Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

– – –

This is part of my note to a friend who admitted they’d been hateful toward others. They are going through a horrible rough patch in life. I urged them to repent, noting my own sins.

Posting this excerpt here so I can eat my words later :)

FWIW, God doesn’t call us to be kind and loving only when things are going well. It takes *faith* to be strong and trust in God when things are NOT going well. I have noticed, speaking freely here, that God sometimes withholds blessings when we do not suffer well. (God has kicked my butt over this multiple times!!)

When I have sinfully focused on life’s problems and not on Christ, and have let the love Christ in my heart be taken over by bitterness and anger, it feels like my arm is being painfully twisted high above my back. Can’t sleep. Zero appetite, and I feel a horrible unrest in my heart. Anxiety attacks, etc. Life is grueling and all up hill.

When it finally gets through my thick skull, I confess, not just to others, but to God, that I have not been trusting in Him and that I’ve been leaning on my own strength and not His, I begin to feel His grace and mercy. God can’t use us when our hearts are hard. I’ve had to humbly confess to my Maker that I’ve been essentially giving Christ the finger with my actions.. He died for me, purchased my soul with His blood, and I’m basically being an unusable asshole.. not the conduit of Christ’s love that He wants for me to be. Instead, I need to be like Christ’s mother who said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Circumstances don’t always change, but they are much more manageable with a humble heart that is trusting in God… and certainly a lot less stressful.

I’m not saying these things to point a finger at you in any way. In fact, I respect you even more because of your apology and you are forgiven. Please know that *I* am guilty of saying equally hateful things… and much more. I am your friend and, as a pastor once put it simply, “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

Befriending Bullies

“Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” — Josh McDowell

It is so much easier to lecture “Do not! What is wrong with you?” and label “You’re a bully!” “He has ADHD.” than it is to engage “What are you thinking about?” and encourage. “You are so brave! You would be great at building skyscrapers!”

Children who are fearless, strong, and driven, who can organize others and see the world as their playground — imagine how awesome their potential if given the tools (and challenges) to be good leaders.

One of my favorite stories to read to children is The Fire Cat.

Pickles is an awkward, homeless, yellow cat with black spots and very large paws. The other cats are afraid of him because he chases them up a very tall tree — because he can. They avoid Pickles and say, “You are a bad cat. You cannot be our friend.”

Mrs. Goodkind, a neighbor, takes Pickles into her fancy formal home and by gives him cat toys. She tries to reprogram him to be an common cat.

He quickly becomes bored and chooses to goes back to his outdoor barrel and his old ways.

One rainy, windy day, Pickles finds himself stuck in the very same tree he would use to terrorize the other cats.

Mrs. Goodkind could have given him what he deserved and left him for dead in the tree, but she compassionately called the fire department to rescue Pickles.

When he is safely back on the ground, Mrs. Goodkind doesn’t embarrass him or scold Pickles in front of Fireman Joe. Instead, she points out his big paws and praises potential. She re-frames his behavior. “Pickles is a cat who wishes to do big things,” she says. “Someday, he will do them. Look at his paws.”

Fireman Joe gets permission from the Chief to allow Pickles to live at the firehouse.

With much determination, Pickles learns how to be a firecat. He makes friends with all of the firemen, but still has trouble relating to the neighborhood cats. He chases them away when they get too close to the firehouse.

The Chief never responded by squashing Pickles’ spirit or kicking him out of the firehouse. He just quietly observed.

When the time was right, after the Chief has established a relationship, he pulled Pickles aside and said, “A Firecat must be kind to everyone. You must be good to other cats.” As a mentor, as someone who believed in him, as someone whom Pickles looked up to, the Chief — portrayed as a rather scary guy himself — let Pickles know it was okay to be both strong and kind. It didn’t have to be a choice between one or the other.

Sometimes people with big paws need to be told this, too.

A few months ago, a “bully” was chasing kids through my yard and plowed through my fence, knocking the gate off its hinges. He fled the scene. The loud crash of wood hitting concrete alerted me to the problem. I tracked down the boy’s mother and asked if he could come back to help me fix the gate.

Reluctantly, he came over. He helped me lift the gate and carefully guide the pegs back into the hinges. After it was fixed, he said he was sorry.

I thanked him for his help and said, “You’re strong guy. Would you like to help me clean up my yard?”

He grinned and recruited his little posse. Ten trash bags full of twigs and prickly holly leaves later, I bought them all ice cream and we sat and talked for a while.

When he talks to me now, it isn’t about baseball or riding his bike (although he is very good at those things), but it is about trying to navigate through his world without a dad. It’s about worrying his mom is having a hard time at work, and that he is disappointing her with his low grade in math. It’s about the desire to amount to something.

Little by little, he is changing. He is smiling more. He is including the younger children instead of chasing them through my yard.

I’ve often thought about how easy it would have been on that day to yell at him, call the police, or tell my children to stay away from him.

I certainly would have missed out on the the privilege of being his friend.

Re-Framing Negative Behavior:
aggressive / assertive
anxious / cautious; concerned
boisterous / enthusiastic
bossy / a leader
brooding / serious
chatterbox / communicative
clingy / loving
controlling / determined
disruptive / eager
distractible / perceptive
dreamy / imaginative
explosive / dramatic
fearful / sensitive
forceful / determined
giddy / good-humored
high strung / energetic; enthusiastic
hyper / loves to move
hyper-sensitive / responsive
impatient / compelling; passionate
impudent / unafraid
incorrigible / strong-willed
inflexible / traditional
intense / focused; dedicated
insecure / cautious
loud / expressive
manipulative / charismatic
moody / sensitive
non-participatory / an observer
obsessive / deliberate
picky / selective
possessive / keenly intent on objects
pushy / assertive
quiet / absorbent; a thinker
restless / zealous
self-centered / proud
serious / contemplative
shy / reflective
silly / fanciful; joyful
spoiled / well-loved
stubborn / tenacious; persistent
a terror / energetic
troublesome / challenging
unfocused / curious
unpredictable / flexible; creative
whiny / willing to communicate
wild / vigorous
withdrawn / introspective

How to Find Balance (When You Don’t Know Which End is Up)

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Feeling like your life is a bit of a mess at the moment?

Been there…. more than once.

Curious what mistakes people frequently make in the midst of hardship and how to prevent them?

What are some tips for staying organized when so much is coming at you at once… without obsessing?

On whom should you depend when you need advice?

Recently, I wrote down five important tips that have helped me to navigate through tough times.

You can find my post, Five Tips to Keep Your Balance When You Don’t Know Which End is Up, at RealZest : Women Who Think .

Photo: Close-up Freefall

Exhausted? Worn Out? It May Be for the Best

Loved the post, “A Necessary Death” by Elizabeth Esther.

Amen! Wish I could give her the biggest hug ever. I know how she feels. I’m there often. Just when I think things are going well, I’m reminded that they aren’t and that ‘well’ is an illusion I see through my pride-goggles.

Elizabeth writes:

For the first time since the twins were born, I just let myself feel the need, the brokenness, the absolute inability to be The Mother I Used To Be. Or the Mother I Want To Be. Or The Mother I Think My Kids Need.

I let all that go.

We went down to the beach and I stood underneath the pier, watching the waves crash around the pilings. It was cold and cloudy with a brisk onshore breeze. The waves were high and I felt a thrill of terror as the waves pounded up the pier corridor.

That’s when it came to me. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

I’m standing at the edge of risk. The vast immensity of responsibility was never my burden to bear alone. And also, I was never supposed to be The Mother I Want to Be. That figment of my imagination was not within my control anyway.

My children don’t need that mother. They just need me, broken, vulnerable, utterly incapable me.

My children don’t love me because I do a great job of propping up my put-together life. Maybe they love me unconditionally. Maybe they love me in my messiness, my disappointments, my weakness.

And what if (scandalous thought), God wants me in my failures and brokenness? Because only when I’m in this place am I willing to surrender, to admit I can’t do it all.

As I read this, I was reminded that Christ came to the end of Himself for our sake. He did so we can live at peace with the Father — free, without guilt, without worry — our souls face to face with His, as naked as the day we were born (Heb 4:12).

Thank God we don’t have to (and can’t even if we tried) hide ourselves from Him. Christ died for us so that when we are right there on death’s door, our souls ready to just give up, He’s right there with us. Best part is, He beat death and rose again… so that we can take His hand and rise with Him.

Philippians 2:1-11 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

November Giveaway Winner / My Lost Passport & Wallet Story

Elizabeth Hull from Binghamton, NY, is the winner! Congratulations!

She is a mom of four, ages ranging from 15 to two newborn twin daughters. Her husband both plays guitar and sings in the band Old Friends. Elizabeth occasionally lends them her vocal talent.

Elizabeth is currently on hiatus from her job as a nurse practitioner as she cares for her new babies. She recently decided to take up blogging and her debut posts at In Heaven, I Want to Be A Cowgirl are about the natural full-term homebirth of her twins!

(The best part of the monthly giveaways for me has been getting to know my readers!)

After the drawing this morning, I decided to share a “bonus” story about my passport and wallet — which were lost (and found) the night before my solo trip to meet Tom in Tokyo. Enjoy!

Sin Too Great For God To Forgive?

To think that a sin is too great for God to forgive is to think that Christ’s blood is not sufficient – that is, Christ’s sacrifice is not good enough.

This thought can be applied to our own lives, when we worry about that one sin we hope no one ever finds out about – or wish that no one had – or when we have a hard time forgiving others for what they have done to us.

Romans 8 (whole chapter)

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.’

Hebrews 9:11-14 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

One of my favorite tracts, which is now out of print, can be found in its entirety online here: I’m Still Learning to Forgive by Corrie ten Boom

(Before you continue reading, if you are not familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom, please read this first.)

It was in a church in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him–a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein–” again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.

With Corrie’s willingness came God’s power to forgive her former captor.

When you and I are willing to see our need for God’s forgiveness, He is willing and able to forgive our sins. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But it goes on to explain that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

You too can know the same forgiveness and salvation that transformed Corrie and the former Nazi guard: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).