Moving Past Pain

I recently shared a message with the women of our church entitled “Moving Past Pain.”  It was one of our most spiritually and emotionally fruitful meetings.  While pain impacts us all, it can be a particular stumbling block for women when we do not handle it well.  More easily than many men, we acknowledge and express our emotions freely.  That freedom works for us if we are releasing negative emotions to God, casting our cares upon him and trusting that, because he cares for us, he will take our burdens up.  But when anything inhibits that freedom, we can find ourselves in pain rather that living the fully victorious life we have available in Christ.

I am reminded of Mark’s account of the woman with the issue of blood.  As familiar as the passage from Mark 5: 25-34 is, it might be good to take another look at it now.  As you do, ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text, to help you see beyond the physical pain this woman must have experienced to the emotional pain she brought to Jesus that day.  You see, physical pain helps us to recognize when something is out of order in our bodies.  If helps us realize when we need to give care and attention to the affected area, or when we need to insure that whatever underlying cause is at its root has adequate opportunity to heal.  But emotional pain can be much more difficult to detect.  Because we cannot see its source, we often suffer with it longer than we should.  This, I believe, is the state in which the woman in Mark’s account approaches Jesus.  How did she move past her pain?

1 – She acknowledged her pain.  Mark 5:25-26 says that she had suffered many things of many physicians.  Sometimes pain can seem the worst when we have trusted others, “experts” even, to heal things and make them right.  By the time she reaches out to Jesus, this woman must have not only experienced the physical pain of her condition.  She had to have been disappointed and disillusioned by the many failed attempts of others to heal her.  Let’s face it—that’s not the kind of pain that can simply be ignored.  It must be honestly acknowledged, and then surrendered in faith.

2 – She acted on her faith.  Simply put—faith is an action word.  As verses 27-28 remind us, it comes by hearing the word, in this case, hearing of Jesus, and then daring to go where he is.  Faith requires that we become willing to be healed—and once willing, we are made able.  It would have done this woman no good to have heard of Jesus, but then refused to act.  No, faith always moves us closer to Christ and once we are close, we can only be transformed.  

3 – Expect a transformative experience.  Sometimes an encounter with Christ results in an immediate and dramatic healing.  In verse 29, Mark says that this woman “felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.”  Even when we must wait to see the full effects of what we have believed, believe we must.  Far too much is at stake for us to do otherwise.  You see, the transformative experience was not simply for this woman—it was for the disciples and, even more so, it was for the ruler of the synagogue.  The passage suggests that he had seen the miraculous healing and had come seeking help for his daughter.  Like the woman who had just been healed, he might have been ultimately discouraged by the fact that his daughter was dead.  He might have listened to his detractors.  But inspired to faith and action, he approached Jesus.  Whatever “issue” you may have, remember that there is someone whose faith is waiting to be transformed by yours!

4 – Own your healing.  You might be tempted to see your emotional healing as short lived.  Again, emotions can be tricky in that what we cannot “see” we don’t always understand fully.  Consequently, we become accustomed to certain behaviors, to a particular outlook on life, to a way of seeing others that may be tainted by past emotions.  In order to fully embrace the healing she had received, this woman, “knowing what had happened to her” (verse 33) could then fall down before Jesus in a position of worship and tell him all her truth—not just the truth of her past, the pain that she had experienced, but the truth of her future, “I had been bound by pain, and now I know that I am free!

5 – Move forward.  Of all I love about this scriptural passage, I love most the moment when Jesus says to this woman—go in peace (verse 34).  How we exit any difficult situation is so much more important than how we got there in the first place. Notice that Jesus never rehearses this woman’s past.  He never questions why she didn’t find him sooner.  He simply says to her—move forward.  The only way to preserve your emotional healing is do just that, to let the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding completely heal our emotions and keep guard over our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).

For a copy of this message or one of the many other inspiring words to women, please visit our online bookstore at www.equipperscitychurch.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Am I?

Women today are asking the question, “Who am I?” Many of them feel that the rules which gave direction on how to navigate life’s journey have changed. No one asked for their input nor was there any regard for the long term effects of doing things differently. What was once accepted as appropriate behavior in language, dress, career, and even religious faith are being challenged and up for debate. The new rules have left women with a sense of disorientation, increased feelings of dissatisfaction and despair. In fact, there is much debate surrounding the study that examined the lives of women and concluded that women were “happier” 40 years ago than they are today. We earn more, are more educated and sit in more seats of power but are we “happier”? There is little evidence to indicate that we are.

In fact, according to one study, 90% of women want to change one aspect of their physical appearance. Our dissatisfaction has now turned inward? Many women are discouraged, fearful of being alone, concerned that they won’t reach their dreams and feel trapped by monotony as if life is a mere treadmill.

They are in a desperate pursuit to carve out an existence which satisfies their internal yearnings. Others are daily being swayed by the latest TV program or female hero. It doesn’t take much to realize that women are in a quandary and looking for answers that work for them.

Sheryl Sandberg, in the book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, offered advice on what has worked for her as she ascended the corporate ladder. Many have taken up this banner and are determined to “lean in.” Others have said the answer is to “opt out.” In fact, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of census data, one in ten mothers with a Master’s degree or more are staying at home in order to care for their families. As you can see the battle is on.

I believe God is calling for a company of women who will serve as a remnant and model what it means to be a real woman. We must go back to the source of our creation where God said that everything he created was good-including the woman. We were created to have certain characteristics; we’re naturally caring and compassionate. Every aspect of our culture needs the touch of a woman to balance the attributes of the man. This is of godly design.

It was God who emphatically affirmed that the man and the woman were to be fruitful and that they had the ability to multiple. Together they were to have dominion and subdue the earth. Women were created with strength, purpose and self-assurance. I believe that the Bible offers kingdom solutions to the question “Who Am I?” When we reconnect with our creator we can possess strategies full of Godly wisdom, gain the capacity to impact our environment, and lead a generation.

This remnant company of women must offer solutions which are not dictated by fashion, home address, weight or even a secular degree. We must empower women to reach their full stature and exercise dominion in the area God has given them to master. Every woman must have the opportunity to weave in and out of the marketplace without pressure or stigma from other women. We must equip and prepare them for success in every season of their lives so that whatever obstacles they face they can overcome them through Christ.

Women must decide to be leaders wherever they are and not wait for the boardroom. We must communicate that right choices and preparation precede success. And those choices and plans should have a biblical foundation. Women must be empowered to succeed where they are and understand that life is a process and a journey. Everything may not be accomplished in one season or at the same time.  We must encourage women to succeed where they are and release them from the preoccupation with the future that so often brings anxiety. God has a plan for every woman’s future and as she maintains focus on Him her future will be bright.

Women have been encouraged to either “lean in” or to “opt out” as they attempt to make sense of their lives, but I believe the answer lies not in “leaning in” or “opting out” but to take a “stand” on the Word of God.

One meaning of the word stand is to remain firm or steadfast, as in a cause, according to Dictionary.com. It means that the women of God are not to be shaken or swayed by the world’s belief system.  We should stand on the truth and follow the acronym that follows:

S          Your STRENGTH and potential is exponentially increased as you stand in His strength.

T          Stand on the TRUTH of the Word of God. The Word is a firm foundation in every season   of life.

 A          ADVANCE where you are. Don’t wait for some future date.

N          NEVER dwell on your past failure. We learn from our past but we don’t continue to live there.

D          DETERMINE to reach for your future in God.

We must come off the side lines and become actively engaged in defining who we are as women!

Colorism

I recently watched several video clips on AOL’s Huffington Post, featuring segments from Oprah’s OWN network. The discussion centered on the Dark Girls documentary and how colorism influences the culture and, subsequently, how black women often relate to one another. Colorism is a cultural ideology which exalts the value of light skin.  Therefore, those with light skin often experience privilege on the basis of complexion, may be considered more attractive, or as current “doll test” experiments point out, may even be considered to be smarter or nicer. 

While this cultural phenomenon broadly impacts our society, it impacts women more dramatically.  A woman with light skin is automatically considered to be more beautiful, intelligent and more desirable than her darker counterpart. What we believe culturally can become ingrained individually, impacting our personal belief systems and actually becoming the foundation upon which we live and govern ourselves.  Even when they are erroneous, such belief systems establish the principles by which we consciously or unconsciously align our thinking processes.  Breaking free from erroneous systems requires that we make a conscious decision to identify and build upon accurate ones.

Even as Christian women who understand that we are created in the image of God and after his likeness, we have to give constant vigilance to our thinking about ourselves.  As women, God has graced us to carry and convey legacies forward, particularly as we instruct and equip our families.  We would do well, then, to ask ourselves some critical questions—what is the result of accepting colorism as a belief system?   How might accepting colorism as a belief system have impacted our estimation of ourselves and others?   How does colorism rob us of the security of which God assures us in his word? 

To begin, colorism keeps women from loving themselves unconditionally. It causes women to value another individual’s opinion above what they see in the mirror; in fact, it may even skew what they are able to see in the mirror. It causes women to compete instead of being supportive of one another.  And in creating competition, colorism causes us to disconnect, to be closed off and not appreciate each other just as we are.  Instead of celebrating our individual uniqueness, we attempt to look alike, dress alike and march to a cultural standard that affirms us only when we conform to an established standard of beauty. These are all rules created to keep us from loving and accepting ourselves.  This belief system results in our placing more value on our external appearance than our character.  It doesn’t make room for the beauty that lies within each woman. It doesn’t nurture the beauty that flows from our internal passion to fulfill the purpose for which we were created--the very reason for which we exist.  It refuses to celebrate our differences in skin tone, hair texture, or physical shape. Consequently, each of us must make a decision to accept or refute the colorism ideology as a belief system which governs our thoughts, actions and words. Why? Because otherwise, we are destroyed!

So what can we do to change things? First, I believe as women of God we must stop looking for answers and solutions outside of Kingdom solutions. In the Kingdom, our uniqueness is celebrated (1 Corinthians 12: 14, 27).  Each of us was created with the potential to function in an extraordinary way that is supportive and beneficial to others.  Therefore, we must write our own narrative and that starts with believing who God has called us to be. He created us to be women of strength who have the capacity to be effective, to be dynamic leaders, to be productive wherever we find ourselves, to be overcomers, not victims who fall on the sword of the culture. Second, we must gain self-awareness of the grace we carry and build upon it. It’s the management of our individual strengths that allows us to fulfill our purpose and influence the world.

In the Kingdom, your value and significance goes beyond your skin tone. It’s more than your hair color or the designer logo on your purse. The more you agree with God’s purpose for your life, the more beautiful, the more fulfilled the more valuable and significant you will understand yourself to be. 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Relationships: How to Launch, Grow and Maintain Them

Today I want to inspire you to action.  I want to provoke you to be intentional.  I want to change the way you think about relationships and how they can be instrumental in enriching your life and also allow you to impact someone else.

In America there is 1 divorce every 13 seconds, the majority of births today are to unwed mothers, homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the workplace, and suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is on the rise.

Relationships are clearly suffering. People feel disconnected, depressed, and lonely and feel that they have no one to talk to and that no one cares—even in the Church.

But I believe you can be a better mother or father, a better neighbor, a better friend, a better employee or even a better spouse BECAUSE you know how to launch, grow and maintain relationships.  Before we think a little about how, I have a question to ask of you:  are you willing to make changes so you can function better in relationships?

Change is the first of many spiritual and practical approaches to improving relationships.  Acknowledging the need, and beyond that, our readiness for change is key.  Only then are we equipped to see how our behaviors have created problems in our relationships and, likewise, how our changed behaviors can create solutions in your relationships.  From time to time, I will return to this vital topic, relationships.  Today, let me begin by sharing the most central tenet of building healthy relationships—loving one another.

The phrase “one another” appears 31 times in the New Testament.  Most familiarly, John 13:34-35 commands us to “love one another as I have loved you….  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  This is basic but it is the very foundation of learning how to be in relationship.

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he said

Ye shall love the Lord your God with all your hear and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39

Take some time today to think about how you’re loving yourself—how you value the special creation God has made you, how you appreciate his unique handiwork, and how you celebrate his life in you—because the way you love yourself is exactly the way you will love others. 

Reach for the Dream God Wants to Birth

Dreams are powerful!

God uses dreams to communicate. He uses dreams to invade our natural realm and give us a glimpse of what he sees or what’s in his heart. They are the “external” images, thoughts and emotions that we mentally perceive, or the “internal” aspirations, goals or aims that we aspire to. God can, and often does, use both to shift our attention to his great plans for us!  In short, he uses dreams to inspire us to rise above a place of despair and lethargy and gain strength for whatever battle may lie ahead.

God has a plan for our lives and our goal is to come into agreement with what he is doing. Often times he will use dreams to connect us to our destiny.  Dreams inspire us to change cultures, cities, and even nations.  Dreams cause us to see mountains as a mere bumps in the road to destiny.  Dreams make even the deepest oceans in our lives seem like a small stream.  How is this possible, you ask?  A dream causes a SHIFT to take place on the inside of us, making the future real, possible and something that we can manage because we can see it!

But the ultimate aim of God is that we do more than dream. He desires that we RESPOND with action. God WANTS US TO create, build, establish or take dominion of SOMETHING!  Consider his word to the prophet Jeremiah:

I know what I’m doing, I have it all planned out-plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

God didn’t just have a plan for Jeremiah’s life—he has a plan for your life and He wants to empower you to achieve it.  That’s precisely why he allows us to dream, to visualize a future that we can hope for and eventually see.  Close your eyes.  What have you been dreaming about?  What is so vivid and real that you can reach out and touch it?  Now open your eyes.  If you want what you saw, you must decide that it is time to ACT.

Martin Luther King had a dream. A lot of people had the same dream. What made him different? He was willing to lay it all on the line, even if he didn’t live to enjoy it. And because his dream met the timing of God it came to pass.  A dream remains just a dream until you make a commitment to achieve it. It takes your passion, your commitment and energy to achieve it

In coming entries, I will share some principles to empower you to achieve what God wants to do in your life.  Today, I will conclude with this question inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:21 which encourages us to “test all things. Hold on to what is good.”  Ask yourself, does this dream connect me with heaven?  Remember, a dream can be birthed out of the Spirit, soul or the lust of the flesh.  Having determined that your dream reflects God’s dream for you, ask yourself:

·         Do I have the grace, strength or the gift to fulfill the dream?

·         Am I passionate about this? Does it address a deep seated desire that I want to fulfill?

·         Can others affirm you in this area?

These questions are likely only the beginning of what God wants you to consider.  Dreams are just his way of giving us a glimpse into a far vaster world which he has created us to influence, shift, or change until it perfectly reflects his reality!