christ, we’re also more likely to walk in freedom, enjoy closer, more significant relationships, and remain secure in who we are in Christ.

Perhaps we could stand to be a bit gentler on ourselves and others, choosing to stick close to God – living out of the richness of His great love – and growing in thankfulness. Then we can freely celebrate one another for the miraculous and gifted human beings God created us to be.

May you grow in freedom from comparison, and choose to replace it with thankfulness and godliness.

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  1. Prayerfully make a list of those with whom you have compared yourself. Pray through that list, asking God to forgive you and help you move toward godliness, thankfulness and contentment.

 

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