Build a bridge. Smile a smile. Open a door. Go another mile. Meet a need. Bind a hurt. Give a hand. Lift others up. Be a friend who's always there to share a word, to share a prayer. Give your time. Give yourself. Then they will know what the Bible's about. Give all you can and you will see the blessings of God pour out so free. "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Galatians 5:14
How much we sympathize when physical illness comes. We understand cancer, disease, accidents. When our bodies don't work, we pray for healing. We seek to help. We usually don't judge but ask, "What can I do to help?" What about mental illness? When the mind is in anguish and pain? When rational thought seems lost? Decisions just won't come. Depression is deep. Behavior is strange and wrong choices are made.
It's easy to judge. Do we understand? Do we pray for healing? Do we judge or seek to help? Do we have sympathy for the one whose mind won't work as it should? Do we reach out? This one needs help as much as those with physical ills. The loneliness and isolation that comes when the mind seems lost or doesn't function normally is a fearful thing, a horrible pain. What should we do? Instead of judging--pray for healing. Instead of laughing--give a smile of acceptance. Instead of running away--listen. Look them in the eye. Allow a connection. I think sometimes we turn away because we 're afraid. We often fear what we don't understand. Let's realize how much healing there is in: Prayer. Touch. A smile of friendship. A listening ear. Acceptance. It's not so hard to do. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7
Except from Butterflies, Biscuits, and Rain by Susan Aken
Romantic love is expected to provide: passion lust obsession satisfaction perfection absence of conflict total acceptance (of me). People often marry expecting those elements and if they seem to be absent, assuming love is absent they leave. Is that love? These aspects of romance are there at times but to expect them daily is not what love is about. Love is: commitment work giving sharing accepting supporting overcoming communicating. Love that is mature and grows with time gives greater joy and fulfillment than lust and passion alone could ever imagine. Passion which comes in the midst of that kind of commitment gives true satisfaction. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for your love is more delightful than wine." Song of Songs 1:1 Shared in celebration of our 38th anniversary today! Excerpt from Butterflies, Biscuits, and Rain by Susan Aken
Discouragement clouds my soul when unloving thoughts seem like the default in my heart. Jealousy rises up: often prompted by social media posts. When selfishness plagues me, pride is always waiting. There are moments as a teacher when I’m shocked at my impatient or rude response to a student when I’m in a stressful situation. A friend gleefully shares on Facebook about their current victory, and sometimes my first reaction is envy or resentment and I choose not to give a “like.” An opportunity to serve or meet with other believers is open, but I want to keep my evenings free for television or comfort. Guilt over my weakness pulls me down. I want to be the loving, kind, patient, giving woman Scripture teaches about but I often fail. How liberating when I learned: Seeing the yuck in our lives, means we’re in God’s presence. Jesus illuminates the dirt in our hearts so we can repent. Feeling remorse for our failings is good. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, NIV). Jesus has all power over evil and overcomes our wrongdoing. As long as we keep our eyes on Him, He will show us the way and reveal all that needs to be cleansed. Evil seeks the shadows in order to hide wickedness (John 3:19). Those who stay there are blind and often numb to conviction. Darkness can’t exist unless light leaves. We don’t turn on darkness; we turn off or from the light. We have night because the earth moves away from the sun not because its illumination is swallowed. Light has all power over darkness. Darkness hides. Light reveals. C. S. Lewis, one of the most well-known Christian writers, wrote, “It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of His presence.” This truth encourages me. Instead of choosing discouragement, denial, or escape when conviction comes, I run to Jesus, yielding to the Holy Spirit as He fills and guides me. He always forgives. I rejoice that He reveals my sin rather than leaving me blind to my own faults. The one who can’t see where they’re wrong can’t repent. Change comes from awareness of our faults. We’ll never reach moral perfection on earth. Until the day we enter heaven, we’ll battle daily with our weaknesses. But we can learn to move forward by listening to God’s leading and following and obeying Him. When I’m convicted of behavior that grieves God, instead of rejecting myself, I submit to Him. I confess and agree with His truth, receive His forgiveness, and ask Him to help me yield to His Spirit. When I’m surrendered to Him, He produces His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control through me (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus, help me stay in the light. Thank You that I belong to You and You live in me. Thank You for revealing all in me needing to be cleaned up or restored. I want to live in Your truth by walking in repentance and grace. Help me yield to Your Spirit so You can produce good fruit in my life. When discouragement comes or I’m tempted to give up and hide from the truth, help me resist and accept Your unconditional love as I keep moving forward. I know You love me and nothing can ever take that away. What is God revealing about your life today? Write a prayer of confession and give all your struggles to Him. How can you yield to the Holy Spirit? Published first at Wholly Loved.com
When I sit When I rise When I sleep When I wake You’re there Every thought Every word I speak Every nuance of character Every heart’s desire You know My heart My soul My mind My body Are held in Your hands Surrounded by Your love I can never be separated from You Because You are everywhere From the furthest reaches of space To the lowest depths of the sea You are there You always see me You always care Psalm 139
My innocent child. My precious little one. How I want to protect you Keep you from harm Hold you close in my arms. There's so much evil in the world. So many dangers for your soul. How I wish I could keep your mind pure. Hold back the knowledge of evil. I see your child-like trust. Your innocent views. How I hate for you to know about the evil ways of mankind. The hatred, destruction, perversion of all that's good. If I could just protect you, keep the evil out, guard your mind and soul. But, the truth comes so clearly to me. It's too late. The seed of sin is in your soul not just in the world. The seed of evil came with you when you were born. I cannot protect you from what's already there. Your only hope is redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. For you to believe on the name of our Lord and Savior. All I can do is pray that God will call you and you will respond, point to Jesus as the truth, live in the reality of Christ before you, teach you the word of God each day. I cannot protect you, keep you pure, stop you from knowing sin, or make your choices. Thank God I can trust in One greater than me who can guide you, help you, call you and redeem your soul. Romans 3:22-24; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Philippians 1:6
Firelight Snowfall White-tipped trees Flowing water Warmth Peace Knowing My Father knows me Holds me Loves me What do I give Him? My heart is His He wants me My love My devotion My trust I’m surrounded by grace I live and walk in grace His underserved favor is mine Cling to Him my soul Hold tight Though He never lets go of you Keep looking to Him His love is greater More powerful More glorious Than you can imagine You are secure You have everything you need You are held close Nothing can shake you or take you away Rejoice in Him always! I will praise Him! I praise You Father! I love You! I rejoice in knowing You! Every breath Every moment is a gift You are the gift, Jesus!
“Be kind” is a message we hear everywhere we go and most of us agree a charitable spirit is important. But, offering kindness to others is a challenge if our own souls are withered from harsh words, unrealistic expectations, and self-rejection. If I believe I’m unworthy or call myself names heaping burdens of guilt on my heart, I often don’t notice the hurting person right in front of me much less give them encouragement. It’s like trying to draw water from an empty well. Do we think about being merciful to our own souls first? Speaking to or treating ourselves in an abusive or severe manner does not honor God. Scripture teaches us to love others as we love ourselves and part of loving is showing kindness (Mark 12:31). If you’re like me, giving yourself understanding and grace is a challenge. It’s confusing because I battle selfishness and tend to be self-protective but at the same time, I’m tough on myself. Scripture teaches us how to view self and others with truth and compassion. Why do we resist giving ourselves grace? Here are ten reasons you may be struggling to be kind to yourself: 1. You’re aiming for perfection. Anyone who is familiar with Biblical standards knows we don’t measure up. I know I should be loving, considerate, and speak life. Yet, I’m often impatient, rude, or selfish. I get frustrated with myself and sometimes am overwhelmed with guilt. Perfect people don’t exist. Scripture tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Every person who has ever lived or will live except for Jesus Christ is a sinner by nature. We are incapable of living righteously on our own. It’s good to be aware of our wrongdoing. The person who deceives themselves into thinking they can do no wrong is blind and in danger of spiritual death (1 John 1:8). The good news is because of Jesus Christ, forgiveness is available (John 3:16). Jesus knows we can’t reach perfection. He came to earth to live sinlessly and die in our place. He calls us to walk in repentance and faith trusting He has taken care of our sin. Our flaws can lead us to treat ourselves harshly and we may start to believe others are better than we are. Truthfully, we all struggle with the reality of our sin. 2. You fail to grasp the deep meaning of grace. There is a continual debate in the Christian church concerning grace vs. legalism. Some mistakenly think believers in Jesus must keep all of God’s commands or He will be angry or reject them. Scripture teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We’re all going to make mistakes and fail every day, sometimes in a big way. We can’t be good enough to earn God’s favor. It’s a free gift that covers all of our shortcomings with grace. 3. You have a distorted view of God. Sometimes we mistreat ourselves because we’re convinced God is like a policeman or an angry Father who is watching and waiting for us to mess up. If God feels that way about us, why would we show ourselves mercy? Scripture teaches, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love...He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:8, 9-12 God lovingly calls us to repentance and relationship with Him. He longs for us to be close to Him and love Him with all our hearts. 4. Certain sins cause you to stumble again and again. Frustration fills me when the same weakness trips me up again. Something I thought I had victory over grabs hold of me once more. At that moment, I can start kicking myself hard and may call myself ugly names. I wouldn’t treat someone else so harshly, why do I do it to myself? What does God say to us about habitual sin? John, Jesus’s beloved disciple, wrote, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God didn’t add conditions here. Our need for repentance is continual and God’s forgiveness is never ending. Scripture also teaches, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We confess, accept God’s forgiveness, get back up, and keep following Jesus. 5. Voices from the past haunt you. The words of our parents or caregivers have a powerful influence over us. We don’t easily forget the messages given to us when we were growing up. Hopefully, we heard words of grace, encouragement, and love but for too many the memories are painful. Maybe you hear the voice of someone from your past yelling: “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re stupid.” “You’re too loud—too quiet—too wild.” “You’re not good enough as an athlete or student.” “You’re not pretty enough.” “You’re too thin—too fat—too small.” These thoughts play over and over in our head and when we believe them, we act as if they’re true. We must replace these lies with truth. To do so, search the Bible to know what God says about you: You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:33-39). He decided to adopt you before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are God’s beloved child (1 John 3:1; Colossians 3:12a). 6. You’re comparing yourself to others. We can always find someone who is smarter, stronger, more beautiful, or seemingly godlier than we are. Comparing ourselves to them is fruitless because each of us is a unique creation of God. He wants us to be our best self as we look to Jesus as our example. He created you the way He wanted, not to copy someone else. No one else can be exactly who you are. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul likened believers in Christ to a body. He wrote, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Each one is equally important. 7. Someone close to you is treating you unkindly. Unfortunately, you may have a spouse, parent, child, or other person close to you who continually speaks in a harsh or mean way. They may call you names and tell you how worthless you are. Dear one, please don’t believe their lies. If possible, distance yourself from one who would continually speak destructive words. If you’re unable to avoid this person, counteract their lies with truth. Saturate your mind with Scripture. Bring your destructive thoughts to God and ask Him to show you what is valid. Talk to a trusted godly friend or counselor who can give encouragement. Focus on what God says about you. 8. You’re listening to the lies of the enemy. Scripture teaches that our enemy, Satan, is the father of lies (John 8:44). He whispers to us and tempts us to doubt God’s love. He tells us we’re unworthy and hopeless, draws us into selfishness and pride, or leads us to self-hatred and destruction. Jesus set an example for us when Satan came to tempt Him. Each time the devil tempted Him, instead of arguing or trying to reason, Jesus responded with Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). 9. You’re being influenced by social media. Anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time scrolling through social media may find themselves struggling with comparisons to others. Most people present a polished, public-ready view of themselves. The more we see how great everyone else appears to be or all the wonderful things they’re doing, the more we may contend with self-doubt and feel like we don’t measure up. Spending hours looking at screens leaves us feeling empty and “less than” while using our gifts to serve and love others fills us with joy. When we engage with others face to face and are actively involved with life, our feelings of self-worth and fulfillment grow. 10. You need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches, “God is love” (1 John 4:8b). The greatest picture of His love was when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die for us making it possible for us to spend eternity with Him. When we truly grasp how God loves us believing Jesus died and rose again, we can love and forgive ourselves as He does. Without Jesus, we’re always looking for a way to escape the truth about our brokenness through addictions, busyness, entertainment, achievements, anger, or other actions but the only way we’re able to face the truth about ourselves and still feel peace is when we know we’re freed from our sin through Jesus (Romans 10:8-13). Showing kindness also means to do what is best for someone even when it hurts or is difficult. A doctor is showing kindness when he cuts out cancer even though it causes his patient pain. A parent shows kindness to her child when she takes away privileges in order to teach right living even though it causes temporary unhappiness. God shows kindness when He allows hard things in our lives which bring us to Him. In the same way, we show kindness to ourselves when we deny ourselves indulgences which damage us physically, mentally, or spiritually. We treat ourselves with the greatest love when we love God first above all and then seek to follow the truths and principles of Scripture. Being compassionate doesn’t mean always giving someone or ourselves what we want and indulging every whim. It means doing, or saying what is beneficial and gives life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). First published at iBelieve.com