Nuggets: Cut Off Your Hand

In the span of 24 hours, three women I love deeply told me of their partner’s unfaithfulness. And it all began in their right hands.

That stupid phone.

That little gadget puts more power beneath our thumbs than between our ears. And more danger at our finger tips than in any previous generation.

All three women discovered that their husbands (one is a boyfriend) are having ongoing conversations with other women. Simple texts morphed quickly into rendezvous, emotional attachments and physical relationships.

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I’ve always thought Matthew 5:30 seemed a little odd. At least Jesus was using hyperbole, right? I still don’t think Jesus intends for us to literally chop off our hands, but it’s more obvious to me now how segmented we pretend sin is.

It’s almost as if when sin starts (and stays for a while) in just our hands, and not yet in our hearts or the rest of our bodies, we excuse it: “It’s just a text right?”

It’s as if we think when sin is so simple, so easy it must not be as bad, right?

Jesus doesn’t think so. My loved ones know it isn’t so. Sin hurts, destroys, kills. And it can start in the palm of your hand.

 

What Are You Afraid To Lose?

The woman dreams to become pregnant, a prayer that God gave the childWhat are you afraid of losing?

Everyone is afraid of losing something–a loved one, a job, their reputation, sanity, safety, peace, hope … Or perhaps we’re afraid of something being taken from us; the anxiety is the same regardless of how this one (or more) precious thing is wrenched from our grasp.

Almost a year ago, my husband and I lost a baby. We had never expected to be parents, and after 13 years of marriage, not only resigned ourselves to this fact, but completely accepted it with peace. Until I got pregnant. Suddenly, God opened wide the doors of longing, excitement and anticipation. A whole new world brightened on our horizon. We wanted that baby more than anything. However, I miscarried at 11 weeks. The doctors assume the baby died a few weeks earlier and my body took a little time to realize the loss. My heart took much, much longer.

FINISH READING THIS POST HERE …

Down and Dirty: When God Looks At Your Heart

Woman with broken heart.

You’re no stranger to TMI here on Predatory Lies. I subscribe to the belief that if God is teaching me something, no matter how painful or humbling, there’s likely someone else in the world who’d like to hear the lesson without learning it the hard(est) way.

Just this week, the Holy Spirit took what began as self-pity and legitimate hurt, and turned it into a lesson about my own pride and the state of my heart before Him.

No matter how I control my actions and words, no matter the “holy” impression I give to others, or how “justified” my feelings, I am responsible for a heart that loves God exclusively and pursues His own.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

I love how He speaks to us, that he’s faithful to continue speaking and teaching and admonishing and explaining even when I get it wrong over and over and over.

My husband has been working maddening hours lately and we’re approaching a six-week training stint where he will be in another state. We’ve had recent weeks when he hasn’t come home at all due to overnight training. So, when we’d just sacrificed another weekend, I was actually looking forward to Monday evening, but he didn’t get home until almost nine. As he debriefed me on his day, he mentioned that the commander had just added a leadership development event to the calendar and he was going to be gone overnight on my birthday the following week.

Tears. Water works. I complained and groused until he was frustrated too. We did finally get over it, I pulled myself together and we went to bed. Then I erupted again. This time, I took it to the Lord alone while my hubby snored. For an hour I cried to God, “I’m so tired of this. I miss him. I feel like I and our coming baby are forced into second place to the Army. I feel alone and hurt. Why God? And what about our baby? What if he’s too busy to enjoy her?”

Additionally, I felt terrible for making my husband feel bad, for complaining about something he couldn’t control and making a crappy situation even worse for him.

Finally, I went to bed—cried out. The next morning, as I sat to do my quiet time, the Holy Spirit flooded me with verses about complaining. Phil. 2:14 came to mind. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” He pointed out that even though I hadn’t yelled at my husband or sinned in my words or actions and my hurt was valid—my heart was not right before God. God sees the heart. And my grumbling and complaining did not bring him honor or glory.

Psalm 19:14 says, “Let the words of my mouth AND THE THOUGHTS OF MY HEART be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Our Father is just as interested in the thoughts of my heart as He is in my words and actions.

If you’re brutally honest, what would God say about your heart right now?

When Seasons Collide

Dead leaves on bench

It’s the collision of the seasons.

Here I stand on the precipice of my favorite season–autumn. Summer is merging with colder air, the leaves are giving up their green and their death grip on brittle branches. I’ve already broken out the jeans (still paired with flip flops), and I’m reticent to recall shorts.

All this exquisite splendor is the harbinger of time well spent with loved ones and favorite people in front of the fireplace, with a good book, cuddled on the couch, over a good cup of coffee (or a deliciously dark beer!)

And so, my soul is singing with anticipation, but I’m sad too, my heart is a little wounded and my hopes are fragile. It’s strange for me, this mix of opposing feelings. But I suppose it’s good–that tears are mitigated by laughter and disappointment with excitement. 

I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend with my husband this fall. Yes, last year about this time he was leaving for Africa, so count my blessings (more on that later) he’s safe here in the states. But, we have suddenly launched into a season of such intense training and planning that I scarcely see him for a half hour a day. And waiting in the wings are a few weeks where they will work straight through the weekends–at least 21 days in a row.

And this sadness, I might have shared earlier, but I wasn’t ready–a couple months ago, I miscarried the baby my husband I never thought we could never have.

We never planned or risked the hope of getting pregnant. So when we learned in late July (with utter shock!) that I was expecting, we were floored. Just as surprising was the joy that overtook us! We couldn’t wait to hold our baby! But that wasn’t God’s plan. Somehow, our little one lived a purposeful life, and filled the purpose of his life in just 11 short weeks.

We survived that.

But now, the pain is refreshed each month. We’ve dared to think we can try now. We’ve dared to step into the realm of miracles only God can do–and to hope. And that’s scary.

So, as you can see, my emotions (fragile as they are), are swirling like the autumn leaves shimmying to the ground. And it’s tempting to complain to God–a lot. It’s easy right now, to form all “prayer requests” around the little phrase, “God please!!”

God, please give us a baby. God please give us more time together. God please give my husband a day off. God please help me to be kind and compassionate and understanding …

You know, I think all that is okay. Today I was scrounging for peace–the peace that God promises in Philippians when we present our requests to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

And suddenly, it dawned on me. There were prerequisites for that peace. I’ve met one prerequisite by simply praying, the second one is harder–with thanksgiving. 

I can’t have this unbelievable peace as long as my prayers sound like whiny pleas. Of course, I still believe God will answer those prayers, but I’m sabotaging my own peace if I insist on whimpering and repelling His peace with self-imposed anxiety, even as I pray. My attitude, even my emotions, is my responsibility.

So, I changed my prayer:

God, thank you for your marvelous plan of blessing and deepening our marriage in this season. Thank you for balancing the sorrow of this season with nature’s beauty. Thank you for giving us a baby, for making us parents. Thank you for teaching me your own faithfulness through pain. Thank you. Yes, thank you.

The One Hope When Anxiety Crushes You Low

A friend of mine asked me to pray for her husband. “He’s been really down lately,” she said. I expect she asked many people to pray, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she specifically asked me because it’s obvious I’ve “been there”.

A verse popped into my head, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25

I’ve had an anxiety-filled heart. My mind often races with “do” things–things I should do, can’t do, didn’t do, did wrong, might die trying to do…

The Bible says that anxiety brings a man down. Can anxiety lead to depression?

Undoubtedly, it can. I’m sure many a psychiatrist would attest to that. The Biblical word for “weighs down” even leaves room for that interpretation. However, it’s the other angle of the Hebrew word shachah that grabs my attention.

Shachah can also mean: “to bow down, prostrate oneself in worship before a superior in homage, before God”.

What if my anxiety is meant to bring me to my knees? What if there is a redeeming quality to this depression? What if anxiety leads me to the place where I seek, implore and receive the superior power of my Father?

The Bible says that God causes all things to work for good. It may not feel like it. Sometimes my knees are bloody from being in this broken position. But it is here and only here that I find the strength to stand—and as Paul repeats—to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

It is Well With My Soul, A Hymn to Live By

It is Well With My Soul

Do you know the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart … ”? Kind of makes you feel like smiling, right?

We often sing because we’re happy. Psalm 100:1 tells us, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Singing is one of the primary ways we worship God. When we’re happy we just feel like singing!

But have you ever not felt like singing? When we’re sad, hurt or angry, it can be really hard to “make a joyful noise”. There’s a story in the Bible about Paul and his friend Silas in prison. That’s obviously not a very happy place, and I doubt they felt like singing. All the same, Acts 16 says they began to sing out loud in their jail cells. Guess what? God did a miracle, broke their chains, set them free and even gave them an opportunity to tell the jailer about Jesus!

Horatio Spafford was the author of a well-known hymn. His life is an example of finding hope and peace in Jesus even when everything is going wrong—he even found the courage to sing.

Mr. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the late 1800’s. He and his wife had four children. But their only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four. The very next year, a terrible fire in Chicago destroyed many of Mr. Spafford’s investments. Then, only two years later, the Spafford family planned a holiday to England where they hoped to hear one of Mr. Spafford’s friends preach. A business issue arose last minute, so Mr. Spafford sent his wife and three daughters ahead, planning to join them later.

On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel. Two-hundred and twenty-six people died, including all three of the Spafford’s daughters. Only Horatio’s wife, Anna, was saved. As soon as she could, she sent a message to her husband that simply said, “Saved alone.”

Horatio Spafford left for England to join his wife. As his own ship passed over the area where his daughters had lost their lives, his heart must have ached. I wonder if he thought of Paul and Silas in prison. I wonder if he struggled to find words to pray. With great sadness, he pulled out a pen and wrote the words to a hymn we still sing today, “It is Well With My Soul”.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to believe that God is good. Sometimes we simply don’t feel like praising God. How do you think Horatio Spafford or Paul and Silas found the courage to sing praises even when they were suffering?

Psalm 117:1-2 says, “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (emphasis added)

These men could sing because they understood that even when we hurt and things don’t make sense, God is trustworthy and He will always love us. Because of that, He is worthy of praise.

The next time you’re sad, and singing is the last thing you want to do, try singing Mr. Spafford’s hymn. It will remind you that no matter what, when you trust in Jesus, it is well with your soul.

Check out this article by my friend, Billie Jo, about praying for others in the midst of pain and when it feels like God isn’t listening.

What Will You Make of Your Glass?

Special post by Dana Rongione

I love object lessons. There’s something about them that helps me grasp spiritual lessons that otherwise elude me. However, I would like to share with you a lesson revolving around an ordinary, everyday object.

Picture a piece of glass. Now, imagine that the glass represents the difficult circumstances in your life–the stress that weighs you down and steals your sleep, the overwhelming schedule that creates havoc in your life, the relationships that are so far from what they should be, your failing health, that horrible job that leaves you tired, frustrated and out of sorts. Whatever your situation may be, that piece of glass represents those problems. So, what will you make of your glass? …

To finish reading this insightful post, please visit Dana over at www.tblministries.com.

Pain’s Proudest Moments

Pain is worst when it shouldn’t be here

When it arrives on days decked with garland

When faces around glow with cheer and

Carols, well wishes all you hear.

 

Pain is most debilitating

When it’s a foreign thing

When it invades off limits relationships

My imagined world on its axis tips.

 

Wide swings pain with a blackened swath

Bathes home, and dreams and past.

When it colors over prisms of love

Reflections of joy, dreams of comfort.

 

Pain stings most when it has been lurking in shadows

When it strikes at everything that should be its antibody.

When hurt overcomes last bastions of resolve

And slings my soul upon the floor.

 

Pain hurts most when it’s slow.

A seeping chill from inside out

Damaging tender tissue, so touch’s sensation

Is blunted for the rest of time.

 

And sometimes there is nowhere to turn.

Sometimes, it leaks under walls and doors of protection.

Sometimes it invades safe haven and sanctuary.

Sometimes pain is unavoidable, healing a mirage,

And hope disguised.

 

And sometimes, courage musters its strength only

Through sharing pain

With a two-dimensional page

Drinking in the ink, swallowing, memorializing pain.

 

Privilege in Making the Same Painful Mistakes?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Read more at Brainy Quote

There’s also the expression about beating your head against a wall – trying over and over again, bloodying yourself with meager results.

Most humans know what it feels like to be your own worst enemy. To wish that you could quit making the same mistakes over and over, and over, and over and over…

It hurts, it’s embarrassing. I speak from experience – most notably with my eating disorder. I went over and over again to counselors and heard the same things. I swore over and over that I’d eat “tomorrow” and then failed. I was inpatient three different times and then fell flat on my face within a couple years of discharge.

Failure is painful.

In a more modern day example, I have tried over and over for years to say yes to every invitation, every need; to never alienate anyone. I have tried to please so many people that, as the saying goes, I please no one. Then, I’m hurt, I’ve angered others and I’m embarrassed and lonely. And I do it again.

And it hurts.

Not only do I make the same mistakes, but I have often noticed that God has to repeat himself to me. He is practically hammering me over the head or writing words in the sky before I finally pay attention and respond, “Oh, you mean ME?”

I was comforted in my foibles recently during a character study on the life of the apostle Peter. Not excused, certainly, but comforted that Jesus still wanted to hang out with Peter. Comforted that on the other side of painful, embarrassing mistakes, Jesus still valued Peter’s friendship and found him useful for the advancement of his kingdom. Jesus loved Peter even though he had to tell him and teach him the same things multiple times. In fact, after being loved through so many screw ups, I wager that a privilege of his pain was that Peter understood and trusted Jesus’ love more than ever before.

1. Jesus trumped Peter as a fisherman more than once. The first is mentioned in Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus first called his disciples. Peter and his companions had fished all night without a single catch. Suddenly, this stranger showed up, stepped into Peter’s boat and started preaching to the crowd on the shore. Finally, he turned to Peter and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Reluctantly, Peter did and to his surprise hauled in such a large number of fish that the nets began to break.

This scenario repeated itself almost perfectly at the end of Jesus’ time on earth. In John 21, Jesus stood on the shore, looking out toward his weary, fish-less disciples. When they recognized him, he told them again to put down their nets one more time. Again, their Lord filled their nets to the point of breaking.

2. Peter was emphatically in love with Jesus and just a little impulsive. Matthew 14:22-23 is the story of Jesus walking on the water, approaching the boat where his weary disciples were battling against a rising storm. When Peter recognized Jesus, he tossed all caution to the wind, stepped out on the water and began walking toward Jesus. (There was that little matter of fear that had him drowning a few seconds later, but Jesus scooped him up just in time.)

The second time was again in John 21, one of the final times that the disciples saw bodily Jesus. Bold, audacious Peter saw Jesus standing on the sand and abandoned his fellow fishermen. This time he didn’t even consider walking and he had no time to entertain fear. He swam madly for shore, to Jesus (and a hot breakfast).

3. The third occasion I’m considering here, wasn’t beside the sea, but next to the flames of a warm, cooking fire. Jesus was bound and surrounded by a crowd of condemning, self-righteous Jewish leaders. At a distance, Peter warmed himself by a fire as he watched the terrible proceedings. Fear got the best of Peter again. Three times that night, in the flickering shadows, he swore that he had never met Jesus, let alone been a follower.

Jesus redeemed that night, once again beside a cook fire. He was serving his disciples a breakfast of roasted fish and toast. As they rested, full and in good company, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Emphatic, boisterous, indomitable Peter took the invitation to declare three times that he loved the Lord.

Making the same mistakes twice hurts. Often it hurts us physically, and it always hurts our pride. But since there’s no way to completely evade the pain of mistakes and the consequences of sins – isn’t it worth looking for the eventual beauty? Isn’t it wonderful to look at the redeeming love of Jesus over each failure? Would we ever know how good God is, if we didn’t make, repeat, live through and grow from painful mistakes?