Monday, April 24, 2017

Don't Go Changin'!

They say change is good. That changing from a manual to an electric toothbrush cleans your teeth better. That changing to a healthy eating lifestyle will give you more energy and stamina while improving your mood. Or that changing your sleep habits can result in a more restful and happy you.

Sounds like any kind of change can be something to get excited about. However, change doesn't always mean it will result in good. Sometimes, change can turn a person's world upside down.

Like losing your job when the economy goes in the tank or when your spouse comes home saying they no longer love you and want a divorce. That kind of change can be devastating and instrumental in creating fear of any future change.

I guess that is why many of us work hard at having control over everything in our lives so that there are no unpleasant surprises. Then when good change comes, we can celebrate by breathing a sigh of relief and a smile.

I used to be someone who feared change, greatly. In fact, there was a period of time when I hated change and did everything in my power to prevent it from happening. Which only resulted in worry, anxiety, and a false sense of security.

Preventing change from happening meant halting life and living in a state of repetition. Doing the same things that were enjoyable for any period of time soon rubbed off the novelty of it being enjoyable. Each subsequent time took away happiness and replaced it with despair. I got into a rut over something, in all honesty, I couldn't control.

We can't begin to assume that we can be in control of everything in our lives or around us, at all times. I believe it can set us up for disappointment and heartbreak. Change is a part of our world and it is inevitable. Whether good or bad, change will happen if we're prepared for it or not.

When I lost my job last year, I didn't know it was coming. There were indicators in the economy giving off signals that the industry I was working in was in trouble. That downsizing and work share programs might be on the horizon. Little did I know that the economic effect was the elimination of my position via a layoff.

Then things were changing fast. Corporate belts had to be tightened, budgets had to be revised and re-revised. A three person job became a one person job with a work share program thrown into the mix. When you lose your job, there is usually another to be found. If not, it might be an opportunity presenting itself to go in a completely different career direction. Such is the case for myself.

At the end of the day, change happens on a regular basis and in all its certainty, there is a degree to which it must be embraced, accepted. You face it, absorb it, and make the best of it as you go forward in the new direction that change has brought.

Your reaction to the change, whether exciting or daunting, can make all the difference in how you will embrace future change. It was through many experiences bringing me to the acceptance of Christ into my life and heart in 2007 that made all the difference in how I react to change today.

I know that I can't stop change nor would I want to. It's all part of the process of life and living in a world of transformation amongst conflict. There doesn't seem to be anything about our society today that isn't changing. So, do you accept the change but still maintain a wholeness to your life as it happens or do you fight against it, tooth and nail?

Fighting against it can be exhausting and emotionally draining. Albeit, negative change can bring about those affects without warning. Especially the kinds that mean a change in lifestyle, marital status, or pay grade. These are just some of the things that can be particularly challenging to adapt to.

In the days of Jesus, over 2000 years ago, a radical change was coming to the people of that time. They had no idea what the change truly was even though there were hints being given by Jesus himself. Something that would happen in the span of three days that had never happened before and was completely unheard of. Dying then being resurrected.

Jesus was telling people, his disciples especially, that he was going to die but come back to life in three days time. It dumbfounded those who followed him. They watched him heal the sick, drive out demons, and rescue the lost. There had never been anything like this before.

However, many were not embracing the changes Jesus was bringing but rebelling against them. Especially those who were in power positions and had something to lose if change came as a result of Jesus. So, they killed him in the most brutal way possible.

Those who had been following Jesus and loved him were devastated at what happened and were not prepared for this kind of change. They quickly lost hope and were filled with despair...until the third day after Jesus' death. He began appearing to crowds and people who dearly loved him. A greater change had come and hope was restored.

It's because of that radical change over 2000 years ago, that many today don't fear change. It's why I don't fear change, whether negative or positive. When something different comes along, I see it as an opportunity to experience something different or learn lessons. Usually, it means growing as a person, maturing in my faith, or adding to my life skills toolbox.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you fear change? Why or why not?

If you knew you could control the change, would that make a difference?

We know that change comes and it is constant, often without warning. May I encourage you this week to see the changes in a different way. To close your eyes, take in a deep breath, and have a time of silence to absorb the impact.

Then when you're ready to face the change and deal with it, go slow through each moment while being good to yourself. Choose not to worry or be fearful, but to see it all as an opportunity to grow as an individual or a couple. Whatever your situation may be. It will be okay.

If you are a Christian, you know that change is inevitable. That it will be both good and bad but that you have a confident Savior who will guide you through each change, helping you to grow in strength and faith.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find the best GPS system ever to direct you through each great or difficult change that comes into your life, with confidence and hope.

Monday, April 17, 2017

What's Love Got To Do With It?

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, 
and by his wounds we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

This song was made famous by Tina Turner in the 1980's, even grabbing a Grammy Award as part of her fifth solo album at the time, Private Dancer.

Turner began her music career in the mid 1950's alongside her husband, Ike Turner, as a featured singer with Ike's Kings of Rhythm (as provided by Wikipedia). Her slim figure and powerhouse voice made her a force to be reckoned with.

Her rise to stardom, however, didn't come without its challenges. Tina wrote an autobiography revealing several instances of severe domestic abuse leading up to her 1976 split with Ike.

The Grammy winning hit, "What's Love Got To Do With It", didn't come until later but it makes me wonder if it wasn't a private lament of hers, made public.

Have a look at the chorus of that song:

What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a second hand emotion
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

While I certainly can't relate to Tina's stardom and successful music career, I can relate to her story of abuse.

During a period of my life, I was going in and out of shallow and meaningless 'relationships' with men. A couple of them being emotionally and physically abusive. At the time the abuse was happening, my skewed perspective told me the attention was all part of being loved.

That their control and manipulation was a way of protecting and caring for me. Pretty messed up, isn't it? However, it was mine and today's reality in which many people live, even children.

I never really knew any different until God became a part of my mixed up life and turned my mind right side up. It was only then that there was a paradigm shift in perspective.

Today, my heart is burdened by the rampant occurrence of abuse in our world and how quickly innocence is lost when an iron fist, literally, rules over a person. There is no sane explanation as to how or why a person is abused and, sometimes, killed as a result.

There certainly wasn't any logical reason why extreme abuse came upon an innocent man over 2000 years ago, resulting in his death. The man was Jesus and He was whipped, scourged*, then crucified.

What's love got to do with that? An innocent man nailed to a cross after having been beaten within inches of his life. There can't, possibly, be any love in that...but there was.

The love was from Jesus, for all of us. See, He willingly took the foul accusations, the beatings, and the torture leading to His death so that you and I wouldn't have to. He was the mother who stood in front of her child to take the brunt of the abuse in order to save the child's life.

I find that incredible, humbling, even incomprehensible. To wrap the mind around something so horrible that was taken on by an innocent man says that love had everything to do with it. A love I can never repay but fully receive in a relationship with Him today.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever suffered at the hands of an abuser? Let me tell you that love has nothing to do with it.

No one has the right to abuse or be abused. It's insanity. An insanity I pray, each day, to be eradicated.

If you are a Christian, you know the freedom you have from all things abusive because of what Jesus did for you on the Cross.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him and be set free from the abuse that may be in your life.

*The Roman scourge instrument or Flagrum was designed to quickly remove the flesh from the body of a victim. The Romans would, according to custom, scourge a condemned criminal before he was put to death. The Roman scourge, also called the "flagrum" or "flagellum" was a short whip made of two or three leather (ox-hide) thongs or ropes connected to a handle. The leather thongs were knotted with a number of small pieces of metal, usually zinc and iron, attached at various intervals. Scourging would quickly remove the skin. According to history the punishment of a slave was particularly dreadful. The leather was knotted with bones, or heavy indented pieces of bronze.

Sometimes the Roman scourge contained a hook at the end and was given the terrifying name "scorpion." The criminal was made to stoop which would make deeper lashes from the shoulders to the waist. According to Jewish law (discipline of the synagogue) the number of stripes was forty less one (Deut. 25:3) and the rabbis reckoned 168 actions to be punished by scourging before the judges. Nevertheless, scourging among the Romans was a more severe form of punishment and there was no legal limit to the number of blows, as with the Jews. Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal "half-dead." Death was often the result of this cruel form of punishment though it was necessary to keep the criminal alive to be brought to public subjugation on the cross. The Centurion in charge would order the "lictors" to halt the flogging when the criminal was near death. 

**This description of scourge was taken from an article on**

Monday, April 10, 2017

What Do You Want?

"When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass 
from the hills is gathered in..." - Proverbs 27:25

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

In our lives, we pursue many things: money, success, pleasure, and possessions, to name a few but why do we go after these things so relentlessly? Is it in an effort to obtain or find happiness? Can these things truly bring us lasting happiness?

In my own life, there were times of selfish pursuit for things that seemed to be the key to happiness and, for a time, they were. Until the novelty wore off and boredom set in, prompting me to pursue something newer, more exciting than the last.

Years were spent doing this with the most important thing on my mind being me. It was all about me and the things longed for and desired of. After fifteen years of this, I was bankrupt, financially and emotionally, and having to start over as a broken and humbled woman.

It wasn't fun and there certainly wasn't any happiness to be found in everything I had spent so much effort capturing. The emptiness in my bank account didn't even come close to the emptiness that was in my heart and soul.

I never knew God back then and, frankly, I didn't want to. For me, God didn't equate to happiness or satisfaction so there was no point in pursuing Him.

I was doing just fine treading water and continuing the search for the thing that would be the Holy Grail of finds, the luck of the Irish, the pot of gold. There had to be a point in which that one thing would be it.

The one thing that would be the lucky charm giving lasting happiness and deep rooted peace. In all the time I tried, that one thing never came nor did happiness while the only thing still on my mind was me.

Even after the humiliating process of bankruptcy, while the fundamentals of money had to be re-learned, the negative impact of selfishness wasn't grasped until many years later.

Later, when I became a Christian and learned about the backward principle that it wasn't all about me. That there was something and someone far greater to consider. That the blind pursuit of all things selfish were no longer going to cut it.

In fact, those things were destroying me. Even though it was safer to protect and think about myself and accompanying wants, there were no long term, positive results.

The misery was still there along with a distinct dissatisfaction about...everything. It wasn't until I began to apply the upside down principle of selflessness that things began to change. That self-possession and gratification gave way to giving and helping.

The paradigm of, 'it is better to give than to receive', was sinking in and something started to happen, inwardly. It was happiness. It was peace. It was the removal of a great burden.

My perspective of the outside world changed from evil to hopeful. Hope that there was something to be said for this backward principle and that true happiness can be found in even the smallest act of kindness.

I don't know what you are in pursuit of at this moment in your life but is it bringing you peace, satisfaction, and happiness? If it is, the result may be in direct relation to something selfless you are doing. If it isn't, maybe it's time to try something different.

A January 23, 2014 article in the Huffington Post outlined the benefits of being selfless through volunteer work. Part of the article reads:

United Health Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
  • 76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier
  • 94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
  • 78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
  • 80 percent of them feel like they have control over their health
  • About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems
  • Volunteers have better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional wellbeing including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships and overall satisfaction with life.
  • Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem
There is something to be said for putting yourself aside to help someone else. Could it be that taking oneself off our minds could be the key to happiness that so many of us spend time and money trying to find? The article above might be on to something.

For me, putting my own selfish ambitions aside to give a helping hand or speak an encouraging word to someone who is hurting has been the best 'chocolate cake' recipe for happiness I have ever come across. It might just be a worthwhile recipe in your own life.

Encouragement for the week:

Is satisfaction becoming harder to find in your life? Does happiness seem to be getting further out of reach?

May I encourage you to take a step back this week and try something different? Reach out to a person or organization in your community that is in need of help.

Whether it's baking cookies for a neighbor or packing hampers at a food bank, experiment with the principle of selflessness and see what happens. I want to hear from you about what happened when you did that.

If you are a Christian, you know the warmth and joy that comes from serving others. It not only benefits your heart but it touches the heart of someone in need.

If you are not a Christian and you are struggling with trying to find meaning and happiness in your life, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the happiness and peace you could ever want.

Monday, April 3, 2017

I'll Take It To My Grave

Through the years, people have confided in me. They have divulged personal things. Heartbreaking, guilt-ridden, regret-filled things from the depths of their hearts and cores of their souls.

There are times when I look back on those conversations and wonder how the person got to the place of revealing such a deep and painful event in their lives. Did the weight of the burden become too heavy that they needed to share it? Why would they choose to share it with me?

Whether internal or told by the revealing friend, the reason they shared that haunting piece of their life is because they trusted me with the information. They knew that what was said would never go beyond the walls of the room shared in. That I would hold it in my heart and take it to my grave.

That is still the case today and there is no amount of bribery or cajoling that would cause me to spill the gossip. There is something about the sacred space of the heart that demands loving care and an understanding posture.

We want to feel safe sharing intimate things that hold us captive. We need to confide in someone who will hold on to that secret, releasing the teller from their hellish prison. We long to be forgiven even though we'll never forget.

That's what comes in the package of a special friend. A confidant who has proven themselves trustworthy and upright in character and integrity. I endeavor to be such a person and look for those same qualities in a close friend.

I have to admit, however, that there are some things that have happened in my life of which no one will become privy. Things that only God knows. He is my ultimate safe place. Someone I can divulge anything and everything to without any worry of judgment or finger wagging in rebuttal. Even when I'm assaulting myself with judgment.

Like God, I choose to pass no judgment or wield condemnation on someone who sees me as their refuge to share. I am in no position to judge or condemn. There need only be compassion and empathy when holding things in confidence.

There is a story in the Bible about a girl. A very special girl by the name of Mary. One day, Mary was told by an angel that she was chosen to have a baby boy, but not just any boy. She would give birth to Jesus.

She was incredibly confused. She was a young virgin who, in spite of being engaged to a guy named Joseph, had never slept with him and without intention to until they were married.

Though Mary kept the secret hidden in her heart, there was no doubt that she had trepidation about the revelation. Her culture would never allow a young, unmarried girl to be pregnant. There would be incredible judgment and shaming.

However, she didn't confide in anyone about her situation. She kept the unbelievable details to herself and she was blessed because of it. She was seen as someone who could be trusted to keep the craziness of the circumstances to herself.

Encouragement for the week:

Life can be brutally tough without much sympathy from the masses. Finding someone to trust can be a challenge.

If you have someone in your life who you know you can trust and confide in, thank them.

If you don't have someone like that in your life, how about becoming that person to someone else? It's a blessing.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance of being a person of integrity and trustworthiness. Never take that position lightly or for granted. God has entrusted you with these gifts.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him along with all the wonderful attributes He desires you have to become a person who can be trusted.