Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jesus Walks with us in Grief

  Over the past 4 months I have sent out several sympathy cards, attended a funeral, and prayed for God's comfort to encompass loved ones in their grief.  It seems like there are seasons of our lives when death comes creeping in and reminds us once again that this life is not forever.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that "to everything there is a season, a time, and a purpose under heaven." Verse 2 adds "A time to be born and a time to die".  We should expect news of a death as normally as we hear news of a birth. But the big difference, of course, is that a birth brings joy while the news of death brings sorrow.

At the funeral I attended, the poem below was on the guest register.  I stopped long enough to read it, think on it, and then make a mental note of the title.  I knew I wanted to share these beautiful words.

To One in Sorrow  by Grace Noll Crowell
Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours,
Can understand.
Let me come in -- I would be very still
Beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears can bring relief.
Let me come in -- I would only breathe a prayer,
And hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
And understand.

Now that I have read this poem several times, I am thinking that some may see this as a friend speaking to a grieving friend.  But I immediately thought of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One holding my hand, breathing a prayer, and being still beside me.  The grace we receive from the Lord in our moments of sorrow is often portrayed in the love of our friends.  Thank God He is holding us through our sadness, comforting us with His love, catching every tear in His bottle (see Psalm 56:8), and filling us with hope of the Life to come.  Bob Sorge says that "tears are liquid words".  I am grateful for those liquid words that no one else on earth can understand but Jesus. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The T.R.U.T.H. Principle

There are so many reasons I love teaching and leading women's Bible studies.  One of them is that I learn so much!  This semester we are going through a study entitled "How to live right when your life goes wrong" by Leslie Vernick.  We are learning the TRUTH principle and how to apply it when we are going through a trial, struggle, heartache, or disappointment.  Here is the breakdown:
The TRUTH Principle -

T = Trouble.  What is your trouble?  Are you looking for what God might be up to in the midst of your trouble?
*God uses the hardest of times as well as the minor irritating difficulties of life to teach us more about Him, drawing us into a deeper relationship with Him.

R = Response. What is your response to your trouble?  What are you thinking, feeling, and how are you responding in the midst of your difficulty?
*Our responses to life's troubles don't come from the outside (our situation); they come from the inside (our heart).

U = Underlying Idols. What do you want the most?  What do you love?  What do you fear?  What is first place in your heart?
*Before we can change, we must identify those things that have become more important to us than loving and obeying God.

T = Truth. Whose reality do you most trust?  Your own thoughts and feelings or God's Word?
*Truth isn't just something we learn; truth is someone we know.

H = Heart's Response. What is your response to God's truth? Are you indifferent? Rebellious? Repentant?
*We cannot stand in God's presence and remain neutral.

The discussions we are having (and the sins we are confessing!) are helping us to understand this process even more.  We are learning that no matter what the situation is, we can apply the TRUTH principle.  We are recognizing that we don't have to be slaves of our feelings.  We are becoming aware of how the enemy and our sinful flesh often try to dominate our reactions.  And we are growing in our maturity in Christ as a result. 
Another joy of women's Bible study groups is the sharpening on one another that takes place.  In our current class, we have ladies in their 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's!  What a blessing to know that we can help and bless each other no matter the age, race, or occupation.  It's been wonderful to see friendships growing!
If you have not gotten involved in a women's Bible study, let me encourage you to.  It's one of the tools that God uses to grow us up in Christ.  It's a great way to make new friends as well.

 I'm Mae Lynn Biggs and I have been a follower of Jesus for the past 29 years. My heart is to help women grow in their love for Christ and knowledge of His Word.  I love to spend time with my family, read, hike, and share from my quote collection.  I would love to hear from you- leave a comment below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Letting in the Good- Keeping Out the Bad

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

According to the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan, 3/1/2002, boundaries define us.  They help us to understand the invisible property lines that state where we begin and someone else ends; what is our responsibility and what is not.  We are called to be responsible to others, but not for others.  We are called to be responsible for ourselves.  Boundaries can be related to fences with gates.  The fence is our protection that we keep around us at all times.  However, we may want to open and close our gates from time to time.  In a perfect world, we open the gate to let in the good and close the gate to keep out the bad. 

Because it’s not a perfect world, we tend to have boundary problems.  There are several ways that these boundary problems manifest themselves.  First, there are compliants who say yes to the bad and open their gates when they should not.  Then, there are avoidants who say no to the good and don’t open their gates when they should.  There are controllers who do not respect other people’s boundaries.  Finally, there are nonresponsives who do not hear the needs of others.  You may recognize yourself in one or more of these categories.  I know I do.  Every relationship in my life is different and I find that although I have a greater tendency in one area, I have relationships in my life in which I might wear another hat.

The number one common boundary myth that many believe is that if they set boundaries, they are being selfish.  They falsely believe that this goes against the church’s teaching that we are to love others.  In reality, setting good boundaries is more about stewardship than selfishness.  God has called us to be good stewards of our lives and our hearts.  Jesus demonstrated good boundaries all the time. A great example is when he went alone to be with His Father in prayer.  Boundaries, Zondervan, 3/1/2002says, “Appropriate boundaries actually increase our ability to care about others.”

I have found that I have believed the myth (lie) that boundaries are selfish, and I have allowed my gates to be open and closed at the wrong times thinking I was operating in the name of love – in the name of Christ!  I recently ran across this quote from the book The Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight things You have to Quit to Change Your Life by Geri Scazzero, Harper Collins Publishing, 10/22/2013.  “Biblical quitting goes hand in hand with choosing. When we quit those things that are damaging to our souls or the souls or others (or when we open the gate to let the bad in – my words), we are freed up to choose other ways of being and relating that are rooted in love and lead to life (opening our gate to let the good in – my words). For example, when we quit fearing what others think, we choose freedom.  Biblical quitting is God’s path for new things to come forth in our lives, for resurrection.”

God says our hearts are important to protect them.  Ask Him if there is something that you need to Biblically quit today in order to protect your heart, set good boundaries, and keep your gates open at the right times, letting in the good, and appropriately closed, keeping out the bad. 

Can you think of a time when you have let in the bad or not let in the good? 
How can you learn from your failure to make next time a better experience?

Do you see yourself as one of the four types of boundary busters?

Lori Kennedy

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hurful vs. Harmful

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.” Ephesians 4:25 (MSG)

Someone recently made the comment, “We should not make our choices or decisions based on the hurt of others.”  Due to what I was currently going through, I struggled with this comment.  It felt like truth, but then again, it didn’t.  I had to take it to the throne and figure out its truth in my life.  I felt that I was being hurt by the decisions of another and I was struggling with sorting out which part was mine to own; mine to make an issue of; or mine to disregard.  God is so awesome because in the midst of this, I was also facilitating a group study on the Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan, 3/1/2002.  Now let me say that I’m not facilitating this study because I know what I’m doing.  I’m facilitating this study because God is teaching me to incorporate more of this truth into my own daily life.  

There is a natural law of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:7-8).  One way boundaries are broken in adult relationships is when we choose to reap the consequences for others’ decisions or, on the other end of the spectrum, when we make decisions that force others to reap our consequences for us.  I’m talking about adult relationships, not parent and young child relationships. Co-dependency occurs when we willingly continue an unhealthy relationship with someone who persists in making decisions which place us in harm’s path – this doesn’t specifically mean physical danger, but could simply mean harm to our hearts, to our bank accounts, our relationships with family and friends, our ministry, our reputation, etc.  When you are continually being placed in the position of reaping someone else’s consequences, you must look at what needs to change in order to make that relationship healthier. 
Dr. Cloud’s/Dr. Townsend’s book Boundaries discusses the difference between hurtful versus harmful. “It would be cruel to make decisions without taking someone else’s feelings into consideration.”  However, the concept went on to reflect that you must weigh the difference between hurtful and harmful.  The example given was about teeth. (How funny is that?)  It states that eating sugar is not hurtful (at that moment – yummy), but it is harmful (in the long run - cavity).  Whereas, going to the dentist can be hurtful (in the moment – ouch), but it is not harmful (in the long run – fix cavity). 

 In another example, Boundaries talks about two business partners. One partner is making poor decisions that affect the company’s overall health.  Partner A (let’s call him Alan) did not want to confront Partner B (let’s call him Bill) because Alan didn’t want to hurt Bill’s feelings.  However, Bill’s choices and decisions were affecting not only Alan, but the overall health of the whole corporation. Therefore, Bill’s choices and decisions were HARMFUL versus just HURTFUL to Alan.  Alan was living under the consequences of Bill’s decisions.  If Alan were to continue to allow Bill to move forward in his poor choices and decision making without bringing it to his attention, then Alan would continue to reap Bill’s consequences and that would be co-dependent.  Once Alan confronts Bill, then Bill can choose to make changes or not.  If Bill chooses to not make changes, then Alan must make the difficult decision of how to move forward to protect both the business as well as himself.

Sometimes it’s easy to see right versus wrong or good versus bad, but it can be more difficult when it’s not so black and white.  During those times that are more ambiguous, you must reflect on whether or not you simply have hurt feelings that could be coming through your own broken filter, or if you are truly being harmed.  When making the decision about whether or not to address something, ask yourself, “Am I reaping the consequences of someone else’s choices and decisions?”  In either case, biblically (Eph 4:25) we should let others know when we are hurt.  How we choose to allow this relationship to continue to affect our lives moving forward, however, may then shift based on the differentiation of hurt versus harm and whether we are reaping the consequences of that other person’s choices and decisions.      

The NIV Stewardship Study Bible, Zondervan, 3/15/2010, states in the commentary, “A person’s true failures constitute either a proving ground for renewal or a landfill for a wasted life.”  I am taking the situation that is currently going on in my life and attempting to see how God wants to use it for His glory and for my best.  I’m looking toward what He wants to teach me and how He wants to grow me.  I’m specifically praying for wisdom (He promised to give that if we ask for it – James 1:5) and to view my situation through His eyes and not my broken filter.  I’m trying to be open and honest, not only with those that have hurt or harmed me (once I decipher which that is), but also with myself and what part I play in this whole thing – I don’t want to overlook the log that may be in my eye as I may have hurt or harmed others as well without even realizing it.  I also don’t want to allow Satan to destroy something that is precious to me because I can’t see past my own wounds.  However, I also want to protect myself from harm.  God says that our best is His plan (Jer. 29:11).  With all of our brokenness, we can sometimes get in the way of our own growth and wellbeing.  I have to trust that what I’m going through is necessary in order to mold me into the vessel that He designed me to be.  But I also need to truly consider what He desires me to learn and put it into practice in order to become that proving ground for renewal.

Lori Kennedy

Monday, January 5, 2015

Practicing Good Boundaries

“Little children, make sure no one deceives you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, in the same way that Jesus is righteous.” 1 John 3:7 (CEB) 

We all know that if you want to run a marathon, you can’t just jump off the couch and head to the race without training.  If you want to play an instrument, you will need some instruction and training.  Anything you want to get good at, you must practice. Sometimes that can be painful and hard work.  The same applies to creating healthy boundaries. 
The book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan, 3/1/2002, states that boundary-injured individuals are slaves who struggle to make value-based decisions on their own.  They tend to reflect the wishes of those around them and find it difficult to set limits.  It also says that as you begin to implement and practice healthy boundaries in your life,  you should expect to feel some guilt because this is new territory for you.  It goes on to say that you should rejoice in the guilty feelings because they are proof you are heading in the right direction.
I had just read this portion of the book when I received a call from someone with whom I was supposed to meet, together with several other people in less than an hour.  She wanted to reschedule, but her presence was necessary. Without her, there was no need for the meeting.  I didn’t have phone numbers for everyone who was meeting with us and I knew some were already on their way to the site.  She didn’t say she couldn’t meet, she just said that she would rather reschedule.  It would be a challenge to reschedule since we were so close to the starting time of our event.  Even though it was so against my grain to tell her no, I knew that saying yes would mean Iwould be the one to take the time and effort to reschedule the meeting, while taking the other people’s very busy calendars into consideration.  After I hung up the phone, my "people pleasing" instinct kicked in and I worried she wasn’t going to like me anymore.  I felt like the meanest person on earth forsaying no.
While we were meeting, several encouragements were laid out for this person to hear by others at the table.  None were planned and all were God-prompted.  I realized during our time together that she was going through something and God had planned in advance that she would be in that place at that time in order for those words of life to be spoken into her heart.  Satan was trying to ensure that she would not come so that she would not be encouraged that day. Although I never knew the specifics of what she was going through, I left that encounter knowing that my obedience to setting a healthy boundary that day had allowed God’s plan to encourage her to come to pass; it had also thwarted the enemy’s plan to keep her sitting in her pit.  As I thought back over what I had recently read in my Boundaries book, I rejoiced in the guilty feelings which had almost caused me to give in to her request, which would have added more tasks to my “to do” list for later.  I was beginning to practice healthy boundaries and was blessed that God had honored it that day.
What in your life do you need to practice at in order to improve? Do you see a place in your life where your boundaries could use some work in order to get healthier?

Lori Kennedy

Monday, December 22, 2014

God Initiated the Story

Are you like me when you discover some new nugget of Truth in a familiar Bible story?  I get so excited and I want to share it with others!  Perhaps I shouldn't say "discover" but rather "when God reveals something that I had not seen before".  It happened to me this week as I was reading the Christmas story once again.

I always recognized that God was the Initiator of everything that transpired, but I never noticed that God was the Initiator in informing every single person/persons that the Messiah was about to come into the world:

1) Zacharias - in Luke chapter 1: 5-25, God sent the angel Gabriel to announce to Zacharias that he and his aged wife, Elizabeth, would have a son who would be the prophet of the Highest (see Zacharias' prophecy in Luke 1:67-79)

2) Mary - in Luke 1:26-38, God sent the angel Gabriel to announce to Mary that she would soon be with child conceived of the Holy Spirit.

3) Joseph - in Matthew 1:18-25, God sent an angel to Joseph to assure him that the Child Mary was carrying was truly the Son of God.  The angel gave Joseph instructions concerning his marriage to Mary as well as the naming of the Child.  

4) The shepherds - in Luke 2:8-20, God sent an angel to speak to these lowly shepherds telling them that the Savior had been born in nearby Bethlehem.  He even gave them details of how the Babe would be dressed and where to find Him. Then God kicked it up several notches and had a multitude (synonyms for multitude include a great/large number, a host, a swarm, a mass) of angels light up the night sky with God's glory reaffirming that the Savior had arrived.  Amazing!

5) Simeon - in Luke 2:25-35, God revealed to Simeon (in the temple when Jesus was 8 days old) that this Baby in the arms of Mary was the Holy One who would bring salvation. 

6) The Wise Men - in Matthew 2:1-12, God revealed to these wise men of the East (through a star) that the King of the Jews has been born.  God also divinely warned them in a dream not to return to Jerusalem but to depart to their own country another way.

Do you see the one common denominator to all these parts of the Christmas story? God initiated.  God the Father wanted to make sure that the birth of His only Son would be known.  But in His infinite wisdom, He only made this divine event known to a certain few.  God knew that the certain few He chose would be faithful with the message.

So that brings me to you and me today in the 21st century.  As we consider our own story of coming to faith in Christ, are we able to recognize that it was God the Father who initiated our story too?  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He is the Author of our faith.  Jesus tells us in John 6:44 that no one can come to saving faith in Christ unless the Father first draws him/her.  We didn't just wake up one day and realize that we needed a Savior.  God the Father began the process and when our eyes were opened, we called upon the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.  Philippians 1:6 tells us that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.  My story had its beginning in October of 1985 when God opened my heart to His love.  I trust Him to complete my story, just as His word promises.  And He will complete yours as well. 

At this special season of the year, I pray we would ponder anew the amazing and mysterious ways of God's inauguration in the Christmas story and in our story.

I'm Mae Lynn Biggs and I have been a follower of Jesus for the past 29 years. My heart is to help women grow in their love for Christ and knowledge of His Word.  I love to spend time with my family, read, hike, and share from my quote collection.  I would love to hear from you- leave a comment below.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Your Soul is not a Trash Can

Your soul is not a trash can.  I heard this statement recently and have been giving it much thought.  I like to break things down or apart to understand better, so that's what I did with this.
Your soul is your mind, will, and emotions.  We are not just a body - - - we are souls.  We feed our soul every day of our lives whether we realize it or not.  We can have a "downcast" soul. (Psalm 42).  We can bless the Lord with our soul. (Psalm 103).  We can feel joyful or sorrowful in our soul. (Psalm 35) We can be empty or satisfied in our soul. (Psalm 63).  And most of the time our soul is in the state it's in because of what we've been feeding on. 
I looked up the word garbage and among the definitions given were these words:
Anything that is contemptibly worthless, inferior, or vile. Worthless talk; lies; foolishness.

Now let's return to the original idea that 'your soul is not a trash can'.  Broken down: Your mind, will, and emotions are not the place for anything that is worthless, inferior, or vile; nor should your soul be filled with worthless talk, lies, and foolishness.

If what we've been feeding on falls into the category of garbage, it's no wonder our soul is in need of restoration (Psalm 23) and full of trouble (Psalm 88). 

Just like a child needs to be taught not to put certain things in his mouth, we need to be reminded NOT to put garbage into our soul.  A child thinks nothing of putting something poisonous or dangerous into his mouth.  It never crosses his mind that there is a consequence to what he eats.  But as children of God, we should always be aware of what we are putting into our souls. God's Word tells us that there is always an afterward and that we will reap what we sow. 

Last week a read a great Christian novel published by Tyndale House.  I loved what was written in the introduction:

"We recognize that authors have something of a bully pulpit for communicating their worldview and values to their readers.  But with that opportunity comes a danger.  Just what worldview and values is an author communicating?  At best, most contemporary novelists present a squishy worldview.  At worst, they sow negative values and unhealthy attitudes in the hearts of their readers."

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must stay aware of what we are putting into our souls.  We must consider every book, movie, television show, song, and activity we partake in.  We must remember that our soul is not a garbage can.

I'm Mae Lynn Biggs and I have been a follower of Jesus for the past 29 years. My heart is to help women grow in their love for Christ and knowledge of His Word.  I love to spend time with my family, read, hike, and share from my quote collection.  I would love to hear from you- leave a comment below.