Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sacrifice: Forgive



“What does the message of the cross mean to me today?”  


The Spirit of God revealed this to me:  “He sacrificed for you, what will you sacrifice for Him?”

At that moment, I was reminded that one message of the cross is forgiveness of sins.  Christ sacrificed his life so that our sins would be forgiven.  So, the question is:  “What sacrifice will we voluntarily make for him?”

Will I give up my right to be angry and hurt at another person?  Will I forgive the very person I believe harmed me because Christ forgave me?  If I call myself able to live by spiritual principles, I will.  You will too. 

We will make the sacrifice because Christ sacrificed for us. 

Christ’s sacrificial act of laying down his will was quite demeaning.  As I listened to the biblical account of Jesus' journey to the cross, I was reminded that people called him names, threw objects at him AND spat in his face.  Really?  I mean, it is one thing not to like Jesus, but to spit in his face more than once.  That is pure hatred.

And I, little ol’ me, have the audacity to think that my feelings, my pride, my rights are more important than Jesus.  To think that my actions reflect a mind that says, “I deserve to be angry at another child of God.”  I actually don’t think that way, but, if I practice unforgiveness, then that is exactly what is being said.  

Is anyone of us more important than God?    


As we enter into spring and celebrate the newness of the season of life, let us remember to honor the cross too.  We can love God’s children with forgiveness in our hearts, knowing that our actions are pleasing to God.

M

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the power of forgiveness. I no longer want to hold myself hostage, fearing my feelings and holding on to the hurt. Today I'm going to face my feelings and forgive because I also want to be forgiven. Give me the courage and strength this day Lord to forgive those who I felt have hurt me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Prayer written by Belinda Dickson-Brown

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Letting Go: Embrace the New


When a shift in our life occurs, we grow unsettled.  Especially when the shift brings about a new outlook in who we thought we were.  We are now on a different part of the self-discovery journey.

Have you ever experienced a shift in your identity?


This can occur because our children leave home.  It can happen because we experience the loss of a parent.  It can happen when we stop practicing a destructive behavior or living out a negative belief.  A shift in who we are is taking place and, often, it is uncomfortable because with this change comes a future that is unclear.

I remember when I got a divorce.  I was no longer a wife.  There was a change going on with my identity.  What I soon discovered was how much of my personhood was connected to this title/role “wife.”  Now who was I going to be and do?  What would this mean to me and for the world in which I live?
Survival Mode

The separation and divorce I went through pushed me into survival mode.   My biggest fear became “How was I going to take care of myself?” 

What I did?  I started manipulating and reaching for anything that would help me feel “safe” in spite of the consequences.  It wasn’t good.  Gratefully, as I moved towards my new identity as a single woman, I found some peace.
 
For those of us in recovery, we, at some point, make a shift from living our lives in survival mode to a life of calmness and composure. 

In survival mode, we had to eat what was put in front of us, wear what was available and go where we could to get our emotional, physical and, yes, sexual needs met.  But now, in recovery, after some sanity has been restored, we can exhale.  We can relax a bit.

Although there is still a mess to clean up, there is hope on the horizon.

The Transition

Naturally, moving from survival mode to calmness comes with stable housing, a sense of financial security, a community of friends and, if we are lucky, restoration of familial relationship too.  Some people stop here.  Other people secure jobs, cars, retirement plans and much more.  It is especially delightful to see people take control of their physical health too.
But are we digging deep enough?
Are we addressing the negative beliefs and behaviors that sustained while in survival mode?
Are we willing to let go of manipulation, greed and lying to live at peace with God and our fellow brothers and sisters?

The Challenge to Change

It is one thing to say we are changing.  But are we really releasing the “old self” that functioned in survival mode? Or, are we choosing to live as an empowered “Self,” in charge of our choices and pursuing the destiny God has revealed for our lives?

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

The challenge is to go the extra mile.  To change and evolve and prosper into the existence God has called for us.

Settling for poor health, broken relationships and bitter, cluttered spirits is not God’s will.  We must, we can be willing to let go of what doesn’t work for our lives and embrace those things that affirm who we are as people and children of God.

What am I talking about?  I am talking about being your best you.  I am talking about releasing those attitudes that don’t serve you well.


What does this mean?

It means we are saying yes to God.  We are positioning ourselves to cooperate with God to do His work and represent Him in every area of our lives.  We let go of old behaviors and beliefs in exchange for healthier ideas, attitudes and behaviors. 

In the process of change occurring in our insides, our own perception of who we see ourselves to be, it is important to remember who we are in the foundation of our existence. 

Our foundation is rooted in us being human first, with a set of basic needs that we desire to have fulfilled.  When we are hurting or in a transition phase, we still desire to have those needs met – but it is important to find new ways to meet those needs because we are in the process of “letting go.”  Letting go of what does not work, letting go of people who have exited the center stage of our lives, letting go of the past.

M

Prayer:


Heavenly Father, in the precious name of Jesus, I thank you for self-discovery. You have already suggested my steps. Allow me to embrace this journey and walk in faith.  I no longer want to be held back to what was and what will be.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I was lost, unsure and confused, but it’s something about the name of Jesus that has brought me peace. As I continue to walk in this journey, God, please open my eyes so I can see.  Enhance my hearing so I can hear You give me the wisdom necessary to know the Your will for my life and the proper attitudes and behaviors.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

BDB

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Demonstrating Self-Care: How we Choose to Care for our Bodies



I showed up at work one day and saw a familiar face.  This face has no name, but I see it often in the town where I live.  On this day, the unknown man had two legs. 

The next time I saw him, he had one leg.  He was on crutches and one of his pant’s legs was pinned up because there was not a leg to fill the space.  It was at that moment, I realized with both shock and horror, that my diabetes is not going away.  I was really scared now.

The Truth


I am not a fan of statistics, but they do make a good point.  The above statement tells me a few things:

1.       Diabetes is a deadly disease;
2.       Many people don’t take care of this disease; and
3.       I will die, along with many other people, if I don’t take care of my health.

The Point

What I want to convey in this post is accepting we have a medical condition is the first step in recovery.  Once we accept the poor condition of our physical health, we can do something – good or bad – that could change the course of our lives.

Recovery

When I think about recovery in terms of bouncing back from abusing drugs or alcohol, I think about victory, success and freedom.  Defining the word recover mean understanding the prefix, re-, which stands for “again.”  The Latin root of the word recover is “to get again.”  According to Google, “recover” means to return, again, to a normal state of health, mind or strength.

At what point did we have a “normal” state of health, mind or strength?  That is a question that only you can answer.  But, if we were once in a good place with our physical, mental and emotional health – spiritual too – it stands to reason we can return there.

Now, going back to good health after years of self-abuse requires work.  A commitment to work.  A commitment to demonstrate to ourselves that we love and care for ourselves.  This is deeper than having the latest fashion outfit or knowing how to talk the coolest slang.  This is about life or death.  This is about living as long as we can, as best we can.

It is one thing to dress up the outside and spew prophetic words of encouragement to friends and family on Facebook and at family reunions. 

But it is something totally different to practice being good to ourselves after receiving news from the doctor that we have diabetes, cancer or some other tragic diagnosis.

The Road to Recovery

My experience tells me that every time I have ever tried to recover, I had to begin by accepting my poor condition and deciding to do something about it.  You too.

We must accept that we did a lot of damage with those poor choices in the early days of life.  In the process of acceptance, there is anger, confusion, denial, depression and, for some of us, defeat.

Then what?

Then, we have a choice to make. 

Do we cooperate with the illness?  Accept the diagnosis of poor health and agree to die quickly?  (Go to the bitter end of leg amputations, kidney failure and death.)

Or, do we do our best to re-cover?  Do we do our best to learn how to do some things different and live healthier lives?   To commit to try and regain some sense of good health and inner peace with who and what we are as we transition into the later stages of life?

These are important questions.  But they are also questions that demand answers.  And, don’t think that if you don’t answer the question, you have not made a decision.  No.  We make decisions daily to act in our best interest or as our own worst enemy.

Please don’t think I am preaching at you.  I am talking and writing for myself as well.

I am writing to inspire myself to do my very best by me.  I am writing to inspire you to do better in how you treat you. 

My motive for writing is to encourage you to use your God-given gift of intelligence to educate yourself on your illness and do what you can to be well.  (I can’t define your wellness, but you can.)


My Journey

When I got through the stage of depression about my diagnosis of diabetes, I decided to FINALLY research reversing the condition.  I came across a book called The Blood Sugar Solution, by Dr. Mark Hyman.  It changed my health.

What have you done to change your condition in life? 
What barriers prevent you from being the best you that you can be at this age of your life?

Living in the Solution

I have found in my many journeys into recovery, that a supportive community helps.  I joined Dr. Mark Hyman’s Facebook community of people seeking to reverse their diabetes.  I got rid of foods that made me sick and began to stock up and reach for foods that would make me healthier.

Granted, there is much work to do, but what I am learning is this – I must make good choices DAILY for my health.  I must practice what I teach to those who know me by continuing to educate myself about my health, take personal responsibility for my health and advocate for myself to get what I need. 

You can do this too.  So, get busy loving on you in ways that glorify God and the beautiful temple he has given you called – your body.

Be blessed,

M

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Black Panther: One Addict’s Ray of Hope


As you can probably imagine, I just viewed the movie Black Panther.  There are a number of adjectives to describe the powerful impact this movie had on my psychological and spiritual identities.  However, this reflection will only focus on one subject...gently dealing with self and others. 

The themes of love, patriotism, family, forgiveness, hatred and power are just a few that resonate in the movie’s portrayal of a black comic strip icon called the Black Panther.  Since I never read the comic books, the movie certainly prompts me to give them a glance.


However, there was one particular scene in the movie that stood out for me.  Allow me to set up the context of my mind and the movie’s scene.

Having recently gone over a sixth step with my sponsor, I am keenly aware of my character defects.  If you are reading this and are not familiar with the recovery movement, let me say this:  all 12-step programs encourage the recovering person to look at who they are, as best they can, and move to a higher level of self-awareness and accountability to God, self and mankind.  (That’s the easiest, shortest way to explain it.)

The sixth step is a difficult step for any recovering person to complete.  The recovering person gets to look at the ugliest characteristics of their personhood.  Without revealing my own traits, I will say this step leaves you feeling humble, humiliated and very AWARE of who you are in a negative light. 

This morning, I pondered the thought that no matter how much I want/wanted to do the right thing with my life and for others involved in my life, I still made mistakes.  Absolutely, no one, and I do mean, no one, is perfect.  Even the Bible underscores this fact by stating, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23-27)

Then I remembered an intimate moment on the phone with one of my adult children.  This particular adult broke down in tears when I carefully explained that their behavior in one particular work incident was unacceptable.  This child’s response was, “I just want to be perfect.”


But as the movie reminded me today, “No [wo]man is perfect.”  The lead character of the movie was feeling dismayed, angry and disappointed about a huge mistake his father had made.  In an effort to calm the character’s anger, his friend/lover responded, “No man is perfect.”

The truth is, we all make mistakes.  Whether intentional or not, our mistakes, regardless of their motives, cause the world to deal with the consequences of our actions. 

But we all make mistakes.  We can be angry at ourselves and others for these mistakes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they happened.  So, with enough time and energy, it is important to love on ourselves in spite of who we are – when ugly or pretty.  Be gentle to yourself.  And while you are at it, be gentle with others.  No man is perfect.

Just as the movie reminded me today, though, I have a choice.  We all have a choice. 

We can either live in the regret and remorse of the mistake, ignore the wrong or do our best to make things better.

Doing my sixth step left me feeling bad about many things.  Yet, I silently resolved to do my best to be a better person in the days and weeks ahead.  The movie, thank God, afforded me the opportunity that when I try to do the right thing for the right reasons, things may not go smoothly, but they will get better…for a lot of people.

So, my words of encouragement today are this:  be real about who you are and what you have done.  Work diligently to be the better person you desire to be.  If you have to clean up your own mess or someone else’s, do so with grace, diligence and a heart of compassion towards yourself and others.

In this way, we can make the world a better place.

Be blessed,

Michelle

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Each piece falls into place

“As I look back over my life, and I think things over, I can truly say, that I’ve been blessed, I’ve got a testimony.”  Black spiritual

Triumphs, victories and conquests are joyous to experience.  Trauma, trials and tribulations are difficult to bear and unwelcomed events.  Yet both work together to shape us into the beautiful, strong, resilient beings God intended.

When things go wrong, and life seems difficult, the broken pieces of our life seem irreparable.  We just can’t seem to imagine how “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

Rarely do we think of our lives as puzzles.  With effort, any puzzle can be pieced together.  But, as with any puzzler, it takes effort, diligence and consistency to view the final product. 

When we can’t seem to piece together the fallen and out of sort pieces of our lives, because of hurt, pain or sickness, our sense of safety is threatened. 


What is most important to remember is that God’s Word states that all things, all pieces of our life puzzle, work together for good

Each piece of our life, good, bad, difficult or baffling, is a piece of the puzzle designed to shape and form a complete design.  It is the same way with our lives.  As we strive to overcome illnesses, achieve goals and pursue excellence, we are being shaped and made into a beautiful design created and crafted by God.

Don’t despair.  If the pieces of your life seem to have fallen apart, remember, there is a God willing to guide you into how to know, discern and become aware of which piece to pick up and try to fit it into God’s divine plan.


Trust God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Honoring Recovery

National Recovery Month

September is National Recovery Month.  Recovery is about exercising one’s determination to improve from a physical, mental or emotional condition, often referred to as the disease of addiction/alcoholism.  Since the DSM-V lists these diseases as forms of mental illness, I would argue it is safe to say we can recover from mental illnesses this month too.

Can this happen without God consciousness?  Some would argue, “Yes.” 

I disagree.

Around the 1300s, the word “recover” meant to “regain consciousness.”  Back in the early 15th century, the word recovery had a different meaning too.  It meant “a gaining possession of something by legal action.”  That is the Latin meaning of the term “recovery” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.  Even more interesting is what the dictionary says next – “the act of righting oneself after a mishap, blunder, etc.”

A successful, peace-filled existence is certainly dependent on a person’s relationship to God.  Nowadays we call it, “God consciousness.”  And for those who profess knowing Christ, it is through His power we can right ourselves after making poor decisions or surviving childhood trauma.
Author: Andy Dean Photography


What if, as a society, we embraced the idea that we are spiritual beings intended to live our lives conscious of God’s presence?  What if this idea were taught in schools today?  Or, if it were a mandatory lesson in each home? 

Maybe there would be less adverse childhood events for people to recover from because their daily existence would be rooted in the awareness that God is ever present and seeking our daily communion.

An awareness of God operating in one’s life and on my behalf can be a comforting thought.  Some people, however, blame God for all their troubles, so forming a relationship with the Divine Source can be troublesome.

Often, it is the message of hope from other people that draws us into a solid relationship with God.  Hearing God through other people happens when people share in meetings or testify in church that their lives improved because they surrendered and formed a relationship with God.  It is here, in these safe spaces listening to the transparency of another’s soul that recovery is accomplished.  Finding God, many times, is sustained in a group context, such as 12-step programs, faith communities and other safe spaces. 

In these places, a broken soul can begin the journey to regain what was lost:  peace, stability, sanity and a sense of wholeness.

Our identities are often damaged during childhood, not strengthened.  The field of psychology refers to “adverse childhood events” as the cause of brokenness and poor identity formation.  For those of us who have suffered damaged self-identities due to adverse childhood events, reclaiming possession of our thoughts from negative influences is a huge step in the right direction.  Beginning to create a self-identity that is in harmony with one’s personal values and morals is a joyous and arduous process.  It is labeled as recovery.

The same can be said when we stop harmful acts towards self in order to move into a place of wellness.  Group counseling sessions, medication, bible study, prayer and meditation are great tools to sustain a person’s recovery.  But, often it is the one-on-one relationship with God that lays the foundation and secures emotional stability.   Wrestling with his will, understanding God’s ways and allowing God to guide us into right behavior are certainly examples of God consciousness.

It is important to note that anytime we individually pursue our recovery, we are saying to ourselves, “I have the legal and spiritual right to be happy and live at peace with myself.”  We are in essence telling the disease of addiction and our naysayers that “even in my brokenness, I am worthy of being loved and demonstrating I care for myself.” 

I support National Recovery Month as it seeks to honor those who are recovering from any mental disorder and disease of addiction/alcoholism.  Recovery can be a lifelong process filled with many lessons, let downs and stories.  But when our local and foreign communities support us, they are in essence saying, “I see you growing and it looks good on you.”

Are you doing anything to support anyone in recovery?  If so, please share what you are doing in the comments section below.

Be blessed, 

M

Thursday, August 27, 2015

After Thoughts: Christ as Alpha and Omega

Christians believe Christ is The Alpha and Omega.  This means Christ is the beginning and the end.  (Revelation 21:6)  So, when I read about the man at the pool of Bethesda in the fifth chapter of St. John, I am challenged more by Christ’s concluding words to this healed man than I am by the actual healing.

            Christ spoke to the man in the beginning.  Jesus questioned him to about whether or not this man wanted to be healed.  But, after Jesus healed him, the man went on his way.  They ran into each other again and Jesus issued a warning.  Jesus spoke some concluding words to him that were a guide for his conduct in the days ahead.

Context

            Often it is preached that this man had a physical illness preventing him from entering the water and being healed.  If you read the text, the unnamed man is surrounded by other disabled persons and has a reason why he couldn’t get into the stirred water to receive his healing.  But, I heard one preacher say this man had a mental illness that hindered his pursuit towards wellness. 

Yet, what Jesus said to the man after he healed him spark my curiosity.  He told the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”  (John 5:14)  What was this man’s sin? 

As I study this passage and pondering the effects of mental illness, I am challenged to satisfy my own curiosity.  I have questions about the text, about the man’s “sin,” psychology and theology.  “Hello, Jesus, I need some answers.”  But, I have to admit—this is where I let you down.

            The purpose of this post is not to share my questions or reveal a few answers.  My motive for writing is to clarify a growing belief of mine.  That belief is this:  “We really do know in part.”

Evidence

            Every time the Bible is read, a different lesson and revelation comes forth from its text.  For example, the story of Job brings forth a new understanding each time I read it.  Remember Job is the man who lost his family, possessions and health in a short span of time – let’s say one day.  It is safe to assume he quickly fell into a deep depression and sense of despair after the shock of these losses.  Yet, every time we hear that story and assess it against the backdrop of our own lives, we learn something new about God, Job and ourselves.

            The same can be said for King David.  A man after God’s own heart who committed adultery (at best) with another man’s wife, but also wrote some of the most profound parts of our sacred text known as the Bible.  Every time we examine his life, we discover a new truth, a new way to identify with David’s humanity and a new understanding of the depths of God’s love for us.
Jesus the Teacher
by http://www.kozzi.com/portfolio/index/contributor/2522

            So, why is it that as Christian leaders we think we know all there is to know about the Bible’s stance on mental health matters?  I say, we don’t.

Disease

            In fact, if ever there was an area that needed the combined intelligence of medicine, science, theology and biology, it is when we begin to look at disease.

            As I continue to research, probe and discover what God’s Word says to believers about faith and mental health, I stand in awe of the findings.  On one hand, my heart is saddened by the way we as Christian leaders have overlooked the help offered within the pages of the Bible.  Our closed mind, lazy and lax assumptions about the disease of the mind has been careless and callous.  On the other hand, humanity is known to fear what it doesn’t understand and to vilify what it can’t comprehend.

            Yet, we have reached a place as a society where mental illness cannot be ignored.  Researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals are looking at these diseases in all age groups.  Children, teens, young adults and the elderly have been impacted by psychological and biological emotional dysfunction.  What is the church saying to those consumers?  What does the Bible say to the depressed and those filled with despair?

            My research has revealed the Bible has a lot to say.  Although I am encouraged, I am also deeply enlightened, saddened and amazed by both the questions and answers probing my own humanity, mental health, psychological and theological awareness.  These rabbit trail searches are done with an open heart and humble spirit.  They usual end with a deep sense of conviction.

Facts

            What I have learned in the last three years about consumers, like me, that suffer with a mental illness is this:  many of us don’t think we can get better.  Many people have admitted, online, in the comment sections of various blogs and websites that they have been plagued by their conditions for 20, 30 and 40 decades.  When I became aware of the number of people who feel trapped in their despair/condition, I quit reading the comments.  They were too depressing.  I never left believing their was hope for me.

            Christians embrace Jesus Christ as their hope.  But, if we as Christian leaders and ministers of the Gospel are going to help other people, we have to know this one fact:  the diseases known as addiction and mental health tell the consumer they are not sick

At the same time, anyone who watches their loved one battle one or both of these diseases is shocked at the patient’s denial.  The family and employers can see the illnesses and experience their consequences.  But the consumer – no light is on inside their brain.  Their brain has been taken hostage, in a sense, by a band of bandits determined to rob the patient of a future.

Concluding thoughts

            How can I take care of myself if I won’t admit I am sick?  I can’t.  Neither can your loved ones.   So, as I use the rigorous honesty 12-step programs say I need to conquer my demons, I must, at the same time, develop a lasting relationship with God.  In this way, and only this way, can I conquer my demons and find my own sense of balance.  Graciously, the Spirit of God that moves within me and my innate curiosity keep me searching for the answers.  But the answers I seek are not just for me.  They are for the families and church leaders that deal with mental health consumers like me.

I ask that you exercise an extra measure of patience towards your loved ones in the same predicament. 

            We, as church leaders and Christians, know in part.  The Bible is full of clues on how to minister to the sick.  If we exercise patience, while continuing to pray, we can minister to needs yet to be revealed.  We can strategically address debilitating thoughts previously unknown.  We can pull down strongholds, demolish illegal spiritual assignments and carry our loved ones, spiritually and physically, into their individual places of healing.

            Trust me, I know many believers don’t understand those who say, “I have a mental illness.”  But our admission is the first step in our healing.  Please refrain from shaming us for our honesty.  Please think twice about silencing us for admitting our particular form of struggle.  And, please, keep supporting us.  We need you in ways you have yet to understand.  Only Jesus knows the beginning and end of our stories.

            Blessings to you and your family.  In Jesus’ name,


M