1

Are You the Blade that Shapes OR Shatters?

double-edged-sword2Recently, I was made privy to a comment about me that wasn’t so nice.  The blade of hurt was sharpened with the knowledge the words were spoken by someone I care about. Certainly, I am guilty of many things, but laziness is not one of them and for someone to believe it to be true (and then to share with others) were piercing, knife-like words.

I profess to be OCD, an over-achiever, addict of many things (both good and bad) and tend to offer an extreme amount of time to service projects that have eternal purpose. I don’t apologize because there is no doubt in my mind that the challenges I face on my current path are being forged by God to fulfill His ultimate plan for my life.

This year, my holiday season has been consecrated to a desire to help others in need. There are times I’ve opted to give paid jobs to others so I could give my attention to other purposeful and unpaid projects. In the spirit of giving, there are times I’ve taken a moment to breathe because I needed time to energize, regroup and rest.

You may be asking what the purpose of this post is.

It’s a message about the words we speak and share with others. You may believe you know a person; but do you really? Do you know the inflicted struggles, motive or battle God has placed before them to perfect His eternal purpose within them?

We need to recognize we are not the judge and jury of the intentions and endeavors of others, even though we deem ourselves best suited for this God ordained position. Only God has the ability to see the heart of mankind and He does it with divine knowledge of our thoughts and His purposed intentions. He hears our heartfelt cries as we desire and long to be obedient to His call even we seem to fail Him and others.

I encourage you to be the spiritual blade of God that shapes and uplifts fellow friends and loved ones. It’s done through the power of prayer, not the power of a sharp tongue. God is forever working within to do his good work to shape and sculpt us according to His perfect plan.

There are many personal battles that rage within us: addiction issues, seasons of loneliness, grief from loss or spiritual emptiness.  The ways God chooses to shape someones life into His image to fulfill His purpose isn’t for us to question, judge or debate.

God shares this with us:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

We are all instruments God uses to guide and support each other in this journey we call life. God never intended for us to sharpen and wield our ‘I know what’s best for you’ blade into the life of others.

Don’t be the blade that shatters the spirit of others because you have a tongue that can’t be tamed. Refrain from spewing forth words that pierce and divide the soul of another. Instead, strive to be the blade that shapes the life of others with words of kindness and love.

“Let the words of my mouth…be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.” Psalms 19:4

1

Love Wins Every Time

love wins
Sorry! I just don’t see how posting your political venue on Facebook along with sarcastic comments, quotes and venom is going to change the heart and mind of those who oppose your views.

Yes, you are entitled to your viewpoint on all things political, but do you have to present your case on Facebook?

If you really want to make a difference, do something that requires more than copying and pasting political propaganda and opinions you find on the internet. It’s the lazy person’s way of broadcasting politics and requires little effort.

We are a nation that has to co-exist together regardless of our political views. To verbally or physically assault others who oppose our views achieves nothing. History pretty much confirms this truth.

In a perfect world, it would be nice to believe that after the November 6 elections, all political disparity would subside. Sadly, you and I both know that won’t happen. There will be a new barrage of online verbal attacks; some on a very personal level that will sever family and friendships.

My life is surrounded by friends and family members with differing political and religious views that are contrary to mine. That’s OK. What’s not OK is for me to take an offensive enemy position in an effort to persuade them to my point of view.

For the record, there is this thing called prayer. God is the judge and jury of all mankind (at least in my religious views). Even if your views should differ, the bottom line is this:

We were created for a purpose. Hopefully, you view your purpose as someone who embraces humanity with love, understanding and compassion.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

I encourage you to practice love. It wins every time.

There is clarity when we set aside our differences. The blinders of hate, political discord and allegiances to groups that seek to divide us are lifted. Love allows us to see people who may have opposing views as a group of individuals that truly want to find a way to bring unity without twitter feeds, media hypes and Facebook / Internet propaganda.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Heavenly Father, unite our nation. Unite our people. Let us look toward the greater cause and purpose of why we exist… faith, hope and love.

Amen.

0

Never Wrong: The Sorry Never Comes

never wrongThere are those individuals who will never admit they are wrong and when challenged, they dig their heels in even deeper with a combative attitude which often leads to total denial of words spoken or actions performed.

An apology from a husband, wife or friend for unwarranted explosive behavior may never happen. Their ‘I need to be right and won’t back down’ situation is transformed into something entirely different through their eyes.

Phrases like, “I never said that,” or “I was calm until you raised your voice,” aren’t uncommon when a Mr. or Mrs. Right recalls and replays a confrontational moment. I think all of us have friends or family members obsessed with the need to be right at all times and in all things. It is tough on marriages, friendships and employer relationships.

Encounters with a person who is never wrong can deplete us of every emotion except the one that exacerbates the situation: Anger. Through personal life experience, I find the always right persona is often coupled with a tutorial of: If you had done it my way.

Maybe you are the person who is driven to always be right. Or, perhaps it is a spouse, family member or close friend. The reality is it’s a difficult place for all concerned. Each has their own set of coping skills and behavioral reasons that I call ‘help me Jesus moments’.

Aggregated layers

A culmination of life experiences and stories shape our life. Some we willingly acknowledge while others are laid to rest in the abyss of stories with bad endings. Bad ending stories have a way of resurrecting themselves at the most unexpected times and trigger a reaction.

Reactive behavior is a first response in the process of trying to gain control and look for someone to blame. It has a way of peeling away layers to reveal an alter personality that isn’t always becoming.

How to live and cope with an ‘I am never wrong and won’t say I’m sorry’ person?

I pose this question because many stories have been shared with me in confidence that echo these same relationship issues. Seems it is more common than one might think but most won’t openly talk about it because it provokes emotional/financial repercussions, disbelief, blame and shame from others.

As I sit here overlooking the lake and listening to the sound of boat engines and barking dogs, I want to believe life is simple. But it’s not.  I don’t have answers to the countless contaminates that dominate this world because of sin. I don’t have answers to the attitude of I’m never wrong and a sorry will never come that seeks to tear apart family relationships.

What I do know.

Tomorrow, when I awake, the sun will rise. Chances are good that it won’t be a perfect day. Chances are even better that I will encounter a confrontational moment with an ‘I am never wrong’ person. Odds are it will involve a conversation with God about what He needs to do to fix this person.

God’s reply will be the same: My child, today, I am working on you. My grace is sufficient to perform every good work… in my time.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, keep me from bitterness and disdain for those that have the need to be forever right. Be near and keep me calm when I want to fight back with words that I will later regret. Remind me that my imperfections need your grace as well.

“Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal;” Romans 3:23

Amen

0

A Funny Thing Happened: Life

life-happens-quotes-6.jpg

Life happens in the most unusual places and the most inappropriate times. It could be in a grocery store, it might be while chaperoning your child’s school field trip, or picking up pet waste in your backyard. Life is funny that way. It doesn’t wait for you, it just happens.

Scenario One:

I decide to go fishing with my nine-year old grandson. How difficult is that? Bait a hook and cast the line off the shore line. BINGO, BANGO, BONGO something is tugging at my line. The pole bends beneath the weight of my catch and the bobber sinks into the water. The adrenaline pumps through my veins and I know I’ve got a live one.

And then life happens. I pull my line from the water only to discover I’ve caught an empty pop can that is entangled in a massive amount of lake weeds. My annoyance level grows when I realize the only wacky worm bait I own is at the bottom of the lake.

It’s in my power to make it a SH@# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Scenario Two:

It’s Saturday morning.  With a shopping list in hand and three kids in tow, I am grocery store bound. It should be a flawless outing. But then life happens. Pulling the cart into the checkout lane I realize it’s not my cart. Oops! Thank you, grandson, for assuming the cart belonged to us because you saw Fruity Pebbles and strawberry pop tarts.

I can either make it a SH!# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Yep! The odds of life going amiss are high.

When faced with life happen moments we are presented with two choices:  See the humor or get angry.

I’ve opted for the anger route more times than I care to admit and could author a book on How to Get Angry When Life Happens. Unfortunately, the last page of the book would be a repeat of the first page. Why? Because anger spawns a repeat cycle of past mistakes. Nothing is learned through anger and we end up in the same place we started.

When we allow humor to kick start a life happens moment the page turn reads differently.  Let’s backtrack to the first scenario and consider the options.

My fishing line is tangled and an aluminum can is the only catch of the day. The vile profanities perched on my tongue are but one breath away. My nine-year old grandson watches as I reel my catch onto the shore. He’s waiting to see how Neenee will react to this hot mess attached to her life happens fishing line.

“Run up to the house and bring back the biggest platter you can find,” I called out.

“Why,” he questioned.

“Stop with the questions and just go,” I said.

A few minutes later he returns with a cookie sheet. “That’s perfect buddy! Why don’t you pack up our fishing gear and head back to the house. Tell Poppy to set the table for dinner and I’ll be there shortly.”

I quickly cut the tangled fishing line from the pole and carefully arrange my catch of the day on the baking sheet and walk to the house.

“Wash your hands because dinner is almost ready.”  I walked into the kitchen and plopped the cookie sheet in the center of the table.

“No way, Neenee,” laughs my grandson. “We’re not eating that.”

“No buddy, we aren’t. The restaurant up the road is bringing us their fresh catch of the day. They felt bad that they caught all the fish in the lake today and the only thing left was aluminum cans.”

Yes, a funny thing happened: Life.

Oh how I wish I had understood in my youth that humor is the best Band-aid for so many day-to-day life happens moments.

Just for Today Prayer:

Jesus, life happens and not always as planned, but even then, those unplanned moments are purposely designed by you. It offers us an opportunity to grow in you in humorous ways we never thought possible.  Remind me that,

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

2

The ‘Forgiveness’ Cocktail

forgiveness.pngThe indisputable truth about an unforgiving mindset is it can (and will) cripple our life spiritually, emotionally and physically. God desires us to be Christ-like in every area and since He has unconditionally forgiven us, I’m pretty certain He expects us to reciprocate forgiveness to others.

“But, you have no idea what he or she did to me and my family!” No, I don’t. I can only speak about my own life circumstances. I’ve had to drink the ‘forgiveness’ cocktail more than once.

Let me share:

Once upon a time I married my prince, or so I thought, but he was actually a toad incognito. Let’s call him ‘Dick’ to protect his identity.  Sidebar: This person is NOT my daughter’s father who remains a good friend to this day.

I gifted this prince my heart. In return, he gifted me a secret life of strip clubs, porn, drugs and lies. Imagine going to work and a co-worker shares, “I’m pretty sure I saw your husband at my in-home nurse visit today. He seemed to be living there.”

It all proved true. Dick’s out of town commercial paint jobs were really nights spent with the ‘other’ woman… or at strip clubs. Once his secret life was exposed, Dick never returned home and the IRS lien notices soon followed. My prince had defaulted on his quarterly business taxes and our home was about to go into foreclosure.

Call it bad choices, ignoring the obvious signs or being blind-sided. The truth is life happens and the ending doesn’t always play out like Hallmark movies.

In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go.” My translation would be closer to this:

I can ‘let go’ after you suffer alive as body parts are dissected for science; or, you experience a forever erection and acquire a disease that requires a lifetime catheter. Yep, you should get what is due you for my pain and suffering.

But then, there is God and His mercy. Hard to ignore when we look at the cross and realize we didn’t get what was coming to us.

“Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage; stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIRV)

God’s ‘Forgiveness’ cocktail doesn’t mean you condom the offense. God forgave King David of serious sins (murder and adultery), but David still suffered the consequences of his actions even after asking for forgiveness. We aren’t the judge and jury for how the actions of others impact our life.

“Let go of anger and abandon rage.” (Psalms 37:8). To partake and reap the full benefits of the ‘forgiveness cocktail’ we must let go.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis.

I had one brief encounter with Dick after he abandoned us. It was at his mother’s funeral. He gave no indication we had ever been married and shared an intimate relationship, but that’s OK. My decision to forgive rather than retaliate has yielded 23 years of marriage to a man who more than makes up for the guy I thought was my prince.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to remember Colossians 3:14:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Remind me that your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.

0

The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

1

When Silence is Golden

silence_is_golden

To discover peace in the midst of commotion and uproar is absolutely precious. I sometimes fall prey to the emotional abyss others unknowingly heap upon me (or I willingly accept). Silence becomes my golden egg.

There is a risk of being buried alive when we allow our purpose and goals to be driven by the emotional needs of others. It is self-sabotage to ingest a daily influx of someone’s personal garbage that causes us to spout off and speak our mind when silence might have been a better choice.

When confronted with life choices gone badly we feel vulnerable and threatened.  We assume a combative attitude toward those we love when offered unsolicited opinions, opposing views or words of encouragement. In frustration, a verbal warfare is set in motion.

In those moments when our motives seem to be driven by anger, remorse or lack of judgement, it is best to cloak oneself in silence. Silence is not an inherent trait of mankind; it is learned through careful consideration of what we value as important in our life.

I love this quote by Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook (movie).

“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.”

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!  –Psalms 141:3