All posts by Christine Wood

First, Wipe The Table – What Holds Me Back?Part 2 Of 3

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First Wipe The Table – Part Two Of Three – What Holds Me Back?

You have your own role to play.  No one else can do it for you.

Every one  of us was designed with a purpose. That means you! Every human has a unique gift, or giftings, and a calling to use them for the betterment of the people around you, the community, and the world. Great things can be achieved by mere humans who don’t give up. Don’t ever disdain this thought.

You were created as an utterly unique individual. If you do not fulfill your own destiny, no one else can do it for you, and the world will have been deprived.  When we begin to use our gifts, not only do we stir up the atmosphere around us in a positive, creative way, but we begin to notice something else. There is a joy, and an internal energy that starts flowing inside you, permeating your unhappiness, as we do the work of birthing our gifts.

The Product Of Our Good Decisions Will Show Right Results

God gave gifts to every human, in order that we may all help, repair, teach,  and better our world – to whatever size and scope it is designed for you. When you are ready to do the real work of developing your gifts, then you fix yourself to build, not destroy your own life, and the lives of those around you. You are now targeting yourself towards your own success! How amazing is this decision!

It also displays another facet of  God’s love, towards us, as the Bible says He is glorified when His gifts in us “bear much fruit”  (John 15:8) – in other words, when the product of our good decisions with His gifts shows great results. Do you believe you’re made for this?

Why Is It So Difficult To  Get Going And Activate Our Giftings?

( OR, Am I Ready To Do The Work Of Change?)

Numerous reasons for failure include:

  1. It’s too much effort, and I’d rather not tackle it
  2. I’m defeated from achieving it because of someone (something)
  3. I’d rather have fun
  4. I don’t see a plan to attain success
  5. I don’t really know what my giftings are
  6. I don’t believe I have much to offer
  7. I’m too ashamed of myself to think I could do well and win
  8. I’d rather make excuses, and take the path of least resistance than change my current lifestyle.

Sadly, there is only one person that can change your attitude, and we all know that person. (Hint – You often see them in the mirror…)

However, when we get sick and tired of the ‘same old same old’ routine, when the frustration overtakes the laziness, when self-pity and misty dreams don’t fill our longings any more, THEN is the time to ask, “Am I ready to do the work of change?”

It starts with a PLAN – in writing.

  1. What do you want to achieve – the end goal?

2. What are the barriers to completing it? Write them down.

3. How can you  deal with the challenges? List a sequence.

4. Have you parcelled the task(s)  into small, measurable, realistic and reachable steps?

5. What resources do you have to help complete your objective?

* IMPORTANT*

Here is where the strange title comes for this article. VERY often, we already know what we’re called to do, but we’re waiting for the BIG break .We’re waiting to be recognized by that talent scout, to win the lottery, to have that sympathetic ‘dream -person’  do our hard work for us, to have that distant great-great aunt  you’ve never met  die and leave her limitless fortune all to you – – in short, we’re playing “Enchanted  Gambling. ”  Let’s face it,  we already know -The odds are not respectable, reasonable,  or responsible for our success in this game.

Why do we waste our time doing what leads to little progress?  Well, first, because human nature looks for the easy road. We find it much easier to blame someone or something else for our failures. We have been taught to self-please and embrace laziness -a dastardly enemy that will deprive you of ultimate happiness and success.  We need to adjust our mind-set,  force out slothfulness,  and embrace  real work, design a game-plan, and install Self -discipline as our best friend.  The battlefield engages first in our mind.  Aim yourself to triumph at the more profitable – and probable – business of investing in the power God has already given you!

Character Growth Is Usually Our Biggest Challenge

Secondly, we often overlook the simple things God has already given us to do, because we perceive them as beneath us, or boring. We want to jump right into the exciting stuff, without realizing that God gives us the training we need, in the small tasks we dislike.

That is the reason for the title, “First Wipe The Table”.  Have you ever noticed that family and home life is the most difficult place to be happy and successful? It can be the landscape of our most challenging people, truly. And yet, it is the proving ground for the genuine-ness and maturity of your character.  If you can prosper and be happy in -sometimes despite!- your close relationships, it’s a really good indicator that you’re ready to add more.

What skills are you learning in order to grow the relationships and activities closest to home? Do you practise good boundaries, clear, kind communication? Do you know how to have a healthy disagreement that results in win-win solutions?  Learning -and practising -these skills is a vital part of preparing yourself for an advancement. However, personal growth doesn’t always come easily.

Recognize other people -often those closest to you – will often criticize what you  have chosen to prioritize and pursue. They may have their own dysfunctional past, and  not like the way you’ve changed. They  may be especially unfriendly towards the way your new plan challenges their own issues or laziness. (We often see downright hostility when folks don’t want to face their shortcomings.)  Be aware and prepared for this! It doesn’t always mean you have chosen the wrong thing! Certainly, give regard to what they say. Realize others may contribute useful safeguards from their own experiences.  Consider their cautions and factor into your plan where necessary, but don’t let it deviate you from the path you know is right!

Start with small steps. First, wipe the table, as it were. Clear the “crumbs”, or obstructions from your vision. Prepare yourself an atmosphere conducive to working, to planning, to achieving your goal. Set the stage for your own success. Take care of little details and distractions that hinder you. Plan the best time and place to put your plan on paper. Even if you can only give limited time, do it regularly and relentlessly . Let it be known that THIS time is not to be interfered with. As you create a priority, the goal will set precedence in your life.

List the things your mind sees you doing. I’m not talking about un-Godly fantasies here.  What thoughts do you keep coming back to? These relections often contain results that will benefit others. (Hint:  It may not be anything those around you are interested in.)  You may have a ‘secret life’ – something that fascinates or inspires you, a desire that keeps returning, thoughts that keep recurring. Pay attention. The real “YOU” is trying to tell you something!

God Has Pulled back From The ‘Divine Babysitter’ Role

Recognize you are the only one who can do something to fix this. It is not anyone’s fault, you cannot look to anyone to build your remedies and success. This is the hardest step – to realize It’s Up To YOU! Having said that, we also need to know, we are not alone. You may feel isolated, as if no one cares, but these days it seems God has pulled back from the Divine Babysitter role, and is asking us to use the tools He gave us long ago. Many of us have become lazy, and still expect Him to do everything for us. For the believer, those days have passed.

Part 3 – Ready To Begin?

First, Wipe The Table (Part One Of Three)

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First, Wipe The Table  

(Part One)

How are you feeling these days?

Do you consider yourself happy and satisfied with your life ?  Or are you feeling restless, , undirected, unmotivated, un-inspired? Perhaps angry, rejected, lost in the crowd, sad, meaningless? Maybe you are already doing something(s) you thought you wanted, and yet, it’s still not enough.

Feeling some or all of the above? It’s an unsettled feeling – some good days and many bad ; you may have no energy, yet, there is frantic chaos  inside you;  frustrated yet no constructive outlet appears for it.  Angst floods you at times, but where do you  find that island of serenity?

If  life is bliss for you, and things couldn’t get better, I am happy for you!  However, if any of the above resonates with you, how do you deal with this place and state? How do you express all the thoughts and longings inside you  in a fulfilling, honourable way, where you’ll sit back at the end of the day, and feel deeply satisfied and peaceful?

Let’s explore the ‘Why you might feel this way’ , before we get to the ‘How to get out of it’.

First, there seems to be an epidemic of unsatisfied people just now. These are not always simply the Chronic Malcontents we all know – who are never happy, no  matter what they have. These are people like you and me who have a frequent, often driven ‘sensing’ that all is not complete, and we have more to accomplish.

Do you notice any of these occurring in your life?

  1. a frequent, restless need for change
  2. plans which do not come to completion
  3. recognized dissatisfaction, but immediate, viable solutions elude us
  4.  relational challenges or losses – or both
  5. lifestyle disorganization in some areas ( eg. job, finances, everyday management)
  6. a longing to do something meaningful, to feel fulfilled and happy, yet frustrated by your seeming inability to do it
  7. looking for people or things to fill this need
  8. no concrete plan for future successes

Why do we feel this way?

I have observed that many people have learned to look for their happiness from outside sources. They think this way: “I would be happy if I only had that ___________ (desirable item), if I could just have a relationship with _____________(desirable person). If only I could do _____________ (desirable activity), go to __________ (desirable location),  be  ___________  (rich, famous)”,  etc.

We suppose that all our longings are to be filled by someone or something we do not currently possess. Rarely do we look inside ourselves and ask, “Apart from everyone, and everything I have or do not have, who am I supposed to be,  what do I need to change, and how do I get there?

Barriers pop up immediately, if we even start to entertain this question:

  1. I’m not good enough
  2. Someone is already doing that
  3. I don’t have enough money
  4. I’m too busy
  5. I don’t know how
  6. I don’t have enough support

And having shut down our disturbing restlessness with comfortable excuses, we return to our familiar patterns, until we get dissatisfied again – – and the cycle begins over.

So, I’m going to challenge you with a few questions:

  1. Do you really want to change, or are you happy to continue on as you’re existing right now?
  2. Have you listened to the notions that keep coming to your mind? (No, I don’t mean the junk food you want, or the attractive guy/gal,  or that new item, or that boredom busting piece of activity you want to stir up, etc.)  I mean the repetitive thoughts that keep presenting themselves over and over in your imagination, what you envision yourself doing  -the idea of something challenging you could do –  and, as you think of it, it piques your interest ; you get excited inside.
  3. What means more to you, a comfortable, everyday ‘same-ness’, or facing the challenge to become that better someone you’re not today.
  4. At the end of your life, what will you regret the most if you don’t do it?

Continued In Part Two – What Holds Me Back?

Why Is The Church Losing Its Power In Our Society?

Do you know anyone who cringes when you say the word “church”? Are you one of those who says, “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites, and not even connected with reality. It’s not for me!’

If so, you are part of a growing population who shakes their head, and says, “I stay FAR away from places like that!” Check out the links below.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/05/12/christianity-faces-sharp-decline-as-americans-are-becoming-even-less-affiliated-with-religion/

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/religion-america-decline-low-no-affiliation-report_n_2867626.html

 

How did an institution which once wielded vast world power and influence, come to increasingly be regarded as a farce? Why are many  still under it’s grip, but recognizing it’s a false authority, motivating people by fear? True, some segments are growing, but nevertheless, there is an increasing dissatisfaction, and a growing hunger for something personally meaningful.

We’ll explore a couple of thoughts, make a few observations, and invite your thoughts and comments.

As I talk with many people, I hear several recurring themes regarding the church.  Here is a compilation of real comments :

“I  see the negativity, the criticism, the lack of joy, and the ‘fakeness’ of the Sunday smile, and it sickens me”

One police officer I knew said, “Funny how the same people I see in church on Sunday are the same people I’m arresting during the week.”

Others say, “They’re not even in touch with the real world! I ask real questions and get ignorant answers, I want to deal with relevant issues.”

“Plastic people.”

“I get a lot of, ‘come join us at church’, but see no effective social action outside. ”

“I see a lot of close-mindedness and negativity. ”

“No one ever returned my calls.”

“I ask real questions, and all I hear are  pat, religious answers and no action!”

“No one there really cares about me. They only want me if I can do something for them. If I need help, they leave me alone.”

How much we need to hear the message in these comments!

In comparison, look at the dynamic in the story in of Jesus and Zacchaeus,  in Luke 19: 2-10. Contrast the hope and redemptive way Jesus treated him, and the way the Pharisees criticized and condemned. Look at the effect on Zacchaeus. In less than one day, he changed from being a man known in the community for his cheating, thieving ways, to offering a stark reform. How many times do you see a scoundrel give up his riches, his income, and his vice – voluntarily?

Could there be something in Jesus’ attitude towards this man, that offered him life?  Jesus never denied that Zacchaeus was corrupt,  but He always spoke into the potential. He did not require church attendance, but welcomed him as a person,  and invited Himself to join his life – as is.  Jesus was REAL.  This was His pattern. He never condoned what God called unacceptable, but He always offered a better way, except to one group.

Sadly, today we see little attempt to help people deal with real issues, and invest into their individual giftings and callings- except as they are useful to building the church structure. Yet, we are called out, into a world which has desperate need of hope and reality, with a plan for healing, optimism for the future, and faith that there is a reason to anticipate good things.

In  over thirty years in positions of church leadership, I have rarely seen this much needed dynamic, of meeting people where they ARE, and speaking into their potential. What can we learn from this?

Another statement I hear about,  is the church’s lack of world vision. They tend to be focused, yes, but very self-focused. Outreaches to ‘the unsaved’ are treated as a project, not a lifestyle, and the end goal is usually to add numbers to the church.  There is very little awareness of actual needs in the community, and little attempt to teach a global realization of current world issues. Consequently, we see unchurched  people with a heart and a concern for the needy, the down-and-out, expressing anger at political and social corruption, yet they are belittled and ignored by the much of the church.

I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it’s a grievous neglect!

Jesus said, “I’ve come to look for and to save the lost”, yes, but He never demanded that they raise a hand, sign a card, or attend regular synagogue meetings. Instead, He said, ” Love Me, because I love you! Follow Me – I’ll lead you into life, not death, and I  want every good thing for you!!” His message was one of truth, reality, healing and hope – always presented to evolve people into a good destiny. In contrast,  the religious system unfailingly opposed Him, never tried to understand His position,and spun an opinion of negativity, fear and death. You may remember that to these leaders, and to this institution, Jesus shot His harshest words. This was the one group to whom He offered no hope.  What can we learn from this?  And yet, He was not blindly prejudiced. You notice that to the individuals in this system, who dared to meet with Him, who listened and even questioned their own tenets honestly, He conversed openly and willingly.

The first, and simplest message I take from this is:  God is not an institution. God IS love, and His actions always display hope and redemption for those who want it.  Whatever we may or may not feel towards the church, we are all in relationships of one sort or another. Do our attitudes and actions display criticism, or do they offer love, forgiveness, hope and redemption towards each other? This is a really good starting place!

Don’t Judge? Why Not?

 

So, you see someone – your friend, co-worker, family member- doing something you think is really stupid. It irks you, concerns you, or just plain drives you crazy.

When do you say something?

CAN you say something?

Will it do any good anyhow?

If God says, “Don’t judge others, because in the way you give it out, it will be given back to you”, does this say we should never comment when we see our acquaintances doing things that cause problems?

The Bible goes on to say in Matthew 7, that we need to check our own face first. Often, what  accuse others of doing, is what we ourselves are guilty of doing.

Are you seeing incorrectly, however, even  if you may be doing the same thing yourself?  Not likely. You probably see very accurately.  So, here are the questions to ask yourself:

What is my motivation for judging? What do I hope to achieve by my criticism?

If your answer is, “Because I’m ticked off, and they really bug me with their behavior!”  don’t look for change anytime soon.

If your answer is, “Because, for the health of this relationship, and to see them succeed in life, I’d like to see them conquer this non-constructive habit. Perhaps there is something I can offer in order to help them progress.”  Now, there are grounds for change.

So, what is a strategy you can use?

God wants genuine prayers, from those with a heartfelt desire for constructive change.

 

Well, first of all, the Bible gives a few clues in Matthew 7.

First – and sometimes saddest – is to  Find out if the person is even interested to modify their destructive habits. If there is zero awareness of their need, or no desire to conduct themselves in a better way, then vs 6 implies, “Don’t even bother investing good material in a bad destination. It’s a waste of worthwhile time and effort, and even a risk to your safety”.   There is a time to persist,  a time to walk away, AND a time to leave the subject alone and work your strategy for awhile.  However, most of us give up FAR too quickly and easily. (More on this subject in another blog.)

Second – Ask God for help in this situation. He wants their success even more than you do. Sincere prayers offered for another person’s prosperity, are regarded by God.

Learn what you can do, that will bring life –not destruction to every person involved in the situation. Ask God for His wisdom to teach you and bring answers. He is for you, not against you.

Persist – don’t give up easily. Keep asking, educate yourself, keep looking for your clues, keep your eyes open, pursuing what is right and good. God wants genuine prayers, from those with a heartfelt desire for change.

Ask, seek, persist. This is the second strategy.

Thirdly, realize that if you know how to give good things to those in need – especially your own family – then God knows even more so how to provide for our necessities.

Realize and believe He wants to give you the answers you need, because He is a good God.

The Golden Rule

Lastly, what you want others to do for you, you do for them. For example, if you want respect from someone who treats you with contempt, then offer respect to them. If someone is selfish, or greedy, offer generosity. Treating your enemy in the opposite way they treat you, goes a long way towards breaking off an unacceptable or painful circumstance. This is VERY counter-intuitive, as we humans are more inclined to react and fight back with vindictive vengeance!

Responding in the opposite attitude is a very acquired skill.  It requires much practise and diligence. However, if our attitude is set to see productive – not destructive – progress, this skill can be the game-changer.

So, in summary:

  • Observe – does this person really want to change?
  • Ask God, Keep looking for answers, Persist – don’t give up – unless there is clearly no other answer.

 

  • Realize God is on the side of those who work to do right, and stick to the process.

 

  • Do for others what you want them to do for you.

 

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Remember, feelings will never remain consistent – Choice does.  True love for others is not an emotion. It is a decisive action first, and then the affection will follow. If we understand this dynamic alone, most of our relationships will change for the better.

So, I’ve Asked God… Why Isn’t He Giving Me What I’ve Asked For?

 

Ah, the age-old question: I keep praying.  Why isn’t God listening?!

You know that Bible piece, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened…”  Soooo, why aren’t I getting my answers?

Well, let’s explore that one today.

In context of the “ask, seek, knock” verse, look at the situation described in Matthew 7.  Do you see that the before-and after scenes described here show relationships? The chapter starts  by describing a judgemental person. It says, “Don’t judge, so that you yourself will not be judged.” ( Funny how so many of our requests revolve around relational issues, isn’t it?)

Okay, well, let’s face it. We ALL judge. We all see things in  other people that we don’t like. So, take a minute to look underneath the criticism.  Why are you doing it?  Seriously.  Ask yourself,  Am I simply frustrated because I don’t like what they’re doing?  Is it a threat to my security or pride, or are they truly doing something wrong?

Ponder as well,  What do I want from this person?

What – in your mind- would fix the problem?

Now, the difficult question: Am I doing the same thing to them, perhaps in another way?

In our frustration, it can be a challenge to think in this sequence, but it will help define your answers.

Next, are we offering them solutions  that are right and holy and mutually beneficial? Or are the ‘suggestions’  self-centred, based on our own desires? Are you truly hearing  why –  he/she is doing what they do?  In other words, have you carefully considered their viewpoint?

Even though they may be in the wrong, do they feel heard – and understood – by you?

Another key point is this: Are they asking you for your opinion?  If not,  you can ask if they’re interested in your idea  to fix this problem, but, if they answer in the negative,  don’t throw away your time!

This is all prep work,  but it is also good maintenance work.  Every relationship will take this kind of  effort to keep it healthy and sound. You may think it’s time consuming,  but the long-term dividends pay very well!   If your repeated attempts to communicate in a healthy, holy way are refused, then stop  wasting your time!   Don’t throw away your gift, your value, or your time where they are discarded, but don’t lose your own grip on doing what is right  in the process!

So, back to the ‘ask-seek-knock’ question… You see, God sets up an evaluation system so we can judge ourselves too. If we have determined that 1) we are not judging, and that 2)  we’ve cleaned up our own tendency to do the same thing, and that 3) we’re not wasting time trying to change someone who isn’t open to improvement,  then look at this, What are you asking for,  and why?

The book of James gives some great insight into this by saying, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Don’t they come from your desire for pleasure, that wars in you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.  Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

Then it goes on with the kicker:  “You ask and don’t receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

God yearns for us to desire friendship with Him first, rather than friendship with things that will never bring us life. True, they may bring amusement and momentary pleasure. Sin is always attractive enough to be very alluring, but always the enemy of the best.

Have you taken your request, be it physical, material, personal, etc. to God?  Matthew goes on to say that He’s a good Father, who wants to give good things to those who ask Him.

Let’s run those unanswered requests through the above filters, and ask if they fit His standards.

Am I asking for what is good and right? Are my reasons self–pleasing, or do they have a holy motivation? Am I willing to hear God,  if perhaps His solution  is  based on my ultimate  good,  but not my immediate pleasure?

What are your thoughts?

 

How Can A Loving God Allow Suffering and Loss? Part 1

Have you ever lost someone very dear to your heart? Have you watched an unstoppable tragedy unfold that you had no power to undo?  Have these things happened to you,  in your life, or in the world and you looked for a reason, an answer, something to make sense of it, yet nothing satisfied you?  I have also experienced much pain, and seen loved ones suffer tremendously, watched local and global events unfold that buried all logic .  Many people have gotten sick, injured, or even died, without understanding or chance of restoration. The shock and anguish seemed like too much to bear, for too many  people, and I had only one question, burning in me, over and over, without quenching. “Why?”

Most of us are no strangers to grief in one form or another. We have either experienced or seen loss and suffering – often in ways that defy understanding. During such intense times, many of us question the supposed love of God. It seems unfathomable that a God who says He loves the whole world enough to die for it, would then turn and allow the ones we love to lose their health, or their very lives.  We begin to doubt, but no answers come  to appease us.  Our questions turn more violent, but nothing comes to calm the wild perplexity. Our pain seems to have no answer, no purpose, and no reason that we can find to justify it.  It is simply beyond our human comprehension that a Deity who says He is “Love” could allow suffering to this degree.  So, in this place, where our grief and suffering meld into anger at God, we scream at Him – give Him one more chance to speak, to prove Himself. Yet,  He is often strangely silent. It almost seems He is a sadist.  How could He permit such damage to innocent people?  How could He do this to me? Am I not worth more than this? I would not treat my worst enemy as He is treating me. I would not allow the world to experience the anguish He allows. And at this point, in our confusion and rage at God, we begin to retreat from Him, to turn towards other answers that make more sense to us, and seem to know the meaning of love.  It is better, I say, to take my own path, for surely, surely, I know a better way than God’s.  Often,  we begin to look for other definitions of Divinity, and power, for as we begin to look to mankind for answers, we see humans as the divinity wherein our answers are found.

Is this the place where our launch towards true happiness begins, or the place where the dive into a long, slow decline commences?

In the next post, we’ll explore this question, look at history and gather some information.

 

Word For 2013 – A Call To Action

Word For 2013
A Call To Action

What are you expecting is going to happen to you this year? Are you expecting great things, or are you prepared for things to go wrong on a continual basis? Do you see a pattern of things, people, places, events not progressing as they should? Do you want to see this pattern changed? Continue reading Word For 2013 – A Call To Action

A Word For 2012 – A Year Of Choice

A Word For 2012 – A Year Of Choice.

There will be much to choose from this year. If you’re looking to be offended, you’ll have endless opportunities. If you want to criticize someone else, your desires will be filled with plenty to choose from. If you fall easily into negative thinking, no one can stop your descent. It takes deliberate exercise to turn our minds to what is pure, holy, and good. It takes a conscious decision to fill our thoughts with what is right, rather than what is natural. It takes a higher, more noble mind to bless what has offended us, or sincerely pray for whoever has outraged us.

These are the criterion God looks for when He defines maturity. Ministry, gifts or positions mean nothing. It is our choice, and our character, deliberately formed into alignment with God’s nature that will determine our true spiritual authority. Continue reading A Word For 2012 – A Year Of Choice

What About Those Prophetic Words?

Picture of Eagle and LighthouseThere is a concern these days pertaining to the number of people who have received prophetic words which do not come to pass. It has been responsible for the disappointment and discouragement of many – even some who leave the faith because they decide if God cannot keep these promises, why should they believe in Him any longer? Often these words bring division, as they do not bring agreement or blessing from those in true spiritual covering over the person.

Continue reading What About Those Prophetic Words?