Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Comparison Blinds People

Comparison blinds us to the very real problems others have. We focus only on what we can see and forget that people are really good at hiding the not-so-glamorous parts of their lives.
But have you considered...

*The beautiful coat that girl is wearing may have been given to her after she lost everything in a fire?

*The nice outfit that guy is wearing may be the only attractive attire he owns which was purchased strictly for special occasions?

*The family ahead of you in line at the grocery store with all that delicious food might actually be homeless and living in a motel but after receiving gift cards from someone who was generous, they were able to buy delicious food...finally?

*The successful businessman you envy may have endured ill treatment throughout his entire childhood by strict parents whose demands and neglect drove him to stop at nothing with pursuing success so that hopefully, he could gain their approval one day?

*The new car that couple has may have been given to them as a gift from their church or a dear friend after their previous car got totaled and two of their kids died in that accident?

*The girl whose makeup always looks nice may have learned to perfect her look in order to hide the bruises or scars on her face that have resulted from an abusive relationship or birthmarks?

*The man or woman who materially lacks for nothing might be battling addiction?

*The marriage that has endured for twenty years, husband and wife may rarely communicate and have slept in different rooms and led separate lives for more than half of it?

*Popularity might be the downfall of an otherwise innocent teen who will overdose on heroin in a matter of months or contract a fatal STD because they hate the label of still being a virgin?

*The good-looking guy who has no problem getting women might have nightmares every night from the trauma he experienced as a child?

*The seemingly happy family has many skeletons in their closet?

*Celebrities with countless fans may cry themselves to sleep often because they don't trust people and lack genuine friends?

*The outgoing and confident girl may be haunted by the choices she made a year ago and desperately wishes she could undo her past?

What we see of people is usually only a tip of the iceberg. Humans are secretive by nature due to the shame and guilt we all experience, so save yourself the pain of comparison by not wishing you were someone else or thinking others have it better than you.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Sanity Which Results from Structure and Routine

The absence of calmness and serenity in our lives can also be defined as the presence of turmoil, strife, and stress. In such times of uncertainty and confusion, anger and disillusionment, we are faced with the choice to either:

- Immediately seek God
- Pursue the counsel and wisdom of godly mentors and counselors
- Commit all to the Lord in prayer
- Take the time to make a plan to better structure our lives


- Panic
- Yell
- Worry
- Give up
- Mask issues through unhealthy and destructive means that just leave the problem(s) unaddressed

Due to stress in my family and life in recent weeks, I thought I would make a list of what brings order to my life that each of you can learn from as well so that your individual lives and relationships may become more orderly and bring a sense of sanity and well-being instead of frustration and rage:

  • Leave your keys in the same place everyday
  • Have a specific spot for your wallet, stamps, safety pins, and other items that people usually scramble to find last minute
  • Charge your cell phone before going to sleep or leave it on the charger overnight so you don't wake up to a full day ahead of you with a phone on only 5%
  • Pay all bills on the first of the month
  • Put 20% of every source of income (including birthday and Christmas money) in a savings account, if possible
  • Pay tithe consistently
  • Avoid intake of sugar, dairy products, and processed foods
  • Meal-plan
  • Don't waste food and only purchase what you need
  • Drink a tall glass of water upon waking, one before and with every meal, and one before bed
  • Learn to cook homemade meals and coffee/tea at home instead of wasting money elsewhere
  • Attend church weekly
  • Keep open lines of communication with accountability partners, trusted friends, and mentors
  • Learn how to communicate effectively and efficiently
  • Get some form of exercise every day
  • Go to sleep at the same time every night (even on weekends)
  • Get to bed by 9:30 pm (it's been proven that people get the best sleep between the hours of ten pm and two am)
  • Take naps if need be (even ten minutes of lying down in silence can work wonders)
  • Wait a day or two before making a purchase so you have time to ponder if it is worth the money or is actually worth investing in
  • Borrow books, movies, and CDs from the library for free instead of renting or buying them
  • Become a life-long learner and see it as a privilege and joy
  • Don't just be on time wherever you go; arrive fifteen minutes early
  • Get everything ready the night before and put it near the front door so you don't forget anything
  • Keep up with laundry so the clothes you need or want to wear are always clean
  • Keep the house in order (it really brings a sense of sanity)
  • Read at least once chapter a day in an edifying book (if you lack sufficient time, read a few sentences or paragraphs)
  • Watch one sermon or lecture a day
  • Watch a documentary twice a week instead of TV or a movie
  • Buy grocery store giftcards at the start of the month or with each new paycheck so you only spend the set amount and don't impulse buy (do the same for stores like Wal-Mart and even the gas station)
  • Make the bed every morning
  • After using something, immediately put it back in its place
  • Keep up with dishes and be sure to clean counters and stove before going to bed
  • Vacuum and dust every few days
  • Wash rugs and all bedding once a week
  • Keep post-it notes in car or on bathroom mirror listing what needs to be done that day or week
  • Unsubscribe from all unread emails
  • Sign up for paperless billing and pay all bills online
  • Make a budget and be rigid about it
  • Use a planner and mark/highlight important dates, events, appointments, etc.
  • Get an oil change for your car every three thousand miles
  • Get Direct Deposit from your job
  • Respond to emails within three to five days
  • Give honest and sincere compliments to others; be sure to thank them for their help
  • Set an alarm for everything if it will help you remain focused and not waste time

I would love to hear your suggestions for what adds to an orderly life. There is always room for growth and it is a sweet blessing and luxury that we can all learn from one another. You may leave a comment or write to me directly at EmmaJoyBlog@gmail.com

Friday, November 11, 2016

Becoming a Determined Man

By Darrin Patrick

...unyielding determination [is] indispensable for genuine change.

... At the heart of determination is a resolute decision to do something and to not stop until it is done. But our energy and effort are spoiled unless we do the right thing. To determine is simply to say no to one thing and yes to something else. In developing determination, we must face the past and discern both the right path forward and those obstacles that will hinder us as we walk down that path. The choices may not be easy, nor may they be safe, but we cannot escape them.

... Determined men refuse the nostalgia of the past or the speculation of the future. Instead, they embrace the present because they know that every choice right now determines how the future will look. They don't shrink from reality but courageously confront it. They stare down the temptation to escape into the past or daydream about the days ahead, while fighting to embrace the world around them even as they seek to change it for the better.


Determined men realize that they have twenty-four hours in a day, and if they waste time it is because they intend to do so. Determined men take time seriously and are very intentional about how they use it. This does not mean we never rest--far from it! But it does mean we should be intentional about when and how we rest.

For most of us, redeeming time probably does not mean spending hours each night watching television, surfing YouTube, or dinking around in the garage. Such activities may feel relaxing in the moment, but they are often a drain on our energy and ability to uphold our many responsibilities. For most of us, redeeming time will mean that we work hard to eliminate unnecessary time suckers in our week, design systems for answering e-mails efficiently, think through our weekly schedules and priorities beforehand, and live by predetermined goals.

Your life is before you. ... The meaning and the purpose you have been made for will not be discovered on the couch. Life is pursuing you, and it will find you out. You can try to avoid the curveballs, drowning out the challenges and obstacles of life with hobbies and TV. But at some point a crisis will arise, and you will be faced with a decision to press on or check out. What will you choose to do the moment it arrives? Will you lead your life, or will you let it lead you?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Run the Race in Such a Way That You May Win

By Jim George

The Christian life and spiritual growth are not sprints. They are long-distance races that require lifelong perseverance. You grow in spiritual maturity as you run the race moment by moment, day after day, and year after year.

In many ways, running the spiritual race is a lot like physical running. If you stop exercising physically, your body may not show the results of inactivity for a while. But in time you will wake up and find that you can't run to the end of the block, and it's a short one at that!

In the same way, you may think you can get by without exercising spiritually, by not reading your Bible, or praying, or going to church. One day, however, you will wake up and find yourself spiritually flabby, out of shape, and wide open to sin...all because you didn't make a focused effort to keep growing day by day.

And remember, you can't rest on yesterday's growth. You must be dedicated to growing today...and every day.

... It's true that growth doesn't just happen. Spiritual growth requires motivation and action on your part. But the benefits of such growth are phenomenal and well worth your effort.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Necessity of Fathers and Peril of the Lack Thereof

By Dr. James Dobson

Chief among the threats to this generation of boys is the breakdown of the family. Every other difficulty we will consider has been caused by or is related to that fundamental tragedy. It can hardly be overstated. We have been emphasizing for years that stable, lifelong marriages provide the foundation for social order. Everything of value rests on those underpinnings. Historically, when the family begins to unravel in a given culture, everything from the effectiveness of government to the general welfare of the people is adversely impacted. This is precisely what is happening to us today. The family is being buffeted and undermined by the forces operating around it. Alcoholism, pornography, gambling, infidelity, and other virulent infections have seeped into its bloodstream. "No-fault divorce" is still the law of the land in most states, resulting in thousands of unnecessary family breakups. Clearly, there is trouble on the home front. And as we all know, it is the children who are suffering most from it. In cultures where divorce becomes commonplace or large numbers of men and women choose to live together or copulate without bothering to marry, untold millions of kids are caught in the chaos.

If I may be permitted to offer what will sound like a hyperbole, I believe the future of Western civilization depends on how we handle this present crisis. Why? Because we as parents are raising the next generation of men who will either lead with honor and integrity or abandon every good thing they have inherited. They are the bridges to the future. Nations that are populated largely by immature, immoral, weak-willed, cowardly, and self-indulgent men cannot and will not long endure. These types of men include those who sire and abandon their children; who cheat on their wives; who lie, steal, and covet; who hate their countrymen; and who serve no god but money. That is the direction culture is taking today's boys. We must make the necessary investment to counter these influences and to build within our boys lasting qualities of character, self-discipline, respect for authority, commitment to the truth, a belief in the work ethic, and an unshakable love for Jesus Christ. The pursuit of those objectives led me to undertake the writing of this book [Bringing Up Boys: Practical advice and encouragement for those shaping the next generation of men].

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

There Is Wisdom in Taking Personal Inventory of Our Lives

Monthly Personal Inventory:

  • What good habits have I built?
  • What bad habits have I taken steps to break?
  • Am I prioritizing accountability relationships and being honest in our correspondence?
  • Have I been attending church every week?
  • How much of the Bible do I read each day?
  • Where am I currently reading in the Bible?
  • Do I find studying the Bible thrilling or rather drab?
  • Am I investing in the lives of those around me and looking for opportunities to make a difference in this world?
  • Am I being selfish in my dealings with others or growing in servanthood?
  • Am I being a good steward of my time, talents, resources, and health?
  • What character flaws need attention?
  • Am I growing in humility or exhibiting pride?
  • What fruit of the Spirit am I lacking?
  • What fruit of the Spirit am I growing in?
  • What lessons have I learned?
  • What idols am I clinging to? What idols am I allowing God to eradicate from my life?
  • Have I become slack in my responsibilities or am I giving adequate time to fulfill these duties?
  • Who have I been spending time with? How are these persons influencing my choices?
  • What would the people around me say are my greatest faults? Strengths?
  • Do I have healthy relationships with the people in my life?
  • Do I treat others with respect (no matter their status in society)?
  • Have I been harboring bitterness and resentment toward anyone?
  • Do I practice forgiveness toward those who wrong me or hold grudges and mistreat them in response?
  • Am I willing to be corrected or can I not handle confrontation and constructive criticism?
  • Have I been keeping short accounts with others or do I let time pass before considering making amends?
  • Am I quick to find fault in others or am I growing to realize that it takes time to change and therefore I must be patient with them in regards to their flaws?
  • Am I willing to work on my own issues without making excuses or justifying my behavior?
  • Do I often complain, compare, and envy?
  • Am I growing in contentment?
  • Have I been meditating on Scripture's prescription for a healthy thought life (Philippians 4: 8)?
  • What sin am I battling? Do I easily allow compromise or am I ruthlessly fighting my sin?
  • What sin have I found greater deliverance from this month? What steps have I implemented to gain such freedom?
  • What book(s) or articles am I reading?
  • What entertainment am I viewing?
  • What music am I listening to?
  • What websites am I visiting?
  • Are such things time-wasters and sin-enablers or am I actively guarding my heart?

For further reading, check out Relational Assessment

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pursuing Relationships with Wisdom and Discernment

Relationships are difficult work because they are made up of individuals who have competing wills, selfish hearts, different wants, set beliefs for how things are supposed to be, the desire to get their own way, bouts of stubbornness, and at times, an adamant refusal to compromise for the benefit of the other.

We hurt ourselves and the relationship when we are unwilling to communicate, apologize, be corrected and confronted, seek counsel if need be, see the situation from someone else's perspective, and display gentleness and humility in our dealings with others.

This is why setting boundaries early on in the relationship is so crucial. They are guidelines and fences, if you will, of what you expect and won't allow in a relationship. Every person should have more than a general idea of what they are looking for in a friend or a significant other because if you don't know the specifics of what to look for and the specifics of what to avoid, you are bound to choose the wrong sort of people to have close relationships with.

Please keep in mind that it is better to be alone than in the presence of bad company.

Something the Lord has been teaching me lately is to commit any desire I have to be friends with or get to know certain individuals to Him and ask (and trust!) for His will to be done in whether I get to know them or not. After all, God knows every person better than they even know themselves, so it is fully in our best interest to trust Him with the results of our every prayer because if we push to get our own way without willing surrender and a joyful submission to His perfect will (for our protection), we will either waste our time or end up hurt.

By all means, for the rest of your life and over every issue that arises, always have a willingness and eagerness to seek counsel, remain accountable, treasure God's word as the ultimate authority for your decision-making, and consult the wisdom of godly individuals who are mature and further along in their spiritual walk than you are. Doing all of this is sure to spare you much pain! Don't be lifted up in pride, coddle stubbornness or selfishness, let impatience get the best of you, run with your emotions, follow your heart, walk away from God, assume what the world has to offer is better than humbly serving the Lord and applying His word to your day-to-day life, ever think you are above making foolish choices, or compromise your standards out of loneliness.

We must take preventative measures to ensure we don't bring relational pain on ourselves by choosing people from the start who are no good for us. We must diligently read the word of God, study resources which expound it, and get outside intervention if need be regarding people in our lives and how we can deal with any relational troubles that occur.

I've learned that so much of the pain we experience in life is either by the hands of other people or because of our own poor choices. And while this does not take away the scars we've obtained through such terrible experiences, it is a reminder that we must make God our top priority so we are better equipped to make choices (in friendships and beyond) that will prevent pain instead of causing it.

Every person needs accountability and to be constant in their relationship with God. If Christians are to thrive in life and represent their King and Savior well, we must be extremely careful with our choices. And whom we choose to befriend, date, or marry is no exception.

"We make our choices and then our choices make us." Unknown

We are not promised a happy life and unfortunately other people can and do leave us in (or cause us to experience) terrible situations and circumstances (either by their own hands or because of their neglect which leaves us broken, abandoned, hurting, and in need). We must be willing to take responsibility for who we spend time with. Being wise with the company we keep will in many ways determine the course our lives take and sadly, some of the consequences we experience in life through poor relationship choices will leave us with no one to blame but ourselves. Never ignore the wise counsel and admonition of others who have your best interest at heart!

Let's not bring unnecessary pain on ourselves by ignoring Scriptural truth and guidelines for relationships or by pursuing people who are not healthy or will lead us astray. Momentary enjoyment is never worth the consequences it may bring. Never choose company for the sake of pacifying loneliness or to pass the time. Weigh your choices well. Have a plan and stick to it. Ask yourself what it is you are looking for in a friend and don't compromise for anyone (even if they are initially very nice). Trust God to provide the right friends for you. Cover this aspect of your life in prayer.

Quality relationships are hard to find and may be a precious rarity, yet there is nothing like the right company!

Monday, September 19, 2016

From Camaraderie to Abandonment

It's so heartbreaking how you can be close with someone, feel a great sense of camaraderie and belonging, grow to care about them, love them as a true friend, form an emotional connection and close bond, then over time they can walk out of your life and become a distant memory.

With that said, please be careful with people's hearts. Don't toy with them, falsely lead them on, use them for your own benefit, or invest in the relationship short-term if you aren't willing to stick around long-term.

I understand some people are only in our lives for a season and we must have great discernment before starting a relationship or friendship. I also understand God can and will remove people from our lives if need be as He sees fit, but I am simply referring to the choices we make in regards to giving time to others. May it never be that we are the cause of broken hearts or abandoning those that count on and trust us.

Heartache hurts. People are precious. Let's treat them accordingly and not act as though it doesn't matter if we leave with little to no explanation.

Oh, and if you are planning to get married or have kids, for the sake of common courtesy and common sense, you better be willing to be in it for the long haul and not view such great privileges and responsibilities as optional depending on your stress level, personal preferences, or pride and selfishness.

Whomever the Lord has placed into our care have hearts that can be broken, feelings that can be hurt, and wounds that can occur at our hands. Unless you're in it for the long haul, don't waste people's time and thus leave a trail of brokenness.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gaining Structure and Exuding Excellence

People who most enjoy life and flourish as human beings have structure to every aspect of their lives:

  • Finances
  • Time
  • Health (mental, emotional, relational, spiritual)
  • Fitness and Diet
  • Relationships
  • Home and workplace organization
  • Work and/or schooling

People whose lives exhibit excellence:

  • Have accountability, mentors, and good company
  • Grow in wisdom
  • Set goals and take steps daily to reach them
  • Are in right standing with others to the best of their ability
  • Deal with their problems through the right means
  • Remain accountable
  • Admit fault and are open to receiving constructive criticism
  • Realize the impact of their choices through careful consideration of the outcome (not by the immediate pleasure or relief it will bring)
  • Willing to seek counsel
  • Have a keen awareness of their need for people who positively pour into their lives
  • Keep short accounts with people
  • Plan ahead
  • Pursue growth
  • Use their talents and resources in a way that helps those in need (within proper boundaries and with discernment)
  • Treat others respectfully
  • Demonstrate humility, understanding, and compassion in their dealings with others

People whose lives are falling apart typically:

  • Display an unwillingness to take responsibility for their lives
  • Squander their time and money on pursuits or with people who benefit them not or do so only short-term
  • Do not set goals or are flippant in taking steps to achieve them
  • Careless with their health and sex life
  • Cannot be confronted on their issues
  • Have a negative mindset
  • Envy or put down others instead of putting in the time and making the effort to work on themselves
  • Gossip and have little regard for the reputation or feelings of others
  • Put off dealing with problems until it is too late
  • Do not allow anyone to get close to them or refuse to seek counsel
  • Feel the need to lie and exaggerate so both they and their lives *appear* better than they actually are (thus being fake and not letting people get to know the real them)
  • Are prideful and stubborn

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What a Wasted Life Entails

There are worse things in life than being financially poor. Being destitute of character, lacking meaningful relationships and people you can confide in and be transparent with, and having a shallow mindset by not living for anything substantial are a few of them.

Living in America, we have grown up in a society and culture that esteems money above meaning, fame above investing in the lives of others, physical attractiveness and sexual appeal (to the extent of extreme methods like plastic surgery and eating disorders) above richness of heart, hook-ups instead of the sacredness of sex in a committed marriage, empty chatter above deep conversation, and having fun above setting goals and taking daily steps to reach them.

We have been taught from a young age that being different or standing out from the crowd is bad, while following the crowd even to the point of idiocy is what we should strive for. Gossips, immature people, and those who take pleasure in making others feel less than are what make up the term "popularity" while people who care about others and have deep-thinking minds are viewed upon with contempt as if they need to pull their lives together and jump on the bandwagon of being fake, demeaning, and shallow.

People with mental illness are ostracized, made fun of, and misunderstood.

Playing sports has taken the place of learning life skills. Adults esteem winning on a team or attaining financial security above character development and training their children to live for so much more than just themselves.

We live for our own gratification yet rarely stop to ponder the reality that it is wasting the life we have been given.

Entertainment is often a pointless and dirty time-waster while reading books and watching documentaries that edify the mind and enable overall growth is seen as boring and is typically avoided at all costs.

We have lowered the bar for what constitutes building/leaving a legacy and praised the rich for leaving their possessions and homes to selfish, coddled children when these are but temporary and could easily be lost through theft, fire, or earthquake.

We have lost the art of intellectual conversation and mock those as random and weird who aren't content with empty discussion.

We harm ourselves as a collective whole through poor diet and a lack of exercise, holding laziness in high regard.

Binge-watching TV shows and playing computer games has taken the place of playing or exploring outside for our children/youth.

We live for the fun of the weekend and complain each weekday that we have responsibilities.

We refuse to grow up and take initiative in bettering our futures.

We waste money or accumulate debt by trying to "keep up with the Joneses".

We see intelligent people as nerds and we worship celebrities. We use slang terms and emojis to express how we feel while rarely if ever study resources or read the dictionary to ameliorate our vocabulary.

We have grown accustomed to comfort and will stop seemingly at nothing to attain pleasure.

We run from the past, live for the present, and do not plan for the future.

We waste our time with people, places, hobbies, and entertainment that brings little benefit.

We have redefined freedom to mean doing whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want and yet do not consider where such a lifestyle will lead us and the painful consequences it will leave behind.

... and we wonder why the nation, our families and individual lives are falling apart at the seams.

Where are the parents? Where are the challenges? Where is the accountability?

Where has self-respect gone? Why has self-esteem taken its place?

A noble life and striving to become a productive citizen of society that impacts the world around us and leaves an indelible mark on this earth has been replaced with irresponsibility, depraved indulgences, and a lack of wisdom.

We are destroying ourselves day by day yet care little. Similar to the frog in the pot of water whose heat is slowly turned up ultimately culminating in the amphibian's death, we too are killing ourselves with comfort and ease.

How I long for something more!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Setting Boundaries and Making Wise Decisions

Good morning, everyone.

After not actively writing on my blog nor newsletter in several weeks, I thought I would give you an update as to what has been going on that has hindered me from taking these privileges seriously.

I would like to start by saying that the Lord is a good God who always has our best interest at heart. Sometimes when trials last longer than we had anticipated, opportunities fall through, people change or walk out of our lives, we experience health concerns or poverty, or a number of other circumstances that go on in life, we can begin to slack off with our responsibilities, stop seeking and serving the Lord as we ought, and just waste our time by seeking comfort through fun or laziness instead of remaining accountable, continuing going to church, and making Bible reading a daily priority.

One joy I have in life is being a mentor for my younger brother. Our conversations are filled with wisdom, accountability, tackling difficult problems and issues in society from a Biblical perspective, and growing as individuals in the context of quality family time, long walks, and intentional conversation. We realize how easy it would be to get distracted by friends, hobbies, and responsibilities if we do not guard our time together as a family, so we take steps toward ensuring we communicate on a regular basis. Valuable people whom you can speak to about anything and be real with are a rare find and worth guarding from anything that might waste our time or take away from something meaningful. This hasn't fully been the case though on my part and for this I am regretful and have taken steps to correct it.

Over the past two months, I befriended a young man around my brother's age who was once the best friend of one of my relatives. I had known of him for several months and would see him around town, being intrigued by how he stood out from the crowd and how obvious it was that he was a hurting person in need of quality people and deep discussions. My family and I took him under our wing and we have had a lot of fun making a tradition of having Whole Foods pizza at the park once weekly, inviting him to church with us and over for dinner, spending time at each other's homes, going to local concerts and sitting at restaurants late into the evening talking heart to heart. I have been able to share many quotes with him, been a counselor and confidant, practiced hospitality through rides given, meals shared, and practical gifts that met needs, etc. We have gotten to the heart of the matter with many issues he experiences in life and the times he and I would spend together nearly always entailed him crying and explaining his inner world, family life, and past with its issues, abuse, troubles, and pain. Our friendship has benefited us both, been an encouragement, and brought about a deep connection through mutual sharing, similar interests, experiences, and viewpoints. My family and I have been praying for him over the last several months consistently and the results of our friendship have shown evidence of a God-ordained relationship that has produced character, challenged and corrected thinking, and provided support and love where he had previously never experienced. It has been a beautiful time of practically showing the love of Christ to a soul that needs Him.

Over the past two weeks especially, he has begun spending more time with others and less time with me. There has been a clear difference in him with this change and I am reminded of First Corinthians 15: 33 which states: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.' " The principle being that bad influences can tear our hearts away from walking on the right path towards God and wholeness/healing. Observing him also reminds me of my own history in the past of returning to my old ways, sinful patterns, and time-wasters even after knowing better and experiencing the blessing of special friends who took the time to mentor and love me in the midst of my pain. It is painful to see someone begin to pull their heart away from an individual and family that has graciously made the time to love and help a person clearly in need of direction.

He blames his absence and growing disinterest in time with us on a home life that has become increasingly hostile and his want for fun at this time in his life since it is easy and more entertaining than doing the hard work of working on issues one by one in the context of well-meaning and involved individuals. I have gotten the most time with him out of the members in my family so it hurts my heart to realize how finicky the human heart can be and how prone we are to wander and even run from what we know is best for us, especially long-term. What has comforted me is recalling a few sentences my Pastor said a while back in a sermon regarding ministering to the lost and hurting. He said something to the effect of, "Genuine conversion and repentance requires many steps. You may be steps __ through __ and thus you are used by God in that person's life to the extent He calls you to."

My friendship and my family's involvement with this young man has not fully ended. He cares to keep in touch, but less often. I can see the Lord's hand and beseech His will to be accomplished in this friendship because only He knows what trials this guy must go through and what mistakes he has yet to make that will help ultimately show him his need for God and lead him to the loving arms of Jesus where he will find the freedom, acceptance, and fulfillment he has always longed for.

God is a good God and He is all-knowing. He knows what it will take to bring a person to genuine faith and solid commitment to Him through His Son. He knows whether our time ministering to this guy has been completed and whether or not the friendship will endure over time (even in the midst of separation at this point).

I share this with you all because I perceive humans to think that we must solve all issues or be the ones to rescue people from walking toward destruction (both hell and the ruining of ourselves on this earth). I realize looking back over the past two months that while the time I have given this young man has indeed been special, life-changing, and restoring for both of us, I cannot expect to be the one to keep him fully safe from the lures of this world and soundly convert him in my own strength or abilities. It is God alone that can change the human heart, open spiritually blind eyes, and call people into a lasting relationship with Himself. It is God alone that can so change the sinner that sleaze begins to lose its appeal and right living becomes desirable. It is God alone that can bring a person to the point of full surrender and willing submission to His will and ways. God alone gets the glory. God alone has the power. God alone is perfect in all His ways and His timing is perfect.

No matter what is going on in each of your individual lives, no matter how concerned you are for the people you know or know of, I would highly encourage you to place those people in the hands of a mighty and able God who is faithful to bring about the best result in all situations. What a comfort to know that God is on His throne, nothing catches Him by surprise, and He sovereignly decrees everything as it ought to be.

I am learning that it is foolish to try and take on the role of God in anyone's life, no matter how pure and noble our intentions. I am learning that by praying daily for people and committing them to the Lord, that they are then in the safest hands possible. I am learning anew that the human heart is wretched and can only be changed through God's salvation and continued work, intervention, and faithfulness in our lives and that no one is beyond His reaching.

Don't allow your responsibilities and relationships to suffer in life by giving more time than you ought to people or situations that require God to work mightily and not just you taking on burdens that may be too heavy for you to carry alone. As believers, we can clearly see the state of this world and how broken people are, yet for our well-being and for the sake of the roles God has called us to, we must be willing to open our hands and freely give God anything (or anyone) that we assume we are the answer to, so to speak.

I hope you have a great day. May you be reminded of our mighty God's goodness and perfect character, His ability to correct people's paths and intervene in ways we never thought possible, and the truth of Second Peter 3: 9:

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

Friday, July 8, 2016

Wearing a Mask While Deeply Longing for Connection


by Unknown

Don't be fooled by me. Don't be fooled by the mask I wear. For I wear a mask, I wear a thousand masks, masks that I'm afraid to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art that is second nature with me, but don't be fooled.

... I give the impression that I'm secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without; that confidence is my name and coolness is my game; that the waters are calm and that I'm in command and I need no one. But don't believe it; please don't.

I idly chatter with you in the suave tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that's really nothing, nothing of what's crying within me. So when I'm going through my routine, don't be fooled by what I'm saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying; what I'd like to be able to say; what, for survival, I need to say but I can't say. I dislike the hiding. Honestly I do. I dislike the superficial phony games I'm playing.

I'd really like to be genuine, spontaneous, and me; but you have to help me. You have to help me by holding out your hand, even when that's the last thing I seem to want or need. Each time you are kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings. Very small wings. Very feeble wings. But wings. With your sensitivity and sympathy and your power of understanding, I can make it. You can breath life into me. It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. But love is stronger than strong walls, and therein lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands, for a child is very sensitive, and I am a child.

Who am I, you may wonder. For I am every man, every woman, every child ... every human you meet.

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