The Lost Art of Gathering

The lost art of gathering. Rediscover the benefits of being together

Rediscover The Benefits of Being Together.

Remember back when churches regularly planned a gathering to have “dinner on the grounds?” I remember as a kid seeing long tables filled with what seemed like delicacies to my young appetite. It was amazing how much food came in as one lady after another brought in her dish. Before long, every table was full. Boy, those were the good ole’ days!

Smaller Porches.

Have you noticed that porches have gotten smaller? Why is that? Could it be that the porch is no longer needed to welcome neighbors passing by or for families and friends to gather? Houses had wrap-around porches filled with chairs and swings. Now, they consist of a square piece of concrete with barely enough space for a potted plant.

Meaningful gatherings are becoming things of the past. Church people leave as soon as the last amen is heard. Family reunions are too much trouble. Dinner morphed into fast food take-out or sandwiches kids can make whenever they get hungry. The dining room table is used for everything but eating, so we don’t invite people to our homes. You might say, “Yes, but we go out to eat with friends.” That’s great, but how long do you spend together? An hour, maybe two if the waiting-in-line folks aren’t staring you down? Did the conversation get past the laughter and into deeper subjects like God or life issues? Was the music so loud you practically had to shout to be heard?

Believe me, I’m not knocking going out to eat. My husband and I do it every weekend. Not having to clean up the dishes is wonderful, but I hope you agree that restaurants aren’t the most conducive place for talking. A home is much more inviting and comfortable, you don’t have to be in a hurry, and there’s time for real fellowship to take place.

We’ve become separatists.

Guilty! I attend church, but I’ve been known to race out at the end. I love having people over, but lately, I’m content at home alone with my husband. Life is so hectic that by the end of the day all I want to do is give my mind a break and watch mindless TV shows. I zone out. I separate from society and choose not to engage because it might get messy or they might require something from me. Hidden away inside my little life, I lose all sense of the world outside my walls and don’t realize I’m becoming more self-centered, thinking only of my own wants and needs. Wow, that sounded really harsh, but I’m afraid it may very well be the truth. At least, that’s what I’m hearing from God for myself. Could it be true for you, as well?

Recently, I was listening to a lady talk about different items at an estate sale she was having. The estate came with a dining room table with seating for 12 and she made the statement, “That and china sets are some of the hardest things to get rid of because no one entertains anymore.” Translation: No one invites people over.

Life’s too busy!

Has life really gotten so busy that there’s no longer time for church fellowships, family reunions, or even just to have people over? Maybe it’s not busyness. Maybe we just don’t like people very much, not even our own families. We have lost the art of gathering and if we don’t rediscover the benefits of being together with family and friends, we will lose a precious and needful part of our existence.

We were created for fellowship with God.

Fellowship was God’s idea. He wants us to experience it with family and friends, our church family, and even the people we meet during the day. The book of Genesis reveals God didn’t want man to be alone, so God created a woman. In the cool of the evening, God walked in the garden to have fellowship with Adam and Eve. He told them to populate the earth; not so they could all go to their separate corners of the garden, but to be together. All through the Old Testament, we see glimpses of God’s people having feasts and festivals, gathering for food and celebration. Families lived together, worked together, and worshiped together.

Jesus loved to hang out.

As we move up the timeline, we see Jesus sharing meals with his friends and the people he came in contact with. He saw a tax collector named Zacchaeus up in a tree and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus took Jesus to his home and they spent time together. As a result, Zacchaeus gave up his lifestyle of cheating and promised to pay back everyone he had stolen from (Luke 19:1-10).

One day after church, Jesus and his disciples gathered at Peter’s house, where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever (Mark 1:29-31). Jesus healed the mother-in-law and the Bible says she got up and served them, most probably a meal. We see him spending time with his friends, Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus and later, Jesus showing up to raise Lazarus from the dead (Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:1-46). Jesus intentionally came together with groups as small as 1 and as large as thousands. People were healed, fed, loved on, and given the opportunity to know Jesus not only as Savior, but as a friend (John 15:15). The people received great benefits from being together with Jesus.

We were created for gathering with others.

The early Christians also enjoyed fellowship together. Acts 2:42-47 tells us:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Rediscover the benefits of being together.

Can you imagine living like this? From those verses in Acts, let’s take a look at all the benefits they received from gathering together.

  • They learned to hunger for godly teaching.
  • They developed a desire to fellowship with others.
  • There was opportunity to share communion together to remember Jesus’ death and soon return.
  • In their gatherings, many wonders and signs were performed, such as miracles of healing.
  • They were mindful of everyone’s basic needs and out of their abundance shared so that no one went hungry.
  • Being together produced glad and sincere hearts of love toward each other and God, who gave them favor among all the people.
  • And finally, they loved others who didn’t know God and invited them into their gatherings. God saved those who made a decision to follow Him because of what they learned from God’s people.

It’s a lifestyle, not an event.

This doesn’t all happen during 1-2 hours on Sunday morning or 1-2 hours in a restaurant. It takes a lifestyle consisting of gathering together for teaching, sharing meals, and getting into those deeper conversations about life and God. Am I preaching to myself? Absolutely and I am making plans to correct my ways. It may take me a while to get over the excuses I use such as my house isn’t clean enough, my cooking isn’t good enough, or I’m too tired, but change I will with God’s help and strength!

How about you? Have you lost the art of gathering with your family and friends? Why don’t you uncover that dining table and invite some people over. If you don’t cook, Sam’s Club sells a great frozen lasagna that you simply heat up. Throw together a salad and make some tea! If you don’t want to clean up, use paper plates. Then, set some chairs out on your porch and get to know your neighbors. With a few simple steps, we can bring back the good ole’ days and rediscover the benefits of being together!

Until next time,

Blessings!

For help in discovering your giftings, read my article called Southern Hospitality From The North.

 

Divorced…Can Jesus Relate To My Suffering?

Divorced...Jesus understands

Ten Reasons Why Jesus Understands.

Hebrews 4:15 bothered me for years. It says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.” I know about Jesus’ suffering, how he was beaten and forced to wear a crown of thorns; how they nailed him to a wooden cross by his hands and feet and left him there to die. That would be the ultimate definition of suffering. And if I were being crucified, I know Jesus could relate, but what about the things we go through in life? Like when I got  divorced, I wondered…can Jesus relate to my suffering? Getting a divorce is not something Jesus ever did. He was never married to a woman. So how on God’s green earth can Jesus relate to someone getting divorced?

Divorce is awful!

Have you experienced the awfulness of divorce? Are you in the middle of one now? If you never been divorced, then some might say it’s hard to relate to the pain of one. You know the old saying, “It takes one to know one?” Well, it is hard to describe what your mind, body, and soul go through during the breakup of a marriage. People tend to look at you with a sympathizing smile, but inside they’re thinking you should have stuck it out or fought harder to save it. I’ve been divorced twice, once before becoming a Christian and once after. Once at the age of 25 and again at 53. There, I said it for all the world to read, but remember, judge not lest you be judged.

It wasn’t supposed to happen.

I did something I swore I would never do after becoming a Christian. The word divorce was not supposed to be in my marriage, but sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you think. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I prayed and fasted and prayed some more. I cried out for God to change things, but, there it was…the awful truth. You can’t force someone to love you or turn their heart back to you. You can’t change the fact that you were betrayed and rejected as a wife. The Bible gives only one viable excuse for divorce: marital unfaithfulness. I had biblical grounds for ending the marriage. I had done what was necessary for my own spiritual, emotional and physical health, but it was still awful with night after night of crying out to God for help and comfort.

I’d been a missionary, a pastor’s wife, and now once again, a divorcee and I wondered…can Jesus relate to my suffering?

And then I came across this passage in 1 Peter 4:12-13 that says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Christ suffered throughout His entire life.

That verse got me to thinking about how Jesus suffered. We’ve already established his ultimate suffering before and on the cross, but what about the rest of his life. Did he suffer then, too? And then I found another verse in Hebrews 5:7:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth,
he offered up prayers and petitions
with loud cries and tears
to the one who could save him from death…”

Wait, that doesn’t say he prayed with loud cries and tears just at the end of his life. It says that all during his life, he did so. I went back to the gospels, the first four books in the New Testament, and scanned through the chapters. There were several things pointing to the fact that Jesus suffered throughout his entire life. Here is what I found.

Ten reasons why Jesus understands how you feel.

  1. Jesus was homeless. When some men asked where he was staying, he told them he had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20).
  2. People hurled insults at him (Mark 15:29).
  3. Jesus was sneered at by the religious leaders while he was eating dinner at their house (Luke 14:1, 16:14).
  4. Jesus felt pain and anguish. He prayed so hard before his death that he sweat blood (Luke 22:44).
  5. Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed and raving mad when he healed a blind man (John 10:19).
  6. Jesus felt sorrow. At the death of his friend, Lazarus, Jesus cried (John 11:35).
  7. He was betrayed for one of his own disciples (John 18:2).
  8. He knew what it was to be poor. God’s Son gave up the riches of heaven so that we might obtain the riches of heaven one day (2 Corinthians 8:9).
  9. The King of kings became a servant. Jesus, God’s Son, became a man in order to bring us salvation (Philippians 2:7, 2:8).
  10. Jesus was constantly having to dodge being captured by the religious leaders. They tried to have him arrested, stoned, and finally, yes, he was beaten, tortured, and hung on a cross to die.

Divorced…Can Jesus relate to my suffering?

Jesus may not have been divorced, but he suffered many embarrassing, humiliating, and hurtful things in his short life. He knew what it felt like to be betrayed by people he loved. He felt the sting of hurtful words and actions by those he was trying to help. Jesus understood the pangs of hunger and thirst and the pain of physical abuse. He was mocked, reviled, and ridiculed. Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”

Can Jesus relate to my suffering? Yes, I believe he can. He understands how it feels and knows just how to comfort us in our pain. So if you’re going through a divorce or undergoing pain or suffering of any kind, remember you have a Savior who has suffered in every way, just as we have. All we have to do is cry out to him and he will rush to help us.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”

Until next time,

Blessings!

How To Stop Trying To Fix Things You Can’t Fix

Stop trying to fix things you can't fix

Are you a fixer?

Well, I’ve got good news. You can learn how to stop trying to fix things you can’t fix and trust God. I know this is a hard thing for you to accept, but you can sit still and not feel responsible for the world’s problems. Truth is, we can’t fix the human kind of problems or the people in our lives that we love and care about. So why do we continue to try? It only frustrates us and most likely, frustrates the people we are trying to fix because maybe they aren’t ready to be fixed yet.

I get it! Your life is filled to the brim with people who need help. Most of the time, my life is overflowing with the needs of others. It’s not just personal family circumstances or friends that I interact with on a daily basis. The world around me is full of problems. There’s the newsfeeds that constantly scroll across Facebook and the stories on the 10:00 news. Let’s face it. This world’s in trouble and if you’re a fixer like me, you carry that huge weight on your shoulders. You feel like something terrible will happen if you don’t fix everyone and everything like yesterday! But it won’t because ultimately it isn’t up to you. It’s up to them and God and only He knows how to fix everyone and everything!

Learning how to sit still and trust God.

In one of my devotional readings yesterday, it talked about drawing strength from the Lord to live life. It outlined how He gives us strength to go on in the drudgery of life, how to go up when climbing a high road of difficulty, and how to go down after being on the mountaintop with God. But the one that grabbed my heart was this:

“The Lord is my strength to sit still. And what a difficult accomplishment this is! I often say to others during those times when I am compelled to be still, “If only I could do something!” I feel like the mother who stands by her sick child but is powerless to heal. What a severe test! Yet to do nothing except to sit still and wait requires tremendous strength (Streams In The Desert, pg. 251).”

Sitting in my prayer chair, I contemplated that paragraph as the weight on my shoulders pressed in. I have loved ones who are struggling just to make it through the day. I know of at least 3 marriages holding on by a tattered thread. Others need work to provide for their families. Still others are facing down the horrible pain of addiction desperately looking for a way out. I do feel like that powerless mother trying to figure out how to make things better for them, but the weight just becomes heavier as I helplessly attempt to fix everyone’s problems.

Stop trying to fix things you can’t fix.

My eyes went back to that page and my mind recalled several Bible verses:

  • Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
  • Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
  • Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Suddenly, I took a breath and relaxed, allowing that weight to roll over onto God.

Engine parts and motherboards!

There are so many things in life that we wouldn’t even think about trying to fix. When my car broke down, I told my husband. After my dog had a seizure, we saw the Vet. During a thunderstorm, lightning struck our transformer and I called the electric company. When my computer freaked out, I didn’t open up the hard drive and poke around. I simply ran it down to the computer-fixing shop. Did I walk around feeling guilty that I couldn’t fix all those things? Absolutely not. I KNEW I couldn’t.

So then, if I can’t fix all those things, why do I think it’s my sole responsibility to fix everyone’s problems? It makes about as much sense as me trying to fix engine parts and motherboards!

I need to let God strengthen me to sit still and learn how to stop trying to fix things I can’t fix!

Don’t confuse sitting still with silence.

Now that we understand we can’t fix them, what should we do when they asked us for help? Do we just keep quiet and trust God? That depends. Most of us have been through life situations that have produced some great wisdom to pass on. If someone is sincerely seeking advice, we should offer up whatever wise counsel we have for their situation. Just because we’ve learned to sit still and trust God to fix them doesn’t mean we should confuse sitting still with silence. God can and will use our words in their fixing process. God tells us to bear one another’s burdens and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. The key in doing so is to know how to walk away from the conversation without feeling like it’s up to us to make them follow that advice.

How many have tried that with their own kids? Anybody else get frustrated when you give them perfectly good advice and they won’t listen? Ugh!! I spent too many years trying to “fix” my family. If you listen closely, you can hear my three “adult” children saying a hearty Amen! Their mom’s a fixer, what can I say? I’m learning I’m not a very good fixer, but I am one awesome pray-er!

Are they ready to apply it?

On the other hand, there are people who ask for your help, but who aren’t ready to apply it. You probably know what I mean. There are those in your life that have been given the same advice 100 times, but they never seem to apply it. They just like to talk about their problems. In this case, sometimes it’s better to remain silent and just love them and pray for them.

Ready, Set, Sit!

How to stop trying to fix things you can’t fix requires sitting and trusting. When it comes to the human kind of problems, God is the only True Fixer in the universe. When the weight of the world becomes too heavy, get ready, set, and sit down…and pray with thanksgiving to the One who knows how to fix all those you care about and love.

Until next time,

Blessings!

 

 

 

One Way To Achieve Perfection

one way to achieve perfection

I Am Perfect!

Have you achieved perfection? Can you say this with me? I…Am…Perfect!

Something just goes in sideways, doesn’t it? If you want to know what true perfection is and how to achieve it, then here’s how.

First, let’s define true perfection. We have been bombarded for so long by the world’s idea of perfect that we seriously can’t bring ourselves to even think we could be. I recently taught at a Women’s Conference about the struggle we have trying to measure up to the world’s definition of perfection. I showed them a poster of an ad for a major retailer with a tall, beautifully tanned young woman in a tight-fitting black dress. She had long, flowing wavy hair. Her eyes were gorgeous and her face flawless. Her skin was smooth and without blemish and even her feet in little strappy sandals looked perfect! I asked the question,

“What if you wanted to go on vacation to paradise and the cost was physical perfection?
How many of us would be able to pay the world’s price?”

Certainly not me. I was born with Irish pale skin with some Cherokee Indian spots scattered about. Most people think these are freckles, but nope…I prefer to say that’s my Indian skin from my momma’s side of the family.

On top of that, I have coarse white hair that miraculously turns blonde every 3 weeks or so. About 20 pounds of extra weight affords me some unwanted love handles and arm flab. I’m 5’4″ so I’ve never had long thin legs like the supermodels and my face is reaching 60 years’ worth of worrying and fretting, producing plenty of lines and wrinkles.

I could buy the sexiest dress, pay a plastic surgeon to stretch my face back out, and put on a long, flowing wig of lustrous hair, and I would just look like I was dressing up for Halloween. Perfect? Not in a million years!

Conclusion #1: The world’s definition of perfect is ridiculous!

According to the world then, physical perfection is definitely not achievable for me. But let’s change the cost and say the price to paradise was spiritual perfection? Could I afford it then? Let’s take a look.

I was born with impatience. I know because momma told me so. I’ve never quite gotten the hang of being patient in a grocery line or behind a slow driver. If we walk into a store and it’s a madhouse, my husband will very gently take my elbow in hand and lovingly whisper in my ear, “Calm down. We’ve got all day. No need to be in a hurry.” But see, to me, time is not the issue. When you’re impatient, you simply don’t like to wait. It’s get in and get out with no obstacles in your way. Doesn’t matter if I’m in a hurry or not. I just don’t want to go slow! Since I’m pretty sure patience is a gift from God’s Spirit, to be impatient means I’m lacking in spiritual perfection, so let’s try something else.

I might be…just maybe slightly…quick tempered when it comes to bad customer service or incompetent hospital staff. Those two things don’t go together, but nothing will set my teeth on edge quicker than talking to a person on the phone or behind a counter that absolutely missed the training that the customer is ALWAYS right or they are rude and condescending. It’s also hard for me to stand by and watch incompetent nursing staff or physicians who don’t have the time of day to care for my loved one as they should. I think excellent nurses and caring doctors should have a very honored place in heaven. There were some who took care of my sister before she passed away that should get into heaven for free! And then there were others who…well, let me move on.

Needless to say, I forget sometimes that Christians are supposed to love and that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Yeah, it’s looking like I missed out on the spiritual perfection, as well.

Conclusion #2: Spiritual perfection is too hard for me to reach.

Do you struggle with not feeling good enough?

I’m figuring you are in the same boat, right? You probably don’t have to think very long for why you don’t measure up either. The point of this article is not to make us feel worse, but to show why we are in desperate need of saving. God has created a paradise called heaven. At the end of our lives, we can go there, but the bottom line is that the price for paradise or heaven is spiritual perfection. There’s no evil there, which means no sinful person will be allowed in. Makes sense to me. I don’t want to go if there are murderers or liars there, but that also leaves out my impatience and quick temper. If that’s the case, then how will we ever pay the price so God will allow us into our eternal home?

Have you ever had someone pay for your dinner or had a friend give you a gift they saw in a store that reminded them of you? Doesn’t that feel good? I love color and because my daughter knows me so well, her gifts to me are usually very colorful and bright. And then there was the time, my kids gave my kitchen and bathroom a makeover. I went out of town and came home to an updated kitchen with a gorgeous tile mosaic of a bright yellow sun behind my stovetop. Every time I cooked in that kitchen, I felt so special and loved. It’s a huge blessing when someone goes out of their way to bless us.

How about someone paying for your vacation?

I remember years ago when my kids’ dad and stepmom paid for them to go on a cruise to Cancun, Cozumel, and Honduras. There were 14 people in all! Wow, what an extravagant gift.

Well, guess what? Someone has paid the price for you to go to paradise. God is not like the world! Both demand perfection, but the difference is God didn’t set this impossible standard and leave us without hope. He did something about it. He sent His Son, who is perfect, to come to earth and pay our way. Jesus left heaven and lived on earth without every sinning. The Bible says this about Him in 1 John 3:5 –

“You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”

Jesus exchanged our imperfection with his perfection. At the end of your life, how will you get to heaven? By accepting His payment! God determined the cost and then gave us the money to pay for it.

Solution: There is only one way to achieve perfection.

Hide your life in Jesus. Colossians 3:3 says,

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

If you have accepted Jesus’ death in payment for your sins, then you are now perfect in the eyes of God. Whenever you turn your face toward heaven to cry out for help or pray for others, God sees Jesus’ perfection reflecting back and says, “Come into my arms, my child, and tell me what you need.”

If you want to achieve perfection in God’s eyes, it only takes a moment to ask Jesus to come into your life and declare you perfect. You can read more about how to do this in My Story.

Maybe you’ve accepted Jesus’s gift, but you still struggle with feeling imperfect in either how you look physically or how you measure up spiritually. The truth is not one single person deserves heaven, but that’s why it’s called the Good News! It doesn’t depend on you. God wants you to see yourself as He sees you, perfected through His Son.

If you can realize today that He created you with special gifts and talents and you are beautiful and perfect in His sight, then congratulations! You have achieved perfection.

Now, let’s say it again. I…Am…Perfect because of Jesus!

Find Joy Again By Letting Jesus Have The Lead

Find Joy Again By Letting Jesus Have the Lead

Does it seem sometimes like life is a party and everyone but you is having a good time? While others seem to dance through life, you keep finding yourself on the sidelines or dancing with the wrong partner. This article will help you get back to dancing with the best partner ever and you will find joy again by letting Jesus have the lead.

We were never meant to be alone and I’m not talking about needing a spouse here. God created us to have relationship with Him and His Son, Jesus, who loves to celebrate life with His creation. The scriptures are full of joyful celebrations and dancing. It saddens God to see one of his daughters left out and struggling to find reasons to be happy. He longs to take us by the hand and show us how to find joy again, but first He must teach us how to dance.

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy…
Psalm 30:11

Sometimes in the evening when nothing else is on, we turn the channel to Dancing With The Stars (DWTS). We’ve watched this show for several years and have learned a bit about what the judges look for. Whether it’s the tango, rumba, or ballroom dancing, the judges give the same critiques over and over. As I watched the other night, I pondered about how their dancing expertise could be applied to life and our relationship with God. If you struggle in life, then maybe these dance tips can help you find joy again as you learn to let Jesus lead.

Tip #1: There must be a leader and a follower.

The leader leads and the follower follows. That’s pretty simply, right? We see in most cases, the leader is usually a male and for some pretty good reasons. A man’s body strength is necessary in order to carry the weight of his partner through all the lifts and turns. As men are most often taller than women, they have a height advantage good for balance and positioning. But even with these advantages, the leader must still have a partner who will allow him to lead.

According to Wikipedia, “The Lead is responsible for guiding the couple and initiating transitions to different dance steps and, in improvised dances, for choosing the dance steps to perform.[1]  This means that the leader has the burden to not only know the moves, but to initiate the necessary steps that are required to perform a certain style of dance and even when the dance is spontaneously performed, the leader must know what independent dance steps go together in order to flow and appear flawlessly easy. Just imagine for a moment, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on your television screen with his top hat and her flowing gown. When expertly done, dancing is a beautiful site to behold and it’s even more wonderful to be the actual dancers!

The point of this tip is that in all the joys and trials of life, we must allow Jesus to lead and then follow His every move. I know in my own personal life that when I try to take the lead, I usually trip up and fall flat on my keister! Maybe if life went smoothly all the time, I might be able to do it on my own…yeah, I think not…but we all know it doesn’t go smoothly. We can be getting along great with our spouse and suddenly find ourselves signing divorce papers. We’re at the peak of health one day and hearing the word cancer the next. Our savings account can be padded at the end of last month and the dryer and hot water heater crashes this month.

Life is complicated and hard sometimes and we need a strong leader to guide us through all the twists and turns and we must become good followers. Who better to lead us than the very One who designed our life? Jesus knows what will happen tomorrow and what steps need to be taken, which leads us to the next tip.

Tip #2: Dancing requires interpreting your partner’s moves and responding appropriately.

In an article written by Ian Crewehe says, “Today, leading is more synonymous with ‘guiding’, while following is more like ‘interpreting’. The leader initiates a move, then stays with his partner and moves with her through the pattern.”

As mentioned above, life is unpredictable. We don’t know what the future will bring or even what will happen in the next few minutes, but Jesus does. Our job is to stay in communication with Him and learn to interpret what He is leading us to do. Most of the time, it’s not as hard as people think. As we study the Bible and spend time with Him, we become quicker at interpreting His instructions. We’re able to respond with the appropriate steps without missing a beat. Just like taking our next breath, it becomes second nature and we exhibit more confidence with every victory. We aren’t out in the world all alone having to figure out what to do next. Jesus loves us enough to teach us what to do. As we interpret and respond, He provides the strength and power to accomplish it.

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to show emotion and passion.

As we dance through life, our emotions are going to get dirty and suffer some bumps and bruises. There was a time in my life when I closed myself off from emotion. Pain caused me to harden my heart, not allowing me to feel anything. As I let God heal me, I discovered that killing my emotions was not living at all because inside I was dead.

I discovered that even when our dancing clothes get a bit dirty and our heart is broken, He can breathe life inside us again!

If we shut down our emotions, yes, we lock out pain, but we also lock out the possibility to feel joy. We don’t need to shut down so as to avoid pain because God will always bring good out of it if we give it to him (Romans 8:28). He will heal us and and clothe us in beauty and our joy will return as we follow His lead. He is passionately in love with us and wants us to be passionately in love with Him. Ask Him to heal your hurts and unlock the door to your emotions! Find out how He has gifted you and what causes you to smile, then step out and live a joyful and passionate life!

A final word. Life is worth living and there is much to be joyful about. My granddaughter gave me a pillow for Christmas last year and I love reading it everyday. It is a constant reminder that “There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy.”

Don’t go another day trying to dance this life alone. Jesus, who is the bright and morning Star wants to be your dance partner. So, get back to dancing and find joy again by letting Jesus have the lead. He absolutely adores you and thinks you look beautiful in your dancing shoes. Step into His arms and show the world how good you can dance!

 

Why Me, God?

Spiritual and emotional healing

Is your life like mine, marked by too many sad stories, too many bad choices?  Does your heart look like someone is using it for target practice?

Starting in early childhood, I was ridiculed for the way I looked.  I was skin and bones with a fair, freckled complexion. I didn’t go on a date until I was a senior in high school.  My parents divorced after 30 years of marriage leading to the sudden death of my dad 6 months later.  I wrote in my journal, “My dad died today of a broken heart.” I was only 16.  I have also been through the heartache of miscarriage and divorce, and the debilitating stress of financial ruin, just to name a few. As a single mother of 3 with a boatload of self-loathing, I set out on a mission to prove to the world that I was worthy of a man’s love. I took as my mantra what another troubled friend told me after my divorce, “You gotta go out there and use men before they have the chance to abuse you.”  Without going into detail, you can only imagine the places that led me.  Because of my own choices and the damage caused by others who hurt me, I became a very miserable young woman. An older and much wiser friend said to me one day with all the love he could muster, “Darlene, if you don’t get rid of that bitterness and anger, it will eat you up like a cancer.”

I walked away from him thinking how dare he!!!  He doesn’t know what I’ve been through! But then something strange happened.  I began to hear what he was talking about.  As I interacted with family and friends, I discovered I couldn’t say hello without a sarcastic and hateful tone. Everything coming out of my mouth was tainted with ugliness. I went back to that friend and very gently, he spent the next 2 years leading me to the cross of Jesus.  In one seemingly mundane moment, I prayed a prayer that changed the rest of my life forever.  I asked Jesus to take over and forgive me.  I asked him to rescue me from my past and every moment since, I have endeavored to become the person God meant me to be.

Several years after that prayer, I went through a season of questioning my life. Like a child who constantly asks why, I bombarded God with an interrogation of why I had to suffer so much?  Finally, I asked God, “Couldn’t you have saved me from just one thing? What was it all for?” He lovingly replied, “2 Corinthians 1.”

I grabbed my bible and began to read chapter 1 and it was as if God shined a flashlight on verses 3 and 4.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

It all fell into place.  I thought about how God had brought women across my path that suffered from the same things as me. Rejection, ridicule, unfaithfulness, divorce, financial stress, loss, insecurity, not to mention the choices they made out of brokenness.  Being vulnerable in sharing my life, I had comforted them and given them hope. God showed me that, although He didn’t cause my pain, He used those things to make me a stronger woman overall, and could also comfort others through me if I was willing.  Boy, was I willing!

Life got exciting after that.  God sent me as a missionary using me in cross-cultural ministry to women in several foreign countries. I discovered life’s problems look and feel the same no matter where you live. The first glimpse of what God had in store happened when I was walking home one night in Ternopil, Ukraine after teaching a Bible study. My translator and I were talking when suddenly, she blurted out her problems. Almost word for word, she described many of the things I had been through.  I told her how I learned to apply scripture to my situations and how God helped me.  Over the next few years, her life transformed into a purposeful ministry helping orphans around the world.

Since that night, I have never questioned God again.  Just this morning during my devotional time, I read this quote in the book, Streams In The Desert by L. B. Cowman.

God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters (John Henry Jowett).”

I haven’t forgotten one moment of the suffering, but God has taken out the sting. I can share it as fact without feeling the shame and guilt I once felt.  God’s forgiveness working with my own forgiveness of myself and others has changed all the anger and bitterness into love and compassion.  I wish my elderly friend were still around to see it.

Are you questioning why?  We all have stories to tell of pain and heartache.  The real question is what will you do with them? Will you live life as the victim or will you allow God to heal you and use your story to help someone else?

I encourage you to spend time talking to God.  If you don’t have a relationship with him, please read my article entitled My Story. It will introduce you to Jesus and to a heavenly Father who adores you.  From there, spend time reading the Bible and asking Him to show you what to do.  Find a local women’s bible study group that will provide a place for you to heal and grow.

Could God have saved me from at least one thing?  Yes, but then how would I know what to say when another woman like me wants healing and a life filled with purpose. It makes it all worthwhile! Why indeed!