Tools of the Trade–Mirrors or Hammers?

On the heels of an amazingly extravagant weekend celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday came blowing in the whirlwind of rejection. Don’t get me wrong—our weekend in Disneyland and California was fantastic; wonderful memories were created and I’m sure my daughter will remember it for the rest of her life–as will I. But the joy was tainted by a letter of “rejection” received just a few moments ago. And while I knew this was a possibility, and it’s not the first “rejection” I’ve received, it stings nonetheless.

Satan uses one rejection to bring up memories of others—people rejection, publisher rejection, performance rejection…etc. Feelings of rejection began early in my childhood. I was a heavy kid with bad acne so the attention I got was not the kind I wanted. I learned how to be a people pleaser very early so I could receive at least some positive reinforcement. Everyone likes to be happy, right? So I went out of my way to help the people around me be happy. It’s what I wished someone would have done for me.

All weekend long I had been thinking about a recent “people-rejection” situation in my life. I prayed over it continually and asked God to help me move past it. Just as I was getting “over it” I received a letter of rejection from a publishing company. Another gut blow.

Satan uses people and circumstances in our lives to assault us with a common “theme”. The theme assaulting me throughout my life is “you are rejected” and “you are not loved”. Even though I do my best to “live peaceably with all men”, trying  to recognize and acknowledge my faults, apologizing, trying to make amends, and continuing to encourage others, I find I am still misunderstood more often than not. My intentions are questioned and my motives are doubted. Through all of this is the same message, “you’re not good enough and nothing you do or say ever will be good enough”.  Over the years these feelings catapulted me into severe depression, physical self-abuse, and even attempted suicides.

I have since learned to ask God to show me how to deal with these feelings biblically (What can I learn? How can I allow God to change me through this situation?). I also ask God to prevent me from being used as an instrument of negativity in someone else’s life, because we are all being assaulted with a message from our Enemy. I do not want to be used by Satan to deliver a message to someone that they are not good enough, loved or appreciated, or whatever the message may be. I realize that many times I have been this “tool” and I continually ask God to open my eyes and eliminate these occurrences from my life.

Perhaps God is calling you to the same area of self-examination. You see an individual  or think of them and immediately have unpleasant thoughts. Maybe you think they’re out to get you, out to hurt you, or that they’ve rejected you. If you feel this way you may be dealing with un-forgiveness. Ask God to help you deal with these people as He would have; treating them as you wish they would treat you (Matthew 5-7).

And if you are battling rejection either relationally or circumstantially, ask God to help you deal with those feelings biblically. It may be tempting to retaliate against such people—wanting them to feel the way they make you feel by ignoring them, sending hate mail, “unfriending” them from social media and the like, but there is a reason God has allowed it and you will never grow spiritually in that area if you pretend like it isn’t a problem. When we fail to see people (or circumstances) through the eyes of Jesus, we will likely face similar situations again and again until we learn to deal with them appropriately. God never gives up on us or teaching us His ways, and I am thankful for that even if it hurts!

Whatever you are feeling today, whatever messages your Enemy has tried to send you or use you to send others, God wants to help you recognize and combat them with His word of truth. If no one else ever understands or accepts you, God does. He will never leave you, forsake you, reject you, misunderstand you, or ignore you.

So, the next time you’re tempted to react a certain way, ask God if you’re being His tool, or a tool of the Enemy in that situation or person’s life. What messages are you delivering with your words and actions? I recently read something and it’s a good thought to end on:

“If my life was the only source of God someone was introduced to, what conclusions would that person make of God’s character based on my reflection of Him?”

In other words, is my God a God who rejects, withholds love, criticizes, assumes the worst, and condemns, or is my God a God who forgives unconditionally, displays compassion, and gives grace? Am I a hammer or a mirror?

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5

“In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

 

No Way Out But Through by Graham Aitchison

Mental illness, spiritual warfare, addiction, bullying, rage, hopelessness, physical sickness, abuse, emotional torture–Graham Aitchison divulges the deepest secrets of his life’s journey with startling transparency in No Way Out But Through.

Anyone who has experienced the pain of the above mentioned issues will find themselves nodding in agreement as they read Graham’s story. The text is refreshingly real—as if you are sitting in a living room listening to the author tell you his story first-hand. It’s rare that a book is written from the view of “sharing” rather than “preaching”. Along with the “realness” of the authors journey is a manuscript packed with spiritual truth.

I found this to be a fascinating read once I got into the meat of the story. So much of Graham’s life reflects my own struggles with mental illness. Often the journey through mental/emotional sickness leads one into isolation, misunderstanding, and intense loneliness, but knowing others have suffered as you have brings great comfort. Even for the reader who has not experienced such things, there is much to learn from No Way Out But Through. Graham’s book provides a resource for the confused family members and frustrated friends of those who do deal with these issues. All around it’s a book many people could benefit from.

What I found most interesting was Graham’s discussion of Christianity and mental illness. No doubt this is a subject of much debate in the Church today leaving the mentally distressed guilt-ridden and most everyone else critical of such “mental” experiences.

“Throughout everything I was learning to break through, there was one essential factor to the whole process that I became more and more aware of over time – the great love and endless patience that God has for people, especially those who struggle with any form of mental illness.”

Graham acknowledges the spiritual warfare at play within his mind as well as how God brought him through overwhelming, debilitating darkness. Much of his journey to healing started with honesty within himself and before God. Many of the points he makes throughout the book remind me of what I learned in the 12-step programs I’ve been through. I especially appreciated his conversation regarding change within the heart rather than change in one’s circumstances.

“Change for the better starts from within, and will then eventually be followed by external change – not the other way around. We will never solve our own problems through trying to blame others for what are actually our own responsibilities, nor will we solve our problems through continued disregard of our own emotions and hearts, and through listening to an increasingly shallow and self-serving society.”

“Modern society in many ways tells people to look for peace and happiness in external circumstances, hence the abundance of consumerism. Christ’s way of thinking, which He passes on to those who follow him, encourages the individual to seek out true, lasting peace and understanding through looking honestly into the mirror and journeying with God through the parts of themselves they would rather avoid.”

Admittedly not everyone will relate to Graham’s story, but plenty of people will relate or know someone who can.  If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone suffering with mental illness such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, severe anxiety, anger, or bullying, then you will learn much from Graham’s story. No Way Out But Through reads like a journal–raw and real.

“God’s way of thinking is a total contradiction to the world’s way of thinking. The world’s way of thinking encourages dishonesty, shallowness, irresponsibility and pride. God’s way of thinking encourages honesty, depth, personal responsibility and humility.”

Thankfully, this is exactly what Graham has done—spoken with depth, honesty, responsibility and humility.

For a limited time you can purchase Graham Aithchison’s book, No Way Out But Through from Amazon.com for only $2.99. Click HERE to buy the book now.

(I purchased this book with my own money and did not receive it in exchange for a good review. The opinions expressed here were my own.)

 

Why Do We Need Christian Writing?

Our world is infiltrated with lies and deception; we need a new generation of truth-seekers to spread the light of God’s word to a hopeless, desperate world. It isn’t hard to see what is popular in today’s reading market. A simple glance in your average waiting room will uncover an abundance of magazines like Rolling Stones, People, and Cosmopolitan.

Out of curiosity I picked up a Cosmo magazine and noticed articles regarding sex, wealth, and beauty. Cosmopolitan is listed as 13 on a top 25 list of best-selling magazines. This shows us what the world is reading (along with many Christians). Do articles such as these actually help people or do they teach a counterfeit happiness? The enemy would like us to believe lies about what our role is in society (Jn. 8:44, Eph. 6:12, 1 Pet. 5:8) which is why we need spiritual people spreading spiritual truths that transform lives for eternity.

Secular media will encourage one to seek sexual satisfaction, but the word of God teaches: “Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and acceptable.” (1 Thess. 4:4) Many articles will list “10 ways to get rich now” but the Bible gives wisdom regarding money: “Command those who are rich in this present world neither to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth.” (1 Tim. 6:17) Beauty is also a popular area for secular media, but God’s word guides accordingly: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Rather; it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Pet. 3:3-4)

What the world really needs is a lasting hope that gives purpose to life. A great example of writing that can change one’s life is from Neil T. Anderson, founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries (www.ficm.org). I recently went through his workbook, The Steps to Freedom in Christ, and cannot adequately describe the spiritual transformation that resulted. Our hope should be in the Lord (Psa. 130:7) and we need truth to transform lives of brokenness and bondage into soaring freedom and purpose. (Jn. 8:32, Psa. 119:32) Perhaps we would see less depression, substance abuse, and violence if there were more truth-seeking lovers of Christ sharing their experiences of freedom with those around them.

Whether it’s a magazine article, blog, newspaper, or a social networking site, there are many opportunities for the transforming truth of Christ to be shared. This can only happen if there are God-fearing people behind the God-given message.

 

(This is an article I had to write for my courses with The Christian Writers Institute. My instructor liked it, so I thought I’d share. I also searched for an appropriate picture of Cosmopolitan magazine to include. Sadly,  I could find none appropriate due to overt sexual content which I will not promote on this blog. Truthfully, visiting their website was tantamount to online pornography and I wouldn’t recommend it. ~Rebecca)

Freedom is Here

clean

Yesterday was a big day in my life; I would venture to say it was a life-changing experience, second only to my conversion. You should see my face today, I cried so much my eyes are swollen. I don’t even have the energy to put make-up on. Spiritual warfare is exhausting.

Two days after my last bout of major depression my Sunday Class teacher emailed me (completely unaware of my struggles-nice work, God) and invited me to partake in an afternoon of fighting for my spiritual freedom. That certainly sounded like something I needed. I agreed and we set a date, April 29th.

It was 1:00pm before I made it into the modular room where my teacher Steve, sponsor Kimmy, and another prayer warrior, Terry, awaited my arrival. Steve and I worked through the 7 Steps to Freedom in Christ (Neil T. Anderson) while Terry and Kimmy prayed for me…for 4 hours.

“‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'” Isaiah 1:18

I went in with mild expectations of what would happen, but I emerged a changed woman. I discovered fighting for my freedom was hard, painful, and exhausting. Throughout this ordeal I uncovered bitterness I was unaware of, strongholds that had been weighing me down, and serious repentance of issues I had never regarded as sin. What happened was extremely personal, and for the first time in my life I was 100% honest. I heard my own voice declare sins, repent, renounce, and claim freedom in Christ. Verbal reinforcement is powerful.

There I stood in the presence of God, uncovered and completely exposed. I had to make a choice.

All of my years of bulimia, addiction, rebellion, self-mutilation, and controlling had only served as a means of self punishment. I was giving myself what I thought I deserved. In order to walk in Freedom, I had to choose to forgive myself and renounce my sin. Steve insisted, “You don’t just ‘try’ to forgive, you must choose to forgive yourself.” Whew, it was powerful and it took me several minutes to work through.

“As far as the east is from west, so far has God removed our transgression from us.” Psalm 103:12

There was a lot more to this than forgiveness. Specific issues had to be recalled (which was not fun), and their sinful patterns renounced. It was basically 4 hours of repentance. During this time the battle raged on in my head (the enemy at work), I would read a statement like, “I am innocent” and would hear, “You will never be innocent!” I had to renounce the enemy repeatedly in every area of my life. I’m telling you, folks, the war against the spirit is serious. Satan does not want my freedom, but guess what? He has no power here anymore.

“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way…This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels.” Ephesians 6:10-12 msg

I left that meeting not just feeling like I was lighter, but knowing I was set free. Once and for all, it was over. The decades of depression, the eating disorder, the sins of my haunting past; it was over. I was no longer defined by my past. I am not a failure, disappointment, or a worthless whore. I was clean, I was whole. I had prayed for years to be made whole, I had begged and pleaded for healing and often wondered if God had turned his back on me. But yesterday, April 29th, I was set free once and for all. Spiritually and emotionally made whole. I walked out of that room whiter than snow. Finally, what I knew in the Word connected with my own experience.

The battle is not over, the war wages on. Is the enemy done with me? I doubt it. He is forever seeking to destroy my faith. What is different? I am equppied now to fight the battle with truth that sets me free. I know what to look for, I know how the enemy develops strongholds, and I know how to stop it. I can say with all authority under heaven, in the name of Christ Jesus, I have been healed and made whole. I am free.

(Neil T. Anderson has authored many books on spiritual freedom including, Victory Over Darkness, The Bondage Breaker, Overcoming Depression, and the manual I went through, The Steps to Freedom in Christ)

*In the coming posts I will list specific prayers from the 7 Steps to Freedom.

Focus

“I have tried hard to find you-don’t let me wander from your commands.” Psalm 119:10 NLT

Focus

 What does our life look like without the Word?

It’s so easy to lose focus. I must be a professional at this. How many times have I read Matthew 14:29-30, and scoffed at Peter for not keeping his eyes on Jesus while he was walking on the water? Come on, Peter! How hard could that have really been when you had Jesus right in front of you? Of course, easy to be a back seat Bible reader, isn’t it? How often do we see someone else going through a difficult time, and we proudly tout our Bible logic, “Just trust Jesus!” We’ve done our part, shared some wisdom, and maybe we’ll say a prayer or two for that individual.

Then OUR storm comes.

Before you know it, we’re wandering around in a sea of confusion and doubt. Perhaps this type of thing happened in the Psalmists life, and he recognized his need to stay close to God’s Word. He cried out, “Don’t let me wander from your commands!” How often do we pray such a thing?

 Maybe we would do well to ask God for some focus.

 Maybe, if we had more focus in His Word, our circumstances wouldn’t feel so crushing.

The second our eyes wander from the Word is the same second our focus gets shifted to the storm-from Him to me.

When we are saturated in the promises and truth of God’s Word, it leaves little room for doubt and wandering eyes. Does it mean we’re bad Christians if we have a moment of fear or worry? No, I think that means we are normal.  However, there is a difference between momentary glances at our circumstances (fear and worry) then there is a shift of focus (doubt, unbelief, depression).

If we recognize these feelings within us, we must force ourselves to focus on His Word, the Truth, and His care for us. It’s the only way out of the miry pit of self-pity and spiritual collapse.

“…they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” Hosea 5:15

How nice it would be if it didn’t take the misery of guilt, depression, worry, doubts, or pain to seek the face of God? Like the Psalmist we should be asking our Savior to keep our focus continuously on His Word, that we will not become distracted, disjointed, and despairing followers of Christ.

Let us stay committed to focusing on the Word of God and leave no room for wandering spiritual eyes.

Prayer

Jesus, do not let me stray from your Word! Keep me faithful to your truth, and keep my focus on your promises of care and love for me. Do not let the circumstances of life overwhelm and consume me with fear, worry, and unbelief; rather, let my focus be so intent on you that these lies will have no place in my heart. Convict me where I need a change of focus, and draw me deeper into your Word.

I Wanted A Piece Of Fruit; God Gave Me A Smoothie

For the last few days all I have been craving is a good piece of fresh fruit. That doesn’t sound so complicated I suppose….except for one little hitch. I can’t afford to go buy one little piece of fruit right now. It’s not that I don’t have food in my house, or that I have a puffed out bloated tummy like a starving child in Africa. No, I am well fed. It’s just a tough time for us, and right now we have no grocery budget, and have to make due with what we have in the cabinets. None of that happened to be fresh fruit or any type of fruit juice. *sigh* Ok, not the end of the world, I can drink some water and pretend.

When I look at my circumstances, they don’t look desirable. In fact, one could say they “suck”.  Someone told me the other day, “It always seems that bad things happen to good people. And you’re better than me because at least you go to church, and look at all this stuff happening to you. I don’t understand it or think it’s fair. You derserve better.” I suppose if I had entertained that line of thought I could have easily talked myself in to one massive pity party like I have done so many times in the past. But this time I knew it would be different. This time I had trust. This time I was not going to allow my circumstances and the storms of life to affect my attitude and spiral me into a fit of worry. Hey, if I have to live off of cereal and bread for two weeks, then so be it. I’ll live. It could be worse. In the past I would have been freaking out, wringing my hands, upset because I couldn’t eat exactly what I wanted. Upset because I didn’t know how rent was going to be paid or how needs would be met. Having major anxiety attacks and major anger problems. But this time was different. God got ahold of me. I knew that no matter what, I was where He wanted me to be, and He was my Provider. I knew I could trust Him. It might not be what I wanted (No Steak and Shrimp, God??) but it would be what I needed. So I relaxed and let God take care of it. Trusting God didn’t change my circumstances. It changed ME. That’s when the light bulb went on. This whole thing isn’t about crying out to God when I need something and watching him fix it and make my life easier. It’s about trusting Him even when my circumstances DON’T change. It’s about loving Him, praising Him, and fixing my eyes on Him even when everything around me gives me every reason to lose hope. To turn my back and complain. To say “It’s not fair!”  First God wants my undivided attention. He wants my trust in Him, and he doesn’t want that trust to be conditional based on what He is doing for me. Just think…if everything was always so grand in my life, then would I really appreciate or even notice the awesome ways God moves around me? Probably not. God isn’t just in the big things, He is all around me in the little things, in all the details. And he wants me to SEE HIM in it, and PRAISE HIM for it! Every day should be an AWESOME GOD day! Not just the days that are going well, or the successful days or the happy days. God allows these things in my life to show Himself to me in an even more intimate way. What a loving and nurturing God! He says:

“‘I will satisfy with…abundance and my people will be filled with My bounty.’ declares the Lord.'” Jeremiah 31:14(NIV)

Well, you wonder, did your awesome God give you your fruit?? Let me tell you. My dear friend surprised me with a couple bags of groceries, after a day at the park. Along with that was a bag a freshly picked oranges from one of her neighbors trees. When I brought the groceries home and started unloading them, I quickly realized that not only was God involved, but He was ALL OVER this! Every item pulled from these bags was something my family normally eats, and some were things my daughter had been asking for for weeks! Now, mind you, my friend was not aware of any of our normal eating habits, likes or dislikes. All she had was the leading of the Holy Spirit, and she followed it! As my daughter slept during her nap I took one of the bananas my friend gave us, and two of the fresh oranges. Found some ice cream in the freezer, and made myself a wonderfully delightful, fresh fruit smoothie. And as I sat there in the couch in silence reflecting on the awesomeness of my God’s provision I thought, “Hey, all I wanted was a piece of fruit, but God gave me a smoothie!”

What’s my point? Simply this: God allows us to face things in our lives to reveal Himself to us more through our circumstances and through other people. He used a friend of mine today, who I have only known for a few weeks, to greatly bless my family. Her generosity and kindness was God honoring and her faithfulness to Him is no doubt going to be rewarded. But how could she have served unless someone was in need? In the same way, all of us have needs or circumstances, and God makes us, as His children, a perfect match to fulfill those needs in each others lives. We just have to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, and be obedient to His voice. Maybe we should look at trials differently. Maybe we should take a moment to stop, and ask God to show Himself to us. What is it that He wants us to see? Who is it He wants us to help? Who is it that He may use to help us?

The bottom line is that He uses all of us to enrich each other, but ultimately He is the sole Provider, and the sole Caretaker.

“Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.” Psalm 16:1

Preserve-(Hebrew definition)

a prim. root; to hedge about (as with thorns) i.e. to guard; to protect; attend to…etc.-beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep(-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save, sure, (that lay) wait (for) watch(-man)

If you look at the original Hebrew definition of “preserve” you see all that it implies. We could re-phrase this verse in many other ways to understand it further, based on this definition, and therefore gain a greater knowledge of how God truly cares for us.

Mark me, O God…”

“Look narrowly after me, O God…”

“Observe me, O God…”

“Regard me, O God…”

“Save me, O God…”

“Lay wait for me, O God…”

“Be my Watchman, O God…”

“Put a hedge about me with thorns, O God…”

“Protect me, O God…”

“Attend to me, O God…”

“Be my Keeper, O God…”

He IS our Hedge, our Keeper, our Protector, our Attendant, our Watchman….He regards us, He saves us, He observes us, He looks narrowly after us….

What a God!! What is there not to trust? Even in the small things, in the big things, in ANY thing. HE IS THERE, we need to look for HIM, and He will be found. Allow Him to use your circumstances for His glory, before you throw up your hands in frustration. Ask Him to satisfy your soul with His goodness, BEFORE your circumstances change.

“For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9