Monday, December 14, 2009

Every Day Is a Gift - Joes Osteen

Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Sometimes, our days can be so full and busy that we forget how fragile life really is. It can be easy to allow little things to creep in and steal our peace and joy. Something doesn't go our way, or someone says something upsetting. Even traffic can cause us to lose focus if we let it. We have to remember that each day is a gift. If we choose to focus on what's wrong, we'll miss the beauty that each day has to offer.

I encourage you today; don't let the precious moments of life pass you by. Don't wait for the holidays and birthdays to show people that you care. Remember, each day is unique and irreplaceable. You have been given time that can be invested or wasted; hours that can be used or misused. That's why the psalmist prayed to God, "Teach us to number our days." He was saying, "Teach us to value every moment we've been given." As you daily keep a proper perspective, you'll gain a heart of wisdom. You'll draw closer to God and experience the full blessing that He has for you each and every day!

A Prayer For Today

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of today. I choose to focus on the blessings of each moment instead of allowing the little things to steal my joy. Keep me close to You always as I submit every area of my heart and mind to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

What if They Don't Believe? - Joel Osteen

Romans 3:3 (NIV)

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness?

Have the opinions of others caused you to water down your dreams? There will always be critics and naysayers in life. One of the most important things you can learn is that other people don't have to believe in you in order for your dreams to come to pass. Other people don't set the limits for your life - you do. It's not what others say about you that affects your life, but what you say and believe about yourself. In this verse, the Apostle Paul is saying, "It doesn't matter if other people don't believe. Their inbelief is not going to keep me from believing in my dreams."
When God puts a promise in your heart, it's not up to other people to bring it to pass, it's up to you! You don't need everyone to validate you. You have to follow the voice of God for yourself and allow Him to order your steps.

Friend, God sees the hidden treasures inside of you. He wants to bring these treasures out and make your dreams reality! As you get rid of the old defeated thoughts and replace them with what God says about you, you will remove the limits and live the abundant life God has in store for you!

A Prayer For Today

Heavenly Father, thank You for another day to see Your goodness in my life. Help me to see myself the way You see me. Help me to see the plans You have for me so that I can be empowered by You to fulfill my destiny. I love You and bless Your name today. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

As You Wait - Joel Osteen

James 5:7 NIV

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the fall and spring rains.

God has put dreams and desires in every person's heart. But most of the time, there's a season of waiting involved. Maybe you're waiting for a relationship to improve; waiting to get married; waiting for a promotion; or waiting to overcome an illness. Much of life is spent waiting. But there's a right way to wait, and there's a wrong way to wait. Too often, when things don't happen on our timetable, we get down and discouraged or anxious and fretful. That's because we're not waiting the right way.

Notice that today's bible verse doesn't say if you wait, it says as you wait. The fact is we're all going to wait. It goes on to say that we should consider how the farmer waits - patiently and eagerly. We're not supposed to sit around discouraged; we're supposed to be hopeful, positive, and full of expectancy.

Todya, no matter what you are believing for, expect things to change in your favor. Today could be the day that God turns it all around. As you wait with patience and expectancy, you'll open the door for God to move. He'll fight your battles, and you'll see that abundant harvest He's promised in every area of your life.

A Prayer For Today

Father God, today I choose to wait expectantly for You. I trust that You are working behind the scenes on my behalf. I put my trust and hope in You knowing that You have good things in store for my future. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Attitude

I just finished reading the book "Touchdown Alexander" written by football great, Shaun Alexander. I found the following quotes that really spoke to me......

Psalm 37:4....Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

"I want to encourage people to set goals for their lives - the higher the better. If we think big and believe big, we'll act big and move in big ways. As a result, we'll enjoy life in a big way. Life really is to enjoy - to have fun and laugh a lot. If we're not enjoying our life, something isn't right."

"There's no price tag on what we do for others."

"There's never any way to repay kindness and love - except to pass it on."

"I realized I was so busy looking to the left and right that I was missing what was in front of me. I had been distracted by other things. I needed to turn my focus onto God."

"We have two choices in life: giving ourselves up to the world and its values and amusements - or we can give ourselves to Christ and let Him guide us."

"God's best is always worth the wait."

"God wants to give us what we most desire but won't give it to us until we're ready to put away all the other toys."

"God truly blesses those who are willing to wait on Him."

"Money isn't a goal, it's a means to get to a goal."

"True faith in God happens after we have done all we can and have reached the end of our own resources. That's when we can still believe and call on Him."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Got That Right

"People always let you know exactly how to treat them through their actions - one never needs to guess."

~ "Restaurant Refugee"

"Commitment is in the heart - and can never be stopped or started by the wearing of a ring."

~ Char

"While we all enjoy getting compliments, remember, words are just words. It is actions that are important...Actions are the windows into people. Words are their defenses."

~ Jerry Critter


"I want your heart to skip a beat when you know it's me calling, texting, or e-mailing. I want you to feel weak in the knees when you are around me. I want the things I say to leave you slightly breathless. I want your spine to tingle when I put my hand in the small of your back and pull you in close. I want you to be able to look into my eyes and know you can trust me, know that I won't hurt you and that I would protect you. I want you to want to grab me by the shoulders, the arms, the chest."
This was written by a man whose blogs I have been reading for awhile now. I feel so most of these things and more when I hear from or am around my significant other. We are not actually dating yet, we've known each other for years but things have kept us apart. This year has been the best one since we met, and I hope it continues to improve. He is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hidden Secrets His Hugs Reveal

I got this information from the December 2009 issue of Cosmopolitan.

The way your guy holds you close is tightly tied to his feelings for you.

He comes up behind you and puts his arms around your chest.

Even if he hasn't said the words yet, a guy who grabs you like this is in love. He's blanketing your body with his, your feet are intertwined, you're leaning into him...There's a real sense of oneness here. By covering your back, he's conveying that he wants to shelter you. He's also flexing his masculinity--this displays his strength and dominance. The one exception is if your man almost always hugs you from the back. That might mean he craves a closer connection but thinks you're unavailable. He avoids hugging face-to-face because he's worried you're not into him.

He gently strokes your back while holding you.

This affectionate gesture signifies that your guy cares deeply about you. The back is a very vulnerable part of the body. You can't see your back, so being touched there can be startling. Softly rubbing you on such an exposed zone shows that he wants to nurture and protect you.

He thumps your upper back during an embrace.

Okay, this hug is loaded. Let's start with the worst-case scenario: He's not into you. This is how men hug their buddies; it's not romantic at all. When a guy frequently embraces you like this, it means the relationship is not growing. Wait--don't freak out yet. If The Pat only happens once in awhile, rather than on a regular basis, it's not a red flag. If you're in public, it could simply mean he isn't into PDA and wants to keep things casual.

He encircles your lower back with his hands and pulls you tightly toward him.

Hubba hubba! The dude wants you. A pelvis-to-pelvis embrace shows he'd like to merge with you sexually. The farther down your body his hands travel, the more fired up he is. There's one last thing to take note of: Does he touch his head to yours? Then he wants to merge his thoughts with yours as well. Translation: If it's a new relationship, you're more than a fling to him. If you've been together for awhile, he's ready to get more emotionally and mentally intimate...

Thought for Today...

Don't ever think that there's not enough time to show how much you care. Always remember, big things are nice, but it's the small stuff in love that counts.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Soul Mates"

The light of my world is within your eyes....The sound of your laughter heals all my wounds...You always fix me when I'm broken, and your advice can solve all my problems...There's no growing old alone because we are only growing together...When I am lost, you find me and when I am confused, you set me straight...In all this crazy world, I'm so glad that you came to me to be the soul mate that completes me so perfectly. You will always have my heart and I will always be with you wherever you may go.

Soul mate is a very hard thing to describe, but there's my attempt...It's by no means perfect and way too short to be accurate.

Always remember that "love is returnable."

-------------Shelley's Grandfather

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quote from Sex and the City

The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don't. But, in the end, they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into, and sometimes it's the one you make for yourself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quote on Cancer

Cancer is not always a death sentence, but an invitation to live, a wake-up call to be present in the moment, a permit to love without holding back, a chance to forgive, a reason to be accepting of all people, and an order to slow down to take time to really see and smell the flowers.

You Win

Another poem from "Restless Mind"

For as long as I can remember,
You kept me at arms length,
A little window here, a little crack there,
but never the full open view.
You invite me in your life
but never let me in.
You built walls around yourself
I can only dream of crumbling.
You wear a impermeable armor,
I can never take off.

I pushed and I pulled.
I loved and I hated.
Opened my senses,
learned to compromise.

Try as I may
all my efforts are futile
You win.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here's Hoping

Hope sees possibilities,
hears a melody,
smells fragrant flowers,
tastes sweet candy,
feels magical beyond belief,
lives inside of me...

Hope stays, lingers,
blossoms like Spring,
remains in my heart
like magic stuck in my brain.
Stubborn, persistent like a Suitor
standing in the rain.

I hope you come,
I hope you stay,
I hope what we have
lasts forever and a day.

posted by "Restless Mind"

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to Succeed at Being Yourself Part Six

In order to succeed at being ourselves, we must be faithful to God all the way to the end. We can never quit or give up.

In simple terms, faith is knowing that if God has said He will do something, He will do it. Even if it doesn't look like He is doing it right now, it will come to pass in His timing, if we will remain confident in Him.

In Christ, we can remain standing firm on the inside because we know that our real life is in us, not in the people or circumstances around us.

The only way we ever reach our final destination and succeed at being our true selves is to take many, many steps of faith. Stepping out into the unknown - into something we have never done before - can leave us shaking in our boots.

Because of feelings of fear, many people never "step out," therefore they never "find out" what they are capable of.

Many people are missing the will of God for their lives because they are "playing it safe." I don't want to come to the end of my life and say, "I was safe, but I'm sorry."

The world has a little saying: "Better safe than sorry." I am not sure that always works in God's economy.

I am not suggesting we all start doing a bunch of foolish things that are unwise, but I know for a fact that not everything God wants us to do makes sense to the natural mind. You and I must learn to be led by discernment in the inner man (the spirit) and not by our carnal minds, or what other people suggest to us. When we step out, we should do all we can to be sure it is the voice of God to which we are responding in faith and obedience and not just some wild thought we have picked up out of the atmosphere where it was placed by Satan to try to lure us into destruction.

People who get into serious trouble usually don't do so in one big jump; more often it is the result of many wrong steps. God has warned them along the way and tried to keep them out of trouble, but they have pressed on it the flesh (following their own carnal desires), trying to make what they want to be God's will.

Some people get into trouble simply because they are unable to admith they made a mistake and find a new direction. It is very difficult to get into serious trouble stepping out one step at a time. But those who won't step out are already in serious trouble because they will never accomplish anything in life.

Some people get into trouble because they do what other people think they should do. Others do things to get attention or to imitate what they see someone else doing.

Other people can want things for us, but we must want them ourselves or we will never press through the difficulties that come with giving birth to a new thing.

God has His own way!

The Word of God tells us that we will have persecution. Satan bring opposition, trouble, trials and tribulations in the hope of driving us away. If we intend to succeed at being ourselves and being all God wants us to be, we must be prepared to stand strong in times of persecution.

If we will keep standing up on the inside, God will take care of the outside.

When we think of sacrifice, we must always remember that what we sow as a seed, God uses to bring a harvest. When we are called upon to make a sacrifice, we should not feel deprived, but privileged.

We don't have to be comfortable all the time. In America and many other parts of the world, God's people are addicted to "comfort" and "ease". It is time to shake ourselves into reality and start doing what He asks us to do, no matter what the cost.

We cannot expect radical harvest in our lives is we sow seeds of disobedience.

God is not interested in our starting things that we never finish. It is easy to begin, but it takes great courage to finish. In the beginning of a new thing we get all excited. We have a lot of emotions (ours and everyone else's) to support us. When the emotions wear off and all that is left is a lot of hard work and the need for extreme patience, we find out who really has what it takes to truly succeed.

In God's mind we are never successful if we stop somewhere along the way. He wants us to finish our course and do it with joy!

If you have been tempted even recently to give up - don't! If you don't finish the thing you are currently involved in, you will face the same challenges in the next thing you start.

Some people spend all their lives starting new things and never finishing anything. Let us make a decision that we will be more than a statistic that never reached its full potential.

There are many plateaus along the way that require greater faith than the last one we reached. God is always taking us up - never back and never down! He is always calling us up higher. We must leave the lower life and press on toward the high places.

If you and I want to move into new levels of glory, we must do so by moving into new levels of faith. Remembering that faith is confidence in God, we can say then that we need to move into new levels of confidence. We should be confident in every area of life.

I have often done things that I felt good about, until Satan started accusing me after I had finished. I finally realized that if I was doing the wrong thing, God would tell me ahead of time, not after I had finished and could do nothing about it.

We need to take a bold stand and declare, "I believe I hear from God. I believe I am led by His Spirit. I believe I make good decisions. I believe I have a powerful prayer life. I believe people like me, and God gives me favor."

This kind of boldness does not mean we will never make mistakes. Making a mistake is not the end of the world as long as we are teachable. We dwell too much on the negatives and not enough on the positives.

Instead of worrying about what we might do wrong, we should keep standing up on the inside and pressing forward, attempting to do something right. We can be so afraid of making a mistake that we end up never doing anything.

The Bible says the just shall live by faith, or confidence. We are going to interchange these words to make the message more practical. Sometimes faith seems so spiritual that we cannot see exactly how to apply it practically. It helps me to think of it in terms of confidence in God. So faith is confidence, and confidence is faith.

It does not pleasure God when you and I lose our confidence. Why? It saddens Him because of what we lose. It saddens God if we lose our confidence and let the devil steal from us the inheritance that He sent Jesus to die for us to have. God has done His part; now He wants us to do our part; which is to believe - to put our confidence in Him and His Word and live from faith to faith, so He can take us from glory to glory.

When I pray about or simply meditate on all the people who are hurting, I have a strong desire to help them all. I sometimes feel that my desire is bigger than my ability, and it is - but it is not bigger than God's ability.

When the thing we are facing in our life or ministry looms so big in our eyes that our mind goes "tilt," we need to think in the spirit. In the natural, many things are impossible. But in the supernatural, spiritual realm, with God nothing is impossible. God wants us to believe for great things, make big plans and expect Him to do things so great it leaves us with our mouths hanging open in awe. James 4:2 tells us we have not because we ask not! We can be bold in our asking.

Sometimes in my meetings, people will approach the altar for prayer and sheepishly ask if they can request two things. I tell them they can ask God for all they want to, as long as they trust Him to do it His way, in His timing.

When you pray, do it standing up on the inside. What I mean is, do it respectfully, yet aggressively and boldly. Don't pray fearfully, and don't pray what I call "just" prayers.

God regularly promoted plain, ordinary people into positions that they could never have gotten for themselves. The very word prosperity indicates more than what is needed. God wants us to prosper in every area, not just financially. He also wants us to have social, physical, mental and spiritual prosperity.

It is not God's will that His people be bored and lonely. He wants us to enjoy great fellowship and companionship. He wants us to feel great physically, not just drag our bodies around every day. He wants us to be vibrant and energetic, to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. He also wants us to be sharp mentally, have good memories and not live in a confused and worried manner.

You may be thinking, "Well, if that is God's will, why don't I have all these things in my life?"

Maybe you have not been asking for enough. Perhaps when you pray, you don't do it boldly, standing up on the inside. Don't pray "just" prayers, pray for all you can dare to ask, think or desire.

When our desires seem overwhelmingly big, and we don't see the way to accomplish them, we should remember that even though we don't know the way, we know the Waymaker.

God has a way for us to do everything He places in our heart. He does not put dreams and visions in us to frustrate us. We must keep our confidence all the way through to the end, not just for a little bit and then when it looks like the mountain is too big, give up.

It is untold what people can do - people who don't appear to be able to do anything. God does not usually call people who are capable; if He did, He would not get the glory. He frequently chooses those who, in the natural, feel as if they are in completely over their heads but who are ready to stand up on the inside and take bold steps of faith as they get direction from God.

We usually want to wait until we "feel ready" before we step out, but if we feel ready then we tend to lean on ourselves instead of on God.

Know your weaknesses, and know God - know His strength and faithfulness. Above all else, don't be a quitter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to Succeed at Being Yourself Part Five

Forgiveness takes care of our sin, and mercy blesses us even though we don't deserve it. Forgiveness is actually a manifestation of God's mercy. He forgives us because He is merciful and long-suffering.

Mercy is another word that is in close relationship and even interchangeable to a degree with grace and favor.

I don't know about you, but I am extremely happy about God's mercy. I cannot possibly imagine where I would be today if it were not for it. I know for sure I would not be anywhere pleasant.

We all deserve punishment, but instead God gives us mercy. What an awesome God we serve!

I am sure that if I were perfect I would expect everyone else to be perfect also. When I have a memory lapse concerning my own faults, I sometimes find myself being too harsh with others. At such times, God is obliged to remind me of my own frailties once again. He has a way of hiding in the shadows and allowing us to get into enough trouble to keep us humble and therefore useable. He stands back and allows our weaknesses to surface so we must trust Him and not ourselves.

Under the old covenant, when people sinned, they had to make sacrifices to atone for their sins. Jesus became to perfect and final sacrifice for all those who would believe, and He now instructs us to receive mercy from Him for our failures and to give mercy to others who fail.

This does not mean there is no correction or punishment for sin, but God always tries to draw us into righteousness through His love and mercy before dealing more harshly with us.

It pays not to be stubborn. Repenting and receiving God's mercy is much better than enduring His chastisement.

Some people cannot appreciate the mercy of God until they have experienced a bit of His wrath. God is never wrathful against His people; His wrath is always against the sin in their lives. He hates sin, and we must learn to hate it also.

Like God, we must hate sin, but love the sinner.

If we do not receive God's mercy for our failures, we will not have any to give others when they fail us and disappoint us. We cannot lead people into powerful relationships with the Lord through harshness, hardness, rigidity and legalism. We must show them that the God we serve is merciful, patient and long-suffering.

God is love, and all of these things we are discussing are facets of His love. Walking in love is the high call on the life of every believer. There is no possibility of true ministry without walking in love.

In a certain sense the word receive is synonymous with the word believe. We cannot receive something if we don't believe in it.

The Lord is willing to take every negative thing that has happened to us and turn it into something positive, if we will only believe.

Believing is the key to receiving from God!

No matter what has happened to you in the past, if you believe, you can receive the good fortune that is set aside for you in Jesus Christ Who came to do the will of His Father in Heaven.

You and I can only realize and experience the glory of God in our lives because of Christ in us. He is our hope of seeing better things.

The glory of God is His manifested excellence. As the children of God, we have a blood-bought right to experience the best God has planned for us. Satan furiously fights the plan of God in each of our lives, and his primary weapon is deception. When we are deceived, we believe something that is not true. Even though it is not true, it seems true for us because that is what we believe.

When we look at ourselves and our own ability, we feel defeated, but remembering that Christ in us is our hope of realizing the glory. It keeps us encouraged enough to press on toward better things. We limit ourselves when we look to ourselves alone and fail to see Jesus.

We can be excellent people with excellent attitudes, excellent thoughts and excellent words. God's glory can be manifested in us and on us, but only as we believe it is possible.

God is looking for someone who will believe and receive. Start expecting more of His glory in your life. He is waiting to manifest His glory - to you and through you.

God asks you and me to put our faith in Him and to believe that we can do whatever He asks us to do. He is mighty to uphold us and make us stand. He will support us and keep us from failing.

God's strength is readily available to us. We receive it through believing in it, and the promise God has made to give it to us. If we believe we are weak, then we will only manifest weakness...When we can say we are strong with a heart of conviction, even though we are weak in ourselves, the Lord will be strong in us - we will experience victory in our lives!

Just because we don't feel strong when we think about a situation does not mean that we won't be strong when we need to be. God's strength comes to us by His grace, through our faith, but He rarely gives us the strength we need before we actually need it. In this way we must trust Him, which our part, God asks us to trust Him, and as we do, He does the part we cannot do.

When we awake on any morning, we don't know for certain what may happen to us that day. We all hope for easy days in which all of our desires are being met, yet we know from experience that is not always the case. We live in a real world, with real problems. Our enemy, the devil, is real and he is working through everyone he possibly can to bring discouragement, fear and failure to us because we belong to God and put our trust in Him.

When you and I need to be strengthened, we should spend time with God and with people filled with His Spirit. Spending time in God's presence is like sitting in a room filled with sweet smelling perfume. If we sit there long enough, we take the fragrance with us when we leave. It will be in our clothing, in our hair and even in our very skin.

We can receive from satan by believing what he says, or we can receive from God by believing His Word. We all believe something, it may as well be something good.

Always remember that it does not cost anything to believe. Try it, you will find your life changing in an amazing way.

When our strength is in God, even the difficult places in life can be turned into blessings. That's why we need to constantly keep our minds and hearts focused on Him and not on our circumstances.

I have discovered that when I am unhappy I have a temptation to start blaming my unhappiness on some circumstance or person in my life who is not giving me what I feel I need.

Most of the time when I am unhappy, it is because of some wrong thinking on my part. Even if I have negative circumstances, I can stay happy by having right thoughts toward them. If people are not giving me what I need, I can either be angry with them or I can look to God to meet my need.

Satan wants us to think that nothing will ever change, that things will only get worse. He wants us to inventory every disappointing thing that has ever happened in our lives and think about how mistreated we have been. We will absolutely never fulfill our destinies and succeed at being all God has planned for us if we don't think properly.

God has satisfaction, fullness and completeness in mind for us. Fullness only comes through being in the center of God's Will.

Those with a sad past need to be able to believe in a bright future. The writer of Proverbs says that where there is no vision, people perish.

A vision is something we see in our mind, "a mental sight" as one definition puts it. It may be something God plants in us supernaturally or something we see on purpose. It involves the way we think about ourselves, our past and our future.

Some people are afraid to believe. They think they may be setting themselves up for disappointment. They have not realized they will be perpetually disappointed if they don't believe.

I am challenging you to start believing good things. Believe you can do whatever you need to do in life through Christ. Don't have a "give up easy" attitude. Let your faith soar. Be creative with your thoughts. Take an inventory: what have you been believing lately? An honest answer may help you understand why you have not been receiving what you have wanted to receive.

Standing up on the inside does not mean being rebellious or having an aggressive attitude toward those who don't understand us. It means having a quiet inner confidence that takes us through to the finish line. It is knowing inside that despite what is going on on the outside, everything is going to be all right because God is on the scene, and when He's present nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to Succeed at Being Yourself Part Four

We can fall into wrong thinking that causes us to pressure other people. We can expect more out of people than they are able to give us. Continued pressure on people we are in relationships with will ultimately cause the collapse of that relationship.

All people everywhere are looking for acceptance.

As humans, all of us require space, or freedom, to be who we are. We want to be accepted as we are. That does not mean that we don't know we need some change, but we don't want people giving us the message, even subtly, that we must change in order to be "in."

We are more likely to change for those who are willing to accept us with our flaws, than we are for those who make demands and expect us to live by their list of rules and regulations.

One thing is for sure, God won't change the people we are trying to change. He has a "hands off" policy when He is working in human lives.

Even when we think we are hiding our disapproval, people can still feel it. It is in our voice tone and body language even when it isn't in our words. We may try to control what we say, but whatever is in the heart eventually comes out of the mouth. Sooner or later we slip and say what we have been thinking.

I am not saying that we must accept sin and wrong behavior in other people and merely put up with it. But I am saying loud and clear, from my own personal experience and from God's Word, that the way to change is prayer, not pressure! If we love people and pray about their sin, God will work.

Many people who irritate us are simply being themselves, and their personality just does not mesh with ours.

Often the things we need the most in other people are available for us to enjoy, if we will stop judging them and trying to change them.

I, I, I - that is our biggest problem.

Sometimes we want others to change, when actually we are the ones who need to change.

We cannot change people by pressuring them or by nagging them.

For change to be lasting, it must come from the inside out. Only God can effect that type of heart change.

Anytime we expect someone else to keep us happy all the time, we are in for some disappointment.

I have come to realize that we are always looking for the perfect marriage, perfect friend, perfect job, perfect neighborhood, perfect church, and the truth is it does not exist! As long as we are in earthly bodies we will manifest imperfection.

There is no place in God's Word that we are told to reject people. Instead, we are to love them, we are to give them understanding, mercy and compassion.

I am free to be me, and you are free to be you. All we need to do is personally obey God, we don't need to prove anything to ourselves or anyone else. If we obey God, He will take care of our reputation.

Unrealistic expectations also affect us in our relationships with other people. As we have already mentioned, people are people, and all people come with strengths and weaknesses. To be in a relationship with people we have to take both. To expect others to be responsible for our personal happiness is a big mistake.

People are not perfect, and to expect them to be is frustrating for everyone involved. We must learn to be generous with mercy and to sow seeds of mercy, so we can reap mercy when we need it.

Unrealistic expectations concerning our circumstances can also be a tool used by Satan to bring us into discouragement and despair.

We all like to plan our life and have it go exactly the way we planned, but that rarely happens. That is not negative - it is truth. As believers, we are given the power of the Holy Spirit to help us do different things, not to make our life so easy that we never have to use our faith.

I urge you to expect good things to happen in your life. I certainly would not tell you to expect bad things. I also urge you to be realistic and realize that we all have to deal with things that are unpleasant and people who are disagreeable. Our attitude in these trying situations makes the difference between whether we enjoy life or not.

I encourage you to set your mind and keep it set in this area. Be determined never to be defeated again by circumstances that don't line up with your desires. Stay calm in trials and trust God. What Satan intends for your harm, God will work for your good as you trust Him. Pray in this area and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. As long as you live in the deception of unrealistic expectations, you will never succeed at being yourself.

Just as we can never be free to succeed at being ourselves unless we learn about and receive God's unconditional love, so it is with receiving His grace, favor and mercy.

I mentioned that we must receive grace, favor and mercy, but many people don't know how to receive at all. We are accustomed in our society to working or paying for everything. We struggle to get, but God wants us to freely receive.

Again and again, the Bible speaks of receiving from God. He is always pouring out His blessing, and we should, as empty, thirsty vessels, learn to take in freely all that He offers us.

To get is to obtain by struggle and effort, while to receive is to become a receptacle and simply take in what is being offered.

This distinction between getting and receiving helps us understand why so many Christians struggle in their walk with the Lord. They are trying to get everything they need from Him when they should be simply asking and receiving.

When we learn to ask and receive, truly our joy will be full. Once we have freely received, then we can freely give.

In our society today we find very few people who are able to freely give. Perhaps this scripture sheds light on why. If we never learn to freely receive from Jesus, we will never learn to freely give to others.

Satan has done a good job of deceiving us into believing that we must earn or pay for everything. We have somehow been convinced that we must struggle and strive to get what we want from God.

"Come unto me" is a comfortable feeling invitation. It is not filled with sounds of struggle and effort.

We must learn more about receiving and come to the realization that according to God's Word all of His blessings come by grace, through faith.

We are saved by grace through faith, and we must learn to live our daily lives the same way. Grace is something that cannot possibly be earned, it can only be received as a free gift.

Grace is the power of God to help us in areas in which we cannot help ourselves. We need help in every area of our lives. If we are to live victoriously, we must realize our impotence and exercise our faith in God's grace. He is more than willing to help us if we are willing to give up our independent attitudes.

Grace is always flowing to us in every situation, but it must be received by faith.

God will not permit us to succeed without Him. If He did, we would take the credit that is due Him. If we could change people, we would be changing them to suit our purposes, which would steal their freedom to make their own choices.

Many believers are frustrated in their Christian experience because they don't understand how to freely receive grace, favor, and mercy. They are always working at something, trying to earn what God only gives by grace through faith.

First Peter 5:5 teaches us that He gives grace only to the humble. The humble are those who admit their weakness and total inability to truly succeed without God's help. The proud are always trying to get some credit. They want to think it is their ability that accomplishes what needs to be done. Proud people have difficulty asking, and even more difficulty receiving.

Once we understand grace, we must grown in learning how to receive it in every situation. Trusting God fully is something we grow into. The more we trust God, the stronger we are spiritually. The more we trust ourselves, or even other people and things, the weaker we are spiritually.

We only learn to trust God by doing it. We grow in grace by practicing putting our faith in God and receiving His grace in situtations that are difficult or impossible for us. Sometimes we put our faith in God, and He gives us grace for a deliverance. At other times we put our faith in God, and He gives us grace to "go through." We must leave that choice to Him and know that either way we can have victory, but only by grace through faith.

If you are struggling with something right now in your life, ask yourself honestly if you are putting your faith in God that His grace will meet the need. Remember, grace is unmerited favor to us sinners. It is God's power coming into our situations to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Proud people compare themselves to others and feel superior if they are able to do something others cannot do. As Christians, we are to judge ourselves soberly, knowing that without God we cannot do anything of value and that whatever we are able to accomplish is only by His grace. He gives us a measure of His own faith to do whatever He assigns us in life. He gives us abilities by His grace and favor, not by our earning it.

God's grace manifests in each of is in a different way.

Grace manifests itself in different ways in different people, but whatever we are good at or successful at is due to the grace of God. None of us is gifted in every area, and even in those areas in which we are gifted we are rarely perfect.

These things keep us dependent on God and not ourselves. In order to succeed at being ourselves, we must understand how to receive grace, favor and mercy. We cannot receive something if we do not even understand what it is. It is vitally important to remember that grace is God's undeserved favor which we receive through our faith. It leaves us thankful and living our lives with an "attitude of gratitude."

Favor is available to us also, but like many other good things in life, just because something is available to us does not mean that we will ever partake of it. The Lord makes many things available to us that we never receive and enjoy because we never activate our faith in that area.

I think we all have some personality quirks that can turn people off, so praying for favor is a wise thing to do. When God gives us favor, people favor us - and often for no reasony they can even explain.

Favor is actually a part of grace. The grace of God is the favor of God. And the favor of God is the grace of God - that which causes things to happen in our life that need to happen, through the channel of our faith - the power of God doing something for us that we can neither earn nor deserve.

When we say to someone, "Can you do me a favor?" We are asking that person to do something for us that we have neither earned nor paid for. We are depending on that individuals goodness to manifest in the first of a blessing, even though there is no natural reason for it to be given.

I believe there are many things God would do for us, if we would be bold enough to ask. Boldness in prayer cannot be obtained without an understanding of mercy. We all make mistakes, and our reward should be punishment, not favor. That is exactly why boldness is required to go before the Lord and ask first for forgiveness and then for mercy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How to Succeed at Being Yourself Part Three

Jesus understands us when nobody else does. He even understands us when we don't understand ourselves.

People only see what we do, and they want to know why we are not doing it better, or why we are doing it at all. Jesus knows why we behave the way we do. He sees and remembers all the emotional wounds and bruises in our past. He knows what we were created for. He knows and understands our weaknesses. He knows about every fear, every insecurity, every doubt, all our wrong thinking about ourselves.

Once we enter into personal relationship with Him by being born again, He begins a process of restoration in our lives that will not be entirely finished until we leave the earth. One by one He restores to us everything Satan has stolen from us.

Jesus understands us, He loves us unconditionally and He is committed to working with us through the Holy Spirit - and He does not condemn us while He is at it.

The world demands that we change. It persistently gives us the message that something is wrong with us if we cannot do what is expected of us. On our own, we will never be able to do all that is expected of us. Our only hope is in who we are in Christ.

When we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, we are considered to be "in Him". What He earned and deserves we get by inheritance. We must know who we are in Christ. It is our beginning, the place from which we begin the new life. Without the deep understanding of this truth, we will ramble around in life and even in Christianity believing the lie that our acceptance by God is based on our performance.

The truth is, our acceptance by God is based on Jesus' performance, not ours. When He died on the cross, we died with Him. When He was buried, we were buried with Him. When He was resurrected, we were resurrected with Him. That is the way God chooses to see all of us who sincerely believe in Jesus as our substitutional sacrifice and the payment for all our sins.

...We enter into a loving relationship with God wherein He accepts us because of His own goodness and not ours.

It is impossible to "earn favor"; otherwise, it would not be favor. A favor is something someone does for us out of kindness, not because we deserve it.

It is freeing to finally see that our worth and value are not based on what we do, but on who we are in Christ. God has assigned value to us by allowing Jesus to die for us. By the very act of Christ's death on the cross, and the suffering He endured, God the Father is saying to each one of us, "You are very valuable to Me, and I will pay any price to redeem you and see that you have the good life I originally intended for you."

God does care about our actions. He wants them to be correct. He actually wants us to grow up and become mature Christians who act like Jesus did when He walked the earth. God wants us to do good works - but He does not want us to depend on them to gain us anything. He wants us to do good works because we love Him. He wants our good works to be a response to what He has done to, for and in us.

Many people do good works for wrong reasons, and get no reward for them.

Our motives are of utmost importance to God.

I want to know the right way to approach God, and as far as I can see in His Word, it is through faith in what Jesus has done, not faith in what I can do.

We cannot succeed at being ourselves without knowing these things. We cannot succeed without stepping out in faith, not works. If we believe our acceptance is based on our doing, we will always feel rejected when we fail to do the right thing. But if we put our dependence on who we are in Christ, rather than on what we do for Him, our "who" will fix our "do".

How do you see yourself?

Are you able to honestly evaluate yourself and your behavior and not come under condemnation? Are you able to look at how far you still have to go, but also look at how far you have come? Where you are now is not where you will end up. Have a vision for the finish line or you will never get out of the starting block.

The changes in us personally, as well as those in our circumstances, take place in degrees.

If you are born again, then you are somewhere on the path of the righteous. You may not be as far along as you would like to be, but thank God you are on the path. There was a time when you were totally outside of covenant relationship with God through unbelief. But now you belong to the household of God and are being transformed by Him day by day. Enjoy the glory you are in right now and don't get jealous of where others may be. They had to pass through where you are at some time themselves.

We have a strong (fleshly) tendency to compare our glory with everybody else's. The devil arranges for us to think that way, but it is not God's way. God wants us to realize that each of us is a unique individual and that He has a unique plan for every one of us. Satan wants to make sure that we never enjoy where we are at the moment. He wants us in competition with one another, always wanting what someone else has. When we don't know how to enjoy the glory we are in right now, all we do is slow down the maturing process.

We are usually too hard on ourselves. We would grow faster if we relaxed more. We cannot live by our feelings in these matters. Satan makes sure we frequently "feel" that we are an unredeemable mess or that God is not working in our lives. We must learn to live by God's Word and not by how we feel. His Word states that as long as we believe, He is working in us!

Often we "feel" rejected, so we believe people are rejecting us. Perhaps the truth is they do not even see us; therefore, they are not accepting or rejecting us. If we believe that people are rejecting us, it is likely that they will reject us. Our "poor me, nobody loves me, I'm always rejected" attitude is what makes people want to stay away from us.

We must not develop the attitude that if we don't perform perfectly, we will be rejected. I will admit that the world often operates on that principle, but God doesn't, and neither should we. None of us who has taken an honest look at ourselves would dare refuse to accept others unless they are perfect. Jesus taught that we can demand perfection in others as a prerequisite to relationship with us only when our own perfection is complete.

We become so accustomed to people in the world being overly concerned about our performance and what we are doing, that we bring wrong thinking into our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We think God is the way the world is, and He is not. The fear of being rejected (or not being accepted) is one of the major hindrances to our succeeding at being ourselves.

As we step out to be all we can be in Christ, we will make some mistakes - everyone does. But it takes the pressure off of us when we realize that God is expecting us to do the best we can. He is not expecting us to be perfect (totally without flaw). If we were as perfect as we try to be, we would not need a Savior. I believe God will always leave a certain number of defects in us, just so we will know how much we need Jesus every single day.

A gap is a space between two things. There is a gap, a space between us and God put there by our imperfections and sins. God is perfect and completely holy. He can only fellowship with those who are like Him. That is why we come to Him through Christ. Jesus is just like His Father.

Jesus stands in the gap between God's perfection and our imperfection. He continually intercedes for us because we continually need it. Jesus came to us as both the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is the mediator between the two parties - us and God. Through Him, we come into agreement and fellowship with the Father. In Him we are acceptable to God.

God accepts us because we are believers in His Son Jesus Christ. If we believe the lies of Satan, we spend our lives struggling and in frustration. Our abilities are crippled, and we never succeed at being ourselves.

If we spend years on the performance/acceptance treadmill, it is hard to get off of it. It becomes a way of living. It affects our thoughts, perceptions and decisions.

Many people would rather stay on the performance/acceptance treadmill than step off it and have to face the possibility of failure. Others feel so bad about themselves due to their past failures that they won't even try to start a new way of life.

When people are addicted to feeling good about themselves only when the perform well, they are in for a life of misery. It is a cycle of trying and failing, trying harder and failing again, feeling guilty and rejected, trying again and failing again, and on and on.

God does not want us on the performance/acceptance treadmill. He wants us to feel good about ourselves whether we perform perfectly or not. He doesn't want us to be filled with pride, but He certainly did not create us to reject ourselves...If we perform poorly, we can be sorry and hope to do better the next time. We can try to improve our performance (our "do"), but our worth and value (our "who") cannot be determined by our performance.

People who have problems in this are perceive things wrongly. If they are expecting to be rejected when their performance is not good, they react as though they were already rejected - which confuses those in relationship with them.

We receive through the act of believing; what we believe is what we receive, and nothing else. If we don't believe in the grace, mercy and favor of God, then we cannot receive it. If we believe we must do everything perfectly right to be accepted by God, then we will reject His love even though He is not rejecting us. This wrong thinking and believing keeps us trapped. It is like a treadmill that is going so fast we cannot seem to find a place to get off.

You and I pressure ourselves when we have unrealistic expectations, when we expect ourselves to be perfect. God does not want us to live under this kind of pressure.

How to Succeed at Being Yourself Part Two

In my own life, for years I tried to be so many things that I wasn't, I got myself totally confused. I finally realized I didn't know what I was supposed to be like. Somewhere in the process of trying to meet all the demands placed upon me by myself and others, I lost me. I had to get off the merry-go-round, so to speak, and ask myself some serious questions like: "Who am I living for? Why am I doing all these things? Have I become a people-pleaser? Am I really in God's will for my life? What do I want to do with my life? What do I really believe I am gifted and anointed for?"

Actually I was trying to be like so many people at once that I got lost.

Have you also lost yourself? Are you frustrated from trying to meet all the demands of other people while feeling unfulfilled yourself? If so, you will have to take a stand and be determined to find yourself and then succeed at being yourself. If you buy into the world's strategy, something will be screaming at you from every side.

Have you ever felt that you could not be everything that everybody wanted you to be? Have you ever known deep down inside that you really needed to say "no" to a lot of people - but the fear of displeasing them had your mouth saying, "I'll try," while your heart was screaming, "I can't do it!"

Insecure people say "yes" when they really mean "no." Those who succeed at being themselves don't allow others to control them. They are led by their heart, not by the fear of displeasing others or being rejected by them.

We cannot get angry at people because they place demands on us. It is our responsibility to order our lives. We need to know our identity, our direction and our calling - God's will for us. We must make the decisions that will keep us pressing toward our goals. We must be focused individuals with purpose.

I can remember feeling intense pressure when people would ask me to do something that I really did not want to do. I thought they were pressuring me, but in reality it was my own fears and insecurities that were creating the pressure.

Of course, there are times in life when all of us do things we would rather not do. We do things for others because we love them, and we should do that. But in doing so, we are still being led by God's Spirit to walk in love and make a sacrifice for someone else's benefit or welfare. This is entirely different from being controlled and manipulated by other people's demands and expectations.

We are all different. Like the sun, the moon and the stars, God has created us to be different from one another, and He has done it on purpose. Each of us meets a need, and we are all part of God's overall plan. When we struggle to be like others, not only do we lose ourselves, but we also grieve the Holy Spirit. God wants us to fit into His plan, not to feel pressured trying to fit into everyone else's plans. Different is ok; it is all right to be different.

We are all born with different temperaments, different physical features, different fingerprints, different gifts and abilities, etc. Our goal should be to find out what we individually are supposed to be, and then succeed at being that.

Romans 12 teaches us that we are to give ourselves to our gift. In other words, we are to find out what we are good at and then throw ourselves wholeheartedly into it.

I have discovered that I enjoy doing what I am good at doing. Some people feel they are not good at anything, but that is not true. When we make an effort to do what others are good at doing, we often fail because we are not gifted for those things; but that does not mean we are good for nothing.

To be honest, as long as I was busy trying to be everyone else, I was failing at almost everything. When I accepted what God had for me and started doing it, I began to succeed.

I encourage you to focus on your potential instead of your limitations.

We all have limitations, and we must accept them. That is not bad; it is just a fact. It is wonderful to be free to be different, not to feel that something is wrong with us because we are different.

We should be free to love and accept ourselves and one another without feeling pressure to compare or compete. Secure people who know God loves them and has a plan for them are not threatened by the abilities of others. They enjoy what other people can do, and they enjoy what they can do.

Comparison and competition are worldly, not godly. The world's system demands it, but God's system condemns it.

It has occurred to me that "they" seem to run our lives. It is amazing how many decisions we make based on the opinion of "they". If we begin to listen carefully, we will realize how often we make the statement, "Well, you know, they always say...."

For example, "they" decide what colors we can wear together, what clothing styles are appropriate, how we may cut our hair and what we are allowed to eat and drink. "They" happen to be a person or a group of people somewhere who are not much different from us. "They" have set a standard by doing something a certain way, and now all of us seem to feel it must be done that way, just because "they" say so.

I started realizing "they" were running my life, and I decided I didn't like it. I didn't even know who "they" were. I decided I was tired of being enslaved by what "they" wanted and that I was going to live free of the bondage of public opinion. We can all do that, because Jesus has already liberated us.

Surely Jesus has set us free from being controlled and manipulated by an elusive group called "they". Surely we don't have to compare ourselves to "them" or be in competition with "them."

If we are really liberated, then we are free to be who we are - not who someone else is! That means we are free to do what God has for us to do, not what we see someone else doing.

God wants us looking to Him for answers and direction, not running to and depending on other people. This does not mean that we cannot learn from each other but we do need to stay balanced in this area.

I learned that no matter how much I may want to do what someone else is doing, I cannot do it unless God wills and anoints it for me. He might have a different plan for me. I have to accept that or I will be frustrated all my life.

"They" tell us that only big things are important, but God has different ideas. The thing that is important to Him is obedience.

It seems that each role in life has expectations attached to it, but we must be sure whose expectations they are.

When we pressure people to do what we are doing, or what we think they should be doing, we often miss the gift they could contribute if we would let God choose their ministry. People are naturally going to want to do what God has gifted them to do. By the same token, we won't feel fulfilled if we repress our gifts and do what others are doing just to be approved or accepted by them.

I have discovered that boldness is required in order to be led by the Holy Spirit, because He may not always lead us to do what everyone else is doing. Some insecure people tend to feel "safer" doing what others do. They are fearful of "breaking the mold" or standing alone. Anytime we step outside the boundaries of what "they" say is permissible, we take a chance on being judged or criticized. Insecure people will usually give into the expectations and demands of others rather than face disapproval and possible rejection. We must not allow such things to keep us from fulfilling our God-given purpose.

Confronting the criticism and judgment of other people becomes easier when we remember that ultimately it is before our own Master that we stand or fall. In the end we will answer to God alone. It is a sin to be critical and judgmental, but it is equally sinful to permit the adverse opinions of other people to control our decisions. Romans 14:23 says that whatever is not of faith is sin.

We crave acceptance; therefore criticism and judgment are hard on us mentally and emotionally. The fact is, it hurts to be criticized or judged!

Criticism and judgment are the devil's tools. He uses them to stop people from fulfilling their destiny and to steal their liberty and creativity.

Some people criticize whatever is different from their choices. It is interesting to note that most of these people are also very insecure - that is why they are uncomfortable with people who don't conform to their way of thinking or acting.

Secure people can handle being the only ones doing something. They can easily allow friends and family members the liberty to make their own choices.

Jesus obviously wasn't concerned about what others thought. He had a goal - to do the Father's will - no more, no less. He knew He had to maintain His freedom in order to fulfill His destiny.

Criticism and judgment may be painful but not as painful as allowing ourselves to be controlled and manipulated by that criticism and judgment. To me, the greatest tragedy in life would be to get old and feel that somewhere along the way I had lost myself and never succeeded at being me.

Have you lost yourself, or have you found yourself?

To succeed at being ourselves, we must be confident. It is not self-confidence we are to seek, but confidence in Christ. It is actually a sin to be confident in ourselves - but to be confident in Christ should be the goal of every believer.

We keep attempting to do things in the strength of our own flesh, instead of placing all our confidence in Him.

Most of our internal agony, our struggling and frustration, come from misplaced confidence. In Phillipians 3:3 Paul says that we are to put no confidence in the flesh. This means our own selves as well as our friends and family. I am not saying that we cannot trust anyone, but if we give to others or to ourselves the trust that belongs to God alone, we will not experience victory. God will not allow us to succeed until our confidence is in the right place, or more correctly, in the right Person. He is willing to give us the victory, but He must have the glory, which is the credit that is due Him.

In order to succeed at anything, we must have confidence, but first and foremost it must be confidence in God, not confidence in anything else. We must develop confidence in God's love, goodness and mercy. We must believe that He wants us to succeed.

God did not create us for failure. We may fail at some things on our way to success, but if we trust Him, He will take even our mistakes and work them out for our good.

It is important to realize that a mistake is not the end of things, if we hold on to our confidence.

I have discovered that God will take my mistakes and turn them into miracles, if I continue to trust confidently in Him.

Just because we are destined to do something does not mean that it will automatically happen. Confidence is definitely required for any of us to truly succeed at being ourselves.

Confidence is actually faith in God. We must learn to be consistantly confident, not occasionally confident.

It is easier to remain confident when we see progress, but during a time of waiting the devil attacks our confidence and attempts to destroy it.

Sometimes our confidence is shaken when trials come, especially if they are lengthy. We should have so much confidence in God's love for us that no matter what comes against us, we know deep inside that we are more than conquerors. If we are truly confident, we have no need to fear trouble, challenges or trying times, because we know they will pass.

Whenever a trial of any kind comes against you, remember: This too shall pass! Be confident that during the trial you will learn something that will help you in the future.

Without confidence we are stifled at every turn. Satan drops a bomb, and our dreams are destroyed. Eventually we start over, but we never make much progress. We start and get defeated, start and get defeated, start and get defeated, over and over again.

But those who are consistently confident, those who know they are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ, make rapid progress.

If we dont' believe in ourselves, who is going to? God believes in us, and it is a good thing too; otherwise, we might never make any progress. In our lives, we cannot wait for someone else to come along and encourage us to be all we can be. We may be blessed enough to have that kind of support, but we may not.

Confidence is something we decide to have. We learn about God - about His love, His ways and His Word - then ultimately we must decide whether we believe or not. If we do believe, then we have confidence. If we don't believe, we live in doubt about everything.

I encourage you to take a big step of faith and stop doubting yourself. As the old saying goes, "Don't sell yourself short." You have more capabilities than you think you do. You are able to do a lot more than you have ever done in the past. God will help you, if you will put your trust in Him and stop doubting yourself.

Like everyone else, you will make mistakes - but God will allow you to learn from them and will actually work them out to your good if you will decide not to be defeated by them. When doubt begins to torment your mind, start speaking the Word of God out of your mouth, and you will win the battle.

When we are confident and free from tormenting fears, we are able to develop our potential and succeed at being all God intended us to be. But we cannot develop our potential if we fear failure. We will be so afraid of failing or making mistakes that it will prevent us from stepping out.

When we are insecure, frequently we will stay with what is safe and familiar rather than taking a chance on stepping out and failing.

When God is ready to move in our lives, we need to believe that He will equip us with what we need at the time we need it.

Our problem is not honestly feeling we are not ready for the next step, it is pridefully feeling we are ready when we really aren't. Pride always causes problems and ultimate failure. Humbly leaning on God leads to success. I believe God calls us to step out when we don't feel ready so we will have to lean on Him totally.

Insecurity, self-doubt and fear can totally prevent us from ever reaching our full potential. But if our confidence is in Christ rather than in ourselves, we are free to develop our potential, because we are free from the fear of failure.

The amount of undeveloped, wasted potential in the world is pathetic. God places a part of Himself in each of us. We are created in His image, and He is filled with potential - with God nothing is impossible.

All of us have potential and many of us want a manifestation of it, but too often we are not willing to wait, be determined and work hard at developing that potential. We have a lot of "wish bone," but not much "back bone."

The development and manifestation of potential requires firm faith, not wishful thinking.

I hope you have a dream or a vision in your heart for something greater than what you have now. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all that we can hope or ask or think. If we are not thinking, hoping or asking for anything, we are cheating ourselves. We need to think big thoughts, hope for big things and ask for big things.

I always say I would rather ask God for a lot and get half of it, then to ask Him for a little and get all of it. However, it is an unwise person who only thinks, dreams and asks big but fails to realize that an enterprise is built by wise planning.

Dreams for the future are possibilities, but not what I call "positivelies." In other words, they are possible, but they will not positively occur unless we do our part.

Far too many people take the "quick fix" method for everything. They only want what makes them feel good right now. They are not willing to invest for the future.

There is a gold mine hidden in every life, but we have to dig to get to it. We must be willing to dig deep and go beyond how we feel or what is convenient. If we will dig down deep into the spirit, we will find strength we never knew we had.

Quite often we look at a task and think there is no way we can do what needs to be done. That happens because we look at ourselves when we should be looking at God.

If God promises to be with us - and He does - that is really all we need. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Whatever ingredients we are lacking in the natural man, He adds to the spiritual man. We can draw what we need out of the spirit.

Most of the things that are truly worth doing are never easy - we are not filled with the Spirit of God to do easy things. He fills us with His Spirit so we can do impossible things!

If you want to develop your potential and succeed at being all you can be, keep your eyes on the prize and press on! It won't all be easy, but it will all be worthwhile.

Most of those who blame everyone and everything for their failures had potential but either did not know how to develop it or were unwilling to meet its requirements.

When things don't work out in our lives, it is not God's fault. He has a great plan for each one of us. It isn't really circumstances that are to blame, because they can be overcome with faith and determination. It isn't other people who are the problem because Romans 8:31 says, "...if God is for us, who can be against us?" Even though people do come against us, and Satan does use them to hinder and torment us, they cannot prevail. If God is on our side, it just does not matter who comes against us; they are not mightier than He is.

The truth is, when things don't work out for us, and we feel that we are sitting on the sidelines somewhere with life passing us by while everyone else is successful, it is because we have not obeyed God, not pressed on and been willing to take giant steps of faith. We have not been willing to look foolish, to be judged and criticized, to be laughed at, to be rejected and labeled radicals who need to calm down and just "go with the flow."

The world wants us to conform, but the Lord wants to transform us, if we will do things His way. He will take us and change us into something more than we could have ever dreamed - if we will refuse to give up and just keep running the race that is set before us.

To develop our potential and succeed at becoming what God intended us to be, we will have to lay aside other things. To be a winner in life we must do those things that support our goals and help us fulfill our purpose. We must learn to say "no" to well-meaning people who want us to get involved in endless things that ultimately steal our time and produce no fruit.

We must make up our mind and get into agreement with God that we are going to be excellent, not mediocre. We must take an inventory of our life and prune off anything in it that entangles us or simply steals our time. We must be determined, work hard, and refuse to quit or give up - drawing strength from God and not depending on ourselves. If we will do these things persistently, we will eventually have victory. If we are in the race just to have fun, we will not win the prize.

It is virtually impossible to be a spiritual success with known, willful sin in our lives. I don't mean to say that we must be 100 percent perfect in order for God to use us, but I am saying that we must have a aggressive attitude about keeping sin out of our lives. When God says something is wrong, then it is wrong. We don't need to discuss, theorize, blame, make excuses or feel sorry for ourselves - we need to agree with God, ask for forgiveness and work with the Holy Spirit to get that thing out of our lives forever.

Those of us who intend to run the race to win must conduct ourselves temperately and restrict ourselves in all things. We cannot expect someone else to make us do what is right. We must listen to the Holy Spirit and take action ourselves.

Self-discipline is the most important feature in any life, but especially in the life of the Christian. Unless we discipline our minds, our mouths and our emotions, we will live in ruin. Unless we learn to rule our temper, we can never achieve the success that rightfully belongs to us.

Part of the righteousness God wishes and desires for us is the development of personal potential. Angry people are too busy being angry ever to succeed at being the best they can be.

If we are truly intent on running the race to win, we must resist negative emotions. There are a great many negative emotions other than just anger, and we certainly should know what they are and be ready to take authority and control over them as soon as they rear their ugly heads. The following is a partial list of negative emotions we must watch out for: anger, bitterness, depression, despair, discouragement, envy, greed, hate, impatience, jealousy, laziness, lust, pride, resentment, sadness, self-pity, unforgiveness.

We cannot come to fullness without patience.

An impatient attitude is one of the main reasons that many people never reach their full potential.

Patience is not the ability to wait, it is the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that manifests in a calm, positive attitude. Impatience is filled with negative emotions and is one of Satan's tools used to prevent us from reaching fullness and completeness.

God knows the exact time that is right for everything, and none of our impatience is going to rush this.

"Due season" is God's season, not ours. We are in a hurry, God isn't. He takes time to do things right - He lays a solid foundation before He attempts to build a building. We are God's building under construction. He is the Master Builder, and He knows what He is doing. We may not know what He is doing, but He does, and that will have to be good enough. We may not always know, but we can be satisfied to know the One Who Knows.

God's timing seems to be His own little secret. The Bible promises us that He will never be late, but I have also discovered that He is usually not early. It seems that He takes every available opportunity to develop the fruit of patience in us.

Patience is vital to the development of our full potential. Actually our potential is only developed as our patience is developed. It is God's way - there is no other, so why not settle down and enjoy the journey!

If we don't develop our potential, it won't get developed because no one else is interested in doing it for us.

Find out what you want to do and begin to train yourself for it. Be relentless in your pursuit of reaching your full potential.

Whatever your gift and calling, entrust it to the Lord and begin to develop your potential.

In some way we should improve ourselves every day. We should go forward, letting go of what lies behind. That includes past mistakes and past victories. Even hanging onto the glory of past victories can prevent us from being all God wants us to be in the future.

Make a decision right now that you will never be satisfied with being anything less than all you can be.

If we truly desire to succeed at being ourselves, it is absolutely necessary that we have a thorough understanding of what justifies us and makes us right with God.

If we have real faith, we will do good works, but our dependence will not be on works. Our works will be done as an act of love for God - in obedience to Him - rather than as a "work of the flesh" by which we hope to gain right standing and acceptance with Him.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Succeed at Being Yourself: Finding the Confidence to Fulfill Your Destiny

Excerpts from book written by Joyce Meyer

Self-rejection and even self-hatred are the root causes of many relationship problems. God wants us to have great relationships.

God's Word instructs us to have good relationships, but it also teaches us how to develop and maintain these relationships.

...the Holy Spirit revealed to me that first I must have peace with God. I must believe that He loves me. He does not wait until I am perfect to love me; He loves me unconditionally and completely at all times. Second, I must receive His love.

Receiving is a big issue. When we receive from God, we actually take into ourselves what He is offering. As we receive His love, we then have love in us. Once we are filled with God's love, we can begin loving ourselves. We can also begin giving that love back to God and bestowing it on other people.

Always remember: we cannot give away what we don't have!

We all need to ask ourselves what we are doing with the love of God that has been freely given us. Are we rejecting it because we don't think we are valuable enough to be loved? Do we believe God is like other people who have rejected and hurt us? Or are we receiving His love by faith, believing that He is greater than our failures and weaknesses?

It never occurred to me that I even had a relationship with myself...I now realize that I spend more time with myself than with anyone else, and it is vital that I get along well with me.

You are one person you never get away from.

...we are with us all the time, day and night. We never have one minute away from ourselves, not even one second - therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we have peace with ourselves.

It seemed to me that I had always had difficulties in relationships, and I really did not know why. I could not find people that I liked and enjoyed who also felt the same way about me. Through God's help I finally realized what the problem was: I was trying to give away something that I did not have.

...I had heard with my ears that God loved me, but I had not really believed it for myself. I may have believed it in general, but not personally.

We frequently try to deal with the bad first in our lives and never get to the root cause of it. If the root remains, the fruit will keep coming back. No matter how many times we cut it off, eventually it will come back. This cycle is very frustrating. We are trying the best we know how, and yet it seems we never find a permanent solution to our miseries.

I was desperately attempting to display loving behavior, but I had failed to receive God's love; therefore, I could not give away love. I did not have any to give.

I had tried walking in "perfect love" and had failed daily. I thought "perfect love" referred to my loving others perfectly. I was now beginning to see that perfect love was God's love for me - He is the only One who can love perfectly.

God's love is perfect even when we are not!

My problem was a lack of love. I had never received proper love in my life; therefore, I had never learned to properly love myself. I didn't even like myself, let alone love myself. If nobody else loves us, we don't see why we should love ourselves. If others don't love us, we think we must not be worth loving.

We should love ourselves - not in a selfish, self-centered way that produces a lifestyle of self-indulgence, but in a balanced, godly way, a way that simply affirms God's creation as essentially good and right. We may be flawed by the years and the unfortunate experiences we have undergone, but that does not mean we are worthless and good for nothing but the trash can.

We must have the kind of love that says, "I can love what God can love. I don't love everything I do, but I accept myself, because God accepts me." We must develop the kind of mature love that says, "I know I need to change, and I want to change. In fact, I believe God is changing me daily, but in the meanwhile I will not reject what God accepts. I will accept myself as I am right now, knowing that I will not always remain this way."

Our faith gives us hope for the future.

Once we receive God's love and begin to love and accept ourselves, it greatly improves our relationship with Him. Until we accept His love, the cycle is incomplete. We can love Him only because He first loved us.

Insecurity and feelings of unworthiness keep us from being able to receive very well. We may feel that we must earn or deserve everything we get. We may think, "Why would someone want to just give me something?" We may become suspicious: "What is their motive? What do they want from me? What are they after?"

When God reaches out to love us, He is attempting to start a cycle that will bless not only us but also many others.

God's plan is this: He wants us to receive His love, love ourselves in a balanced and godly way, generously love Him in return, and finally love all the people who come into our lives.

Rejecting ourselves does not change us, it actually multiplies our problems. Acceptance causes us to face reality and then begin to deal with it. We cannot deal with anything as long as we are refusing to accept it or denying its reality.

People who reject themselves do so because they cannot see themselves as proper or right. They only see their flaws and weaknesses, not their beauty and strength.

To walk with God, we must agree with God. He says He loves us and accepts us; therefore, if we agree with Him, we can no longer hate and reject ourselves.

We need to agree with God that when He created us, He created something good.

Once again let me emphasize that I realize everything we do is not good, but at this point we are discussing ourselves, not our behavior.

...You see the things in yourself that need to be changed, and it is very difficult for you to think or say, "I accept myself." You feel that to do so would be to accept all that is wrong with you, but that is not the case.

Change requires correction - people who do not know they are loved have a very difficult time receiving correction. Correction does no good at all if it is not received.

We cannot trust unless we believe we are loved. To grow up in God and be changed, we must trust Him. Often He will lead us in ways that we cannot understand, and during those times we must have a tight grip on His love for us.

Accept God's love for you and make that love the basis for your love and acceptance of yourself. Receive his affirmation, knowing that you are changing and becoming all that He desires you to be. Then start enjoying yourself - where you are - on your way to full spiritual maturity.

We have already established that insecurity caused by a poor self-image affects all of our relationships. It also greatly affects our future.

If you have a poor self-image, it has already adversely affected your past, but you can be healed and not allow the past to repeat itself. Let go of what lies behind, including any negative ways you have felt about yourself, and press on toward the good things God has in store for you.

God has a good plan for each one of us, but not all of us experience it. Many times we live far below the standard that God intends for us to enjoy.

A poor self-image causes us to operate in fear instead of faith. We look at what is wrong with us instead of what is right with Jesus. He has taken our wrongness and given us His righteousness. We need to walk in the reality of that truth.

We offer God what we have, and He gives us what He has. He takes all of our sins, faults, weaknesses and failures, and gives us His ability, His righteousness, and His strength. He takes our poverty, and gives us His riches. He takes our diseases and sicknesses, and gives us His healing and health. He takes our messed up failure-filled past, and gives us the hope of a bright future.

God does not have a bad attitude toward you - you should not have one toward yourself! Shake off the past and set your sights on the future.

Almost every one of us could use some improvement in our self-image. It takes time to grasp the hope for ourselves that God has for us.

It is so wonderful and comforting to know that when everyone else only sees our faults, God still sees our possibilities.

In the Bible we find that when people were in trouble, God met them where they were and helped them. Thank God He does not wait for us to manage to get to Him - but He comes to us!

God often makes miracles out of mistakes.

Each of us has a destiny, and there is absolutely no excuse not to fulfill it. We cannot use our weakness as an excuse, because God says that His strength is made perfect in weakness. We cannot use the past as an excuse because God tells us through the Apostle Paul that if any person is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, and all things have become new.

How God sees us is not the problem, it is how we see ourselves that keeps us from succeeding. Each of us can succeed at being everything God intends us to be.

We are all in the process of becoming. For much of my life I felt that I would never be ok until I arrived, but I have learned that is not the truth. My heart desires to be all God wants me to be, and I want to be like Jesus. My flesh does not always cooperate withe me.

Yes, we all have a way to go. I was distraught about how far I had to go, and it seemed Satan reminded me of it daily, sometimes even hourly. I carried a constant sense of failure, a feeling that I was just not what I needed to be, that I was not doing good enough, that I should try harder - and yet when I did try harder, I only failed more.

I have now adopted a new attitude: "I am not where I need to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be; I'm ok, and I'm on my way!"

I now know with all my heart that God is not angry with me because I have not arrived. He is pleased that I am pressing on , that I am staying on the path. If you and I will just "keep on keeping on," God will be pleased with our progress.

Keep walking the walk. A walk is something taken one step at a time. This is an important thing to remember.

If I invited you to take a walk, you would think I was crazy if I became angry after the first few steps because we had not yet arrived at our destination. We can understand ordinary things like this, and yet we have a difficult time understanding that God expects it to take some time for us to grow spiritually.

We don't think there is something wrong with one-year-old children because they cannot walk perfectly. They fall down frequently, but we pick them up, love them, bandage them if necessary, and keep working with them. Surely our awesome God can do even more for us than we do for our children.

It is very important to maintain balance in all things, for if we don't we open a door for Satan.

We have been considering how to have a good self-image. One way we do that is by realizing that we have not arrived at perfection, that we have some growing to do, but that in the meantime we are ok. It is true that we have to keep pressing on, but thank God we don't have to hate and reject ourselves while we are trying to get to our destination.

What is a normal, healthy Christian attitude toward self? Here are a few thoughts that reflect that kind of wholesome, God-centered self-image:

  1. I know God created me, and He loves me.
  2. I have faults and weaknesses, and I want to change. I believe God is working in my life. He is changing me bit by bit, day by day. While He is doing so, I can still enjoy myself and my life.
  3. Everyone has faults, so I am not a complete failure just because I am not perfect.
  4. I am going to work with God to overcome my weaknesses, but I realize that I will always have something to deal with; therefore, I will not become discouraged when God convicts me of areas in my life that need improvement.
  5. I want to make people happy and have them like me, but my sense of worth is not dependent on what others think of me. Jesus has already affirmed my value by His willingess to die for me.
  6. I will not be controlled by what people think, say or do. Even if they totally reject me, I will survive. God has promised never to reject me or condemn me as long as I keep believing.
  7. No matter how often I fail, I will not give up, because God is with me to strengthen and sustain me. He has promised never to leave me or forsake me.
  8. I like myself. I don't like everything I do, and I want to change - but I refuse to reject myself.
  9. I am right with God through Jesus Christ.
  10. God has a good plan for my life. I am going to fulfill my destiny and be all I can be for His glory. I have God-given gifts and talents, and I intend to use them to help others.
  11. I am nothing, and yet I am everything! In myself I am nothing, and yet in Jesus I am everything I need to be.
  12. I can do all things I need to do, everything that God calls me to do, through His Son Jesus Christ.

Here are some additional suggestions to help you develop and maintain a balanced attitude and a healthy self-image:

  1. Always reject and hate your sin, but don't reject yourself.
  2. Be quick to repent.
  3. Be honest with God and yourself, about yourself.
  4. When God gives you light, don't fear it.
  5. Stop saying negative, downgrading things about yourself, but don't boast either.
  6. Don't have an exaggerated opinion of your own importance, but don't think you are insignificant.
  7. Don't always assume when things go wrong that it is your fault. But don't be afraid to admit it, if you are wrong.
  8. Beware if having yourself on your mind too much. Don't meditate excessively on what you have done right or what you have done wrong. Both of these activities keep your mind on you! Keep your thoughts centered on Christ and His principles.
  9. Take good care of yourself physically. Do the best you can with what God gave you to work with - but don't be excessive or vain about your appearance.
  10. Learn all you can, but don't allow your education to become a point of pride. God does not want us because of our education, but because of our heart toward Him.
  11. Realize that your gifts and talents are a gift, not someting you have manufactured yourself. Don't look down on people who cannot do what you can do.
  12. Don't despise your weaknesses - they keep you dependent on God.

Change does not come through struggle, human effort without God, frustration, self-hatred, self-rejection, guilt or works of the flesh.

Change in our lives comes as a result of having our minds renewed by the Word of God. As we agree with God and really believe that what He says is true, it gradually begins to manifest itself in us. We begin to think differently, then we begin to talk differently, and finally we begin to act differently. This is a process that develops in stages, and we must always remember that while it is taking place we can still have the attitude, "I'm ok, and I'm on my way!"

Enjoy yourself while you are changing. Enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going. Enjoy the journey! Don't waste all of your "now time" trying to rush into the future. Remember, tomorrow will have troubles of its own.

Today you may be wrestling with a bad temper and thinking if you could just get freedom in that area, everything would be all right. The thing is, you may have forgotten that God will then reveal something else that needs to be dealth with, and you will be back in the same frame of mind again, thinking, "If only I didn't have this problem, I could be happy."

We should learn to be joyful about our progress, not depressed about how far we still have to go. We must learn to look at the positive, not the negative.

How can we succeed at being ourselves if we don't know ourselves? Life is like a maze sometimes, and it is easy to get lost. Everyone, it seems, expects something different from us. There is pressure coming at us from every direction to keep others happy and meet their needs.

We put a large amount of emotional and mental energy into studying the important people in our lives and trying to decide what they want from us. We then attempt to become what they want us to be. In the process, we may lose ourselves. We may fail to discover what God wants, or what His intention is for us. We may try to please everyone else and yet not be pleased ourselves.

Bob Marley Quote

You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before, she may love again. But, if she loves you now, what else matters? She's not perfect, you aren't either; and the two of you may never be perfect together, but, if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break, her heart. So don't hurt her, don't change her, don't analyze and don't expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she's not there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Great Quotes

"God determines who walks into your's up to you to decide who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go."

"Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty - they merely move it from their faces into their hearts."

"It's unfair sometimes, how the people you care about the most are the same ones who free you to be your worst possible self."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Old Soul

This is actually a book that I am trying to write about my baby sister who died of cancer. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave comments.
There's no way to go through life without ever being affected by someone else. Keep in mind that the opposite is also true; anyone who meets you is also touched by you in some way. That's the reason I wanted to tell you about my sister, Karen. During her short life, she touched the lives of our family and friends in a wonderful way. Karen never met a person that she didn't like; I can not remember her ever speaking ill of anyone.
Karen had a great sense of family. She was the one who kept the rest of us talking to each other and getting along. She was the family mediator. I'm not trying to say that she and I never had arguments; we had a lot of them. For a long time, I was jealous of her because I felt she was the favorite child. But, no matter how I felt about her, no one else better bad mouth her in front of me. Towards the end of her short life, she was one of my best friends, and I will always cherish the time we had together.
My parents, a young married couple living in South Florida, wanted desperately to have children and had been trying to no avail. Doctor's told them they may not be able to have children, so they adopted me through a family friend. Three years later, on March 15, 1966, Karen Denise Waldo was born. She would be the first of two children born to my parents after my adoption. My baby brother, Carl, was born in July of the next year.
When she was four years old, my parents were told that Karen had Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. I was only seven years old when Karen got sick. I don't remember much about the early days of her illness, but I do remember feeling resentful that she seemed to be getting all of Mom and Dad's attention. I was never taken to the hospital to see Karen while she was there, I always stayed with family members. When she was released from the hospital, Karen began a strict regimen of chemotherapy, but never took radiation treatments. She was subjected to painful bone marrow tests and spinal taps to test the progress of the medication, but she never complained.
Karen was a tomboy. She was the first girl in our neighborhood to join little league baseball. She never let her illness stop her from doing anything that she wanted to do. When she lost all of her hair because of the chemotherapy, she refused to wear a wig, even though one of our great-aunts had made it for her. She wanted to wear a hat or a ball cap all the time instead. She hated to wear dresses or anything feminine, which led to a good story that I will tell you later on.
In a small way, Karen became a local celebrity in the town where we were raised. There were a lot of articles written about her in The Miami Herald and other newspapers in our local area. My father was a law enforcement officer, and all of his co-workers gave blood when Karen first got sick. They also pitched in and gave Dad their sick leave when he had to miss work. The local firefighters also gave blood for Karen, and at one time the motorcycle group "The Hell's Angels" sent my parents a check to help them with all of the medical expenses.
There were daily trips to the hospital in Miami for the first six months after Karen's diagnosis, then twice a week for about a year, and finally once a week later on. When she was going twice a week, she would have a bone marrow test done and when they cut her down to once a week she would have a spinal tap. Every week we went to the hospital she would have to have her finger stuck so that the doctor's could keep up with Karen's white blood cell count. I can remember one trip to the hospital when Karen had to have blood work done. We had gone into the room and a nurse went to stick her finger and I passed out and started sliding down the wall. My family still teases me to this day about that.
The family moved from Florida to Alabama when we were teenagers. My maternal grandmother had a heart attack one summer, and since my Dad was having to retire from the police force due to bad health anyway, they decided to move. I was a junior in high school and had a hard time acclimating to my new surroundings, but Karen and my brother seemed to fit in just fine. Karen loved to play the drums and even had a set of her own. She was in the band while in school, but ended up dropping out before she graduated because she didn't get along with some of her teachers.
Karen was a free spirit who did what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it, no matter what anyone else thought or felt about her actions. One summer, after she had been in remission for awhile, she went to a summer camp for children with cancer to help out as a councelor and ended up staying in Florida for awhile with a new friend after camp was over. Needless to say, my parents weren't happy about her decision. It was hard enough on them letting her go alone for the camp, but knowing she was going to stay in Miami with someone they didn't know really made them nervous. Every time Karen would call home, Mom would ask her when she was coming back. I envied Karen her independence, and wished that I were strong enough to take that step out of the nest.
My Mom and Karen had a special bond that made them seem more like sisters. They palled around together after Karen dropped out of school. They were both heavy into crafting and going to yard sales. Karen was very artistic; she was skilled at calligraphy and drawing. She actually designed and built a bed for our nephew that was shaped like a race car. She also made a beautiful quilt with cats faces on it, and one with Mario Brothers on it. Karen painted a pair of shoes for my Mom and I that we dearly loved. She took a plain white pair of canvas shoes and painted a beach scene on them. She also painted a sweat suit for my brother with the Miami Dolphins logo on them.
I wasn't very close to Karen when we were young. She and our brother, Carl, hung around with other kids in the neighborhood. I was a loner, an overweight bookworm who my parents would punish by sending outside to play. Karen and Carl rode their bikes out to the strip pits, built forts and played baseball in the empty lot in front of our house. My passion was reading, give me a book and leave me alone. We had the usual sibling rivalry, but we always took up for each other.
One weekend when we were kids, my parents took us to stay with our paternal grandmother. Ma, as we called her, went to church every time the doors were open. Karen wanted to wear her black canvas high top sneakers with the dress Ma was making her wear, so my grandmother told her to get in the closet and stay there until the rest of us got back home from church. I worried the whole morning that something would happen to her while we were gone. I remember going in and feeling that the television screen was warm when I went to turn it on, but I didn't tell on her because I was upset with Ma for leaving Karen alone in the house. Karen later confessed to our Mom that she waited until we left and then came out of the closet and watched television until she heard us pull up in the yard, and then she turned off the TV and ran back to the closet. We all got a laugh that she pulled one over on Ma.
Karen had a beautiful calico cat named Gracie who she raised from a kitten. She and I had driven to the Humane Society in town and I drove us home while Karen bonded with her new baby. That cat was her responsibility, and she loved her like a child. Gracie only ate dry cat food because the vet had told Karen it was healthier for a can than feeding them table scraps. The only exception was when Karen ate a bowl of cerel, she would let Gracie have the left over milk.
Karen's second and final bout with cancer began for us on my birthday, April 17, 1991. Mom and I were in the kitchen. Karen had gone upstairs to the bathroom. When she sat down, her back broke. Of course, we didn't know that at the time, we just knew that Karen had cried out in pain. We rushed upstairs to find her in the floor. We took her to the emergency room, every bump we hit in the road on the way there causing her more pain. The doctor at the emergency room felt that she had just pulled a muscle in her back from picking up our nephew. They sent her to an orthopedic specialist just to be sure.
Karen never complained even though she had to have hip replacement surgery and learn to walk all over again. She had recently found out she was pregnant, and had to have an abortion because the doctor's couldn't promise her that the baby wouldn't be born with what she had. It was a difficult decision for her to make, she wanted a baby so badly. She and my Mom even discussed letting the doctor's keep her on life support long enough for the baby to grow to term and then letting Mom raise the baby. However, she didn't want to take the risk of the baby being sick and suffering, so she agreed to let the doctor's take it. It was not and easy decision for the doctor's either since she was staying in a Catholic hospital, and abortion was not normally allowed.
Karen was given an epidural of morphine as her cancer progressed. The pain and strong medication made her paranoid sometimes. One day when I was alone with her, standing at her bedside, she grabbed my hand and begged me to sneak her out of the hospital and take her home because whe felt that everyone was against her. I told her as gently as I could that I couldn't do it because she was too sick. She started to cry, and I tearfully told her I was sorry. She said it was okay, but I will always remember how bad I felt that I couldn't do what she asked of me.
When Karen was in the hospital and we knew she wouldn't be coming home again, the doctor got us permission to bring her cat Gracie to the hospital to cheer Karen up. I was the one who took up the challenge, and it proved to be no easy task. I made it only halfway between home and the hospital and decided that I didn't want anymore cat mess all over my car, so I stopped by the Humane Society and explained my situation to them. The person who ran the place was kind enough to let me borrow a pet taxi. Gracie still wasn't happy about travelling, but at least she was confined to messing only in a small space.
When I arrived at the hospital and got to Karen's floor, a nurse gave me a sheet to put over the pet taxi while I was carrying it through the hall so noone would stop me. There was still no mistaking that an unhappy cat was being carried through the hospital. When we entered Karen's room, however, and I let her out of the carrier, that cat was fine and became the queen of the room. Karen was thrilled to see her and actually perked up a little, and I think it did Gracie good too. I learned later that Karen made the comment to my Mom that she was surprised that I wasn't mad because Gracie messed all over me and my car. Truthfully, I wasn't mad, I was happy to do something so special for my baby sister who was lying in that hospital losing the fight for her life.
With everything Karen went through, the whole time, even when she knew she was not going to survive, she put all she had into trying to get well. She hardly ever cried, and she demanded that no one else cry around her. She said that what she was going through was hard enough on her without seeing what it was doing to us. I struggled with my own bitterness towards God for what I felt He was allowing Karen to go through. I mean, be fair, she had already faced death once with Leukemia as a child. Now here she was fighting bone cancer and several other kinds of cancer as an adult, it just didn't seem right.
I never talked to Karen about how she stood with our Creator, but most of the time I feel she must have been very close to Him because of the way she took everything so well. She was never bitter and never felt sorry for herself. Our pastor at the time told me that Karen had affirmed to him that all was well with her soul and she was ready to go to Heaven.
Karen was well loved by everyone at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Every nurse on every shift had to stop by and check on her every day. I believe they took her illness as hard as the family did. My Mom stayed at the hospital day and night the whole time Karen was there, she rarely left the room even to get anything to eat. She was at Karen's side holding her hand when Karen took her last breath. Karen died peacefully, but it was still very hard to let her go.
My Mom insisted on doing Karen's hair and makeup because Karen always wore very little makeup, and Mom was afraid that some stranger would put too much on her. I went with her to the funeral home and we were admitted into the back where the embalming is done. Being in that area of the funeral home was not a pleasant experience for me, but I didn't want my Mom to be alone during this process. It was a shock to see Karen lying on that cold steel table with only a sheet draped over her. I sat there and cried while my Mom put makeup on Karen's face and styled her hair.
The day of Karen's funeral was clear, if I remember right, we were all pretty much shell shocked at her loss. I was okay during the services, but when they closed the casket and went to roll it past me I started to cry. My Uncle Ronnie was holding me, and I felt like if he hadn't been I would have thrown myself on the casket. During the procession from the church to the cemetery, we had a police escort for awhile. At his stopping point, the officer got off of his motorcycle and stood at attention with his helmet off and his head bowed as we went by. The sight of his show of respect for my sister sent shivers up and down my spine. As the procession went by our house, it slowed down to honor the fact that Karen had always wanted to go home from the hospital, but never made it.
At the cemetery, after the graveside services were over and everyone was dismissed, I made myself watch as the men lowered Karen's coffin into the ground and covered it with dirt. Even doing that, it took me a long time to admit to myself that Karen had died. I always pretended to myself that she had gone back to Florida to live. Denial was my way to deal with her loss and the guilt I felt at not being able to tell her how much I loved her before she died. Sometimes I still worry that she didn't know how much she meant to me. I regret all the wasted years that I resented her when we were young.
I've had friends, relatives, and even a psychiatrist tell me that the resentment was normal. Knowing that still doesn't ease the heartache. I can tell you from experience, do not let a day go by that you don't tell your loved ones how much they mean to you because it may be the only chance you have.