Show me Your ways, O Lord.
The Associated Press recently carried a story about a “Cutest Kid in the World” pageant that turned into a free-for-all. The contest was running four hours behind schedule on the first day. Frustration built among the children’s and their “stage mothers.” Finally, one mother climbed up on the stage, grabbed the emcee’s microphone, and yelled for all the parents to get their money refunded. Parents responded and rushed the stage. A computer, a cash box with all the ticket receipts, and the six-foot “Cutest Kid” trophy were all last seen being carried out by parents.
Like those parents, we sometimes get frustrated and tired of waiting. We want problems to work out on time the way we want. When they don’t, we take things into our own hands, and the results can be chaotic.
Problems will come in life-that’s a promise. Facing each problem is our problem. Let’s remember that God is close, He cares, and He will be in control if we let Him, even though He won’t always control our crisis the way we, with our limited insight, think He should.
Prayer: Lord, I absolutely cannot ask you to eliminate all problems from my life or even to resolve them my way. But I can count on you to comfort and guide me through them your way.
Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
June had a dream one evening that literally changed her life. In the dream she was a little girl in a beautiful rose garden. She was wearing the most beautiful white eyelet dress imaginable. But as she turned around, June could see the dress was badly soiled. Suddenly June’s father was in the garden, shouting to her that Jesus was coming to the garden and would be there momentarily. June looked at her dress in dismay. It was a mess. What was she going to do?
Jesus entered the garden. Paralyzed with fear, June stood like a statue. But Jesus came over to her, and He never once looked at the soil on her dress. Instead, He put His arms around her and gave her a hug. Then He picked her up and put her on the swing. They talked, played, and laughed for a long time. Then Jesus gave little June one more hug, and said good-bye. The child was left with the warm memory of His acceptance and delight in her. When she wandered back to the swing to bask in the memory of her visit with Jesus she found a white package tied in a beautiful white bow. In it was a brand new white dress.
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, that I am dressed in your righteousness today.
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief.
The Martins lived in a small home in the suburbs. From the outside, nothing about the house looked strange or out of the ordinary-but inside was a different story. The Martins had an eight-ton elephant residing in their living room.
No one said anything about the presence of the pachyderm. In fact, the whole family sat on the couch and watched television through the elephant’s legs. Mrs Martin cleaned massive messes and even dusted around the animal. His trunk often reached to the dining room table to get food, ruining more than a few meals. The family ignored the elephant and did their best to go on as if nothing was wrong.
Finally, however, the elephant could no longer be ignored. The carpet was ruined. The couch sagged. Fleas were all over the premises, and the neighbors were beginning to complain of the stench.
Of course, this is not a true story. It is an illustration of what happens to problems in a family that doesn’t look at the truth; problems are just overlooked or denied. No matter what the problem-alcoholism, depression, physical abuse-they begin to smell when they are not dealt with.
Prayer: Lord, help me face problems in my family and do something about them before they reach “elephantissimal” proportions.
Put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book?
Women cry more than men. Scientists say it is good for us. Our ability to let our emotions out is probably one of the factors that account for women living so much longer than men.
God knows and understands our deep pain. Think of God’s pain when He allowed His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. He feels pain when we feel pain. He also offers us comfort for the pains of life. He wants to carry us through the darkness into light. When we lose loved ones, when we stumble and fall, when we disappoint ourselves, we will cry. That’s a natural thing to do. But God wants to comfort us, forgive us, dry our tears, and carry us on. And God has promised to wipe away all tears someday when we go to Heaven to live with Him.
In the world, we will have tribulation-that’s a promise. But we have a Savior, Christ, who has overcome the world. And there is a new day coming where we will never cry again.
Prayer: Thank you Lord, for loving me so intimately and considering me so important that you even keep track of my tears.
All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility.
I Peter 5:5
Being married is a little like being on a teeter-totter. It’s no fun for one mate to be always up and the other down. No one can move if both partners insist on absolute equality. And if one partner jumps off, the other partner has no choice but to leave as well. In order to enjoy being on the teeter-totter, both partners must learn to give and take.
“You owe me and you’d better pay up.” John and Jennifer both used this phrase when they first came to therapy. Each seemed to carry a little scorebook in his or her head and to give themselves points for every “good deed.” They were constantly arguing about who had done more for the other. Their goal seemed to be to have complete equality and end up with the perfectly balanced teeter-totter. Instead, their teeter-totter was jolting up and down, with each of them being bumped as it hit the ground.
Can you imagine a couple so loving that they argue about how much they want to give to each other instead of how much they want to get from each other. As John and Jennifer’s marriage therapist, I was never able to persuade them to get that humble. But, after nine months of therapy, they had begun to develop a give and take marriage instead of the “take and take” marriage they had.
Thought: The more I give true love, the more likely I am to receive true love.
Because, although they knew God, they didn’t glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
How would you complete this sentence: “I would be happier if…?”
Sylvia spent her entire life waiting for happiness and fulfillment. When she was in high school, she was anticipating college. Then when she received her college degree, she became career oriented. Once her career was established, she lived for the week-end. Marriage became her next goal, and once she married she had a desire for children. Sylvia never really tasted life because she was always waiting.
Many of us , like Sylvia, persist in believing that happiness will be just over the next hill. This might not be so bad if we could enjoy ourselves after that hill. Instead, yet another hill always looms on the horizon. Lasting satisfaction remains elusive. And eventually “I’ll be happy if…”becomes a nostalgic “I was happy when…” Many women live the first half of their adult lives postponing satisfaction and the last half with regrets.
Happiness is not a destination; it is a journey. Happiness without holiness is a dead end. Don’t brood over what would make you happy tomorrow or what made you happy yesterday. Instead, aim for holiness, be grateful for today, look forward to tomorrow, and happiness might just be thrown in.
Prayer: Lord, help me develop the attitude of gratitude. Help me seek after holiness. Help me recognize happiness when it comes.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Self-worth is best built on how God sees us. God knows everything about us, and He loves us more than anyone on earth ever could. When we begin to understand God’s view of who we are, we will then feel free to accomplish the things God wants us to accomplish with our lives. We live in a world that yells, “Dress for success. Dress to impress. If you have it, flaunt it; if you don’t, fake it. Look out for number one.” But God tells us that building our self -worth on people and accomplishments is like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand [see Matthew 7:24-27]. The wise man built his house upon the rock, and that’s where our self-worth will be built when we accept God’s view of us.
Southern California, where I live, is full of people trying to impress others and to prove that they are somebody. We don’t have t0 do that. God is already impressed with us. We are somebody-His children. And He has equipped each of us to accomplish His plan for our lives today.
Thought: I will rethink my schedule for today, eliminating those activities designed to impress men but keeping those that will truly impress God.
For in much wisdom is much grief, and He who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Gloria had been coming to see me for weeks. She was very depressed and suicidal. As the weekly meetings continued it seemed that she was getting worse. She had gotten in touch with many repressed memories in her unconscious, and she was experiencing grief as a result. She was discovering a painful, if liberating, reality: The truth will set you free-but first it will make you miserable!
I assured Gloria that the truth really does hurt, but that the only way to resolve her innermost root problems was to expose the truth and deal with it maturely and realistically. Over time she began to feel better. She began to sleep peacefully through the night. She began to laugh again, share good thoughts and good dreams. She began to feel good about herself. She had definite plans for continuing to deal with her conflicts in her day to day living experiences. Over a period of a year, Gloria went from a depressed and suicidal woman to a woman who was sharing her story of triumph with others.
Thought: When I look at the truth inside myself, I will expect it to hurt, but I will not let that discourage me from progressing past and through the pain.
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Fran came to see me because she had an anxiety attack and had felt very anxious for the past week. Anxiety nearly always comes from a fear of finding out the truth about one’s own unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motives. As Fran’s therapist, I asked about the significant people in her life. She had normal responses until I mentioned her mother whom Fran was going to visit the next week. Then Fran’s neck developed red blotches, her pupils dilated, her hands got sweaty, her arms crossed and her eyes looked away from me toward the floor. She denied any problems with her mom, but her body told me she was lying to herself. It turned out that her mother had always been very narcissistic, demanding, and conditionally accepting.
I finally convinced Fran that her coming vacation and her week of anxiety were no coincidence. She was bitter toward her mother and feared being aware of her rage. As Fran looked at the truth and wept, she knew she would have to learn to forgive her mother. She had to learn to protect herself from her mother’s abuse. Fran’s anxiety would take time to resolve, but looking at the truth was the beginning.
Thought: Whenever I feel anxious, I will pray for insight into the truth inside myself, then seek the truth from friends or counselors God sends my way.