Trinity Widows Group ~a much needed time

Trinity
Trinity Baptist’s large foyer, widows group meets in Next Steps room.

support, laughter, food

My “Florida sunshine” friend Deborah asked me if I’d like to meet her this afternoon at Trinity Baptist Church for it’s widows group. I immediately said, “YES.”

I’d been feeling down in the dumps. Another dear friend who I’ve known for many years (since my time in NYC) is battling cancer and she’s just moved. Packing up the old house, a cancelled flight and an overnight at an airport hotel, arranging for another flight…and when she arrived in Texas, she was hospitalized. She and I had been texting back and forth for over 24-hours and I was emotionally drained.

My husband passed away three years ago on December 8th, so the holidays are bittersweet for me. Even still, on the very year Joseph died, Christmas was a comfort to me. That year, my house had been decorated since the day after Thanksgiving. So, when I arrived back home in Florida after the memorial service in NYC, my little two-bedroom house had its halls fully decked out…and Christmas enveloped me and comforted me. I know it’s not that way for many who have lost loved ones during the holidays, but the spirit of Christmas held me in its arms that year…and it did last year, and I expect it will this year. Of course, this was Jesus expressing Himself in a gentle and tender way through the symbolism and spirit of the holiday we believers choose to celebrate His birthday.

So meanwhile, back to today…when I got to the church Deborah met me in the parking lot. Inside, the tables were decorated with Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers and there was an informal Thanksgiving buffet. The turkey had been ordered, but all of the other dishes were prepared by the women. When we got to our tables, the very first topic of conversation was how good it was to cook again. Nearly every woman at our table, including me, said she hardly cooked anymore since it was cooking only for one. The ladies had enjoyed breaking out cooking chops again and preparing a dish for a large group. I was really a good cook once, and I feel my skills in the kitchen have diminished from lack of use. I do find that disturbing but it is what it is.

Women shared a lot about their grandchildren, trips taken to Israel, Ireland. And then we got to how even years after your husband’s death…you’re going along…and out of the blue something blindsides you and triggers the old feelings of grief. Of course you knew you weren’t over it…but you thought you’d tucked the worst of it away…and then Pow!

It wasn’t a discussion group. Just a gentle back and forth and it was good and it was healing.

‘A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.’ ~ Psalm 58:5 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Trinity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fl  904.596.2400

Trinity Baptist College, Jacksonville, Fl   904.596.2351

Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, FL   904.596.2460

Patterns and People that Bind ~ negative soul ties

Gate, Old City, Jerusalem
A remaining gate in the Old City, Jerusalem

 

And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. ~ Acts 3:2, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

 

We all have (or have had) patterns in our lives and relationships with people that bring (or brought) no, or very few positives into our lives.

This man in the Scripture was lame all of his life and was carried every day to the Gate they called beautiful in order to beg. He could not go into the Temple because he was not whole and in those days there were strict rules about wholeness and health. He had no access to what ‘normal’, successful people had access to, the inside of the Temple.

Usually we look at the man himself, but I wonder who were the ones who carried him every day to beg for alms? Were they corrupt greedy men who got a portion of what alms he acquired every day? Or, were they family and friends who could only see him as lame and with good intentions brought him to do what they thought was the only thing he was able to do? In either case, these were enablers with negative soul ties to the man.

This man had a negative pattern. He allowed himself to be carried to the gate to beg. Jesus came to him to break that pattern that had him bound. We all have or have had patterns that bind or have bound us. For some it’s alcoholism, gambling, pornography, self-mutilating, allowing physical abuse to continue, over eating (something prevalent in the church), anorexia, compulsive spending, overwhelming credit card debt. For others it might be excessive cleaning, or excessive running every morning even though pounding the pavement is injuring legs and feet. In these last two, the operative word is excessive.

What people do we have in our lives who enable us to be less than, support a very limited self-concept of ourselves? What patterns do we have that put walls up around us that might even look like a safety net, but keeps us bound. We all know, or secretly suspect what those things are. And before we take a step and do anything about them, we should ask the Holy Spirit to clarify who and what they are. We should pray about this, and whatever steps we take to get free of the limitations placed on us by others and the limitations of our own negative patterns should be done under the leadership of the Lord. And that will mean, there will be Scripture that supports what direction we feel led to take.

If a person has one of the patterns listed above, it’s quite possible the Holy Spirit will lead you to break the behavior off immediately and to speak with your pastor or a trusted leader in the church. The Holy Spirit may lead you to a treatment program, to Alcoholics Anonymous, to a weight loss group, to an accountability partner in the Church, or the like. Go, go, get help to break whatever pattern/habit/addiction is binding you. Take a step and then another step and then another out of bondage.

In the case of people who are enablers…if you are an alcoholic and a person is giving you alcohol, tell them to stop. If they won’t, cut them off. The same applies if you’re addicted to pornography or gambling, etc. and all your friends are into it too. Cut them off. These are super-negative soul ties. The end of the road with these ‘major’ addictions is sad, very sad. Often it’s jail, insanity, or untimely death. If you’re bound by one of these major addictions you must take immediate, firm, committed steps to get free. You also should have a human support system and the Holy Spirit can lead you to a good one. Please do NOT expect perfection from your human support system. Expect very human, caring support, capable of mistakes or being in error…while they hope they are supporting. There will be people in support groups who have become Pharisaical. Just pray for them.

Forgiveness is key. I’ve had to forgive people who were enablers, manipulators, and controllers in my life, people who sought to use me, people who were toxic. I’ve had to forgive them to be set free of them. This will be a constant. We will also have to forgive good, supportive people we add to our lives as we grown. They are only human. Remember, the final word on situations in our lives are not people, not matter how supportive. The One with the final Word is the Lord.

For perfect love and guidance turn often to the Lord.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:33, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

The Spirit Believes ~ the flesh doubts

Cel Sisterhood Bracelet

The Great Commission

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. ~ Matthew 28: 16-17, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

These are Scriptures I’ve read many times, over the course of the years I’ve been saved, probably heard it preached from the pulpit or on Christian television shows well over a hundred times.

Last night I attended a Sisterhood Workshop at my church, Celebration Church in Julington Creek, FL. The subject was “Unwavering Resolve: Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” I even got a sisterhood bracelet, pictured above.

We were given a worksheet. So, this morning I sat down with my spiritual notebook and my Bible and looked up the first Scripture they’d given on that worksheet which was Matthew 28: 18-29.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [NASB]

As I usually do, I went up a couple of verses to Matthew 28:16-17 and started reading and something hit me…doubtful. These were the eleven disciples after the resurrection. They’s spent three years with Jesus,  knew He had in fact died on the cross, had been prepared for burial, was sealed in a tomb, and as reported by Mary Magdalene, three days later He was risen.

Here they were seeing the risen Lord, Jesus the Christ, and yet some doubted. When preachers I’d heard over the years got to that verse, they often preached it in a scoffing or judgemental tone. That some of these disciples were at this point somehow spiritually less than or deficient.

Then it hit me with such power…the question…What had changed? How did all these men later become on fire for the Lord? And it came to me, on the Day of Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

We need the Holy Spirit to live a life surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to believe. The flesh doubts, the flesh is weak, the flesh is afraid of seeming foolish, the flesh has fear of man, the flesh wants to take control and run the show according to desire or investment in mental ability. There is no use and it makes no sense to castigate ourselves when our flesh doubts. What else would it do???

When that happens, if we want the life of joy and peace and blessing that Jesus offers, we must seek the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us to a better space for ourselves. That place is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The more we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, the less we will doubt, the less we will fear, the less we will harshly judge and condemn ourselves. The more we will be free, unbound, joyful, and content in our blessings. The more we will live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

GATHERING SHADOWS (Finding Sanctuary, Book 1) by Nancy Mehl ~ a review

Gathering Shadows

Romantic Suspense, Old Order Mennonite, Mystery

I received GATHERING SHADOWS in 2014 from the publisher (the other two novels in the series followed). That was the year my husband began getting sick and these stories along with a great many other WONDERFUL works I hoped to read went on a shelf that became my To Be Read (TBR) list. I’ve finally gotten to this novel and I’m so glad I did.

Sanctuary is picturesque and inviting, but it’s a sleepy little Mennonite town chock full of secrets. Nearly every resident is hiding something, it seems.

St. Louis TV news reporter Wynter Evans hopes to propel herself into the anchor’s seat at her station with a human interest story on unusual Missouri towns. However, her station manager has told her to stay away from Sanctuary.

Those plans change when she is handed a photo of an Old Order Mennonite family living in Sanctuary whose teenage son closely resembles what Wynter’s brother, who had been kidnapped as a child, could look like now. Wynter is also hiding something…her real name.

What I like so much about Nancy Mehl’s writing is that she makes difficult, painful, even horrific incidents come alive on the written page that do happen to actual living people. This is true of Wynter/Emily Evans when she deals with a painful past that has come crashing into her present life and confronts implied threats that are confusing and don’t add up to any real leads in the case. I felt her frustration, disappointment, fear, and anguish.

This is a page turner. When I finished it, I immediately picked up the next one in the series, DEADLY ECHOES.

Purchase GATHERING SHADOWS on Amazon

Magnolia Storms (A Coastal Hearts Novel) by Janet W. Ferguson ~ a review

Magnolia Storms

Romance, Christian Fiction

With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Bahamas as a Cat 5 this Labor Day weekend, I decided to finish reading this emotional novel of devastation, hope, and love.

The author skillfully achieves a sense of foreboding from the very beginning. Hero and Gulf Coast river bar pilot Josh Bergeron attempts to board a cargo ship in rough water and his foot slips off of the rung of the metal ladder. I am mostly a detective story reader and/or action-adventure. The most exciting parts of this novel for me were Josh’s scenes out on tumultuous seas.

Later in the story, we learn that heroine Maggie Marovich’s father, also a bar pilot and Josh’s mentor was swept away and lost during Hurricane Katrina. She left the Gulf Coast, never to return, but now her sister Cammie’s horrid accident and hospitalization forces Maggie back to their childhood home as another hurricane looms.

As a Christian reader, I appreciated the Bible verse that kept repeating: “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” Job 13:15

All of the characters were highly likeable and well developed in this emotional romance story. I’m not a romance reader and didn’t absolutely and totally fall into their lives. My favorite character was Aunt Ruth. I do recommend this novel to romance readers who enjoy a realistic, exciting clean read.

Purchase Magnolia Storms on Amazon

Don’t Allow A Negative Self Image ~ to cloud your golden years

elderly couple beach

When I retired and moved to Florida, I didn’t want to sit around in the house and watch TV all day, and there were just so many times a week I could go out to lunch with my retiree friends. I quickly discovered that the most interesting seniors to be around were working…at least part-time. It wasn’t long before a church friend got me a job as a part-time caretaker for the elderly. It’s a rewarding job, in many ways. But it has a sad side. I soon became friendly with other caretakers and as we talked, I realized how common it is for seniors to have made detailed financial preparation for their latter years, but they hadn’t made emotional, mental, or spiritual preparation. Many had a very derogatory and debilitating view of themselves.

As a believer, I indeed do believe the Bible verse:

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I do not believe that verse became null-and-void when I retired. Just because I entered my “senior years” doesn’t mean God stopped having plans for me. I tend not to refer to myself as a “senior.” No, I’m a “seasoned citizen.” I have a wealth of experience under my belt, useful experience that God can put to work.

elderly man NikkonHow seniors think of themselves is very important. We look in the mirror and it doesn’t lie to us. We’re getting older. However, the truth is, age has it’s own beauty. Seniors have to renew their minds to that reality.

How do we renew your minds? The answer is with words. We must not allow ourselves to say any more derogatory words about ourselves and the aging process. “I guess I’m just getting dimmer and dimmer.” “I must be just about useless now.” No! Don’t speak those negative words over yourself! God sees seniors as shining lights, repositories of wisdom.

Say positive words. “I might be slowing down a bit, but I have a lot to offer and there are still things I want to experience, and I will experience those things.” Pick something that you can do that brings joy and do it. Visit your grandchildren. Adopt a rescue pet. Go to lunch with a friend. Phone somebody and pray with them, pray for them.

We seasoned citizens have to take control of any demeaning and self-condemning thoughts that reoccur and linger in our minds. If these negative thoughts seem to go round-and-round on a kind-of loop, we have to banish them. The way to banish those ingrained negative thoughts is to say positive statements aloud. “I’m getting better and better every day,” is an often used phrase. Seniors can turn that into “I’m getting wiser and wiser every day.” Or, “more compassionate every day.” Say the words out loud. Speech cuts through thoughts.

As a believer, I try to say what God has said about me and how I can live my life. I find what God has said about me in the Bible. I try not to first and foremost see myself as getting older, but as His wonderful creation.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:10 New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I’ve often heard it said that “do not fear” and/or “do not be afraid” is said more times in the Bible than anything else.

Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9 Good News Translation [GNT]

elderly woman museum

One of the best tactics for getting rid of persistent negative thoughts is to intentionally surround ourselves with what is good, pleasing, and lovely. Fill a notebook with beautiful and pleasing pictures from magazines. Hang a painting that delights and gratifies. If you can’t afford to purchase a painting, get one at a thrift store. Thrifting all on its own is fun. Visit a museum. Read an uplifting book. Watch an old comedy movie that will make you laugh…for laughter is good medicine. Be proactive. Chase the blues away. Tell that old-lady/old/man withered up negative self-image to get going…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:8, English Standard Version [ESV]


 

 

Come Out of the Shadows ~ the shadow of death

Woman Free, Field

He’s gone, or she’s gone. Sometimes the difficult memories with some guilt attached come easier than memories of the happy times. That’s because the loss of a spouse is so great, sometimes the remembrance of the happy times is too painful. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Widow and widowers know what I’m talking about.

He or she will never laugh again. Or, I fell in love with him or her the first time she or he smiled just that certain way and I’ll never see that again. Strange as it is, the self-condemning memories almost feel better, less painful. ~~ It might not be self-condemnation. It might be that the loss is so deep, the pain actually feels good. These feelings are normal, but should only last for a season. The time must come when you allow gentle joy to come at the memory of your spouse…that your memories are couched in sweetness.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. ~ Romans 8:1 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

But what if the marriage had problems? What if it wasn’t ideal? Yet you still miss him or her, still love your spouse? That’s also normal, natural, not unusual, not stupid. What if because the marriage had problems, now that he or she is gone, you, the surviving spouse have guilt. You tell yourself, “I could’ve been nicer to him or her. Could have been more present in the marriage, more understanding.” Maybe so, but it still stands this is only a season during the mourning process. The Lord wants his children free of condemnation. Confess what you have to confess. Forgive your spouse. Forgive yourself, and come out into the light. Forgiveness is intentional. You may have to forgive your spouse and/or yourself over and over as you walk through this journey back into the light. And that’s okay.

In the light of Christ, work on relationships with people who are in your daily life now. What can you do to make the relationships you are in become more joyful, healthier? Can you let the little things go? At home, at church, at work…what are the small things that annoy you? Make a short, easily manageable list if you have to. Don’t make a list so long it will overwhelm you and make you further heap coals on yourself.

What’s really inconsequential in the long run? Pray over the list and intentionally let those things go. Let yourself see your own freedom in letting the angst go you’ve felt due to the little things on that list.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4 [King James Version, KJV]